Writing at The Daily Beast, liberal columnist and pundit Kirsten Powers (who has family in Egypt) noted,
I spent much of yesterday interviewing American experts on the region—including two Brookings Institution scholars who are experts on the Muslim Brotherhood—and was reassured over and over that the organization has reformed and does not seek to establish a fundamentalist state. One claimed that Brotherhood officials have said they view Copts as equal citizens.
My relative laughed at this. He says when Brotherhood members have been asked about how they would treat Christians they are vague. When asked about whether they would nationalize the banks, they are vague. Even one of the Brookings scholars told me that the Brotherhood would probably segregate the sexes. This is far from a secular group.
That Powers, a proud “progressive,” is writing about this makes it clear that such fears are not merely being propagated by “right wingers.”
Powers’ column also rings true to me. In fact, I might have been one of the first to sound the warning alarm regarding the danger of Islamists seizing power if Mubarak were ousted.
A week ago at Politics Daily, I noted that “radical Islamist ideology began in Egypt, and this has informed Mubarak’s policies.”
And like Powers, it also occurs to me many Americans have been a bit quixotic regarding what is happening in Cairo. While I do not believe it would be wise for America to intervene (either for, or against, Mubarak), it is clear that many Americans who are “rooting” for Mubarak’s ouster, naively assume the autocrat would be replaced by pro-democracy forces who — after all — just want freedom and to rid themselves from the shackles of a dictator.
Others have bought into the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood are merely a non-violent charitable organization — sort of like Egypt’s version of the Knights of Columbus (here’s a great column about the Brotherhood).
To a certain degree, the reaction against Mubarak makes perfect sense. As I write this, Mubarak ‘s goons are violently cracking down on protesters and reporters in Egypt. He is clearly a villain. One cannot defend him, and it’s always hard to argue “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
But that does not change the fact that it seems likely that if Mubarak goes, his ouster would result in — at best — an Egypt which is much less pro-Israel and much less pro-American.
The other day, I interviewed NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“This is not an Islamic Revolution,” he cautions. “But if you’re having true Democratic elections and you get a variety of political parties [the Muslim Brotherhood would be] anti-Israel, generally anti-American foreign policy in the Middle East, [and that] would become much more a part of Egyptian foreign policy.”
As we wrestle with the moral and practical implications of all of this, it is interesting to note that this is really not a new dilemma. Revolutions are always a messy business ...