The Corner

Egypt: Worse Than You Thought

I’ve got an article out in the new issue of National Review entitled, “A Frightful Democracy: The Egyptian revolution’s leaders have an illiberal agenda.” Here’s the opening:

What if the fundamental terms of our debate over Egypt’s revolution are wrong? Supposedly, the revolt that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak presented American policymakers with an agonizing choice: Do we side with a dictator against pro-Western demonstrators who share our democratic values, or do we cast aside a leader who has been an important strategic ally, knowing that the Muslim Brotherhood may someday seize the revolution from the secular democrats who inspired it? In fact, the movement now eager to inherit power from Cairo’s military rulers is considerably less secular, pro-Western, and democratic than advertised.

There was very little coverage during the protests in Egypt of the leadership and ideology of the anti-Mubarak opposition. This article is a step in that direction. In general, when discussing our hopes or fears for Egypt’s future, we need to get more concrete. Are there authentic liberal parties and politicians in Egypt who deserve American support? Who are they? Are there forces in Egypt, other than the Muslim Brotherhood, we should fear? Who are they? The best antidote to wishful thinking, and the best basis for realistic optimism, is careful analysis of the forces on the ground. So far, I would argue, there has been precious little such analysis. What I found when I actually looked at the spectrum of anti-Mubarak opposition leaders was discouraging, to say the least.


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