Ignatius: The Arab revolution grows up

Egypt is the largest Arab country with about 80 million people. They have been an ally to the U.S. -- challenging as they have been under Mubarak -- for a long time. Coming from the turmoil in the Middle East now and into the coming weeks, perhaps months, my greatest concern is that radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Queda -- or any other extreme Islamist groups -- could advantage of any power struggle, or power vacuum, to come in Egypt. However, I think that all the pieces collectively show us that Egypt today is not the Iran of 1979. The Iran of 1979 is still a warning for us all with regard to Egypt, that we need to assure no repeat of what happened in Iran 31 years ago.

Wanted to share this: Some insightful words from David Ignatius, the very talented writer and author, on the Egyptian crisis. (Emphases -- bold or italics -- are mine.)

Nobody said it better than Hosni Mubarak: "Our eventual goal is to create an equal society, not a society of privileges and class distinctions. Social justice is the first rule for peace and stability in society." But that was in November 1981, a few weeks after he had become president of Egypt.

Over the next 30 years, Mubarak became a symbol not of equality but of a deep corruption -- financial, political and cultural -- that enveloped Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. He grew arrogant like a king, fancying that he could pass on his dynasty to his son; he ignored advice for reform, doing just enough to keep critics at bay; he shamelessly played upon Western fears of Islamic radicalism....

[Syria's] President Assad today is less vulnerable than Mubarak was: [Assad's] regime is at least as corrupt and autocratic, but it has remained steadfastly anti-American and anti-Israel. Hard as it is for us in the West to accept, this rejectionism adds to Assad's power, whereas Mubarak was diminished by his image as the West's puppet.

Washington debate about the new Arab revolt tends to focus on the U.S. role.... But this isn't about us. If ... former ambassador to Cairo Frank Wisner could help broker Mubarak's departure and a stable transition to new elections, so much the better. But Egyptians don't need America to chart their course.

It's encouraging to see that the demonstrators in the streets of Cairo, Amman and Sanaa are not shouting the same tired slogans about "death to America" and "death to Israel" that for several generations have substituted for political debate. And it's reassuring, as well, that the Muslim Brotherhood and other militant groups have so far played it cool. They know that the past "decade of jihad" was ruinous for Muslims and is unpopular.

"This is not about slogans," says Mroueh. "The real issue is life: I want an apartment, I want a job." And it's about the dignity that comes from these essential human needs. In reaching out to the military, the protesters have chosen the right allies for a path of stability and change.

Read the whole piece here (WaPost).

- jR
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