Sander A. Diamond: When the Middle East Dust Settles

Roundup: Historians' Take

Sander A. Diamond is professor of history at Keuka College.

The acceleration of the march of history in the Islamic world has presented a challenge. The streets of nearly every ancient city have been filled with countless demonstrators demanding a new direction for their nations and ending decades of repression.

As we peer into the future while in the midst of a still unfolding chain of interconnected events, an out-of-focus picture emerges. Given the region’s long history and the fact the landscape is filled with monarchies, iron-fisted leaders, secular reformers and Islamists, it is unlikely Western-style democracies will take root throughout the Arab world. However, there is much evidence to support the belief that when the dust settles, many of the states will remain in the Western orbit.

Concerns over the future of Egypt may be exaggerated. Unquestionably, the Muslim Brotherhood — which was founded as an Islamist party in 1928 with the aim of ousting the British from Egypt, and is still anti-Israel — is worrisome. But this does not mean that Egypt will emerge as an Islamic state along the lines of Iran, or that the “Cold Peace” with Israel will be thrown to the wind. Egypt’s long history has created an internal culture that favors stability....

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