Guest post from Evan Kaiser. Originally appeared Jan 29, 2011 at kaiser.com.
“The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the MB [Muslim Brotherhood].”
The fact is that the last few days have treated to us to a slew of op-eds, editorials, and blog posts assuring us that either a) the protests in Egypt are fueled by democratic reformers yearning to be free (akin to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) and/or b) there’s nothing we can do about it anyway, so’s best to shut up and sit it out (the current administration position?).
Well, commentators can yap all they want about the Egyptian protestors being a ‘cross section’ of society, about how young and ‘tech-savvy’ they are (presumably because Islamist barbarians are old and can’t handle an iPhone), about how the Muslim Brotherhood supposedly was caught ‘off-guard’ by the protests, and about how Mubarak has always used the Muslim Botherhood as a ‘bogey-man’ (which he has – so what?). No charismatic villain we’re aware of waiting in the wings like Khomeini circa 1979? Are you gonna hang your hat on that?
Don’t fool yourselves. Nothing good will come of this. And to be perfectly blunt: the best case, realistic short-term outcome is a new military dictatorship under a different general (or junta). Certainly, we should insist on democratic and civil reforms after that. That goes without saying. The long-term is important too (vitally so, actually).
But the short-term? Well our job isn’t to mouth platitudes, pat ourselves on the back, and beg for approval from our friends. It isn’t to pretend that there’s nothing we can do, because it’s a nice excuse for inaction (as if there’s no way to make a mistake by sitting on our hands). Here’s what our job really is: pick the least evil real-world outcome and really work for it.
That means if Obama is a competent President, he should be intervening with our friends in the Egyptian military to arrange for Mubarak’s departure and government stabilization behind a new strong man or junta (with a promise of future reform, natch).
Is Obama doing this? After all, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes – he really may be trying. But you’ll forgive me my lack of confidence in the ability of so Carteresque an administration to avoid a 1979-like debacle.