Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mubarak's "Mini-Me"

The attempt to pass off giving some unspecified powers to Omar Suleiman as "change" in Egypt is laughable. Suleiman is a Mini-Me, a deformed, deferential, duplicate of Mubarak. Here is a bit from an article in Al Jazeera which profiles Omar Suleiman:
According to a US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, entitled 'Presidential Succession in Egypt', dated May 14, 2007:
"Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak consigliere, in past years Soliman was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post. In the past two years, Soliman has stepped out of the shadows, and allowed himself to be photographed, and his meetings with foreign leaders reported. Many of our contacts believe that Soliman, because of his military background, would at least have to figure in any succession scenario."
In 2009, he was touted by some media outlets as the most powerful spy in the region, topping even the head of Mossad.

Following his appointment, Suleiman appeared to alienate many Egyptians when he said that he wanted to see democracy, but adding quickly: "But when will we do that? When the people here have the culture of democracy."

The White House, which sees Suleiman as a welcome successor to Mubarak, said his remark was unhelpful.
Suleiman is joined at the hip with Mubarak. He is like all the other generals, hand-picked by Mubarak and if Mubarak goes, they lose their meal ticket, so they will do nothing to force Mubarak out.

It is going to take a coup by captains and colonels in the army. But to organize a coup in a police state is very difficult. And even if you do organize a coup, what is to stop the leader of the coup from becoming a Muammar al-Gaddafi, another dictator?

Revolutions like that of the US in 1776 succeeded because it was led by members of the upper class who had turned against others in the upper class. That meant you had an educated elite with a deep political education able to take reins of power. Plus, in the colonies that elite already had tasted power and developed democracy at the local level, so they could act intelligently in building a democratic society. Even so, roughly one-third of the elite in the emerging US became enemies and were either killed, chased out, or fled the country. It was violent.

The French Revolution was less successful because the leadership there came mostly from the upper strata of the middle class with just a tinge of radicals from the lowest levels of the upper class. Hatred flared early and the revolution devolved into class warfare until a lieutenant colonel, Napoleon, rose up and seized power and quashed the revolution. A king was deposed but an emperor, Napoleon, replaced him. The good news was the the corrupt aristocracy had to cede ground to a competent bourgeoisie, but it was still an autocratic regime. Democracy was still born.

The Russian Revolution came in two stages. The first revolution was one led by the democrats. But they were naive and once their had seized power and held their parliament they thought they were done. But in the streets, the real revolutionaries, the Communists, plotted and rose and threw out the democrats in a second revolution. So that "revolution" ended up as a tyranny. No democracy.

So... revolutions are very hard to pull off. I fevently hope that the Egyptians succeed, but history says there are many, many ways for a revolution to be derailed and only a few ways for it to succeed. The Muslim world needs a real revolution to give the middle and labouring classes a say in their government, but it is looking less and less likely that this will happen because the old regime of Mubarak refuses to give way. They are too comfortable with their billions and their power.

I completely agree with this post by ElBaradei on Al Jazeera:
12:34am ElBaradei on Twitter: "Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now."
My only caution is that "the army" means the lower ranks because the generals have shown themselves unable to separate themselves from the money, power, and privilege they get from siding with Mubarak.

Sadly, I think this post on Al Jazeera is going to be the bloody way forward:
11:50pm: Among the chants heard in Tahrir Square:

We're off to the presidential palace. We're going as millions of martyrs.

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