Will Mubarak’s fall in Egypt resemble the shah’s in Iran? 

Enormous benefits would result if a few of the legion of interns working for the broadcast networks were dispatched to the tape archives and tasked with returning with a reel of American talking heads from 1979 opining on the revolution sweeping Iran back then.

Perhaps someone among the experts summoned to and through the green rooms of the day might have predicted the nature of Ayatollah Khomeini’s dictatorship, the Iran-Iraq war, the rise of Hezbollah or any of the assorted malignancies that sprang from the toppling of the Shah of Iran. But almost certainly no one did.

Almost as certainly, the YouTube compilation of hideously wrong predictions from 32 years ago would score a few hundred-thousand hits and perhaps introduce some caution into the commentariat’s consensus about better days ahead for Egypt once President Hosni Mubarak is off his throne.

No doubt he is a brutal authoritarian, and that the Egyptian nation and the world would be better served by a democratically elected president committed to human rights.

But there are far worse thugs in the recent past of the region. Unlike the first Assad in Syria, who leveled Hama and killed thousands, or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, who did not hesitate to use chemical weapons against his own people, Mubarak’s authoritarianism as chronicled, for example, by Robin Wright in her 2008 book “Dreams and Shadows,” allowed for the emergence of some opposition, some personal freedom and some religious liberty.

Also, of course, it maintained the peace with Israel and supported the United States in its interventions in the region.

A much, much worse Egyptian dictatorship could be around the corner. Would any of the talking heads care to argue the world is better off for the shah having fallen in 1979 as opposed to a quieter exit a year or two down the road with anyone except the fanatical mullah as supreme leader?

Most astonishing is the ease with which some on the various news panels dismiss the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood is a movement of great concern to the classically liberal minded. Again, read just one chapter from Wright — left of center and beyond challenge as a voice of mainstream American foreign policy elites. She makes it plain that the prospect of a Brotherhood role ought to alarm anyone concerned with the rights of women in Egypt or the future of the Copts.

Indeed, voices representing the Copts have been rare the past two weeks. Copts living in America are not hard to locate, and many have called my radio show recently.

Not all are worried about the post-Mubarak regime, but many are convinced the enormous threat that already exists will expand quickly and with deadly results if the wrong and the ruthless triumph in Cairo after Mubarak’s exit.

This is a moment that will impact the world for the next generation at least, and potentially with even more dire consequences than those that followed the fall of the shah.

Modesty in prediction would be welcome. And if not modesty, at least the various commentators could read a book and acknowledge there are serious people with serious concerns about what will follow when Mubarak’s plane departs and Anderson Cooper goes back to New York to cover the next big thing.

Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host who blogs daily at www.hughhewitt.com.

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Hugh Hewitt


Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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