The Spectacle Blog

The Conservative Pessimism about Egypt is a Strategic Blunder

By on 2.7.11 | 5:00PM

The conservative pessimists are out in full force today here at The American Spectator; and I could not disagree with them more.

Ben Stein, for instance, laments that "our (sort of) pal in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, is under siege," and that the Obama administration has had the effrontery to urge Mubarak to begin the transition to a new and more representative government.

Of course, nary a vote has been had yet in Egypt; and yet Jed Babbin knows with certainty that a new Egyptian government will "gradually become an Islamist government."

Aaron Goldstein, meanwhile, wrongly suggests that anti-Semitism and a hatred for Israel are the driving force behind the Egyptian uprising. And, to buttress his concern, he cites Sarah Palin, who told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

We want to be able to trust those who are screaming for democracy in Egypt. [But first] we need to find out who was behind the turmoil and the revolts and the protests.

I like and admire Sarah Palin in many ways; but her focus here is entirely misplaced. Her comment does, indeed, bring to mind, as the Daily News' Mike Lupica notes, Groucho Marx's famous line: "Who are you gonna believe: me or your own lyin' eyes?"

The fact is that ever since this uprising began, reputable Western reporters have been on the ground in Egypt, talking with and interviewing the protesters. We know perfectly well what the these people want and what they seek: a better life, greater economic opportunity, and a more responsive government.

The fact that the Egyptian people often lack the democratic vocabulary necessary to give voice to their inchoate political aspirations doesn't make their aspirations wrong and illegitimate. To the contrary: that the Egyptian people have done so much with so little re their uprising is remarkable and a cause for genuine optimism.

Egypt, remember, is a poor country ruled by a corrupt autocracy. As such, it has been a breeding ground for Islamists and other radicals who seek to destroy the West.

The mass uprising there thus offers the United States its greatest strategic opportunity in a generation: to finally and belatedly bring about much-needed and long-overdue reforms to the one part of the world where it is most urgently needed: the Middle East.

Does the Egyptian revolution pose a risk? Absolutely. Liberty is never guaranteed; it is always at risk, especially in a country, such as Egypt, whose democratic roots are fragile and newly born. Which is why it is incumbent upon the United States to actively intervene to help foster democracy there.

The alternative is to watch the Egyptian revolution flounder and fail and perhaps even get hijacked by the Islamists. This as a new generation of Egyptians, empowered by the Internet and social-networking technologies, becomes radicalized and hostile to the West.

The irony is that conservative pessimism is in full bloom even as we on the Right celebrate the centennial of Ronald Reagan's birth. Yet Reagan was the antithesis of pessimistic.

He was, in fact, a great optimist who saw, seized and created strategic opportunities -- in Poland, Nicaragua, Grenada, Angola and elsewhere -- to rollback communism.

In Egypt today, the United States has a similar opportunity to rollback radical Islam. Yet all many conservatives can do is wring their hands, shake their heads and despair. But given what's at stake, given what we know, and given who we are as a people, this attitude is wholly inappropriate and wrong -- and it is decidedly un-Reagan-esque.

The United States can help the Egyptian people to bring about the democratic change they need and want, and we should do so -- now.

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