Published January 28, 2011
As seen on Fox News Channel's "Happening Now with Jon Scott and Jenna Lee" on January 28.
FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR JOHN BOLTON: I think what's clearly happened today [in Egypt] is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist party in Egypt has called it's supporters into the street. I don't think it was present on the first two or three days.
I think after the Friday prayers the Brotherhood brought its people out. That's why the protests are even more extensive today. That constitutes no doubt about it a direct threat to the military government, and I think the failure of the other security forces to bring the demonstrations under control also now explains the presence of the military.
Let me be clear here, this is not just the Mubarak-family government. The military has ruled Egypt since Gamal Nasser and they over through King Farook.
It's the military that is the real government and they are not going to go peacefully.
I think the question is whether and to what extent the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamists have infiltrated the leadership. If the military holds firm it's entirely possible, although bloody, that the government can hold onto power. That doesn't necessarily mean Mubarak will be in power, but the military will be, and I think that is why this contrast makes it so important for people to understand, this is not a choice between the Mubarak government on one hand, and sweetness and light, Jeffersonian democracy on the other.
I don't think we have evidence yet that these demonstrations are necessarily about democracy. You know the old saying, "one person, one vote, one time." The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't care about democracy, if they get into power you're not going to have free and fair elections either.
And I think there is substantial reason, for example, to worry the minority Coptic Christian population, about 10% of the population will be very worried if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power.
Let's be clear what the stakes are for the United States. We have an authoritarian regime in power that has been our ally. We don't know at this point what the real alternatives are.
JON SCOTT, ANCHOR: If you are Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, or if you are President Obama at this moment, what do you do, what do you say? There have been a couple of cautious statements put out by the U.S. State department so far.
BOLTON: Those statements have been mush. I mean this is a case where we are far better advised to remain silent, try to understand better what's going on, what the stakes are, rather than making statements that other people are parsing to say, "oh, they are supporting the demonstrators," "oh, they are supporting the government." I think there is confusion inside the administration.
In all fairness, I think everybody, including leaders of the opposition, was caught off guard by the strength of the protests, but I do think it's important to underline that today is different from the previous days with the Muslim Brotherhood bringing its supporters into the streets, and that's why the stakes are even higher today and in the next few days than they have been.
I do think that the regime is under enormous pressure, there is no doubt about it, but I don't think that just because you have people climbing onto tanks you can assume that they are friendly to democratic values.
I think there is a lot of opposition to the regime and a lot of opposition by the Muslim Brotherhood that is determined to bring down this secular military government, and install one of very harsh Sharia law, which would have enormous implications for the United States, for Israel, for other Arab governments in the region.
You just mentioned the Suez Canal, how would you like the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of that waterway? I think that's the reason why the Obama administration should be working behind the scenes and try to understand better what the ground truth is in Cairo and the other major cities.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, is a Fox News contributor and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).