Robert K. Lifton served as President of the American Jewish Congress, is a Founder and President of the Israel Policy Forum and as co-Chair of the Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations... He is also in panic mode!
"While the world watches the events in Egypt play out, we should recognize a disturbing reality. No matter what the results of the uprising, Egypt will be a volatile nation, no longer a country that the United States can count on to maintain a stable, peaceful Middle East. If President Mubarak manages to stop the demonstrations by use of force, it will only be a matter of time before they erupt again and again. Once the populace has tasted the freedom to assemble and demonstrate - even to react violently - they will resort to it again. The pressure on the Mubarak regime will never stop until he leaves office. Meantime, he will not have the power or flexibility to play the role he played until now; in maintaining the peace, however cold it may be, with Israel and the stability of the region.The more likely scenario is that either Mubarak will be forced to leave the Presidency, or even if he manages to hold on to office temporarily, to carry out a new election very soon. Under the best of circumstances that the U.S. can hope for, that will result in a legitimate election of a new democratic government. The problem is that the new government, any more than a Mubarak government, will not be able to provide the economic conditions that the demonstrators are demanding. It will not be able to provide jobs for the millions of young people who are unemployed and it will not be able to keep prices of food, oil and other commodities from rising. Egypt does not have the financial resources or borrowing capability to provide its people with subsidies to offset the inflationary rise in food and other commodities. It does not have the industry that can create jobs for the unemployed. And in the face of the violence, it will be even less able to attract new capital or retain the capital it has, even to continue the unacceptable current levels of employment.The result of a failure of a democratic government to solve the Egypt’s woes can well result in another wave of demonstrations and violence. This time, opening the door for a strongman, perhaps from the military, to take over the government, quell the demonstrators with overwhelming force and impose an autocracy. Whether this will be an Islamist government as in Iran, (tsk tsk) is difficult to predict. However, since one major organized group in Egypt is the Moslem Brotherhood, it is likely that even if the regime is secular it may have to make some concessions to the Islamist elements to avoid further conflict. Either way, the democracy that the Western world hopes for will not happen and the Egyptian government may no longer be one that we can count on.
It should be noted, that the likely tale of Egypt is also the tale of Tunisia and Yemen. Like Egypt neither of those countries can provide the solutions their demonstrators seek and the end result in each will probably be a new dictatorship replacing the one being overturned. The Obama Administration has no choice in any of these places but to support the rights of the demonstrators to freely assemble and speak out. But we should be aware of the likely results of the events we are witnessing and as best we can prepare for a different, more volatile and dangerous Middle East."