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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Egypt: civil unrest « Previous | |Next »
January 29, 2011

Mehdi Hasan in The truth about Egypt in the New Statesman says that the US and UK governments, aided and abetted by the US and UK media, might like us to believe that they are on the side of the protesters, fighting for their democratic rights and freedoms, and not on the side of the ageing, corrupt dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and his secret police trying to ride out the storm.

DisleyPEgyptprotests.jpg

The reality, however, is that:

Mubarak is in power in Cairo with the west's blessing, approval, support, sponsorship, funding and arms. Democrat and Republican presidents, Labour and Conservative prime ministers, have all cosied up to Egypt's "secular" tyrant, a self-proclaimed but ineffective bulwark against "Islamic extremism", since he assumed the presidency in 1981.

What the West supports are the brutal dictators who are the main enemies of their people, now demonstrating against the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt.

Over decades the ‘Western’ powers not only propped up unaccountable, corrupt and despotic rulers but also allowed or prompted them to pursue policies which were highly unpopular with large domestic constituencies. While the US favours Egyptian political reform in theory, in practice it has propped up an authoritarian system for pragmatic reasons of national self-interest. It behaved in much the same way towards Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1980s, when Iraq was at war with Iran. A similar tacit bargain governs relations with Saudi Arabia. The US is part of the problem. The U.S. talk about human rights and international law does not apply to its closest allies--only to rogue states.

As Simon Tisdall points out in The Guardian:

In the final analysis, the US needs a friendly government in Cairo more than it needs a democratic one. Whether the issue is Israel-Palestine, Hamas and Gaza, Lebanon, Iran, security for Gulf oil supplies, Sudan, or the spread of Islamist fundamentalist ideas, Washington wants Egypt, the Arab world's most populous and influential country, in its corner. That's the political and geostrategic bottom line. In this sense, Egypt's demonstrators are not just fighting the regime. They are fighting Washington, too.

Egypt, like Yemen, faces the pressures of huge numbers of young people without jobs, growing outrage over abusive security forces, corrupt leaders, repressive political systems. Suspicion of American intentions runs deep and Mubarak's empty promises of reform are quickly seen through. The citizens’ protests in Egypt appear to be driven by domestic demands--concern about citizens’ living conditions within the borders of the Egyptian nation-state.

Will the popular discontent being expressed in the streets be able to challenge the government's authority, undermine the cohesion and loyalty of the Egyptian security forces, and render Mubarak's continued rule untenable? Or will Mubarak survive a few more days, manage popular discontent by making partial concessions on the economic issues while arbitrarily dismissing the political issues of the post colonial state (more democracy and less corruption and repression), the protest movement will falter, and the Mubarak regime can go back to the old status quo of governing through coercion, not consent?

Or will the Obama administration play a key role in talking Mubarak down? Keeping the U.S. military aid flowing dominates Mubarak's foreign policy, defined first and foremost in the region by its cold peace with Israel. Will the US pull the plug on the $1.3 billion military aid that enables the armed forces rule Egypt? The army will have to decide whether it stands with Mubarak or the people.

Update
Soumaya Ghannoushi in Arab states: a quagmire of tyranny says that:

Much of the turmoil plaguing the region today is traceable to its diseased political order.....Events in Tunisia, Egypt and – to a lesser extent – Algeria are harbingers of a change long impeded and postponed. Were it not for the international will to maintain the worn out status quo, what happened in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s could have occurred in the Arab region too. Its decrepit autocrats were allowed to stagger on, shedding their old skins and riding on the wave of rampant economic liberalism, which benefited the narrow interests of ruling families and their associates alone, and thrust the rest into a bottomless pit of poverty and marginalisation.

She says that the trouble is that an entity that has made coercion its raison d'etre and violence its sole means of survival has left itself no option but to sink deeper in the quagmire of tyranny.

Despite Barack Obama’s call for greater personal liberties and restoration of internet access in Egypt, it is clear that Washington would just as soon Mubarak presided over a transition to his successor.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:03 PM | | Comments (19)
Comments

Comments

"In the final analysis, the US needs a friendly government in Cairo more than it needs a democratic one."

Simon Tisdall makes it an either/or statement. It does not have to be that way...

Had the US taken a more hands-off approach, the result could have been a friendly AND democratic government. Instead, by propping up an unpopular leader, they convince the oppressed citizens that the US is part of the problem. Some of these citizens will become more radical than others.

“Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible will make violent revolutions inevitable” ~John F Kennedy

Makes sense, dunnit?

Mubarak is gone. He's old (82) and sick. He is buying time. He needs to buy time to provide the needed minimum stability and control of the country to allow for an orderly transition.

The regime's strategy is that if Hosni Mubarak leaves, the regime remains in place and crushes the 'revolt' or 'uprising' or 'revolution' that demands the fall of an oppressive regime.

Mubarak's decision to retrench in the face of the unprecedented political demonstrations throughout the country, means that he must now rely on the military and its willingness to suppress the tens of thousands Egyptians still in the streets. Michael Wahid Hanna says in The Atlantic that:

The military could follow the Tunisian model, interceding on behalf of the people, ousting the current regime, and overseeing what has been to date a fairly orderly transition. Such an approach would afford the military the opportunity to cement their role in Egyptian society on the basis of popular legitimacy while also providing them the space to protect the institutional interests of the armed forces.

On the other hand, if the military's senior leaders decide that Mubarak's ouster and a subsequent democratic transition would unacceptably risk reducing the military's political and cultural power, they will be more likely to defend the regime.

The opposition and resistance to the Mubarak' regime is not being expressed in Islamist terms--the Muslim Brotherhood is playing catchup to the secular protests.

This invalidates the regime's claim that authoritarian regimes are ramparts against Islamism often considered tantamount to terrorism. Are we witnessing the death throes of a dictatorship? A dictatorship that has provided neither material prosperity nor political freedom. Elections are rigged, opposition political parties squeezed or banned, and torture is used against detainees. Graduates can't find work.

The US continues to suck up to tyrants and to look at the Middle East through the prism of the global "war on terror".

Ah... but I'm certain where it REALLY matters (ie in the American heartland) CNN and FOX will be reporting it in Islamist terms. With maybe some "communism" thrown in for spice.

Remember... THEY hate us for our freedoms... nothing more!

the police have failed to crush the demonstrators. Obama has given his tacit support to the Egyptian president one party rule in the name of regional stability.

Where are America's neo cons? Weren't they once vocal champions of democracy in the region? They talked incessantly about the democratisation of the Middle East, throwing off old structures, the expansion of freedom , etc, etc, the spectacle of a genuine mass uprising, unaided and unsupported by external powers and so on.

Why the silence now? They wanted regime change in Iraq. Why the calls for stability in Egypt? Or 'change in an orderly fashion' in the words of Tony Blair. Does that mean an orderly transition to a democratic government?

Egypt has no reliable mechanisms for a transition to democratic rule. Mubarak ruled under an endless emergency law and crushed the moderate opposition , while the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has thrived underground and in the mosques.

The neo-cons wouldn't be opposed to a genuine mass popular uprising would they because of their fear of the Islamists?

The Australian's interpretation of the revolt against Mubarak in Egypt is 'anarchy on the streets' by John Lyons. Lyons ignores the emerging evidence that the some of the violence is caused by government agents and plainclothes carrying out much of the looting and property destruction.

Another strong theme in The Australian is the fear of “Islamism”: ie., the view that without western-aligned dictators, Islamic fundamentalists stand ready to turn the Middle East into a giant version of Iran.

What they don't say is that the Australian Government, after 9/11, has been a strong supporter of the Mubarak dictatorships use of torture in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism.

The Egyptian state has lost its legitimacy. To survive the Mubarak regime has had to shoot over 100 people in the past few days, and wound more. So its power flows from the barrel of a gun.

What has gone is the authority that a command will be obeyed. A revolt by the people indicates that he Mubarak regime has no authority. It has become the lap dog of the US.

An interview with journalist and blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy on the situation in Egypt on Al Jazeera English

el-Hamalawy says that people on the street see Mubarak is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid aside from Israel. He's known to be America's thug in the region; one of the tools of American foreign policy and implementing its agenda of security for Israel and the smooth flow of oil while keeping Palestinians in line.

The US would oppose a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt ---would it act the way it did wth the democratically elected Islamist government in Gaza? Impose brutal sanctions?

It did the same with Iraq. The former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright justification re Iraq was that the deaths of up to half a million children was: "we think the price is worth it.”

The US government has traditionally wanted Mubarak to stay in power and has had no problem with the brutality of his regime. The US cannot prevent the downfall of Mubarak, and it is likely that a post-Mubarak Egypt (ie. one without Mubarak's appointees Omar Suleiman and Sami Enan ) will move in a more anti-American direction.

"...and it is likely that a post-Mubarak Egypt (ie. one without Mubarak's appointees Omar Suleiman and Sami Enan ) will move in a more anti-American direction."

Glass half-empty view, eh?

I suspect that there'd be a few million people who would see it as a more pro-Egyptian direction. But who cares what THEY think, right?

The protesters' fear is that a transition under Mubarak will merely bring a change of faces without real change in the system they are protesting about.

Mubarak's favourite line of defence: après moi, le déluge. Israel and American "opinion-formers" who expect Egypt to turn into an Islamic republic the moment Mubarak goes.

The domino theory lives!

Ho Chi Minh's movement wanted an independent Vietnam, free of colonial or foreign meddling. It was primarily a nationalist movement. By 1946 the Vietnamese people were ready to take control of their own future. Ho Chi Minh did not trust Chiang Kai-Shek's China, and turned to the west for support. The United States ignored the plea and decided that the French were the rightful rulers.

The French, unwilling to give up their colony, quickly established a puppet government in Saigon.

In 1950 Ho Chi Minh turned to the Russians and Communist Chinese for help.... and the yanks FREAKED OUT!!!!

But that was then, this is now...

Mars08,
Regional dominoes---Egypt protests could spread to other countries
We will see.

Mike Huckabee, a potential Republican 2012 presidential nominee who is visiting Israel, has given implicit support for the Mubarak regime. The justification is that America cannot allow Israel to be threatened. He says:

the events of the past few days in Egypt have created a very tenuous situation, not just for Egypt, not just for the Middle East, but for the entire world, and the destabilization of that nation has the potential of cascading across the globe.

It's the regional domino scenario. For Israel democracy in Egypt must be sacrificed to ensure stability. The Netanyahu government is seeking to convince the US and EU to curb their criticism of Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

The broad US foreign policy imperative is one of geopolitical stability trumping internal democracy and human rights.

Can the US, as a global hegemon, call the shots these days in the Middle East given the limits on its power? It is bogged down in a seemingly unwinnable, decade-long war in Afghanistan and is powerless against Iran.

The neoconservatives' position is that US hegemony must be maintained at all costs.

No, come on.
The old fellow is 83 now and there is surely a nice quiet discreet resort for him somewhere?
At least one of those vying for succession is said to be an unpleasant enough fellow.
No hope for Al Baradei?
The wretched and foolish domino theory revived yet again? noos!
I think there is gut rresentment right across the world at the moment for the
US and its proclivity for meddling in the affairs of others.
The Cheney neocon years have badly tarnished the US's image and also induced global financial problems, so history follows the American example of the 'twenties.