I think it’s time to start calling what is happening in Egypt and elsewhere an Arab revolution. First of all, the population of Egypt dwarfs the rest of the Arab world, and so what happens there is bound to have a far-reaching effect on other Arabs (especially if this leads to the kind of Pan-Arab nationalist movement that dominated in Egypt’s recent past). Second, just take a look around the region. Tunisia is in the midst of a dramatic overthrow of their dictator and a transformation to a new government. Jordan’s King Abdullah dismissed his government and appointed a new Prime Minister, precisely the tactic Mubarak tried in the early days of the revolution. Today, the President of Yemen vowed to step down at the end of his term in 2013, ending a rule that spanned three decades. And even in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority agreed to local council elections for the first time since 2006, seeking to head off the kind of revolts elsewhere in the region.
Then there’s Sudan, which has seen street protests and the secession of its Southern half; Lebanon, whose government collapsed and where protests erupted after the naming of a presumed Hezbollah-backed prime minister; Algeria, where protests over rising food prices have been raging for a month, with more scheduled; and Syria, where massive protests are set for Saturday. Even Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Oman have seen some protests. It’s hard to find an Arab nation that hasn’t.
Looking at this as a pan-Arab uprising changes the calculations dramatically. From the United States’ perspective, it forces policymakers to think about how to properly deal with an entire region seeking to pull off the shackles of monarchies and authoritarian dictatorships, not one rogue protest movement in one country or another. That Arab Spring that George Bush and the neocons would come to the region simply by bombing the bejeezus out of Iraq is here because of completely different factors. It’s clear that our policymakers have no idea how to react. Thinking about this in a regional sense rather than protecting this or that ruling regime may help.