What the West Can Do in Egypt to Stymie the Muslim Brotherhood

This does not mean that Egypt’s Islamist regime will abrogate its treaty with Israel and start a war with the West immediately. Mohammed Hassan, a Salafi cleric, recently declared: “It’s not wise to start talking about such a treaty while we are trying to build a country and invite more enemies.” For the short term, the regime will regard the Camp David Treaty Anwar Sadat signed in 1979 as a cease-fire and consolidate its gains. It will continue to take money from the U.S. and provide support to extremists throughout the world, just as Iran has.

As bad as this sounds, there is hope.

If Western leaders move quickly, they can stymie the Islamists in Egypt. They can do this by promoting economic development in the country and by supporting Egyptian intellectuals who oppose the mistreatment of women and the subjugation of Egypt’s Christian minority. These were the people who were at the forefront of the Jan. 25 revolution. They were able to start a revolution, but they need Western help to prevent its hijacking.

In the short term, Western leaders need to speak up forcefully on behalf of these intellectuals and minorities, just as they spoke up for dissidents in the former Soviet Union. If Western heads of state were to do this, it would terrify the theocrats intent on turning Egypt into an iron furnace of suffering for its women and Christians.

In the long term, Western leaders must promote economic development in Egypt. This will not be done by hand-outs or bribes but through shrewd investments and accountability. Paying an annual ransom to the Egyptian military to abide by the Camp David Treaty failed to bring about the transformation needed to prevent an Islamist takeover.

Western leaders must invest not in military hardware, but in Egypt’s nascent civil society, which is clearly under threat.

There is no guarantee of success for such a venture, but given what’s at stake, it’s a gamble worth taking.