I'm not sure we even recognize the possibilities. That's because I see no leadership coming from the U.S. that can be interpreted as support for the people. It's more like lip service.
Warning the leaders to get ahead of the actions of their people is fruitless. They're not afraid of us because we never spell out consequences and even if we did we'd probably not carry through.
Just look at the countries in play! We've been actively engaged with some for years yet they remain the same. It worries me that a government as weak as the one ruling Pakistan can still manipulate us. Consider our state department employee currently under arrest. Getting him released should have been a slam dunk yet he still remains in custody.
Afghanistan speaks for itself. A weak, corrupt government is running roughshod over us.
When was the last time you heard of any U.S. involvement with Mauritania or Libya? Yet all are undergoing a degree of political upheaval.
We, nor our allies, can or will send in troops to protect the people. What we can do, however, is ramp up the sanctions so they really hurt. We've seen what a few days of protesting did to Egypt's productivity. It ground to a halt. If it ground to a halt in all the countries and sanctions prevented the corrupt officials from doing an end around, it would soon begin to show an effect.
Of course it would be hard on the protesters. But then life already is. That's why they are protesting. Somehow I expect we could rally them to help squeeze the life from their leadership.
We found a way to back Iraq in the Iraq/Iran war. In this day and age can we not find a way to aid civilians against their military and governments? I don't know. There was a time I think we could and would have. Now I'm not so sure we have the will and talk is cheap. It comes from a weakened CIA and lack of feet on the ground. NBC has more for heavens sake!
We're not trusted by those very civilians because we've supported the governments for so long. Yet, if we want to regain their respect, and future cooperation, we've got to do something meaningful. We can't fight their wars for them, but we can we not supply them and help them organize as we're supposedly doing in Afghanistan?
Perhaps I'm over simplifying. There is always a price to be paid. If I were writing the equation it would be simple. People minus corrupt governments equal peace plus stability.
It's too bad America is weak in math. Or maybe it's me.