Islamists took to the streets of Cairo late last month to call for Islamic law in Egypt. The rally chills any remaining optimism surrounding the Arab Spring.

When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned six months ago, the White House hailed his ouster as akin to fall of the Berlin Wall. “We can’t help but hear the echoes of history — echoes from Germans tearing down a wall,” President Barack Obama remarked.

President George W. Bush agreed. “We live in exciting times and I’m not surprised that freedom continues to march forward,” he declared.

Sometimes, however, freedom stumbles. When Iran’s shah fell in 1979, there was also initial optimism. “The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary, and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” Richard Falk, a Princeton political scientist well-regarded by the Carter administration, wrote of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Richard Cottam, a diplomat and Iran specialist, reported that Khomeini’s inner circle was “desirous of relying on the U.S. for Iran’s defense.” Nine months later, however, reality interceded. Khomeini’s supporters sacked the U.S. embassy sparking a hostage crisis which poisons relations to the present day.

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