Sunday, January 30, 2011

Be Careful What You Hope For

Americans need to be careful what we wish for in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world where massive protests are threatening to topple even well-established regimes like that of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.

Many of these Arab nations are ruled by authoritarians and despots who've been little concerned about the plight of the Arab people and the people have had enough (parenthetical question: Why aren't the Palestinians rebelling against Hamas?). The protestors are demanding more freedom and democratically elected governments. They want, to put it succinctly, what Arabs living in Europe and the U.S. have.

Americans are sympathetic to these desires, but here's the problem. Almost always revolutions initiated and led by democratic reformers at some point get co-opted by ruthless, brutal factions, and what starts out as a revolution for freedom winds up as a tyranny worse than the one it replaces.

This was the pattern throughout the twentieth century in the communist revolutions in Russia, China, Cuba and elsewhere. It's what happened in Iran when the Shah was deposed and the mullahs took over, and it's what very well could happen in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood has entered the fray. The Muslim Brotherhood is the group that sired al Qaeda and has inspired Islamic extremists around the world.

Mubarak's government was oppressive, but he was not interested in war with Israel and worked with the U.S. to prevent those who wanted to bathe that region in blood from realizing their dreams. He was also an ally in the war against terrorism. He was a good friend to the U.S. but not so much to the masses of his own people.

If Mubarak resigns it could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who takes over. If it's the Muslim Brotherhood, which it very well may be since they are organized and likely, despite their claim to have renounced violence, to resort to it, then Egypt will be the next Iran. Worse, if Egypt is taken over by the extremists, the rest of the Arab world will probably topple like dominos.

I don't think we should hope that Mubarak survives, rather I think we better hope that if he falls he's replaced by people who are willing to continue his opposition to extremist terrorism and war while keeping their boot off the throats of the people. History, though, gives us little reason to be optimistic that this will happen.