Old certainties are turning to ash in the Middle East. Solidly established regimes, prostate for all their monopoly on violence, are suddenly finding themselves incapable of suppressing the rage of the region’s disaffected young. Hosni Mubarak lorded over Egypt for three decades. Today he cannot to put out the fires in Cairo. This is a revolution.
The temptation to explain away its causes is difficult to resist. Slogans now emerge from across the world. Yet the force most visibly driving this revolution is rage – the sudden explosion of latent resentment triggered by Tunisians’ brisk dethroning of Ben Ali.
Everyone who opposes authoritarian rule must support the Egyptian revolutionaries. They must also, in the same spirit, urge them to consider the consequences of their revolution. By erasing order, revolution creates the illusion of empowerment. But without order, the mighty rule the weak. True revolutionaries know that their struggle is a means to an end, the chaos a necessary route to stability.
Egypt’s revolutionaries are determined to bring down Mubarak’s regime, but have they given thought to what will replace it? Can their revolution transcend its origins as a movement opposed to Mubarak and produce a nationalism that stands for something superior? Will the quick satisfaction of ridding the country of Mubarak make Egyptians unalert to the more objectionable ideas for their country that will follow? Will they resist the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to subsume the revolution? History is handing Egyptians the extraordinary opportunity to renew their nation. If they allow secular tyranny to be replaced by theocratic absolutism, they will not have another chance.