By Feriel Bouhafa , January 26, 2011
Foreign Policy in Focus
The success of a throng of Tunisian protesters who toppled Ben Ali, the seemingly unshakable dictator, caught the world off guard.
Analysts have rushed to make sense of Tunisia’s unforeseen popular revolt. The media have emphasized the economic discontent caused by unemployment, poverty, and high food prices. Others have noted the role social networks have played, characterizing the uprising as an instance of online activism and hailing it as a “Twitter revolution.”
This extraordinary uprising is being seen as the possible start of a domino effect in the Arab world.
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Going forward, Tunisians will scrutinize the sincerity of these statements. The Obama administration’s initial hesitation exposed its unease with this transformation. U.S. policy and its national-security strategy in the Arab world need reassessment. Tunisia’s democratic impulse, as well as the uprising’s reverberations in other Arab countries, presents challenges for U.S. policy and that of its authoritarian allies in the region.
Phi Beta Iota: Most governments are under siege, for most governments, to one extent or another, have failed to attend to the public interest, instead bending or selling out completely to special interests. The United States of America is especially vulnerable at this time because it is over-extended, financially and morally bankrupt, and has a government that is out of touch with both the public interest, and global reality. Tunesia is not unique–all countries have the preconditions for revolution extant, what has changed are two things: the proliferation of precipitants, and the ability of the public to connect and promulgate.