For the first time since the invasion of Iraq, I now see an end to the “war on terror” with Egypt holding out the hope of a free and democratic Middle East, which exports more than oil and suicide bombers. The peacful and enthusiastic attitude of the protesters in Tahir Square, even after the regime-sponsored thugs tried to provoke violence; the measured response of the Army all bode well for the future, and give the lie to the idea that democracy isn’t suited to the Arab street. It may mean the next revolution is Yemen, or that the next uprising in Iran may be successful and the last region of the world which resisted democracy starts the long march to free society.
Egypt now has a military interregnum, and many dissapointments may lay ahead – the military may not give up power, undemocratic forces may win a flawed election and so on. And even if a free democratic system takes root in Cairo, I would urge Egyptians to contain their expectations – democratic systems are not perfect, and do not in themselves lead to freedom and the rule of law, nor do they always lead to good government. What it does ensure is that tired, ineffectual or repressive regimes get booted out before they become a liability and stupid ideas such as socialism, get tested to destruction.
But whatever happens – there is now reason to be optimistic about the world right now, until politicians and religious leaders get together and screw it up for everyone, and for that optimism we can thank the Egyptian people.