Hosni Mubarak is expected to bow to pressure from the people in the streets and step down as Egypt’s president any minute now. This is when the hard part begins.
I have three fervent hopes: that this is best for the United States, that this is best for the people of Egypt (note the order), and that our own President Obama isn’t somewhere at this moment preparing to rush to a microphone to make completely unnecessary remarks. He needs to be quiet.
The U.S. has vacillated terribly on Egypt, sowing confusion across the globe. First, Vice President Biden said Mubarak wasn’t a dictator, then we began to shove him (apparently, the Saudis didn’t like this). Whatever happens in Egypt, this was not the Obama administration’s finest hour. Politico lead-in:
The White House is moving to stamp out reports that top officials – including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – are sending conflicting signals about how best to resolve the crisis in Egypt.
Nope, our team hasn’t acquitted itself very brilliantly.
There is plenty to worry about, most obviously the Muslim Brotherhood. Cliff May notes on National Review:
Do the Egyptians demonstrating in Tahrir Square appreciate how threatening the Muslim Brotherhood is to the freedom they hope to win? Last week I was on Power and Politics, a serious Canadian television show, along with Dina Guirguis, a bright young Egyptian woman currently resident at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Understandably enthusiastic about Egypt’s revolution, she also was dismissive of those who “hyperventilate” about the possibility that it could be appropriated by the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups.
I really didn’t want to rain on her parade. I make no brief for Mubarak, whose goal has been to create a pharaonic dynasty, not leave a democratic legacy. But I couldn’t help but recall that exactly 32 years ago I was in Iran covering an upheaval very similar to the one now taking place in Egypt. And I knew young people very much like Dina – smart, educated in America and Europe, secular, liberal, and excited about the fall of the Shah and the prospect of a new, free, democratic, and prosperous Iran. They firmly believed that Ayatollah Khomeini not only tolerated them – he valued them. After all, the revolution succeeded because, for the first time, the radical clerics had been joined by students, merchants, socialists, communists, and other groups.
Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal thinks that Egypt’s real challenge is not establishing a new government but creating jobs. I think this is definitely an issue on which President Obama shouldn’t offer advice.