Here we go again. This is the fundamental question: what are the pre-requirements for a democracy, or preferably, a democratic Republic, to be successful? Because if democracy does not work, then we are facing the disaster of having the largest Arab state being taken over by the radical Muslim Brotherhood with the multi-front disaster of an immediate threat to Israel, the potential to disrupt oil shipments through the Suez Canal, and probable protection & development of terrorists.
A tough question is this: can democracy only flourish in “western” countries with a Judeo-Christian tradition? To varying degrees, Europe has successfully sustained democracies. So have countries that were part of the British Empire made the transition, not all of which were Judeo-Christian (such as India). Through war (Japan, Korea and the Philipines) we have seen democracy work in Asia though with only marginal success elsewhere in Asia. In South America, some nations like Mexico and Colombia have had decent success, but others have not. But what about the Middle East?
The neo-conservative view that drove foreign policy during the Bush Administration, and also the neo-liberal views motivated Tony Blair in England and Bill Clinton in the Balkans, believes that all people desire to be free and that democracy can work anywhere.
Traditional American foreign policy has been to assume that in some areas, the Middle East being the centerpiece, order is more important. Iraq and Afghanistan, with the price of many American lives, are the tests. Will they be like Japan and Korea, or sink back into chaos?
When the Shah of Iran was toppled, we had the rise of radical Muslims almost immediately. The same was true with the Palestinians. Excluding Israel, which obviously has a successful democracy but is in the western “tradition,” Iraq and Iran are the most educated nations. Egypt has more in common with Afghanistan, in its historic chaos, than with Iraq.
I believe that by looking at variables within a nation - such as religion, education, the size of a middle class, and the numbers who have been exposed to western tradition – you can fairly accurately predict success.
In Egypt, I don’t see these variables as strong enough to avoid a radical takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps if Egypt’s leaders had begun the democratic process slowly, it might have worked. Now it is a pipe dream: this seems more like when the Tsar was overthrown, Kerensky headed a moderate government that soon was over-run by the communists (if there is even a moderate transition). Or Afghanistan where the Taliban toppled the interim government, and, ironically, the world media peddled the same lines about them that it now says about the Muslim Brotherhood. Radical Muslims are radical Muslims.
In my reluctant opinion, to avoid world chaos, potential Middle Eastern war, and rising terrorist pressures on our nation, our best hope is a transition figure backed by the power of the military. The key thing to watch in every revolution: who will the military support? And if the military resists the masses, then we will likely see whether a military junta can resist violence from the Muslim Brotherhood. And whether Iran and other nations will aid those who wish to overthrow them.
In other words, no matter how you look at this: it is not good.