Egypt

How do you organize? How do you sustain momentum? In a place with no opposition and no members of the government who diverge from the leadership, where do you find the leaders of a new direction? How will democratic representation work? Who asks these questions beyond just ousting Mubarak and his confidantes? How do you create something for the future that can be stable? This is very hard.

It doesn’t seem to be about the United States or Israel even as both are decried. It is about the pent up dissatisfaction of Egyptians with the example of Tunisia to emulate.

Some worry that Mubarak has maintained the peace with Israel and that democracy could bring in Islamists with strong aversion towards Israel and the US. But, democracies usually want peace with their neighbors. Islamists IN a democracy should not worry us. Only Islamists taking over the democracy and co-opting it should worry us. A real democracy likely will include Islamic parties. But when the views of the people are really being expressed they will remove any forces that usher in a new kind of repression. So, we should welcome real democracy.

Mohamed ElBaradei may be the best person to form a transitional government. Standing up to the US during the Iraq WMD standoff earned him credibility among Arabs. He was tough with Saddam Hussein and is a skilled and disciplined technocrat with deep experience in dealing with western governments. We should not be confused by the view of the Bush administration in the days leading up to the Iraq invasion, which was tainted by the distortions of Cheney and Rumsfeld who rejected anyone who didn’t support their delusions. ElBaradei did not appease Saddam Hussein nor did he trump up the case that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld wanted.

Do Tunisia and Egypt start a domino effect among other repressive Arab regimes? “It may not be tomorrow or a few months but I’m sure it is like dominoes. Before there was always an ideology – pan-Arabism or being an enemy of Israel. But now people are simply looking for their personal freedom, for food, education, a good life. The days of ideology are over” said Mazen Darwich of the Syrian Centre for Media.

This is a time to help establish democratic legitimacy in the Middle East. The US should avoid the mistakes of defending dictators who support our diplomatic policies and manipulating democracy as an ideology that only support US aims, so undermining the legitimacy of democracy for the people who aspire to it.

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