The Great Egyptian Unknown

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Jan 30, 2011 4:10 PM
The UK Telegraph asserts that the US has been covertly aiding some of those involved in the Egyptian uprising.

If so, it's a vindication, of sorts, for George W. Bush's world-view that the best way to ensure stability and a check on Islamic extremism is through the establishment of democratic governments that offer their people hope.  Perhaps all the one-time "realists" in the Obama administration, who scoffed at Bush's second inaugural address, might want to apologize.

I was a big fan of the inaugural address at the time.  But given America's experiences since then, it strikes me that we might want to be cautious before we hail, without qualification and sight unseen, some new emerging Egyptian "democracy" before we know its shape and the character of its ideological commitments.  After all, Iran is a democracy, too, at least nominally.

Over the past few years, we've had the opportunity to understand that some countries are simply not steeped in a tradition of the liberal democratic values that, first, ensure that a democratic government will be a guarantor of freedom, and which form foundational assumptions for many of those who hail "democracy."  Remember, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution to limit the powers even of a democratically elected government -- and a destabilized country, with minimal international or US oversight, may not be the best proving ground for Arab democracy.

If (or when) Mubarak goes, let's hope that the story of Egypt turns out to be more like Iraq -- in the sense that there is a largely peaceful election process that results in a government that's not run by Islamic extremists -- than the story of Iran in the wake of the Shah's exile.

The only certainty here is that no one knows for sure what the future will hold.