President Mubarak is stepping down. And freinds both real and virtual are in high celebration mode. But I cannot join them. What exactly are we celebrating?
Yes, Mubarak was a despot who denied his countrymen democracy for the last 30 years. But until last month he was among our closest and most important allies in the Middle East. Have we been pursuing an immoral policy for three decades? If yes, where are the mea culpas from those who were so chummy with Mubarak until so recently? How is it that President Obama is as sanctimonous today as he was when he called our Iraq war — to depose a far worse tyrant — “stupid.”
Yes, all people deserve democracy. Yet I’ve been lectured over and over on the fact that democracy is a long process. It takes time to develop democratic institutions. George Bush was foolish, I am told, to try to impose democracy on the Middle East too quickly. Where are all of these pragmatic critics now? It seems that they are out celebrating the birth of instant democray in Egypt ….
What’s important is not who wins the battle today. What truly matters is who ultimately emerges with power in Egypt. And as of today we have absolutely no idea who this will be. Will our Google hero Wael Ghonim and his friends emerge as the leaders of a brave new democracy? Or will they be among the first executed by the new despots who ultimately seize power?
We have seen this movie before. After a similar middle class revolt in Iran in 1979, those who ultimately seized power arrested, exiled and executed those democratic souls who had opened the door to them. In the 2006 Palestinian elections, Hamas emerged victorious and eventually carried out a violent coup to seize power in Gaza. Those who opposed Hamas were not just thrown from power. They were thrown from the roofs of tall buildings.
I pray that true democrats willing to respect the will of the Egyptian people and live in peace with Israel emerge victorious in the power struggle now underway in Egypt. But I cannot celebrate so long as this remains so unlikely an outcome. We know not where the whirlwhind now unleahsed will lead.