The world is riveted by the ongoing turmoil in Egypt as that nation frantically searches for a political identity and a path to stable democracy. Because Egypt has long been one of America's most important political and security partners, Washington is particularly worried about a collapse into violence or the seizure of power by extremists. Such concern is warranted, but more than just the future of Egypt is in play: The problems there are not unique or isolated, but emblematic of a crisis of governance engulfing the entire world.
This will have a profound effect on U.S. security. In the long term, Egypt's turmoil signals the growing obsolescence of one of the fundamental precepts of U.S. national security strategy: encouraging stability in key regions by relying on local security partnerships. Thus Egypt is important in itself and for what it portends about the coming decade.
The Egyptian conflict is one more indication that the world has entered a period of intense political turbulence as technology-empowered connectivity fuels a new era of populism. Populism involves the mobilization and empowerment of segments of society that had been excluded or irrelevant, focusing their anger and discontent on the state. It has happened many times in the past, often with revolutionary results.