Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood & Oyster Stew

What do you think of these headlines from today’s news?:

If you’re Bruce Riedel, special contributor to the Daily Beast, Brookings Institution intellectual, and advisor to the Obama administration, you think it is just dandy: "Don’t Fear Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood" was the title and the substance of his piece in the Beast. “Many scholars,” Mr. Riedel assures us (but without naming names), believe that “the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today.”

I remember that old post-Leibnizian gag: An optimist is someone who believes this is the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist is someone who fears he is right.

History has its caesurae, blessed longueurs when not much happens. This is not one of them. In the Middle East, and perhaps elsewhere, too, it is one of those “interesting times” the Chinese are said to have wished upon their enemies. Over at NRO, David-Pryce Jones draws on an arresting phrase from Karl Marx to describe the situation:

There are moments in history when things could turn out in more ways than one, and the decisions of a very few people, perhaps just a king or a president or a revolutionary, settle the fate of millions for years to come. Karl Marx came up with the phrase “a plastic hour” for this uncomfortable moment when history hangs in the balance. We have a plastic hour right now in the Middle East.

Indeed. What should we hope for? In a word, stability, which is English for “Hosni Mubarak.” As I write, Egypt seems to be listing toward normalcy. The fly in the ointment was buzzing around those headlines I quoted: it’s called the Muslim Brotherhood.

Brief refresher course.  Bruce Riedel tells us that the Brotherhood long ago “renounced” violence.  Andy McCarthy has demonstrated how skeptical one must be about that claim. And even Mr. Riedel can’t bring himself to argue that the Ikhwan (Arabic for “brothers”) has renounced its charter:

Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu akbar!

Got it? While the Obama administration oscillates wildly in its posture toward Mubarak, “progressive” pundits assure their readers that those demonstrations in Egypt presage the dawn of freedom, democracy, and (in John Bolton’s ironical formulation) a new “Age of Aquarius.”

Which brings me to one of the most sobering comments I’ve yet read on the “plastic hour” in Egypt.