Updated 02/11/2011: Mubarak Resigns
Right now, before our eyes, we are watching a dictatorship fall apart. For the second time in in a few weeks, a dictator past his prime looks to be approaching his “sell by” date. The dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt has set a 6PM curfew all over Egypt and (to avoid another Wikileaks Revolution, I imagine ) has shut off internet in the entire country. I cannot see how this is going to end well.
The trouble is not that Mubarak is a power mad dictator whose rule is corrupt and undemocratic. All of these things are true, just as it is true that a powerful cocktail of radical Islam (the Muslim Brotherhood) and economic distress is making his rule appear ever more shaky by the day. What is ominous is that Mubarak, and those corrupt dictators who rule all over the Middle East and North Africa are a better option for the West than what leaders would be elected by a democratic vote in most of these areas. Lest we forget, Hezbollah is taking over the government in Lebanon  and Hamas won the last “free and fair” election conducted in the Gaza Strip . When one realizes that the terrorists of Hamas are merely the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood  that would be poised to takeover Egypt in any free election, one has cause for serious concern. When one adds trouble in Yemen and Jordan to the list as the people of those nations rise up against their leadership , one has the makings of a serious geopolitical earthquake in the Middle East, among the last places on earth to need more drama and turmoil.
The trouble is this–corrupt leaders have kept the people from any kind of active and meaningful role in the political process for decades all over the Middle East (except in Israel and Lebanon, coincidentally the nations in the region with the biggest Jewish and Christian populations), and the government has not provided for the economic growth that would allow it to keep its population content. A long-term demographic rise in the amount of well-educated young adults with no reasonable prospects of a decent living has led to a rise of very serious and generationally-based discontent across the entire region in recent weeks.
What makes this particularly grim is that the options of having either corrupt military leaders (like Mubarak) or corrupt dynasties (like the Saudi ruling family) seem like a better option in the Middle East than the “democratic” alternative, if you are in Israel or the West. In this current climate, radical parties like the Muslim Brotherhood and their kindred parties would win power in a free election in a large part of the Middle East. Whose fault that is at this point is pointless to debate, given the gravity of the situation, but the hostility these parties will show to the West, and to Israel, is not an academic matter.
And that is what makes my thoughts on these uprisings, as great as my love for freedom and democracy is, rather grim. It just feels like the 1930’s in this sort of environment, the combination of tottering governments, radical ideology, and the search for scapegoats, which usually include Jews and the West (for some reason). It is hard to feel particularly good about what is going on in Egypt. As corrupt as these tottering dictators are, it is impossible to feel sanguine about their replacements, who are likely to be far less flexible and far less moderate in their relations with other nations. And that adds up to a massive problem ahead in Egypt and other nations.
Now that Mubarak has resigned from Egypt after facing a fierce revolt from the people, it remains to be seen who or what will replace him. During the course of the protests the people did not turn against the military, and so the Nassarist regime of military rule over Egypt seems secure, for now, now that Mubarak has left office. Whether there will be another strong man or a group of leaders (as there appears to be no one mighty leader to replace Mubarak as of yet) is not yet clear. Also unclear is to what extent the government of Egypt will become more democratic in form. A danger and concern with democracy in Egypt is the power of political Islamists like the Muslim brotherhood, who have remained popular with the people despite the lengthy military rule of the Nasserist regime since 1952.
 Dr. Ian Barnes and Josephine Bacon, The Historical Atlas of Judaism (Edison, NJ: Cartographica Press, 2009), 354-355.