Rather than blame their own leaders, the "Arab street" seek scapegoats -- Israel, the United States, "degenerate" Western civilization, Christianity, the infidels. Islamic leaders of these countries enthusiastically encourage this victimhood, and they fund and control religious schools that spread it.
Lewis makes an argument that is simple, if complicated to implement. Only if and when these repressive governments fall, to be replaced by representational governments, will people realize that their "plight" is self-inflicted. Only then will radicals no longer have the base of support to threaten the West and Israel with state-sponsored homicide bombers. Freer governments in the Middle East, then, are vital to our national security.
Bush called this the "freedom agenda."
Detractors dismissed this as "imposing our values" on a culture that does not attach the same importance to, and indeed rejects, such Western principles as individual liberty, equal rights for women and religious minorities, transparency, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and separation of mosque and state.
Bush was denounced as a "neocon" -- used by detractors to mean an arrogant "cowboy" who knows nothing about Middle Eastern history and its culture, one that rejects such "alien" Western values.
Now we hear the same Bush-like "neocon" words from the Obama administration. And like Bush, Obama cannot know what happens next. It's a messy world, with no apparent Egyptian George Washington or Nelson Mandela.
Egypt's president might well be replaced by a regime that is even worse -- more hostile to Israel, the West and America. Since the Iraq War, however, in Middle Eastern countries where some semblance of free elections have been held (with the exception of the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip), the Islamist extremist parties have been losing, not gaining, power.
Polls in Arab and Muslim countries show a dramatic fall in popular support of homicide bombings and for al-Qaida. On the other hand, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -- which Israel fears may end up running Egypt -- adamantly opposes Egypt's treaty with Israel signed in 1979 by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Indeed, Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by members of the military presumably affiliated with an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Will Egypt prove Bush and the neocons right -- that political freedom and peace are not incompatible in an Arab country in this tough neighborhood? Maybe -- via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube -- the young, hungry, restless, unemployed and social network-connected youth of Egypt have observed the nightmare regime that replaced the Shah of Iran and say, "Not us. Not here. Not now."