In Egypt, the exciting part is over; now come the worries. Let’s start with three pieces of good news: Hosni Mubarak, Egypt‘s strongman who appeared on the brink of fomenting disaster, fortunately resigned. The Islamists, who would push Egypt in the direction of Iran, had little role in recent events and remain distant from power. And the military, which has ruled Egypt from behind-the-scenes since 1952, is the institution best equipped to adapt the government to the protesters’ demands.
Now, for the problems. The military itself represents the lesser problem. In charge for six decades, it has made a mess of things. Tarek Osman, an Egyptian writer, eloquently demonstrates in a new book, “Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak” (Yale University Press) how precipitously Egypt‘s standing has declined. Whatever index one chooses, from standard of living to soft-power influence, Egypt today lags behind its monarchical predecessor. Mr. Osman contrasts the worldly Cairo of the 1950s to the “crowded, classic Third World city” of today. He also despairs how the country “that was a beacon of tranquility … has turned into the Middle East’s most productive breeding ground of aggression.”