I honestly am optimistic about Egypt.
Tens of thousands of Islamist and secular protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and Alexandria on Friday for a mass rally to pressure the ruling military council to hand over power to a civilian government.The idea that policy should be insulated or protected from the will of the people in the Middle East has a lot of currency in Israel, a lot of currency in the US Congress and a lot of currency in the Barack Obama White House. But it does not have a lot of currency in Egypt.
The demonstration, dubbed the "Friday of One Demand," was called in response to a document of "supraconstitutional" principles floated by the government that declares the military the guardian of "constitutional legitimacy", suggesting the armed forces could have the final word on major policies even after a civilian parliament and president are elected.
Despite the parade of US delegations that have been meeting Egypt's current dictator, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in secret, Egypt's military council has not come up with a rationale that they can express in public for why the people of the country should not set Egypt's policy. That is important because there is a limit to how hard anyone will fight for something they do not believe in.
The examples of Iran and Egypt have demonstrated conclusively for the region that the once widely-held idea that Islamism is inherently politically backward compared to secularism is wrong. Turkey's Attaturk and Egypt's Nasser may have subscribed to that idea but history has discredited it.
There still is a fight to come. With presidential elections delayed until 2013 and this weird multi-stage parliamentary election schedule that Tantawi has presented, it is now clear that the dictatorship is stalling on its commitment to relinquish power.
Barack Obama says that short term considerations may override what he claims is some long-term US value for democracy. Every indication is that he is solidly on the side of dictatorship with Tantawi, and that he is on that side for the sake of Israel. I'll say again that Barack Obama is the most spectacular Uncle Tom in world history.
On the other hand, fortunately, Obama and Tantawi cannot alone determine the future of Egypt. I don't think the outcome Obama and Tantawi are aiming for, where there is the veneer of a democratic parliament that not only does not set foreign policy, but that cannot even see the military's budget would be acceptable to the people of Egypt. It seems that Obama and Tantawi want to turn Egypt into Kuwait and call that democracy but I don't think Egypt would be governable by Tantawi if he makes a long-term attempt at it.
Egypt is the one important situation in the Middle East today. Its people have resumed demanding that it leave the colonial orbit Egypt currently inhabits along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE and others. If the people of Egypt are successful despite the efforts of the United States and the current dictatorship, then a new Middle East will be born.