Phil writes that Hosni Mubarak has “provided a check on… the Muslim Brotherhood.” Really? Then why are we so worried about the Muslim Brotherhood gaining influence after he’s gone? As Elliot Abrams says,
Mubarak has ruled for THIRTY YEARS and leaves us a Brotherhood that is that powerful? Isn’t that all the proof we need that dictatorship is not the way to fight the Brotherhood? He crushed the moderate and centrist groups and left the Brothers with an open field. He is to blame for the Brothers’ popularity and strength right now. The sooner he goes the better.
It’s worth repeating what Ross Douthat spent the first third of his Monday column explaining: If Hosni Mubarak were really an effective check on Islamic radicalism, the World Trade Center would probably still be standing. Ross spends the rest of his column explaining why this doesn’t necessarily mean we shouldn’t be wary of his downfall, and he’s right. But people like Abrams and Robert Kagan have been warning for some time that Mubarak was near his end and it was time to nudge Egypt toward reform; under the circumstances, it seems odd to peg them as the naive ones.
In the short term, democracy in Egypt is likely to have ugly outcomes that we can work to mitigate but not avoid entirely. (See Duncan Currie’s write-up on Reuel Marc Gerecht’s views for more on this.) But it’s hard to see what the alternative is; as John Podhoretz puts it, “It is written into the DNA of the United States that, when push comes to shove, we cannot support the forces of tyranny over mass protest.”
And that, ultimately, is the bottom line. American values and American power are inextricably linked. Our most durable allies are those who share those values, and when we must ally with autocrats, it’s in our long-term interest to nudge them, as best we can, toward bringing the values of their societies more in line with ours. That’s why American hegemony is a good thing: because it is driven by values that are superior to China’s or Russia’s or Iran’s. America is not engaged with the world to accrue power for its own sake, nor should it be.
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