The winds of change for all too long have not appeared in the Middle East, but since the courageous efforts of Tunisian youth drove a corrupt dictator from power breezes of democracy are not being felt on the faces of those who lead nations in the region. Inspired by Tunisia, thousands of Yemen youth flocked to the streets demanding an end to a 32 year long dictatorship and demanded democratic elections. In Algeria, police met thousands of protestors who were in the streets with their cries for democracy and an end to corrupt inefficient government. The United States has for too long operated on the assumption that as long as the leader of a Middle Eastern nation is “on our side in the fight against al-Qaeda” then he is one of our friends. We made that mistake years ago in China by supporting the corrupt regime of Chiang Kai-shek and got rewarded with a Communist triumph. We made the same mistake in Vietnam and the same result as US troops left that nation to Communist rulers.
Young Muslims want a society which provides jobs and opportunities for individuals to have meaningful lives. In some cases this means religious leaders will come to the fore, in other cases it means secular leaders will emerge. The alternative is the Egypt model which has stifled economic progress and left thousands of young people without jobs that fit their abilities. As Muslim youth wake up, perhaps it is time for the US and Israel to join them as partners, not as enemies.