It's nice to get out in front of the man I consider our nation's most astute observer of the political winds, Charles Krauthammer. Specifically, for ten days I have been writing that Obama needs to be focused like a laser on giving secular opposition a chance to develop in Egypt prior to the next election, that an interim government needs to be formed by the military, that there is no chance to salvage Mubarak, and that an interim government should not include the Muslim Brotherhood or its mouthpiece, el-Baradei. And today, Krauthammer weighs in, making exactly the same points.
Who doesn't love a democratic revolution? Who is not moved by the renunciation of fear and the reclamation of dignity in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria?
The worldwide euphoria that has greeted the Egyptian uprising is understandable. All revolutions are blissful in the first days. The romance could be forgiven if this were Paris 1789. But it is not. In the intervening 222 years, we have learned how these things can end.
The Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support. But only a child can believe that a democratic outcome is inevitable. And only a blinkered optimist can believe that it is even the most likely outcome.
Yes, the Egyptian revolution is broad-based. But so were the French and the Russian and the Iranian revolutions. Indeed in Iran, the revolution only succeeded - the shah was long opposed by the mullahs - when the merchants, the housewives, the students and the secularists joined to bring him down.
And who ended up in control? The most disciplined, ruthless and ideologically committed - the radical Islamists.
This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time. That would be Egypt's fate should the Muslim Brotherhood prevail. That was the fate of Gaza, now under the brutal thumb of Hamas, a Palestinian wing (see Article 2 of Hamas's founding covenant) of the Muslim Brotherhood. . . .
ElBaradei would be a disaster. . . .
The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 Free Officers Movement that overthrew the monarchy and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.
The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months. Whether it does so with Mubarak at the top, or with Vice President Omar Suleiman or perhaps with some technocrat who arouses no ire among the demonstrators, matters not to us. If the army calculates that sacrificing Mubarak (through exile) will satisfy the opposition and end the unrest, so be it.
The overriding objective is a period of stability during which secularists and other democratic elements of civil society can organize themselves for the coming elections and prevail. ElBaradei is a menace. Mubarak will be gone one way or the other. The key is the military. The United States should say very little in public and do everything behind the scenes to help the military midwife - and then guarantee - what is still something of a long shot: Egyptian democracy.
For a different take on this, you should visit Big Lizards. Dafydd does not think that the Muslim Brotherhood presents the threat that I believe it does, and his posts are always worth a read.