For a week now, cameras in Cairo's Tahrir Square have provided a daily dose of a televised revolution. But to influence events that are surely to revolutionize the entire Middle East, Washington must turn its gaze toward the army barracks, where Egypt's fate will be determined.
Unlike the region's hated and oppressive rulers, Arab armies are a source of citizen pride. Tunisian President Ben Ali was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia this month after his army sent the unsubtle message that it could no longer defend his life.
ElBaradei, who recently returned to Egypt like a visitor from Planet Vienna, has no ties to the half-million-man Egyptian army -- which is built with American money and support and run by generals with close ties to their Pentagon counterparts.
Why not set up a meeting: Mohamed, say hello to Gens. Tantawi and Enan. Generals, this is ElBaradei. Now play nice, be friends and we'll continue our support of Egypt -- which, as you know, can't feed its people without our help. With out us, you may become the next victim of the street crowds."
It may be the least bad option we have to ensure that Egypt doesn't fall into the hands of fanatical Islamist forces the way Iran did 30 years ago.
Can President Hosni Mubarak survive? Or (better yet) could Omar Suleiman, the long-trusted aide who was named vice president over the weekend, take the reins of power? Either would probably soon need to employ the violent tactics that let ruthless leaders survive in places like Syria and Iran. Unlike those guys -- and as dependents who receive nearly $2 billion a year in U.S. aid -- Egypt's current rulers must listen to Washington, and we no longer have the stomach to support such tactics.
Benny Avni is a New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on protests in Egypt, click here.
Benny Avni is a New York Post columnist.