* Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- When the Egyptian people took to the streets of Cairo to protest the oppressive government of President Hosni Mubarak, they instantly challenged one of the most powerful strains of U.S. foreign policy thinking.
In American diplomatic circles, the "realists" have long argued that the U.S. must be primarily focused on national self-interest, rather than concentrating on trying to promote democracy and human rights in other countries.
They object to the style of idealism promoted by President Woodrow Wilson, who envisioned that war and diplomacy could transform international relations by institutionalizing cooperation among nations, allowing for the self-determination of people and ending war for all time.
... It is impossible, they said, for democracy to take root in the Middle East given the history of the region. To protect strategic interests such as access to oil, they felt it essential to make peace with bad rulers.
* "People need to see that you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, and people need to understand and believe that you really, seriously take democracy, rule of law, freedoms seriously," ElBaradei said Sunday. Asking "a dictator" to implement democratic reforms "is an oxymoron, frankly."