Paul Greenberg

It happens again and again: The same revolutionaries who overthrew the old regime now reinstate it under new management. For the moment all is further confusion and consternation, yet Egypt's new rulers in braid bring with them something that has been missing for some time: hope. Maybe they mean what they say about their rule being only a transitional phase before free elections in a more stable country, one where the rule of law is respected and where change, for better or worse, will at least be orderly, and therefore predictable, maybe even enduring.

One of the shouters in Tahrir Square, the customary flash point for the revolution of the moment, came up with about the worst name he could call the country's now ex-president and former strongman ... European! Or as he put it, "People have lost faith in him. Anyone who takes such immature decisions can do anything to us, like establish a religious state similar to the dark ages of Europe."

Indeed, the current withdrawal of one Middle Eastern "republic" into the veil of Islam, complete with hijab and averted gaze, does begin to resemble the Europe of the Inquisition and auto-da-fé. See the slow slide of Turkey into Ottomanism. Lest we forget, the most visionary and achieving of the Middle East's leaders of the last century was a military dictator who took his country into a new and better age: the redoubtable Kemal Ataturk. It was his secular, revolutionary reforms that are only now being undermined by an Islamist ruler who is also running out of time (let's hope).

There are some things worse than military rule, like rule by fanatics in the guise of Justice and Development, the name of Turkey's now dominant and increasingly intolerant party, which already has taken the precaution of purging the military and jailing journalists who haven't learned to keep their mouths shut.

As for this supposedly new Egypt, the names of the rulers may be different but the old Egypt of perishable names like Hosni Mubarak, Anwar Sadat, Gamal Abdel Nasser and now Mohammed Morsi persists -- as reliable as the annual flood of the Nile. The pattern goes back to a time when the names chiseled in stone might be Amenhotep IV or cruel Khufu of the fourth dynasty. Egypt's history may no longer be written in hieroglyphics, and its rulers are now called presidents instead of pharaohs, but Egypt remains remarkably unchanged. Once again it is time to plant a new political order. May this latest planting bear a rich harvest, not another bitter one.

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.