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.
In the wake of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, the United States has an opportunity to assist countries transition into stable democracies and to pressure allies in the Arab world to implement reforms before it is too late.
As the popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continues and the pro-western government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is replaced by a government supported by Hezbollah, the United States is losing key allies in the region.
Protests in Tunisia that pushed President Ben Ali to flee the country have sparked mass protests in the region, spreading to Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. The protests in Egypt are growing and unlike anything seen in decades. Will Tunisia remain an isolated case or the beginning of a wave of change?
Although the wave of protests in Tunisia was set off by economic complaints, the true threat to stability in the Arab world is poor governance.