After 18 days of protests, Egypt Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak resigned last week and turned over all power to the mil­i­tary, ending his 30-​​year reign. Two scholars of Middle East his­tory and pol­i­tics — Ilham Khuri-​​Makdisi, a his­tory pro­fessor, and Denis Sul­livan, polit­ical sci­ence pro­fessor and director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Cul­ture, and Devel­op­ment — col­lab­o­rated on this assess­ment of the Egyptian rev­o­lu­tion and the future for democ­racy in Egypt and the Arab world.

What will be the longer-​​term effects on the Arab world?

The rev­o­lu­tion in Egypt is unde­ni­ably a turning point in the Arab world: the wall of fear has been broken, and there is no turning back. The sheer joy dis­played in the streets, from Algiers to San’aa, Yemen, fol­lowing Mubarak’s res­ig­na­tion, has been an elo­quent tes­ti­mony of the Arab world’s thirst for locally gen­er­ated, pop­ular and gen­uine demo­c­ratic change, free elec­tions, respect for human rights and human dig­nity, the end of state vio­lence and police bru­tality and an end to corruption.

Even before Mubarak’s res­ig­na­tion, many Arab leaders, fearing that the uprising would spread to their coun­tries, had already scram­bled to intro­duce cer­tain reforms: in Jordan, King Abdullah dis­solved the gov­ern­ment, which was replaced a few day ago by a new gov­ern­ment promising reforms and public free­doms; and in Algeria, Pres­i­dent Boute­flika has promised to repeal the emer­gency laws, in place since 1992. The ques­tion is whether these reforms are too little, too late, as the con­tin­uing demon­stra­tions in Algiers, San’aa and else­where testify.

The events in Egypt will have a tremen­dous impact on intra-​​Arab pol­i­tics, as well as on U.S.-Arab rela­tions and on the Palestinian-​​Israeli con­flict. The Pales­tinian Authority has already announced that it will hold new elec­tions in fall 2011. Also, the long-​​standing nego­tiator for the Pales­tinians, Saeb Erekat, has resigned his post. And the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, vis­ited Jordan and Israel over the weekend to reas­sure these allies of Amer­ican sup­port, in the wake of Mubarak’s demise.

We’ve also gotten a very impor­tant cor­rec­tive to var­ious long­standing, and unfor­tu­nately wide­spread, Ori­en­talist the­o­ries, which have argued that Arabs cannot under­stand democ­racy, that they are not ready for it or that they are polit­i­cally lethargic and passive.

What will daily life be like for the Egyp­tians and what will the daily life be like moving for­ward under mil­i­tary rule?

Daily life has already started returning to some nor­malcy. The curfew has been all but lifted; on Sunday it was mid­night, but people con­tinued to cel­e­brate with friends all over Cairo and Alexan­dria, in spite of a dead­line to be home. But there also have been ongoing strikes in var­ious parts of the country, with calls to estab­lish inde­pen­dent trade unions and con­tinue striking until workers’ demands are met. The ques­tion remains whether or not the mil­i­tary will inter­vene to break the strikes.

Mean­while, in days ahead, there will be the most serious of dis­cus­sions about an entirely new polit­ical system for Egypt, with ques­tions about a new con­sti­tu­tion, a new par­lia­ment, new polit­ical party laws, new laws of assembly and speech, plans for pres­i­den­tial elec­tions and a time­frame — six months, nine months or a year or more — for resump­tion of civilian con­trol of Egypt.

Until such time, the mil­i­tary will con­tinue to be respon­sible for main­taining law and order, run­ning a mas­sive bureau­cracy, reas­suring for­eign and domestic investors, enabling the pri­vate sector to get back to work, pro­moting Egypt as a tourist des­ti­na­tion, main­taining traffic through the Suez Canal, thus sta­bi­lizing world oil prices and so forth.

What role did social media play in helping topple the regime?

Much has been said and written about the role of social media in helping topple the regime — and the fact that the regime blocked access to the Internet for the first few days of the rev­o­lu­tion is telling. Twitter and Face­book were impor­tant in helping people coor­di­nate and plan for the Jan­uary 25 demonstration.

Ulti­mately, though, it was the Egyptian people who top­pled Mubarak, who braved Mubarak’s cronies and his tanks, and remained stead­fastly in Tahrir Square and else­where for 18 days. There might still have been a rev­o­lu­tion without Twitter and Face­book, but there would not have been one without the incred­ible courage of the mil­lions of Egyp­tians who took to the streets and peace­fully and unwa­ver­ingly, fought for their prin­ci­ples and their rights.