We cannot determine the foreign policy preferences of Egypt’s next government. But we can influence them through our ties to the military, links to civil society, and a promise of economic assistance and free trade to help improve the lot of the Egyptian people.
The most important step now is to express confidence in the future of a democratic Egypt. Egyptians are not Iranians, and it is not 1979. Egypt’s institutions are stronger and its secularism deeper. The Brotherhood is likely to compete for the writ of the people in free and fair elections. They should be forced to defend their vision for Egypt. Do they seek the imposition of sharia law? Do they intend a future of suicide bombings and violent resistance to the existence of Israel? Will they use Iran as a political model? Al-Qaeda? Where will Egypt find jobs for its people? Do they expect to improve the lives of Egyptians cut off from the international community through policies designed to destabilize the Middle East?
Much has been made of Hamas’s 2006 electoral “victory” and the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Many factors set these cases apart. But even in these examples, extremists have struggle when faced with the challenges of governance.