George Friedman reflects on Egypt's presidential elections result and came to the conclusion that the West made two key mistakes (a) overestimating the strengths of the secularists in Egypt (incorrect: West mostly feared the Muslim Brotherhood strength and the Iran model) and (b) underestimating the military regime's support between Egyptians (incorrect: Egyptians indeed support the army but not its "regime" as 75% of Egyptians voted for the non-army presidential candidates).
Excerpts below from Friedman's article about the similarities between the events unfolding in Syria and the historical backdrop leading to the Egyptian revolution:
Since the realignment of Egypt with the United States and the fall of the Soviet Union, with which many of these states were allied, the sense that these regimes were nationalist declined. But it never evaporated. Certainly they were never seen as regimes imposed by foreign armies, as was the case in Eastern Europe. And their credentials as secularists remained credible. What they were not were liberal democracies, but they weren't founded as such. From the Western point of view, that delegitimized everything else.
What the Westerners forgot was that these regimes arose as expressions of nationalism against Western imperialism. The more that Westerners intervened against them, as in Iraq, the more support at least the principle of the regime would evince. But most important, Westerners did not always recognize that the demand for democratic elections would emerge as a battleground between secular and religious tendencies, and not as the crucible from which Western-style liberal democracies would emerge. Nor did Westerners appreciate the degree to which these regimes defended religious minorities from hostile majorities precisely because they weren't democratic. The Copts in Egypt cling to the old regime as their protector. The Alawites see the Syrian conflict as a struggle for their own survival.
The outcome of the Egyptian election, which now pits a former general and prime minister of the Mubarak regime against the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, demonstrates this dilemma perfectly. This is the regime that Nasser founded. It is the protector of secularism and minority rights against those who it is feared will impose religious law. The regime may have grown corrupt under Mubarak, but it still represents a powerful tendency among the Egyptians.
Image: The JC