Reza Aslan: It's a cliché because it's true: As Egypt goes, so goes the Middle East.
Kai Ryssdal: Commentator Reza Aslan.
Aslan: The most populous Arab country in the world has long been a bellwether for the region as a whole. And the outcome of Egypt's journey from dictatorship to democracy will undoubtedly set the tone for the new Middle East.
So then, one year after the revolution, how's Egyptian democracy coming along? Not very well, I'm afraid. Despite historic elections and a newly seated parliament, the military has maintained its iron grip over the people. Pro-democracy NGOs have been shut down. Journalists have been detained. There have been beatings and mass arrests on the streets; torture and virginity tests in the prisons. You can forgive the average Egyptian for thinking the country has replaced one dictatorship with another, except now the economy is worse.
And yet, President Obama's State of the Union speech did not mention Egypt once. No praising the Egyptian people or demanding the military return to the barracks. No threat to cut military funding unless soldiers stop shooting protesters. Nothing at all! This despite the fact that he was speaking on the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.
We have to understand that whether we like it or not, America's fate is intimately tied to that of Egypt. If Egyptians can create a freer, more just and equitable society, then Americans will see a safer and more stable Middle East. If on the other hand, Egypt descends into political chaos and economic stagnation, then we will be back to where we were before the Arab Spring: a region brimming with a hopeless, angry, and extremely youthful population with nothing to lose.
Unless we want to continue to deal with it for another decade or more, we must make Egypt's struggle for democracy our own. Egypt's military must relinquish power just as they said they would. And the country's fledgling democracy must respect the rights of all its people. Because you know what they say: As Egypt goes, so goes the Middle East.