As in 1989-1990, when the Berlin Wall came down and former vassal states and imprisoned peoples in the U.S.S.R. were declaring their independence in rapid succession, it is clear that we are witnessing a momentous historical shift in the Middle East. Since the Soviet empire's collapse, this has been the region of the world most dominated by authoritarian regimes -- many of them, sadly, supported by the United States government.
But suddenly a crack has opened, and freedom is rushing in. It began in Tunisia, where events that have led to regionwide uprisings that have as of this date toppled two dictators and look set to topple a third, were set in motion by the mistreatment of an ordinary fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi. Interestingly, it was a confrontation with a low-level government inspector, arrogantly enforcing regulations on the entrepreneur, that provoked him to set himself on fire and become the martyr who rocked the Arab world.
Never doubt the power of a single individual to change the course of history!
Credit for inspiring the transnational uprisings also goes to the free speech outlet WikiLeaks, which played an important role in exposing the corrupt and self-serving behavior of many regimes through the release of large numbers of secret U.S. government diplomatic cables, along with Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news service which has been instrumental in spreading fair and timely information about successive revolts to the "Arab street".
Libertarians in the United States, meanwhile, haven't just been watching and doing nothing. Many of us are speaking out in news forums, participating in protests, and trying to do what we can to organize help for the brave people standing up to tyrants on the streets of Cairo, Benghazi, Sana, and other cities in the Arab world. I took the photos accompanying this story at a San Francisco protest in solidarity with the people of Egypt on February 5.
Meanwhile, a larger effort has been launched, spearheaded by super-activist Ernest Hancock of FreedomsPhoenix.com, with the help of national Libertarian Party chair Mark Hinkle, Libertarian leader Mary Ruwart and others, to get libertarian materials into the hands of pro-freedom activists in the Middle East, including Arabic language translations of the International Society for Individual Liberty's terrific 8-minute animated video on the philosophy of liberty (to watch the English version, click on the graphic that appears on the left side of this page).
You can help this effort in support of freedom across the Middle East by making a contribution here.