The unprecedented change in the Middle East has created immediate challenges to maintaining social cohesion and macroeconomic stability. Over the longer-term, countries must define their own political, social, and economic transformations.
Three months into the Arab Spring and after the fall of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, protests continue across the Middle East and North Africa and the region remains in a state of flux.
With revolutionary change sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa and violence erupting in Libya, U.S. policy toward the region is quickly evolving.
While the wave of political change sweeping through the Arab world is reminiscent of the political upheaval in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, historical analogies cannot capture the complex and dramatic events occurring or predict how this change will end.
The current unrest in the Arab world caught most people by surprise—both inside and outside the region—and has fundamentally upended several conventional beliefs about the Arab world.
In spite of the massive popular protests that have swept away two Arab strongmen and shaken half a dozen monarchies and republics, the Arab world has yet to witness any fundamental change in ruling elites and even less in the nature of governance.
The unrest spreading throughout the Arab world will have significant economic implications for the region.
While the removal from power of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were historic moments for the entire Arab world, the old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt are still fighting to retain as much power and control as they can.
While the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia might been triggered by the economy, issues of governance and the need for political reform are at the heart of the demonstrations.
While recent events in Tunisia and in Egypt demonstrate that Arabs are not a cultural exception to the broad desire for freedom around the world, building democracy will require the creation of organized political parties.