The correct response to events in Egypt is
A) To be thrilled. Ricochet member Trace Urdan: "This is a moment where I am proud to be a squish....increasingly around the world the standard for a normal, respectable form of government is democracy and we should have more confidence in that truth."
B) To feel warily optimistic. Ricochet member Tom Davis: "[I]t looks like there will be elections; those elections will be at least a little free; the military is probably going to keep a check on the Muslim Brotherhood....with a little luck, Egypt will be less of a dictatorship and more of democracy."
C) To view events in Egypt as playing into the hands of the Islamic radicals. Ricochet member Freeman: "Mark my words: the shouts for 'freedom' and 'democracy' are merely the same old populist utopian claptrap...waiting to be silenced by the most ruthless element in the society."
My choice? B).
The yearning for democracy appears genuine, I can see no obvious bad guy--no Khomeini--anywhere on the scene, and the Egyptian military, with which the American armed forces have developed close ties, has demonstrated prudence, restraint, and a fundamental respect for the Egyptian people. Something truly new may actually be happening in Egyptian society--and in the wider Arab world.
But it would indeed be truly new. How many precedents for the organic development of democracy have some 1,300 years of Islam produced in the Arab world? Zero. Iraq is now democratic, more or less, but an outside force--us, obviously--made that possible. Lebanon produced a functioning democracy for a few years during the nineteen-seventies, but the Christian minority played a central--perhaps the dominant--role. What Egypt is about to attempt has never been done before. Not once.
And the risks, pitfalls, and dangers prove numberless. Has Egypt just produced a genuinely popular revolution? Yes. But so did Russia in February 1917. In October 1917, Lenin staged a putsch against the true revolution, enslaving Russia for more than seven decades. Does the Muslim Brotherhood command the support of a minority of Egyptians? Apparently. But the Nazis won less than 44 percent of the vote in 1933. They then concocted a crisis--the burning of the Reichstag--and jammed the Enabling Act through the legislature, giving Hitler dictatorial powers.
I've been as moved as anyone by the scenes of rejoicing in Tahrir Square, and I agree, for now, with Ricochet member Tom Davis. "Given the situation in Egypt as it was," Tom wrote, "it is hard to imagine a better outcome than we have." As I say, I agree with Tom--for now. But dangers abound, the stakes involve not only Egypt but the entire Arab world, Israel, and, because the Middle East plays so central a role in world affairs, all the globe.
I'm plenty happy. But I'm also plenty wary.
Choice B). That's me.