If you haven't yet seen Marc Lynch's piece earlier this week on Egypt, you should. While recognizing the humor in absurdities like the furor over puppets, he also sees the grim reality of the growing number of political prisoners, and what that may augur for the future:
Right now, Egypt's roadmap leads not towards anything resembling democracy or even stability but towards greater repression, escalating insurgency, and continuing political failure. Egypt's current leadership may dream of becoming a something like a big United Arab Emirates, devoid of Muslim Brothers, street protests, or democratic politics. Instead, it is turning Egypt into a new Bahrain: dependent on Saudi Arabia, controlled by unaccountable security services, riven by increasingly irreconcilable polarization, and with political opponents branded as a vast international conspiracy of terrorists. Meanwhile, the military government seems to think that its problems are best met with public relations campaigns rather than genuine political engagement. Can a highly publicized visit by Kim Kardashian ogling the Pyramids be far behind?
Washington cannot do much right now to shape the deep, intense political struggles inside of Egypt, and there is no space whatsoever for it to support traditional democracy promotion programming. But the juxtaposition of the Egyptian government's intense desire for international approval of its constitutional referendum and its imprisonment of manifestly non-terrorist political activists provides an unusual opportunity to exercise a more limited kind of leverage. The United States should make clear that it considers the release of political prisoners and an end to the persecution of political opponents a necessary part of any positive view of Egypt's progress.