Under the Bush administration, "spreading democracy" in the
Now, in the midst of this historic uprising, Obama's rhetoric echoes that of his predecessor. Rather than condemning the autocratic regime, the president merely called on both sides to exercise restraint, mildly affirming Egyptians' democratic hopes and urging reforms. Obama's tepid response reflects a delicate balancing act. Rage against U.S.-backed strongmen fuels anti-Americanism and terrorism, yet democracy may pave the way for Islamist rule.
Obama's dilemma is not without legitimacy or historic precedent. While the demonstrations have had no singular leadership, and despite the prominent role of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has formed a significant presence within this movement. There is a possibility that this revolt will mirror the 1979 uprising that ousted the U.S.-friendly Shah of Iran. What we now call the Islamic Revolution began as an ideologically diverse movement strongly influenced by secular Marxism; only later did the religious fervor of Khomeini stand at its apex. If the people of
The Egyptian army will play a decisive role in the outcome of the unrest. Unlike the police force and security apparatus of the Interior Ministry, the army has not historically served as the boot of the regime. Not only has the army proved generally hesitant to use force on protesters, but there have been reports of soldiers stripping off their uniforms and joining in.