OTHER OPINION: DIPLOMACY | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

OTHER OPINION: DIPLOMACY

Misreading Egypt

Posted: February 1, 2011 - 7:05pm

Egypt on Monday continued to teeter between a popular revolution that would remove President Hosni Mubarak and a forcible restoration of order by the police and Army. The opposition called for mass demonstrations on Tuesday; the regime did its best to impede them by canceling trains and other transportation and continuing to block the Internet. 

While Washington and the world anxiously awaited the outcome of that test of strength, debate continued on the stakes and the dangers of the Egyptian revolt. Unfortunately, the discussion has been infected by considerable misinformation. Several common but mistaken notions are in particular need of correction: that the protesters have no leaders or platform; that radical Islamists are likely to assume power in a post-Mubarak Egypt; and that the United States has little ability to influence the outcome of the crisis.

Though they surprised many in Washington — including the Obama administration — the Jan. 25 demonstrations that touched off Egypt’s rebellion were anything but spontaneous. They were carefully organized by an opposition coalition, led by the April 6 movement — a secular organization dominated by young people. The movement originated three years ago, when it organized a day of protests and strikes; its Facebook group has nearly 90,000 members. April 6 is one of several broad secular coalitions that formed in recent years to promote democracy in Egypt. Another, led by former U.N. nuclear energy official Mohamed ElBaradei, has more than 240,000 Facebook members. 

Over the weekend, most of the secular opposition groups and the banned Muslim Brotherhood met to form a joint platform. They called for Tuesday’s mass demonstration and worked toward consensus on a platform. This probably will call for a transitional government, possibly headed by Mr. ElBaradei, that would lift political restrictions and lay the groundwork for free and fair elections.