Western decision makers would be worried enough about what might emerge from massive popular revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and from the simmering conflicts in Bahrain and Yemen, but they’re also contemplating the prospect that similar unrest could spread far outside the Arab world, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe.
At least for the moment, the Brotherhood will remain an important player in the Arab world wherever it can participate in free and fair elections. Democracy is about organization, not the random will of the masses. The party that can get out the votes gets control of the government. But the Egyptians have known and watched the Brotherhood for a long time, and in an open, peaceful political system its mystique should soon disappear.
If Hizbullah weren’t so smart, it wouldn’t be so dangerous. This Shiite militia, created by Iran and backed by Syria, has never had a problem using force, naturally. But now that it is in a position to govern—a position it got to through constitutional maneuvering—it’s not acting like the overbearing Party of God so much as an éminence grise.
The very essence of diplomacy between nations in the old days—maybe even yesterday—lay in knowing the difference between official communications, unofficial ones, and those that, being leaked, might be denied. All of these modes had their uses for signaling intent, saving face, or stepping back from a brink. And they still do, as the 250,000 U.S. State Department cables that have begun appearing on Wikileaks.ch amply demonstrate.
The document dump has begun. On Sunday afternoon we entered what is sure to be another week, or more, of WikiLeak wonderment. Hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. State Department cables will be dribbled out day after day in a handful of newspapers with titillating revelations about foreign affairs that make us all, in the felicitous phrase of The New York Times, “global voyeurs” looking at the inner workings of diplomacy.