The spring revolution in Egypt driving Hosni Mubarak from the presidential palace in Cairo appeared as high drama, and experts gathered in television studios in capitals of the West minutely examined the plots and subplots of this drama in the manner of some sporting event.
As crowd swelled in Tahrir Square in Cairo, a lot of flags and placards were displayed, security forces were deployed and redeployed, tanks appeared, so did camels and horses with riders displaying their martial skills. Then tensions mounted, the young got excited and the old got nervous.
The world media led by the BBC obligingly descended to capture in real time an Arab version of 1789. Listening to the commentaries, it seemed Egypt was poised at the precipice of some cataclysmic showdown between the crowd demanding freedom and democracy and the dictator preparing to break heads.
The only problem with the script was the much discussed revolution never happened.
In my column on Egypt two weeks ago, I indicated the public demonstration took Mubarak by surprise and his presidency, as a result, was over. Yet the state Gamal Abdel Nasser built and Mubarak presided held together, as it did in the past when confronted with much more severe crises of legitimacy.
In 7,000 years of Egyptian history, states have risen, decayed and been displaced. But the one common thread running through this history is Egypt ruled by autocrats. And this history suggests Egypt is not about to turn back on its past.
A revolution would have happened if the state cracked and crumbled and an outside group, both disciplined and organized, seized power. This occurred in Iran with the Islamic revolution when Khomeini returned from Paris in February 1979 following the Shah's departure from Tehran.
The slogans for freedom and democracy raised by Egyptians are not to be doubted.
But it is of critical importance to know the difference between the generic thirst for freedom among a majority of Egyptians, which is genuine and deserving of support of all freedom-loving people, and the sham of the slogans behind which lurks the Muslim Brotherhood's design to acquire power.
The Brotherhood is the oldest organized party in Egypt and the Arab world. More importantly, it is the Arab version of the European fascist parties from the 1930s.
To understand what the Brotherhood program means if it came to power electorally — as did the Nazis in Weimar Germany in 1933 — or by revolutionary means as did Khomeini in Iran, one needs only to take a close look at Gaza under the Hamas.
Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. The Hamas program for implementing Shariah-based rule and mobilizing the society for jihad (holy war) against opponents — in the case of Hamas, against Israel — are applications of Brotherhood's ideology.
It is the state Nasser and his co-officers constructed in 1952 that stands between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian people.
Sixty years later, Egyptians have come full circle once again to decide for themselves which is greater — their distaste for rule by the military or their fear of Brotherhood and its program. Their choice between the bad and the ugly will affect them and the world beyond the Nile.