It’s going to usher in the best of times or the worst of times.
With apologies to Charles Dickens, that is what it looks like will be the outcome of the uprising in Egypt. It will either be very good or awful, depending in part on what the Obama administration does.
Michael Goodwin of the New York Post and Fox is predicting the worst of times:
Well, that was fast. Reflecting the growing prospect that events in Cairo will not have a happy ending, a top member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says, “The people should be prepared for war against Israel.”
Less gloomy is Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum:
It is clear that the media’s host of analysts is split into two camps on the Egyptian revolution: one that sees it as a wonderful expression of “people power” that will surely culminate in some sort of pluralistic democracy, and another that sees only the Muslim Brotherhood, in other words, that sees only bad coming from the revolution. These extremist views need balancing. The fact is, depending on what the U.S. does-or doesn’t do-the result of this revolt could either be the best or worst thing to happen to the Middle East in the modern era.
For starters, that the Muslim Brotherhood poses a great threat, there is no doubt. If Mubarak goes and a power vacuum is created, the best-positioned opposition group to take over is the Brotherhood-this is especially the case if there is no outside intervention to prevent it. On the other hand, the majority of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protesting and dying in the streets of Egypt today are not doing so because they want sharia law enforced to the letter. Rather, this is a popular revolution in the literal sense, and contains all segments of Egypt’s population, not just the Islamists. The only united goal all Egyptians have is to see Mubarak go-hence the ubiquitous Arabic sign, Irhal: “Get out!”
Rather than naïvely assume that this revolution will lead to a democratic Egypt (and so the U.S should just stand by), or cynically assume that this is simply an Islamist revolt that needs to be crushed (by supporting Mubarak and tyranny), the U.S. should not support the Mubarak regime, but rather do whatever needs doing to see that the revolt, in fact, leads to a secular and pluralistic society. Many Egyptians would welcome this.
The secularists are there. Now is the time to support them.
The left may be sentimental and optimistic, feeling that the Muslim Brotherhood can be tamed and included as a beneficiary of this uprising, but the administration must wake up and support the secularists. There are plenty of them and they hold the only hope for a pluralistic future for Egypt and the Middle East.
Just a note on the sentimentality of the left: While I tend to support the folks in the street over the Mubarak dictatorship, I do want to make one point: the outcome could still be very bad for the region and for the U.S. We must not make the mistake of believing that this is a replay of our own Revolution. As my friend Charlotte Allen notes, our Revolution wasn’t an insurrection of people in the street. We had an Army and a Congress (who do you think declared our independence?). We were a war for independence, led by eighteenth century gents in wigs, not an insurrection.
We can take pride in that our Revolution has inspired the world, that perhaps even the uprising in Egypt is in some way a product. But it is not the same thing. We were never in as great danger of tyranny as Egypt. A wrong policy from Washington can push Egypt over the brink in a dictatorship that is far worse than what she has faced in the recent past. This is not the time to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood can be tamed.