Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Importance of the Egyptian Revolution

The world and most specifically the Middle East will not be the same. History unfolded before us over the past 18 days culminating in the resignation and departure of Egypt's longtime authoritarian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Egypt will move forward towards democracy. Maybe. We can only hope. While the populist uprising and unbridled power of the people taking to the streets and demanding basic freedoms is to be celebrated under any circumstances there is some concern to be had in regards to the power vacuum moving forward.

What began as a not too uncommon protest by a vocal few in Tahrir Square nearly three weeks ago became like a wind fueled inferno, its flames intent on turning to ash the legacy of Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak sat at the poker table with the United States for the past thirty years. When his own people threatened to physically overthrow his government, he realized he didn't have the cards to bid on a bluff. I doubt Mubarak really believed the United States and the Obama Administration would push him overboard with such decided and pointed efficiency. He was wrong. After all, Mubarak had been a U.S. ally in the region for nearly three decades. I think ally is a controversial term. I think the U.S. government did what it often does when faced with choosing the lesser of evils. I think of Mubarak as much less an ally and more of a racketeer. We bought him off with billions in military aid to do our bidding. We paid an evil man to support and defend our foreign policy initiatives. He becomes rich, his people are oppressed while we tolerate their pain, and our foreign policy goals are furthered. The military aid distributed to the Egyptian military does have its advantages. The Pentagon and Egypt's military council have a good working relationship and this point cannot be undervalued. Now that the military under the direction of Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, 75, controls the government in temporary fashion it is a plus for stability in the region and a plus for the United States. I must stress the temporary element of the situation.

The people of Egypt support their military. I think this is so because the military command eschews the fundamentalist ideologies of radical Islamists unlike the theocracies in Iran and a corrupted Syria do. Many in the military, including Tantawi, know that there is no way to win even if it wanted to battle Israel a fourth time in the killing sands of the Sinai. There is an inherent stability based on our relationship with Egypt's military command. Although very poor by a world standard, many in Egypt, especially those under the age of 30, believe in a secular governmental and military structure as opposed to one immersed beneath the smothering veil and tenets of radical Islam. More important moving forward in regards to the military control of government, free and fair elections must take place sooner as later. Let democracy take its foothold now by making emergency revisions to Egypt's constitution so that elections can take place in September as they should.

The U.S. response while somewhat cumbersome and untimely ultimately proved to be the right response in support of the overthrow of a dictator. We came out correctly in favor of democratic ideals. It is rare indeed that I support any of Barack Obama's initiatives, policies, or visions. I thought Obama's speech about the overthrow of the Egyptian dictatorship was maybe his most presidential moment since entering office. He and his administration had a chance to make a larger and more sweeping change for democratic good when the Iranian protests reached their boiling point in June 2009. He and Hillary Clinton dropped the ball then and it cost millions their freedom when that evil theocracy was tottering on the edge of collapse. Perhaps there was a lesson learned. Obama didn't really have a choice once the Mubarak's train came off the tracks but I'll give credit where credit is due. I doubt you'll see tons of flattering praise for Mr. Obama in future posts.

One point of caution moving forward in this exciting and positive revolution in Egypt. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood lurk in the shadows and would like nothing more than to insert themselves into the political process moving forward. They are evil and known for such quotable nuggets such as "a Christian woman could never be President of Egypt." I hope the people in their deserved euphoria resist the temptation to fall prey to the silver tongued false prophecies of a radical Islamic group like the Muslim Brotherhood.

We are witness to history. We can hope and pray for a legitimate democracy in Egypt moving forward. And with future success and luck, maybe democracy will be in store for those suffering in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, and scores of other corrupt theocracies that revel in choking their citizens into submission.

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