Brendan,Jay, dude, I think


Jay, dude, I think you are seeing things that are simply not there.

It is more a product of historical knowledge than a vivid imagination.  Egypt and Tunisia are still quite fluid situations, and there may be an October Revolution developing.

Do I need to point out how wrong you in fact were about Egypt?

They haven't happened, YET.  (Knock on wood)

Actually, those words were written about an immediate collapse of the Mubarak regime.  They were reposted on a thread called "Egypt: Waiting for the Coup".  Read the lead post and let me know if you think I was on target.  I wrote it when most were assuming there was going to be spontaneous elections in Egypt:

After 25 years of watching developments in the Middle East, I am torn between enthusiasm and anxiety when watching events unfold in Egypt.  I can't think of anything more inspiring than watching tens of thousands of people spontaneously demand to have more say in their own destiny, nor can I think of anything more deflating than seeing them crushed in a well-organized crackdown.

Developments are spiralling as the uprising in Egypt becomes more chaotic.  Different sectors of society are taking the opportunity to voice their grievances, and it is difficult to determine if the actions are coordinated by the same aspirations or if the cumulative noise is merely anarchic.  Are blue collar workers striking now for more pay and better working conditions, or is this their calculated ruse to join the demonstrations?

The Egyptian Foreign Minister has warned that the military would intervene to control the country should it fall into chaos,.... it might be a good idea to intellectually prepare ourselves for that modest likelihood.  While a military intervention is highly distasteful to the Western mind--an insult to the very concept of democracy--it is important to note that history has provided some successful examples of the military as an interim government.

1980 was a particularly turbulent time in the Middle East.  In the midst of all the wars and assassinations, Turkey seemed to add to the panic when its military launched a coup that overthrew its democratic government.  It seemed like yet another defeat for the forces of progress and moderation, but such cynicsm proved unfounded when the military worked with civilian leaders in the interim government, kept a lid on the passions of the country while a new constitution was drafted, and then stepped aside when elections were launched anew in 1983, claiming that their job was done.

It was an unexpectedly brilliant performance, and it should be noted that the Turkish and Egyptian militaries are similiar animals.  They had (Turkey) and have (Egypt) been receiving aid and training from "a" professional foreign military with a different concept of its role in society.  Both institutions were and are respected by the people.  Egypt's modern army is not the incompetent, corrupt, and nepotistic organization of Nasser's Egypt.

We should also be aware that the Egyptian military has attempted to foment democratic reform in Egypt's past.  In fact, Army officers requested and received a brilliant, liberal, democratic constitution in 1952, which was later mothballed by Nasser.  Here is an address to the story of it:

Granted, the best way to make a fool of yourself is to publicly speculate on future developments in the Middle East, but the longer the Egyptian protests go on the more I see a military intervention option being dealt another ace.  I say this because I see a strengthing storm of protests on the street without a viable opposition candidate to take the reigns.

Egypt Opposition Review:

The following groups have been around for less than a decade:

Mohamed El Baradei  Former head of International Atomic Energy Agency, now leads the National Association for Change.  The NAC is a new agency that is still small and not yet fully organized.  Wants political reform and an end to emergency rule.  It is an umbrella group that is gaining popularity, as other groups rally around it, such as the April 6 Movement and Kefaya.

The April 6 Movement  Primarily a labor group.  Has managed to actually to stage some of the first major strikes in decades.

Kefaya  Translates to "Enough".  Formed in 2004 in opposition to Mubarak seeking another term.  Wants political reforms, but is a somewhat faulty coalition of leftists and Islamists that would surely fracture when Mubarak is no longer in the picture.

Khaled Said Group  Name is taken from a blogger beaten to death by security forces.  Wants an end to police abuses of power and more political freedom.

March 9 Movement  Favored by many who want free exchange of ideas in Egyptian universities without government interference.

El-Ghad Party  A liberal democratic party with a strong interest in human rights.  It is the one led by Ayman Nour, whose imprisonment by the Mubarak regime on somewhat dodgy charges so angered the Bush administration that Rice retaliated in her famous Cairo speech a few months later:

"In this time of great decision, I have come to Cairo not to talk about the past, but to look to the future -- a future that Egyptians can lead and define.  ...For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither.  Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.."

The Karama Party (Arab nationalists) and the Democratic Front (liberal) are less influential movements that are also calling for a more democratic system.

The following are traditional parties that have endured for much of the Mubarak era:

Wafd Party  (liberal)

National Progressive Union (socialist)

Muslim Brotherhood

Of all movements and parties, the Muslim Brotherhood is the best funded and best organized, with the strongest internal structure.  If elections to a hypothetical parliament were held today they would have the most votes, but elections are a long way off.

None of these groups launched the protests, and most were slow to take part.  Any group attempting to take the lead in protests is generally shouted down by the current throng of protesters.  It is difficult to predict the interaction of these groups when they no longer have a common cause (Mubarak), much less the intra-action of a group should their party be given a legitimate shot at power (think: Trotsky/Stalin).  The first fault lines in the pan-opposition began to show February 1, when Mubarak announced that he would not seek reelection.  Some think this is enough for now, others want him driven out of the country.

The Egyptian protesters have proven themselves to be quite tenacious.  Mubarak still controls the cabinet, the parliament, and the security forces, so he is not to be taken lightly.  He may be allowing the youth to blow off some steam while planning a good old-fashioned Arab beatdown, or he may have already realized that the level of force required to quell the current demonstrations are too draconian for even the Middle East, and that his time is up.  But, who does he pass the baton to?

I can't think of any group powerful enough to steer Egypt through the current drama other than the military.

They are united by what they do not want.

Being united in opposition (to the status quo) is not the same as being united with a vision for the future of the country.  THAT is the problem that we are not acknowledging as we focus on short term solutions.  Trust me, my friend.  This is going to be nasty.



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