Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is Happening in Egypt?

It is very hard to know. Popular movements are messy. I'm hoping this is lurch toward democracy and freedom. But it could descend into a worse tyranny than under Mubarak. Nobody knows what the future holds, but there is turmoil and change may be coming.

This video is promising because it implies that the military will not side with the police and crush the people. The military will ensure order but not crush the popular revolt. But this video may be misleading. Nobody knows. Only the unveiling of events over time will tell us what the future holds...

My guess is that the maneuvering by Mubarak and Obama to try and keep some semblance of the old regime in place will fail. I think the longer they string this out the more likely the country will fall into the hands of extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood. Sadly, if quick change had been allowed, moderates with a vision of a pluralistic Egypt probably would have retained control and real democracy might have had a chance to take hold. But with all this back room maneuvering with stage props like having the head of the intelligence service become VP means things will get ugly. (Can anybody think that making the head of the secret police/spies will lead to democracy?) Obama has dithered. This is the Obama who for the last two years has dithered and wasted opportunities to fix the mess in the US. Now he is dithering and condemning the Egyptians to live under either a police state or a radical theocratic regime. Sad.

The most intelligent commentary on the situation that I've seen has been by Ahmed Khalifa in an interview with CTV in Toronto during a rally on Saturday Jan 29 in Toronto. Unfortunately I can't find the video clip. But it is well worth watching for his comments on democracy.

Here is the video. Go to 00:55 to get the start of the interview with Ahmed Khalifa. Points he makes:
  • Egyptians do not want "another regime". They deserve freedom.

  • Omar Suleiman is a military guy, not an appropriate civilian leader.

  • The Western world's desire for "stabilization" shouldn't force Egyptians to choose between democracy and stabilization.

  • Notice that he intelligently refuses to speak for "what America should do". What he wants the Americans to get out of this is that Egyptians want freedom. If America decides it must go for "stabilization" then America will be acting as an imperial power and taking away Egyptian freedom so that Americans can be more "comfortable" in their own freedom.

  • He shows wisdom in pointing out that "democracy is not purity, it is a self-correcting process" and then walks through examples of the US and Canada have made mistakes in its democracy but over time has corrected these mistakes.

Tragically Obama dithered the last few days. If early on he had let Clinton make the call for "free and fair" elections in Egypt things might have moved quickly to a conclusion before Mubarak came up with his strategy of turning loose criminals and provocateurs to create insecurity and using the Army to slowly strangle the revolution. I think of the many times that the US has found it easy to go beyond words and send in troops: the invasion of Grenada by Reagan over fears of Marxist revolutionaries, the invasion of Iraq over "suspected" weapons of mass destruction by Bush, the bombing and invasion of Panama to "extract" the President of Panama for drug trafficking, etc. Funny how the US felt unemcumbered to flex muscle to do whatever it felt was needed. But it has never flexed muscle to save innocent citizens from a dictator that has been propped up by the US. Very strange how the inhibitions of "morality" are so fickle.

I reserve the last word to a young "revolutionary"...

This little girl is what is scaring Mubarak and Obama. Yes... she is terrifying in her naive honesty. She hasn't yet become jaded and cynical with age.


thomas said...


I looked for the video and realized that I didn't know what you had seen.. I am glad you found it and that I was able to watch it.. He made some very important statements and I think you pointed them out very well. We do need to celebrate their courage and freedom. I am glad that they have been able to continue for as long as they have and hope that they will gain from this and that 62 deaths (so far) will be worth the gains that they achieve. I do believe that it does not matter who wins or loses, but this will change things all around the world for some time to come. I hope that non violence will prevail because violence will change the dynamic of what will surely become a global movement in a few years or less. I do hope without mass bloodshed.

RYviewpoint said...

Thomas: Thanks for the comment. I wasn't sure that videos from a Canadian news source would show across the border. There are two other videos that I think are worth seeing. One is a sit down interview with Ahmed Khalifa and the other is with some senior US analyst making some comments. Both struck me as intelligent commentaries. If I can find them I'll post them.

You are right to point out the tragic loss of life. But the good news is that the carnage is still low. I just wish Mubarak would recognize that his time is over and ease the transition. But it is obvious he will have to be carried out kicking and screaming. I don't get it. He is 82. Why can't he let a new generation take over? Did he really think he could foist his son on the people?

For me, those who died are like bystanders who jump in the water to save somebody drowning. They have lost their life trying to help others. Crises bring out the best in people. I remember on Sept 11, 2001 watching a TV anchorwoman in utter awe of a fireman who used his body to shelter her from the debris when the towers collapsed. I guess in her social group the idea of self sacrifice is simply unbelievable. But that is exactly what a fireman (or police) sign up for. If they are idealistic, they have taken a job where they are willing to lay down their lives for the betterment of society and to save the lives of others.

I too hope things can be resolved with little bloodshed, but the longer things get dragged out, the less likely that will be. Worse, it gives time for the hardened political crazies to worm their way into things and take over.

Remember, in Russia in 1917 there were two revolutions. The first was a social revolution which put a parliament in place and gave the hope of democracy for the people. The second was led by the Communists and they killed democracy.

If the Muslim Brotherhood gets power in Egypt, it will be a tragedy. Mubarak is playing into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood by dragging out his stepping down from power.