For once I agree, more or less, with a statement of our messiah in chief: we are seeing a (to me “potential”) world changing event in the making. The good news is that on the surface it appears that the Egyptian “People” were able to rise up and toss out a despicable dictator. What great news for democracy and what wretched news for other dictators around the world. If it were only true it could send major shock waves through tyrannical regimes all over the place but, alas, to be a tyrant you have to, on some level, be a realist and, in order to hold on to your ill gotten power as long as someone like Mubarak, you have to be able to read things well and have a firm understanding of your basic “Machiavelli” well at hand. Mubarak simply forgot the real regime was not him and never had been, it was the military. And when he got a bit big for his britches, as they used to say, and bit the hand that fed him, the real regime reacted and bit back.
The “revolution” or even “democratic revolution” line makes for great press here because it gives credence to the non-policies or confused policies we’ve seen coming from Washington by making it appear, even if only by coincidence, that we at least did the right thing by not overtly backing Mubarak who we confused with the real regime. I personally think that lack of action was because, based on the incredible array of mixed messages coming out of the amateurish administration’s foregin policy people and the idiotic appraisals by people, like the Intel Secretary who, of all people, could have done his research and known he was mouthing patend falsehood, that the lack of movement was largely because they truly had no idea what do do and were hoping the situation would resolve itself and THEN they could comment on it. It is dumb luck not brilliant policy making that reached a marginally good result for us. Well, that is if you do not consider how it made us look weak-kneed in the eyes of the world once again. Hey you don’t have to believe me, simply read the foreign press. The major ones all have English Language versions.
It is of course laudable and notable that some of the Egyptian people evinced the courage and passion to risk going into the streets to protest the excesses and corruption of the so-called “President.” I think that is fantastic and hope it truly inspires others to do so. But I also think it is a huge mistake if our adrift foreign policy makers buy into that line and use it as the basis for real policy should they ever decide on one. Think about the numbers and the situation. All of the protestors, whose total participants never topped about 300,000 — a tiny fraction of the Egyptian population and truly miniscule compared to the proportions of the Iranian protestors who rose to topple the Shaw in a REAL revolution — were allowed to concentrate in a small, contained area where if it had been desireded by the military who generally does not like demonstrations, they could have been cut down in a matter of minutes. A great hue and cry would have gone out, obligatory disapprovals would be forthcoming, and then after a suitable display of handwringing all would have gone back to business as usual breathing a sigh of relief that one of our strong allies had not been toppled in an uncontrollable fashion and by a group laced with virulently anti-western characters and philosophies at that. But that is not what happened, fortunately for all.
Instead, the crowds and protestors provided the perfect cover for what has amounted to a bloodless coup d’etat by the military. Long at odds but now increasingly drawing away from Mubarak and his excesses but most especially his decision to name his non-military son as his successor and thereby creating another dynastic monarchy such as ruled Egypt before Nasser, the military could have easily driven off the smaller number of unarmed protestors that actually appeared, and done it in a way so as to put the fear of Allah in the rest of them. But the military not only held back, it helped them. Why act so against its normal nature and goals? Simple: it needed them and at the same time used them. So in the background, after delivering a final straw speech asserting he would NOT step down, Mubarak is hustled off in in the wee hours (we do not know if it was in his pajamas or he was allowed to dress) to an out of town safe haven probably, in the end, headed for Saudi Arabia where he is friends with THEIR dictator King. Immediately — IMMEDIATELY — his assets in Switzerland are frozen, something that could only happen with advanced notice and proper authority which could not have come from the protestors or even the would be heir or his newer named successor, his VP. And when he is escorted away, does the heir apparent or even newly tapped VP take over as planned? No, a Field Marshall and a military counsel takes over. Don’t you “get” it? He did not announce he was going to step down and then do it, he was removed from the palace, from town, from the area, and then allowed to announce that he HAD stepped down as a fait accompli. That is not how one honorably abdicates. You cannot connect the dots until you can see that there ARE dots. There are several incredibly obvious clues in here waiting to be noticed… But, I forget who is “leading” us and the fact that his sycophantic media will never step out of line to suggest anything other than sheer brilliance of thought and action no matter how tortured the facts or level of sophistry of reasoning it will take to do it.
The real geopolitical issues for us are what this means for regional stability now and what will happen next. And we cannot deal with that wisely unless we admit what really happened so as to better understand the dynamics of it. We totally misunderstood the Iranian protests in 2009 so I should not expect us to try to understand this but hope springs eternal because so much is riding on it.
In the short term I think this military coup is a far better outcome, from that perspective, than a leaderless nearly anarchic attempt to remake a government overnight by those with no skill or experience at it and, as I mentioned, laced with hard core extreme theocratists. Egypt, like other middle eastern countries has no experience with or skill at a truly democratic form of government with competing parties, civil procedures governed by a workable commonly accepted document, or a clear political leadership. Such things take time to build from scratch and in the meantime, were this the revolution the media seems to think, all that would have been created is a power vacuum into which could pour Iran.
The Military is famously secular and nationalistic. And having a practical view of the world from a “country first” perspective is a very positive thing for them. They know that Egypt is not in danger from Israel and they are not likely to ever successfully launch a conventional attack ON Israel for one reason: the Sinai; The Gaza Strip. Their real vulnerability, besides, is from Iran which puts them on alert in a direction that also works for us. Their secular view also prefers to see the country grow and prosper in a way it could never do under an Islamic Theocracy ruled by Sharia law as has been clearly demonstrated by every country that went that route compared to those who did not. Further, no one in the region could topple them, much less their own people who, if they are allowed to prosper, will not want to. The real hue and cry from the streets was a simple demand: Mubarak had to go. The idea that they were fomenting to establish a true democracy is a media fabrication. And if the military stabilizes things and adopts the reforms it has promised, which it has every reason to do since they do not threaten their continued regime and actually stabilize it by providing better for a country of followers, we likely will help fund that prosperity especially it it seems that finally the money is getting where it belongs instead of being skimmed off by Mubarak and his cronies. That would further ally them with the interests of the Saudis and in concert against Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other extremist groups.
However, these are but the first days of the event and generally the euphoria of the moment runs high now. History shows that all ‘revolutions’ follow fairly fixed patterns but we are apparently hoping that this one will finally be different. Maybe… But I would contend it is not really a revolution at all. Nevertheless there are pitfalls into which the entire situation could fall regardless of its true nature.
The military leadership is all old and filled with veterans of the bloody losses against the Israelis. They have no taste for a rematch and know it would be costly because the Isaelis would fight desperately. Egypt’s survival as a state was never in question in any of those previous encounters. From their perspective they were all based on ideology and following a theology in which the individual is essentially irrelevant compared to the demands of the state and especially of the theology itself. Until it reaches national critical mass, the body count of foot soldiers is meaningless if a theological goal is attained. They could fight and lose hundreds of times an merely lose citizens which are of little consequence to them. However Israel only has to lose once and it faces national extinction. Their motivation is a bit more dramatic.
But even without the issue of israel and the Palestinians being real, there are still dangers. The operative word for the military leadership is “OLD.” The younger generation has never felt the sting of combat and losses and may well be itching for some misbegotten sense of glory in the belief that they lost before because of poor planning by their elders which, in some senses is actually true.
And the undercurrent of protest by the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be utterly discounted. They were instrumental in putting Nassar in power along with the help of the Soviets in order to replace a monarchy that put and kept them down. But he had their ‘number’ from the start. Once in power, he killed most of that leadership off or sent it to prison and courted the Russians for armament to fight Israel. That approach worked into the early Sadat years when Sadat foolishly attacked Israel again and the Egyptians Russian weapons and tactics were just destroyed by the American armament and tactics of the Israelis. So Sadat did the only reasonable thing, to guarantee border security from an enemy that proved over and over to be superior and had every possible interest in securing THEIR border, he recognized a great mutual interest and made peace with them. Israel needed that peace so it could put it greatest attention toward Syria and Lebanon. So two old enemy warriors, together and simultaneously recognized that reality trumped ideology and using Carter as a cover to mollify their home constituencies, made peace. And for that, operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated him.
The New York Times, that bastion of Liberal ideals trying to make Carter look good, announced authoritatively as only it can, in the first few days of the Iranian Revolution that drove out the Shaw, that democracy had triumphed and there was absolutely no chance it would be trumped by any of those Islamic extremists. About one month later, to the day, the Ayatollah returned, our hostages were taken and the rest, as they say, is history. I think therefore that it is too soon to judge how this will all play out. That the military is running this, to me, a better omen than if the crowds were doing it. They offer, if they work to the benefit of the country and its citizens, a more stable regime in the short term. And besides, much as the Theocratists are devoutly wanting a regional Caliphate to be centered in Egypt, there is no currently exiled cleric waiting in the wings to come back, al la the Ayatollah, and make it happen. But the real test will come in September when they have promised elections. Whether they allow them or not, it will certainly get interesting when they come due.
But it is interesting to note that the so-called (by our chief intel idiot) “secular” Muslim Brotherhood is not named the “Arab Brotherhood,” or the “Egyptian Brotherhood” or any name suggesting national or secular allegiance. It is named as a brotherhood of the followers of Islam and its mission is clearly and graphically spelled out in its history of support for fundamental and extremist causes but most notably by its own documents and web site (there is an English Language version (which I’ll spell out to avoid a link here — www dot ikhwanweb dot com/article.php?id=22687) where you can find its mission statement/by laws. If you still insist on believing our leadership and their press please go to that site and make special note of Article II, A,B, E, F, and G and then try to tell me it is even remotely secular. It is even clear it is a transnational society and not an egyptian-directed one. Synthesized down to a single directive its goal is a large cohesive transnational Islamic State ruled by Sharia Law. Secular; indeed. Only this administration and the New York Times could be so obtuse as to believe that.
And as for Facebook, Twitter, and social networking being such an influence? Puhleeeze… The major gatherings took place days after all internet was shut down. And a gathering of 300,000 +/- is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions that took to the streets in Tehran in 1979 long before there WAS an internet or even common PC usage even here. And in 2009 the demonstrators in Iran still vastly outnumbered those in Egypt and they had only filtered access to the internet and certainly minimal if any social networking. So get over it and get real. That reality check just bounced. When you have an administration and its pawns that have all accepted that old storyteller’s mantra to, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story!” the citizens are forced to do a serious and seriously heretical thing… think.
So the 30-90 days will see the standard revolutionary phases start to unfold if this is/was a true revolution; and if not, then in six months when the promised elections come due will be the next critical moment. If, in the meantime the military regime that has been the real power, and has continued to be the real power since Nasser, actually helps stabilize the country, end corruption, and help its people, it will have done a very good thing. And it will owe a lot to the pawn protestors who covered its real behind-the-scene actions and helped them avoid explaining to the world community why they staged a coup, even a bloodless one.