February 4, 2011

The Post asked experts what should happen in Egypt after Mubarak. Below are responses from Michele Dunne, John R. Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Shadi Hamid, Aaron David Miller, Salman Shaikh, and Dina Guirguis.

MICHELE DUNNE

Senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor of Arab Reform Bulletin

After Hosni Mubarak surrenders his powers, a transitional government should oversee a process leading to free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections within six to nine months. Ideally, the transitional government should include respected figures from the Mubarak government, senior judges and members of opposition groups.

The parliament fraudulently elected in November should be dissolved (preferably as Mubarak's final act as president), the state of emergency in place since 1981 lifted, and a constitutional assembly composed of judges and civil society figures convened to draft significant amendments to the Egyptian constitution. At a minimum, articles will need to be amended to ease eligibility to run for the presidency and to form political parties, establishing presidential term limits, and to form a credible independent commission to administer elections. Other objectionable provisions of the constitution - allowing authorities to set aside human rights protections in terrorism cases, for example - should be amended at the same time.

This is an ideal scenario; actual developments are unlikely to unfold this smoothly. What is important is that Egypt should move toward a fully democratic system rather than a military regime or a slightly liberalized autocracy.

JOHN R. BOLTON

Senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006

In Egypt, fierce popular demands for President Hosni Mubarak's immediate departure may prevail, although he has upheld peace with Israel and alignment with America for 30 years. But everyone will remember that we treated the autocratic Mubarak like a used Kleenex, at a potentially huge cost to us, Israel, friendly Arab regimes and other "allies" globally.

Conceptually, of course, America supports democracy, but calling for it is not tantamount to achieving it. Terrorists and totalitarians masquerading as political parties are not democrats. Democracy is a way of life, not simply the counting of votes, which can lead back to anti-democratic rule, as Russia and Lebanon now demonstrate.

Egypt's real regime is the military establishment, which must restore stability, domestically and in the Middle East, to allow whatever progress toward a truly democratic culture may emerge. The idea that immediate elections will bring the Age of Aquarius to Egypt is misguided; far better to proceed when true democrats, not just the Muslim Brotherhood, are ready.

In international politics, as in everyday life, strongly held moral or philosophical principles can come into conflict, requiring painful choices. Pursuing one value or ideal unswervingly and hoping the rest will ultimately fall into place is wishful thinking.

NEWT GINGRICH

Republican speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999

The No. 1 American goal in Egypt should be to avoid the weakness, confusion, self-deception and timidity that led the Carter administration in 1979 to demoralize the Iranian military and to allow the replacement of an American ally with an enemy.

That error of weakness has endangered the United States for the past 32 years.

A Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government would be a catastrophe of the first order. The brotherhood's insignia is two crossed swords under the Koran. Its founding slogan is "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."

No American should have any doubt that a military defense of order and a leadership committed to working with America and to a representative form of government for its people is the only outcome that is not a strategic disaster in Egypt.

SHADI HAMID

Director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy

"Transition" has become one of the most misused and misunderstood words in the American political lexicon. No one seems exactly sure what it means. What we do know, though, is that democratic transitions are notoriously messy affairs. Both sides make compromises. And it always seems like the good side - the pro-democracy one - makes more.

The playbook goes something like this: Facing popular pressure, ruling elites realize they have to make concessions. Opposition elites enter into negotiations and, based on each side's relative strength and momentum, as well as international pressure, the slow, difficult work begins.

In Egypt, an interim "national unity government," representing the full range of parties (including the Muslim Brotherhood and reform-minded ruling-party officials), should be established, with the military acting as guardian. It would oversee the drafting of a new constitution that restrains the power of the executive branch. (Egyptians should consider whether it's time to shift to a parliamentary system.) There should be six months of free, unfettered political participation so that secular parties - which are extremely weak in Egypt - are able to build organizational infrastructure, gain members and get their message out. Then, if we're lucky, Egypt holds its first free elections in more than six decades.

The international factor may prove decisive in ensuring the parties stick with the road map. Fortunately, the United States has $1.5 billion in annual assistance to use as leverage. It should also consider significantly increasing aid to ensure the new governments meet key benchmarks on democratization.

AARON DAVID MILLER

Public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; former Arab-Israeli peace negotiator for the State Department

What should come after Hosni Mubarak is a free Egypt transitioning to a democratic polity, carrying out its treaty obligations with Israel, and cooperating closely with the United States on peace and security in a way that advances both nations' interests.

What will come after Mubarak is another matter. The gap between what should happen and what will is considerable, as is the gap between our own vision and our capacity to affect it; that goes as well for the demonstrators and the regime.

The challenges that a freer Egypt will face - assuming that a transition takes place without massive violence and a breakdown of order - are also considerable. Moving quickly from authoritarian rule to democratic governance will be excruciatingly painful, but possible. Institutions that have been frozen for decades will have to adjust to more accountability and transparency; a new contract will have to be negotiated between civilians and authorities, and the military will be reluctant to abandon its centrality in Egypt's life. All of this will have to be done within a constitutional framework that needs revision. A tall order for any country, let alone one where the vast majority of the population lives on less than $4 a day.

As for the United States and Israel, they'll have to get used to a more critical, political elite in Egypt - now more responsive to public opinion. This won't produce a breakdown of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty or a break in U.S.-Egyptian relations. But the space for maneuver on issues such as counterterrorism, containment of Iran, Gaza and the peace process will narrow.

I'd like to be upbeat about the future; and I suspect the transition over the long arc of history will leave Egypt,its politics and its people better off. But I'm also reminded of Robert Penn Warren's observation: "History like nature knows no jumps, except the jump backward, maybe."

SALMAN SHAIKH

Director of the Brookings Doha Center and fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy

With one president down in the Arab region and another in jeopardy, people wonder which regime is next to go? But focusing on the headcount may miss the point.

Some Arab leaders have responded to the demands mounting on them. Over the past week alone, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria has offered to end 19 years of emergency rule; Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that he would step down in 2013; and Syria's Bashar al-Assad promised long-stalled political reforms. In each case, it may not be enough. Regardless, their regimes are being forced to make changes that may ultimately affect the nature of their rule.

It is clear that the Arab region has already moved to a new era. The implications for U.S. policymakers are going to be profound.

President Obama got it right in Cairo in June 2009 when he observed that governments that protected human rights "were ultimately more stable, successful and secure." The question that remains is: Why does the United States support societies in the Arab region that are the opposite of its own?

Washington has another opportunity to alter its behavior and support the region's largely unchartered transition to a democratic future. In doing so, it would start a real, productive dialogue with many peoples that previously hasn't existed.

DINA GUIRGUIS

Keston research fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; former executive director of Voices for a Democratic Egypt

Egyptians seek a democratic transformation, not another military dictatorship or a theocracy. Hosni Mubarak should transfer his presidential powers and step down. A transitional national unity government representing diverse political forces and composed of respected independent figures should be installed; their first order of business should be to lift Egypt's notorious "emergency" law, with which Mubarak has governed the country for 30 years. Next, they should approve the formation of a committee of independent legal experts to draft a new constitution enshrining principles of true citizenship, religious and political pluralism, and the civil (non-religious) nature of the Egyptian state. The military should preserve and protect Egypt's newly drafted constitution and the civil nature of the state.

Egypt's two national legislative bodies, the Shura Council and People's Assembly, should be dissolved, as their current composition is the result of elections marred by substantial documented irregularities. The government should establish a timetable to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections. Meanwhile, the transitional government should rapidly move toward opening up the political space, through permitting and encouraging free media, embracing civil society, ensuring the judiciary's independence, and relaxing laws governing the establishment and operation of political parties. The new government should likewise move toward restructuring the state security apparatus and remove its jurisdiction over political matters, such as sectarian violence.