Paul Greenberg

No, it's not Louis XVI being trundled off to his execution to the jeers of the mob, soon enough to be followed by Marie Antoinette.


No, even those mob scenes would have been too dignified for the Middle East, where every indignity must be observed in full inefficiency and disorder. Think of the trial-and-execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Or was it the execution-and-trial? It scarcely matters which comes first in these time-honored affairs in the Middle East, cradle of what we call civilization.


That part of the world has never been short of what goes before a fall, and tales of how the mighty have fallen. Both phrases are as old as the Bible, another product of the Middle East. And so, following precedents aplenty, his comeuppance now awaits His Excellency Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, former president, former vice president, former air chief marshal, another former Lion of the Middle East, and, perhaps the status he most sorely misses, formerly a healthy man.


Last week the former everything was rolled into an Egyptian court of law, or at least of vengeance. On a hospital gurney. And put in a cage. Like any other wounded animal taken captive.


The Arab Spring proceeds on schedule into the torrid Arab Summer. It is all according to the unvarying calendar of modern revolutions  a la francaise, the pattern having been set, like so much of Western fashion, in Paris. Who says the Arab world is incapable of being Westernized?


The progression of events outlined by Crane Brinton in his regularly applicable "Anatomy of a Revolution" continues on schedule, if not ahead of it. All the revolutionary stages he identified and traced, like the progress of a disease, continue to recur in familiar order or only a slight variation thereof.


The shocks follow one another from right to left across the political spectrum as power passes first to moderate reformers, then to increasingly violent movements and leaders till, like the swing of a pendulum, the revolution is finally arrested at its outward limit and begins to swing back.


The outlines of the coming struggle for power in Egypt are already clear, and the leading contenders are not so much in the French mode as the Turkish one. For in Istanbul, a military still committed to Kemal Ataturk's truly revolutionary, secular vision is losing out to an Islamist party that only slowly has unveiled its theocratic agenda lest it overly alarm a people that had gotten so used to freedom it grew apathetic about defending it. A similar tug of war/politics between the generals and mullahs now awaits in Egypt.


As for those brave souls who actually carried out the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, and watched so many of their number gunned down/imprisoned/tortured/exiled, they are likely to be left out of this new-old Egypt. If this is the usual revolution moderne in predictable action, they may find themselves the first, or at least the second after Mubarak and Co., to be put against the wall. As in the Petrograd of 1917 or the Havana of 1959. Their shining hour has come and may already have gone.


Who will now become ascendant? The odds-on favorite is the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood, backed by the swelling throngs of Islamists, Salafists and assorted True Believers who swarmed Cairo's streets only a few days ago. The Brotherhood now emerges from the shadows to take part in promised elections. Elections it can hope will be conducted on the basis of One Man, One Vote, only One Time.


The military already begins to squirm, wondering how it can put its former commander on trial without sharing the fully earned onus of having followed his orders straight to perdition. How long before the generals, too, are being exhibited in a cage? It's going to be an interesting, even satisfying, spectacle to watch, but that doesn't mean anything good will come of it.


It's an old, old story and our naifs still don't get the point: Not all that glitters is gold, and not all that revolutionizes frees. Quite the contrary. There is still such a thing as fool's gold. And it dazzles as it disappoints.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.