Having traveled through much of the Near East, I found Assiut, a cement-making and food-processing center of 300,000 inhabitants on the western bank of the Nile, 200 miles south of Cairo, one of the most depressing urban areas I had ever seen. Assiut is a city where there have been repeated sniping and bombing attacks on tourists by Muslim militants over the past two years. Attacks like these have crippled the Egyptian tourist industry and are costing the Egyptian economy some $1 billion a year. I saw few green spaces, no examples of handsome architecture, no saving graces of any kind. Imagine a dreary grid of sandpaper hued apartment blocks in a city whose narrow, garbage-strewn streets, consisting of mud forever being refined into choking dust, are clogged with people and with battered cars belching the waste products of dirty fuel. The gray storefronts resemble the peeling skin of a leper. The faces of people you see on the street look hardened and irritated. The women wear dark scarves: any woman with makeup and exposed hair is—or more to the point, is assumed to be—a Coptic Christian. The only fresh paint is on the Arabic signs that garnish many an alley corner, advising people to fast during the holy month of Ramadan and ordering women to wear the hejab, the traditional scarf. Though these warnings do not specifically mention politics, they are an indication of the strength of Muslim militants and the weakness of a national government whose few official installations here, such as a storefront police station and a concrete state-security edifice along the Nile, are heavily guarded by troops behind sand-bags and by plainclothesmen with pistols in their hands.

There is no random crime in Assiut; in the company of an Egyptian friend, I felt completely safe during a recent visit. In that sense Egypt's society is far more civil than our own. But to keep it that way in the face of growing urbanization and industrialization, and of a proliferation of shantytowns, particularly in the northern and western parts of Cairo, requires, it seems, an ever-more-conservative religious and social mortar, providing convenient circumstances for the spread of Islamic extremism. The grim, unaesthetic environment of Assiut could understandably lead people to become politically disaffected, especially if they are unemployed, as two out of ten Egyptians are, or underemployed, as are so many more.

When I asked a Coptic Christian blue-collar worker, “Why is al-Gama'a al-Islamiya [the Islamic Group] shooting tourists?” he replied, “Because the Egyptian government has made peace with Israel, in the minds of the extremists the tourists must obviously all be Jews—an extension of the Mubarak regime. If you can beat up a kafir [infidel]”—he displayed the Coptic cross tattooed on his wrist and related how he was nearly attacked by a gang of Muslims—“you can kill tourists.”

I had heard similar statements about Islamic extremists from Copts before. Did these instruments merely reflect Christian animosity toward and fear of the fundamentalists? Or was this off-the-cuff remark truly insightful? I would never know. All I could do was look around and talk to people. Remarks that I heard, which would have startled if I'd encountered them in the neutral context of print, seemed less extreme when spoken in the context of these surroundings.

* * *

Mohammed Habib is a geology professor at the University of Assiut. Here is his explanation for the attacks on tourists: “The militants have nothing against the tourists personally. Their actions are merely a way to pressure a regime backed by America and Israel. These killings of foreigners, though, are against Islam and Egypt. We condemn them.”

Habib is an important figure in the Ikhwan al-Muslimin, the Muslin Brotherhood, in Assiut. The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, and quickly adopted terrorism as a tactic. In 1948 it was responsible for the murder of the Egyptian Prime Minister, and in 1954 for the attempted assassination of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The late President Anwar Sadat opened a dialogue with the Brotherhood, as a hedge against leftist Nasserists who wanted to overthrow him. The group then swore off violence and has not been implicated in any attack for a quarter century. Many Egyptians see the Brotherhood as a benevolent neighborhood force, operating clinics, welfare organizations, schools, and hospitals. Its numbers are uncounted, its popularity unpolled, because it is officially proscribed as a political party. The overwhelming majority of Egyptians and Western diplomats I asked said that if truly free elections were ever held in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would probably win the most votes. That's as specific as the information gets. Are there links between the Brotherhood and extremist Islamic organizations—for example, the Islamic Group? Most Egyptians with whom I spoke thought that there were, though no one provided details.

“Prof. Dr. Habib,” as he prefers to be identified, is a typical member of the Brotherhood. By that I mean he appears highly disciplined and also somewhat proud. With stylish glasses, a cream-colored corduroy jacket, and a perfectly trimmed white beard, he is fastidious and also didactic, speaking in a nasal, crisply enunciated Arabic that secular Egyptians call “Islamic” speech, “these Islamists have their own language, their own way of speaking Arabic,” says Mohammed Gohneim, of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. My translator, Mohammed el Dakhakhny, and other Egyptians I met also remarked on the “koranic” speech of Brotherhood members and of the followers of radical sheikhs. This type of speech has several distinctive characteristics. While the overwhelming majority of Arabs speak a regionally based colloquial Arabic, reserving classical (or literary) Arabic for written communications and other formal applications, Islamists use classical Arabic regularly. In addition, they flavor it with allegories and symbol peculiar to the Koran. More distinctive still is the way they pronounce Arabic: whereas spoken Arabic is usually a flowing language, in which one word easily connects with the next, Islamists seem almost to meditate on certain words, separating them out from the ones before and after in order to savor their meaning. This is a speech mannerism akin to praying, or to memorizing. In Iran, though the language is Persian into which have been mixed some Arabic words, this way of speaking is called “mullah talk” by Western experts and English-speaking secular Iranians. Because in Arabic substance is conveyed not only by the literal meaning of words but also by their sound, it is not uncommon for Islamists to mimic the accent and intonations of a favored cleric, as a way of showing respect. This is not so strange in a culture in which rote learning remains common.

To hear Habib's distinguished voice condemn the regime's widespread use of torture against not just suspected terrorists but also people only vaguely, if at all, connected with them is to fall under a spell of collusive idealism. If only more people were as rational as Habib often seems to be—if only President Mubarak would begin a dialogue with this man's organization. Indeed, according to one line of thought with which diplomats, area specialists, and Egyptians themselves sometimes toy, the Brotherhood is the moderate Islamic alternative to the extremists, offering the government a way to avoid radicalization.

And yet, if one asks Habib, not to mention other Brotherhood members, about the Egyptian economy and the tough jobs Mubarak faces—the privatization of some 300 state firms, the paring down of a debilitating million-person state bureaucracy—one gets evasive answers. “These are political problems,” was all Habib would say to me. If one asks the Brotherhood about the United States, one encounters unambiguous hostility: America is seen as the protector of an oppressive regime in Cairo.

Ask them about Israel, and ... well, let Habib speak for himself: “For Arafat and other Arab governments to make peace with Israel changes nothing. That is just another reason why many regimes in the Arab world are discredited and will collapse. We know the Jews have always been troublemakers.”

Habib may be part of a phenomenon that extends beyond Egypt and the Near East. His confident, learned gaze is eerily reminiscent of the expressions of educated Hindu and Sikh militants in India, of the university professors who spearheaded the pre-war Romanian fascist movement, of the self-educated and highly disciplined members of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, and even of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb with a degree in psychiatry who thinks that the elimination of Muslim is the key to his Orthodox Christian people's distress. They have all had grandiose visions acquired through an exceedingly limited range of books-and little experience of an outer world inhabited by others who think differently. A retired Egyptian diplomat spoke to me, for example, of the Brotherhood's attitude toward Judaism: “The Jews these people think they know about are the Jews of the Koran, who spurned Mohammed. The Brotherhood's knowledge of Judaism since the medieval era is nonexistent.”

* * *

What sorts of upheavals lie ahead? A discussion of Egypt's “deep” future must begin with the acknowledgment that unlike many other Middle Eastern states, Egypt is not artificial and makes eminent geographic sense. Civilization in the Nile Valley always was and always will be. It is worth noting that whatever disaffection there may be in Assiut, people there still think of themselves as Egyptians. The sundering forces that exist not far below the surface in Algeria, with its large Berber minority and Tuareg subgroup, do not exist in Egypt.

Assiut is more than just Assiut. Traveling in upper Egypt—that is, “up” the Nile, in southern Egypt—between Minya and Assiut, a distance of two hours by car, one no longer sees the traditional Nile Valley backdrop, in which water buffaloes move along canal embankments against a green panel of cultivation. Rather, one suffers through a sprawl of red-brick block houses where crowds rarely end. Red brick is more expensive than the traditional mud brick, and suggests the wealth of Egyptians who worked in the Persian Gulf states in the oil-fueled 1970s and 1980s, and are now putting their money into real estate. Because red brick is sturdier, buildings are taller than they used to be, making possible an increase in population densely and therefore also increasing social tension. There are still water buffaloes, but some of them are to be found in the teeming urban streets of upper Egypt.

In this environment Muslim militancy feeds not just on unemployment and the inability of the government in Cairo to provide basic services such as running water and garbage collection but also on the very presence of the Copts, who are more numerous in upper Egypt than anywhere else in the country. The seventh-century Arab Muslim conquest of Egypt did not penetrate deeply in the southern region. The Copts, who are distinguished from other Egyptians by religion much more than ethnicity, today make up about 20 percent of the population in upper Egypt, as opposed to less than 10 percent in the country overall. (All Egyptian population figures are rough.)

One foreign resident describes the Copts' social position in this poor Muslim society as that of “the Korean grocers in South Central L.A.” An enlargement of the pilgrim center at the Convent of the Virgin Mary, outside Assiut, built by donations from Copts all over Egypt and the world, is a not-too-subtle reminder to Muslims of the Christians' greater prosperity. No mosque I saw in upper Egypt was as large or as lavish that pilgrim center, whose cross is visible for miles across the Nile Valley. (In any event, the large mosques in upper Egypt are houkoumi, or official government mosques, and lack the political credibility of the ahliya, or people's mosques. These are humble storefront affairs that have also acted as bases for the Islamic Group; many of them have recently been taken over by the government. When I asked the family of Hosni Farag, a Coptic farmer in a village north of Assiut, who lost his right arm and left eye when members of the Islamic Group attacked him in his field, about the future of Christian-Muslim relations, one of Farag's relatives replied that Copts could be safe in Egypt only if there is “a policeman who can protect us on every street.” Two weeks after my visit five Copts, including two priests, were murdered outside a monastery near Farag's village.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, under Anwar Sadat, upper Egypt experienced periodic riots followed by long periods of quiet. Now the turmoil is endemic, with several security officers being killed regularly by Muslim militants. Nor is the problem confined to upper Egypt. In Alexandria last November there was a plot to assassinate Mubarak, by using mine-clearing equipment taken from Egyptian army stocks to blow up the President's car. And there have been attempted assassinations of three Cabinet ministers. Tellingly, these attacks have caused little outrage among Egyptians. I heard frequent remarks about how it would not have been a bad thing if the assassination attempts had succeeded, since there are no democratic means to replace what many Egyptians perceive as an uninspiring leadership. One Egyptian journalist says that it's as if Gerald Ford were still running the United States after replacing Richard Nixon twenty years ago and the only way of getting a new President was for someone to shoot Ford or for the military to replace him.

* * *

What we are witnessing, then, is the steady decline of a system. There is a myth about Egypt that Nasserism died with Nasser in 1970. Not true. The plinth of Nasserism has always been the military, the gargantuan state bureaucracy, the plethora of huge state-owned enterprises, and the class of private businessmen and their relatives who, helped by protection from outside competition, parasitically feed off the state, buying cotton and other raw materials from the government at less than market value and in return selling the government inferior-quality goods and services. Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak have all emerged from the military, from an officer corps that in recent decades has been pampered with subsidized housing and cars, among other benefits. However compassionate its regime may seem in comparison with those in places like Libya, Syria, and Iraq, Egypt has nevertheless almost always been governed by “emergency,” or “exceptional,” law since the 1950s. It is a national-security state, meaning that detainees have in effect no rights, and the military, rather than a democratic majority of Egyptians, decides who governs. More than half of the aid the U.S. government gives Egypt annually ($1.3 billion out of $2.1 billion) is for the military. As for the bureaucracy, it may have existed in Egypt for 5,000 year before Nasser, but Nasser strengthened its power and fostered its growth, in part by means of his policy of nationalization. I was told of one study—perhaps apocryphal—that determined that the average Egyptian bureaucrat does twenty-seven minutes of real work a day. Anyone who has watched bureaucrats in the government Mugamma building, off Cairo's Tahrir Square, sit for hours gossiping, reading magazines, and eating fava-bean sandwiches knows that figure may well be true. I have visited Egypt nine times and have spent hours watching bureaucrats sitting behind their deteriorating desks and doing no work whatsoever.

Nasser gave poor Egyptians cheap bread, palaver about Israel, and jobs in the state bureaucracy. But to a crucial percentage of the middle and upper classes, of whom Nasser was suspicious, something more had to be offered. So, for instance, Nasser awarded contracts to favored businessmen to build subsidized housing. The new apartments were not for the poor. They were for the police and army officers, the judges, the engineers, and the other middle-class professionals whom Nasser needed to coopt. And for their children, too. Today, reportedly there are two million empty housing units in Egypt, locked up and representing frozen capital worth more than $25 billion, many for the children and relatives of a new generation of Egyptians who are already well-off, even as their poorer compatriots, the ones from whom the militants and the Muslim Brotherhood draw their foot soldiers, cannot get mortgage loans. These poorer compatriots are frequently young men with some education, a university degree perhaps, often with families, who cannot find jobs and have no connections among those in power.

Many of the poor live in cemetery mausoleums and in shantytowns where there may be one family to a room and ten families to a toilet. According to some estimates, as much as one fifth of Cairo's populations lives in this manner. In the face of official neglect, neighborhood welfare associations have sprung up, often under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood. These may be little more than a few neighbors getting together, directed by a dynamic and educated person such as Mohammed Habib. The point is that no matter how little they do, it is usually more than what the government does. The October, 1992, earthquake in Cairo offers an example, which may have revealed more about the political future of Egypt than anything coming out of the far-more-publicized Middle East peace process. When the quake occurred, Mubarak was abroad. The bureaucracy, accustomed to taking orders from the top, was temporarily paralyzed. The Brotherhood and the neighborhood ahliya mosques distributed blankets and some food for the homeless, often nothing more. Mubarak rushed back to Egypt and the bureaucracy started cranking out a response, which ultimately resulted in some apartments being made available to people who had lost their houses, but because the state was nowhere visible during the first hours of the tragedy, in the popular mind it did nothing.

One government official admitted to me, “We usually know what the situation is, but we act like we don't.” In fact, the part of Egypt that in pivotal ways is outside the sovereignty of the Nasserist state appears to be expanding. Take Imbaba, a slum neighborhood in Cairo, which looks as though its buildings and people had been dipped in a vat of liquidy mud and set out to dry in the polluted air. Significant parts of Imbaba did not even exist a decade ago. Government ministers rarely, if ever, visit Imbaba (though recently the Minister for Local Governates, Mahmoud Sherif, has made an attempt to reclaim the loyalties of a section of Imbaba by supplying water and sewage services. With still too little government input Imbaba has been periodically run by a succession of local “emirs,” some with ties to Brotherhood welfare organizations, some without. When I asked one resident what these emirs do, he replied, “They open the drawer and give you something.” A Westerner looking for a formal structure to these neighborhood associations will be disappointed. What he will find in Imbaba itself, however, is that modern life is encroaching even in a Cairo slum. There may not always be water pipes, but there are television antennas, and the people watch not only religious sermons but also Western-style soap operas.

* * *

The issue, I slowly began to realize, was less the Brotherhood than modernity and the contradictions associated with it. Egypt is changing rapidly. There are not only more slums but also more cordless phones, Mercedes-Benzes, and boutiques. The new rich are another legacy of Nasser, whose land reforms ended the latifundia system that integrated, however unequally, the rich and the poor in a traditional social structure. The wealthier classes have much less personal contact with the poor now that they had in previous generations. In other words, Egyptian lives and anxieties are increasingly similar to our own. There is more atomization into small groups, but within groups people are learning to live with less and less government. Of course, the United States can change its government every four years. However little good that may do us, Egyptians can't do even that: they still have Gerald Ford, so to speak. But the old stereotype of Egypt as an “IBM society—Inshallah (God willing), Bokra (tomorrow), Malesh (never mind)” is losing validity. Not just the poor but the wealthier classes, too, are impatient for better government. And while class fissures widen and other problems mount up, the Nasserist state is a calcifying Ozymandian monolith, ready to crack open and disintegrate.

Hosni Mubarak may be less a Gerald Ford than a Konstantin Chernenko: the preserver of an old system before real reform, revolution, and chaos arrives to dismantle it. Reportedly, Mubarak believes that Gorbachev fell because Gorbachev moved too fast. Yet measured against the scale of Egypt's problems and the considerable pace of social change here, Mubarak is not moving much at all. His Cabinet ministers concerned with domestic affairs are mainly Nasser- and Sadat-era holdovers who have been in their jobs for years, and are said to be stuck deep in a bureaucratic porridge of corruption, incompetence, and cronyism unequaled in some time. The universal opinion is that corruption—particularly the fixing of government contracts—has never been as bad as it is now. True or not, that is the perception.

Mubarak, it is reported, claims that he is a slow Gorbachev (rather than a Chernenko), and this idea is being put to the test. Some 300 government-owned enterprises (textiles, cement, food processing, petroleum refining, and so on) are eligible for privatization. Together with the million-person bureaucracy, they represent the core of the Nasserist patronage network. The Egyptian government, according to a Western diplomatic specialist, is “already bumping up against” the International Monetary Fund on the matter of privatization—-that is to say, it is suspiciously behind schedule. “Asking Mubarak to privatize is asking him to take off the only suit of clothes he owns,” says a former Egyptian government official.

Because Mubarak, unlike Nasser, has no ideology and, indeed, seems to believe in nothing except muddling through, and because, unlike Sadat, he is not a man of risk and imagination, all he has is the state behemoth bequeathed to him by Nasser. Mubarak's so-called political organization, the National Democratic Party, is an empty shell. It has no grassroots support. All the elections in which it has been victorious were fixed. No Egyptian I met had any idea what the party stood for aside from the continuation of Mubarak's rule.

“The NDP is completely artificial,” says Mohammed Sid Ahmed, a leftist writer and intellectual. “If the political system were truly open, the [Brotherhood] would be the central party. A secular government is no longer possible in Egypt.” And Said al-Asmawy, the former chief justice of the High Criminal Court of Cairo, says that since the government has no core set of beliefs, all it can do is concede ground to militant Islamists. It has given them television programs and space in government-owned magazines. Public school students are now required to memorize koranic verses. Then is also a ban on hiring Coptic Christian teachers in public schools, and anti-Coptic discrimination reportedly influences admission procedures in medical schools. This has emboldened the Brotherhood, which subtly and sometimes not so subtly justifies the actions and attitudes of the Islamic Group.

Even as the government gives ground and loses legitimacy, Egypt gets poorer. Though the exact figures are subject to dispute, the country's net population-growth rate of more than two percent annually is slightly ahead of the rise in the gross domestic product. Although the net population-growth rate has fallen from 3.1 percent in 1989, at current rates Egypt's population, now 57 million, will be around 65 million by the year 2000 and 100 million early in the next century. Forty percent of the population is under fifteen. Urbanization, though slowing, increases by 3.3 percent a year. Meanwhile, by one estimate, 10 percent of Egypt's agricultural production is lost every year owing to the deterioration of soil fertility from salinization and waterlogging—the side effects of overirrigation. In Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World, as good a guide as I know of to Mubarak's Egypt, Jack Goldstone, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, makes an excellent case for the idea that the English Revolution of 1640, the French Revolution of 1789, the various revolutions in Central Europe in 1830 and 1848, and revolts in the Ottoman Empire and imperial China all emerged from the inability of regimes to deal with the problems arising from sustained population growth and natural-resource depletion. Goldstone uses an earthquake as a metaphor: stresses build up gradually for years before the layers of crust suddenly shift.

* * *

Political violence, though still of limited scale, may be a sign that Egypt is nearing crisis. The Nile Valley is rife with fundamentals turmoil, which is loosely organized, being assuaged here and breaking out again there, even as central authority rots apace. There is no particular air of tension in Cairo, and no charismatic mullah on the scale of the Ayatollah Khomeini has appeared—yet. Egypt has experienced this slide into weakness before—for instance, at the time of the collapse of the New Kingdom, around 3,000 years ago, when local priests gradually overwhelmed the Pharaoh and semi-anarchy prevailed; and during the late centuries of Roman Nile, when an increasingly discredited and corrupt state created conditions for the spread in upper Egypt of a particularly intense form of Christianity, emblemized by Saint Anthony's anchoritic monasticism.

Judging from its actions, however, the government appears to have no intuition about any of this. When I asked a government official close to Mubarak if there was any kind of program to deal with resource scarcity, poverty, and unemployment, he attacked American culture for its obsession with material progress. “You Americans have a cultural problem. The people here have a different nature. Look at the river Nile, how slowly it moves. Egyptians don't want progress overnight. The terrorists are just a bunch of painters and plumbers.”

The government's only response to unrest in Egypt seems to be mass arrests, beatings, and torture, including electric shock, all of which occur systematically. Reportedly, at least twelve persons died last year of injuries sustained while in police custody. Five of the twelve are believed to have had no connection whatsoever with Islamic organizations. This is part of a pattern. “Police will torture three hundred people just to find one person with information about the assassination attempt on the Prime Minister,” an official of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights reports. Especially in villages, where human-rights monitoring is difficult and social pressure intense, police often arrest and subject to harsh treatment the friends and relatives of suspected Islamists, even children. Human-rights abuses in Egypt are not just morally wrong—they are making enemies for Mubarak where none previously existed. I heard more than one story about how the arrest of an innocent person triggered the kidnapping of a government security officer by the detainee's outraged relatives. Yet the government insists that its hard, blunt policy will eradicate the Islamic Group, just as such a policy eradicated the Italian Red Brigades. Officials do not seem to realize that unlike the Red Brigades, who operated without popular backing in an affluent society, the Islamic Group is a manifestation of resonant social trends. The government's recent crackdown on the militants—including the elimination of crucial terrorist cells—has certainly bought it time, but perhaps accomplished little more.

A painful reality is that however many gradations may exist between the most moderate members of the Brotherhood and the most radical of the Islamic Group, they represent a similar mind-set—intense religiosity mixed with anti-Western sentiment, and a commitment to human rights even more questionable than that of the Mubarak regime.

It would be nice to think that Egyptian politics might evolve into something better. In Egypt, where a truly free election would be likely to bring to power a government more intolerant than Mubarak's, the whole discussion about “civil society” in the Arab world sounds slightly unreal. Though orderly elections are held regularly by professional associations in Egypt, the winners are often Brotherhood members. The Egyptians who, from a Western perspective, do offer a better alternative to Mubarak admit that they may be an increasingly thin, fragile layer of a society that is becoming poorer and coarser by the day. Statistics to support this view do not exist. But public demonstrations are indicative. When Farag Fouda, an essayist, Islamic scholar, and secular intellectual, was killed by extremists in June of 1992, relatively few members of the Westernized elite here showed up to mourn him. "We were too scared," one of those who stayed away told me.

* * *

The fear of what may happen next is expressed in the very architecture of the U.S. embassy in downtown Cairo: a tower surrounded by long, high walls. Cairo residents call it Fortress America. When the United States re-established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1974, after the October War, the new U.S. ambassador, Hermann Eilts, tried not to make America's presence in Egypt too big or too obvious: the Soviets had made that mistake, and they were kicked out. Eventually, though, the Washington bureaucracy took over, and the result is the largest U.S. diplomatic and aid staff in the world, in a compound that militants point to as the center of all nefarious plots—even though the people inside the fortress, along with Middle East Watch and others, have written devastating human-rights reports that fundamentalists use to bash the regime, and even though American diplomats have worked behind the scenes, albeit unsuccessfully, to make Mubarak more aware of his government's shortcomings. In a culture burdened by high rates of illiteracy and a taste for conspiracy theories, the architectural symbol of the fortress may count for more than the human-rights ports.

The fortress architecture is revealing in other ways. While American taxpayers provide billions to Egypt in aid, the U.S. position in Cairo may be growing more precarious. The fact that well over half of our assistance to this miserably poor country is earmarked for the military demonstrates our lack of confidence in the civilian society's ability to produce a better regime than the present one. Though we dole out billions of dollars to Egypt and have stationed so many of our Foreign Service officers there, the embassy's high walls indicate how afraid we are of the Egyptians themselves. Our aid is seen more as a bribe than as an element in a partnership. Thus we appear weak—as we are. American officials voice the hope that Mubarak can hold on, and that Egypt is still years away from the levels of disaffection to be seen in Algeria. The possibility that Egypt could move in the opposite direction—toward a better future in our own image—is something I never heard expressed by a Western observer.

There is only one group of people who regularly speak of a better future for Egypt. That group is the Islamists.

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