As the events in the Mideast have unfolded, a lot of commentators have jumped in on both ends of the spectrum. Some were opportunistically and regrettably premature. Some kind of straddled the fence, trying to be right no matter what happened. And some were honest when they said that they didn't know what it all means yet.
Egypt, while our historical ally, hasn't been a very free country - jailing people for free speech, a highly centralized economy, and routine religious persecution.
On the other hand, the only real democracy in in the Mideast is Israel and Egypt has had peace with Israel for decades. The Suez Canal runs without interference from politics. Stability is, selfishly, good for the United States.
So what's a president to do?
Change for the sake of change is not good. Change usually leads to unexpected results, and what's been easy to see thus far is that we don't have a lot of influence there. Most Egyptians don't respect or like the US, and they don't share what we in the West consider to be humanitarian values. For example, 4 out of 5 Egyptians believe in stoning adulterers, whipping people, and cutting off the hands of thieves. What to do with Egyptians who want to move to a non-Muslim country? 5 out of 6 Egyptians believe that the death penalty is in order.
If the government there actually turns out to be a democracy and run by its own people, odds are that Egypt will no longer be an ally and won't believe in individual freedom.
While I support self-rule by people, the basis of that support is a desire for individuals to be free to choose their own direction in life. Tyranny by a majority that results in restricted freedom for the minority is not a government based in freedom. While it might be democracy, its underlying principle is not liberty.
The president of the US ought to embrace freedom and independence, the core values of our country. Our best allies are those who share those values. In short, the interests of the US lie in freedom-based governments.
Pushing for democratic change in a region where the people do not embrace freedom is far more likely to turn out badly than it is to turn out well - for that nation's people and for the US.
I'm not sure that the Americans who get excited about the military revolution taking place in Egypt understand the desires and wishes of Egyptians, nor do I think that they know its history. The last military coup in Egypt, which suggested an intent to establish democracy, didn't turn out that way at all.
We in the West need to be very firm in our push for free speech, women's rights, religious freedom, individual mobility, and a free market.
There are many in the US willing to push hard for these reforms, but I don't see them in our state department or in the White House, or in much of the American commentariat. Pushing Mubarak out was not the end goal... or at least it shouldn't have been. Do we have more influence in that region than we did one month ago? I honestly doubt we do, especially since the region's leaders trust us less now than before this movement in Egypt started.
So why are we excited about this again?