With the news that a military body is ruling Egypt, the question immediately turns to what the U.S. should do.
And the answer is that on the most fundamental level the U.S. needs to play a clear and decisive role in pushing the transition to democracy and free and fair elections.
That does not mean we should abdicate our interests or responsibility for advancing them. Supporting democratic change does not mean we have to stand idly by and let Egypt move inexorably toward Islamicism--as it now is almost certainly headed towards.
There are a number of things we need to do immediately:
1) We need to work to reconcile the disparate opposition forces that made the Tahrir Square protests into such a success and work to develop a cohesive and unified secular opposition to fight the upcoming presidential and Parliamentary elections.
This means working to put together Parliamentary lists and coalition presidential candidates who reflect our values and interests. And to provide funding, technical assistance, and on the ground assistance.
Specifically, we need to bring student groups, Coptic Christians, and the legitimately secular Muslim groups that have been arrayed against the president together.
Indeed, we also need to work with the Military Council now ruling Egypt to ensure that they not only guarantee free, fair and transparent elections, but also work to bring those supporters of the traditional political/military structure into this broad based secular coalition I am proposing be created.
Typically this type of work is done very quietly. And it can be done effectively. I did it in Serbia where I worked assiduously for eight years to oust dictator Slobodan Milosevic--an effort that succeeded in 2000 with his electoral defeat.
2) We also need to work with our allies in the region and around the world to strengthen the interests of secular forces and interests. Other Arab nations will be able to do things we cannot accomplish as it will take a broad international coalition to defeat a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood which has only been embolden by the Mubarak resignation and events that facilitated it.
Finally, while the Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and powerful as our their radical, more secular allies, it is simply too important for us to walk away.
A fundamentalist victory could mean that Hamas and Hezbollah are embolden, Iran and Syria empowered, and Israel's well being put into jeopardy.
We have no choice but to do everything within our power to stop these threats to the Middle East--indeed world stability and security--from happening.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and author of the new book "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.