More than 30 years ago, Egypt's external relations underwent seismic change—from alliance with the Soviet Union and war with Israel to alliance with the United States and peace with Israel. Now Egypt is undergoing even more fundamental change, and the international consequences could well prove more far reaching.
Any forecast is mostly speculation, and mine, no exception, sees several potential outcomes. One is the continuation of highly authoritarian rule, perhaps less corrupt, perhaps not, by the succeeding layer of military leaders. Given the incendiary popular will already demonstrated, corrupt rule would almost certainly lead to massive violence, with a democratic end unlikely.
Or a smooth transition could take place by means of a new constitution written by a body including the military and existing parties (previously lawful and unlawful), followed by elections in six months' time, as the military leadership has just promised. Those parties would include the Muslim Brotherhood, about 20% of the population; Coptic Christians, about 5% of the population; and the rest secularist, observant Sunni Muslims, educated professionals, poor farmers and workers....
The remainder of this op-ed can be found at cnn.com.
Harold Brown, U.S. secretary of defense under President Carter, is trustee emeritus at the RAND Corp., a nonprofit institution whose mission is to help improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. He also is a trustee of CSIS.
This commentary originally appeared on CNN on February 22, 2011.