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Posted at 12:51 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Egypt 'not out of the woods yet'

By Jennifer Rubin

That's the take of Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. That doesn't mean this is an ominous turn of events, as some on the right keep insisting. (Glenn Beck, purveyor of doom, is joined on Twitter by some conservatives, who should know better, grousing about the demise of a despot.) Schanzer warns "Lots can still go wrong." This is especially true if Mubarak's successor concludes that ridding the people of Mubarak will be enough to satisfy the protesters. Schanzer's colleague Khairi Abaza e-mails me:

Mubarak's departure is a great triumph for Egypt, but it is only the beginning of the road, not the end. In each of its previous statements, the army has stressed that it will support the demands of the Egyptian people, but it's still not clear what that means.

Egyptians hope the military moves swiftly to bring about a peaceful transition and gains opposition groups' support for a power-sharing agreement that paves the way toward democracy.

As in Tunisia, I don't think the demonstrators will give up completely until they see the makings of a real political transition. The issue was never simply Mubarak's departure, but the establishment of a democratic regime.

Obama administration officials, farcically, are taking credit for events. Instead of beating their chests and trying to rewrite history (i.e. disguise their total lack of seriousness for two years on democracy promotion) they would do well to put together a strategy for assisting in the building of a secular democracy. Given our reluctance to openly challenge Mubarak, America's influence may be limited and our reputation further sullied. But we do know that the Egyptian military has behaved responsibly and understands that the status quo is not sustainable.

In a written statement, John McCain (R-Ariz.) provided a mature voice that the administration would do well to emulate:

While this is a welcomed event, the Egyptian people are clearly saying that President Mubarak's resignation should be the beginning, not the end, of their country's transition to democracy. I completely agree. For the Egyptian people to achieve the legitimate and enduring democratic change they seek, representatives from Egypt's pro-democracy parties and movements must be included in the transition government. In advance of elections later this year, Egyptians must be free to exercise their universal rights peacefully -- to speak and express themselves without interference, including over the internet; to organize independent political parties; to register candidates of their choosing for office; and to participate in elections that are free and fair by international standards.

In the days ahead, the Egyptian military will continue to have a critical role in maintaining order and stability while allowing their fellow Egyptians to exercise their universal rights in peace. The Egyptian people are demanding a meaningful and irreversible transition to democracy, and I urge the Egyptian military to faithfully support and secure the coming process of political change in Egypt.

The United States stands fully ready to assist the Egyptian people and government as they begin the hard work of democratic reform."

As ghastly as the administration's performance has been to date -- excessively cautious, inconsistent and confused -- it can now, albeit tardily, get on the right side of history.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 11, 2011; 12:51 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Next: What's next for the administration?

Comments

"Mubarakism Without Mubarak: Why Egypt’s Military Will Not Embrace Democracy"
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67416/ellis-goldberg/mubarakism-without-mubarak?page=show

Posted by: K2K2 | February 12, 2011 12:57 AM | Report abuse

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