MICHAEL GOODWIN: The Ugly Truth About Middle East Populism

Well, that was fast. Reflecting the growing prospect that events in Cairo will not have a happy ending, a top member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says, "The people should be prepared for war against Israel."

Muhammad Ghannem also tells an Iranian news outlet that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately and that Egypt should stop the flow of natural gas into Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The comments rip away the smiley face the Western media has pasted on the push to topple Hosni Mubarak. It is time to temper the heart-tugging romanticism about "the people" in the streets with the ugly truth about what populism usually means in the Mideast.

Most important, talk of an Egyptian-Israeli war should send shudders through the White House, which seems ready to hand Egypt on a platter to Anybody But Mubarak.

President Jimmy Carter followed the same course in Iran, with disastrous results. First, he embraced the Shah, then switched to the democracy movement. The Shah fled, the so-called democrats seized American hostages, and, 30 years later, the world is living under the threat of the evil regime.

Equally instructive is what happened in the Gaza Strip. President George W. Bush pushed for an election that both the Palestinian Authority and Israel said was a mistake. Bush was stubborn, Hamas got 70 percent of the vote, and quickly set to executing moderate Palestinians and firing rockets into Israel.

Maybe Egypt would be different -- but a little evidence would be nice. Certainly, we can't look for any from Mohamed ElBaradei, who joined ranks with the Muslim Brotherhood to form a united opposition. His Nobel Peace Prize and former role at the United Nations have not sharpened his instincts for danger.

ElBaradei pooh-poohs talk the Brotherhood, the godfather of radical Islam, would resort to violence. He even predicted that, in a fair election, its candidates would get no more than 30 percent of the vote.

The number drips with irony. Hamas also was predicted to get 30 percent in the first, and last, Gaza vote.

Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column about other topics, including The New York Times, click here