In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has moved very deftly in the current crisis, throwing its support to Mohamed ElBaradei -- the sort of international diplomat (he's also a Nobel laureate) that Western liberals call a "moderate." In fact, he's a transparent apologist for Islamists worldwide. As the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick detailed, when ElBaradei headed the International Atomic Energy Agency, he repeatedly ignored evidence that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon, resisted sanctions on Tehran, and called Israel "the number one nuclear threat to the Middle East."
Last week, ElBaradei told Der Spiegel: "We should stop demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood. ... (T)hey have not committed any acts of violence in five decades. They too want change. If we want democracy and freedom, we have to include them instead of marginalizing them."
There is the echo of every naive revolutionary in the history of the world. Such people can topple autocrats -- as the Mensheviks did in Russia, the secular reformers in Iran, the anti-Batista forces in Cuba, and liberal elements in Nicaragua -- but they can seldom seize and hold power. Most are rewarded with a bullet to the back of the head within hours of the new regime's ascendancy.
Optimists about the possibility of a sunny result from the current unrest in Egypt point to the Philippines and South Korea. But the U.S. enjoyed prestige and outsized influence in those countries, and could accordingly shape events in a democratic direction. As Barry Rubin of Pajamas Media reminds us, public opinion in Egypt is a bit more problematic. Asked whether they preferred "Islamists" or "modernizers," 59 percent chose the former, only 27 percent the latter. Some 82 percent think adulterers should be stoned to death, 77 percent favor the amputation of thieves' hands, and 84 percent approve of the death penalty for apostates.
In 2005, tens of thousands of Lebanese thronged the streets in the so-called "Cedar Revolution" to demand freedom, democracy, and the ouster of the Syrians. Today, Hezbollah is in effective control of the country. In 2006, the Palestinians, voting against corruption and for change, elected Hamas.
The men and women on the streets of Egypt's cities have been inspired by the example of Tunisia and the hope of a better life. But the Muslim Brotherhood has been preparing for this day for decades. As Michael Ledeen's grandmother warned: "Things are never so bad that they can't get worse."