Egypt’s valuable lessons

So Mubarak has stepped down.  Now, of course, that’s more or less old news.             But the fever for democracy that was spawned in Egypt now looks increasingly contagious, and the wild-eyed optimists who dreamt of a turning point for the Middle East don’t look so crazy after all. Obviously, Egypt has a long, tough slog to go before it qualifies as a genuine democratic success story. But its story — and the story of the region in general — has already produced some positive by-products right here in the US of A. Finally, I hope, we can put to bed the ridiculous notion that Muslim countries don’t want — or can’t handle — democracy. I, for one, have had my fill of it and hope that it follows Mubarak into a peaceful and quiet retirement. Over the past decade or so, the Muslims-and-democracy-don’t-mix theory has come in a number of flavors. Sadly, during the peak of the Iraq War, many liberals who — rightly — opposed the war did so by — wrongly — questioning the very capacity of Middle Easterners to accept democracy. It was a cynical and unnecessary move. A rarer but more extreme form came from radical multiculturists who believe that democracy is but one of many acceptable forms of government. For those of us who were touched by the feelings echoing out of Tahrir Square, this response seems hollow and cheap. Now, of course, there was plenty of stupidity emanating from the conservative side as well. To be fair, the neocons did always believe that the Middle East was capable of handling democracy — that is, so long as we gave it to them on the points of our guns. They’ve been conspicuously quiet about the current uprising in the region. I guess democratization is just no fun unless you get to drop some bombs first. For the sane amongst us though, the uprising in the Middle East has been encouraging. And, with a little more luck, the lesson will be learned — Muslims want democracy, can handle democracy, and can take it for themselves.