A View of Egypt from Chicago

The Egyptian Revolution has been very well documented since Egyptians first took to the streets a little more than a week ago to protest the 30-year rule of dictator Hosni Mubarak.


Protesters Clash With Riot Police in Egypt

Americans have defied our popular stereotype as an isolated, ignorant and apathetic people by giving the revolution the type of attention normally reserved for celebrity sex scandals and NFL playoff games. In Chicago, the Egyptian Revolution has received more media coverage than this Sunday's Super Bowl. It has been very refreshing to see.

The American public seems to not only be sympathetic to the demonstrators but optimistic about the revolution. Social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have allowed the Egyptian people to tell their own stories and inject more humanity into this revolution than has ever been possible before.

It's true that the Egyptian protesters are expressing the uniquely Western - and American - ideals of democracy and Human Rights, but the situation in Egypt is much more complicated than other revolutions past.

It's understandable for Americans to see a bit of ourselves in the crowds flooding Tahrir Square. However, the U.S. needs to recognize that the Egyptian Revolution could be a game changer for good or bad. This will not be a clear-cut victory for America like the revolutions across Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War.

As Richard Cohen pointed out in a well-reasoned, if pessimistic, piece in Tuesday's Washington Post, the Egyptian Revolution could end in disaster for the United States if an Islamic fundamentalist government comes to power in Cairo.

As Mr. Cohen correctly notes, Egypt was the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood - the precursor to Al Qaeda. While the contemporary version of the organization has more in common with Hamas than Al Qaeda, they might have some very different ideas about Egypt's role in the world and the United States, than many Americans would be comfortable with.

Four years ago, Palestinians went to the polls and elected Hamas in the most free and fair election the region has known. While I believe the Bush administration handled the results very poorly in its obstinate refusal to recognize Hamas, there is no doubt that democratic processes do not necessarily produce results favorable to the United States.

I understand that we cannot support Hosni Mubarak and am not as pessimistic as Richard Cohen about Egypt's next government; but the jury is still out on this one. If Egypt's transition to democracy goes smoothly and they elect a government dedicated to righting the country's economy and increasing prospects for its citizens, then the Egyptian Revolution could accomplish something the Iraqi invasion never did - establish an authentic democratic government in one of the most important countries in the Muslim world.

While all Americans' hearts should be with the protesters in Tahrir Square, our heads should tell us that what they decide to do next is anything but certain.

Contact Jeremy Berrington at realpolitikchicago@gmail.com

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