It is the nature of revolutions to be entirely unpredictable. Most fail, and even those that succeed often follow paths that no one foresaw—not their targets, not their protagonists, not the partisans on any side. The Frenchmen who stormed the Bastille never foresaw the Terror. The Russians who stormed the Winter Palace never imagined Stalin’s purges, the Gulag or the Great Famine. Most Iranians never meant to build a theocracy.
The uprising in Egypt is far from over, and neither is America’s necessary role. We must work to guard against the worst outcomes, which may seem remote but are all too likely in the unpredictable maelstrom of revolution:
• The disintegration of the Egyptian army. Though hardly a paragon of democratic virtue, the army is the most important institution in Egypt, and it is vital to a peaceful transition to a moderate form of government. If the army fractures, Egypt will descend into chaos.
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At the end of the day, as we all know thorny national security issues don’t just involve the military; political-military considerations invariably bleed into them. If the senior military’s leadership views are going to be just constrained to military advice … who is thinking about issues from that broader perspective?