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‘Egypt Is Free!’ Yes, but…

February 11, 2011

The people celebrate Mubarak's resignation in Cairo's Tahrir Square

After 29 years as Egypt’s dictator-in-chief, President Hosni Mubarak has finally eased himself out the door. At 6:01 p.m. Cairo time, February 11, 2011, Vice President Omar Suleiman took to the airwaves and solemnly ann0unced that Mubarak had resigned.

“In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic,” Suleiman said. “He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state.”

A crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands immediately erupted in cheers as they thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “Egypt is free!,” they chanted. They launched fireworks, waved flags, honked car horns and fired guns into the air.

Nobel laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, a popular catalyst during the 18 days of Egyptian demonstrations, proclaimed, “This is the greatest day of my life.”

“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he said, adding that he anticipates a “beautiful” transition to democracy.

We should be relieved that Mubarak’s reign ended with a whimper instead of a bang. We could have witnessed an assassination, or an armed coup, or a massacre in the streets. Instead, Mubarak simply skipped town and headed for the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

But I can’t help feeling that the Egyptians deserved a valedictory statement from their own president. At least Richard Nixon was upright and forthright enough to address the American people when he resigned under pressure after a year and a half of recriminations that left him powerless to continue.

Mubarak slunk away like a rodent, following a shape-shifting series of statements in which he defiantly clung to whatever vestiges of power he could salvage at the moment. Not an especially noble exit. The people of Egypt deserved better from their self-appointed pharaoh.

So now the army is in charge of Egypt. Where do the army’s sympathies lie? Will the Armed Forces Supreme Council respect the popular will and open the unpredictable floodgates of democracy? Or will they simply hunker down and empower themselves as a new autocracy?

My hunch is that there’s no turning back. Even the most repressive army stands little chance of subduing 80 million freshly liberated Egyptians, any more than England’s King Canute could turn back the sea with a royal wave of his sceptre back in the eleventh century. 

Egypt has tasted democracy and won’t abide anything less.  The great pyramids stand mute as the roar of the people echoes from Tunis to Cairo to the other capitals of the Arab dominions. Today those people have cell phones, Facebook and Twitter to amplify the roar. But what exactly do they want, other than liberation from corrupt and oppressive regimes? Will their revolution remind us of Eastern Europe in 1989… or Iran in 1979? We’ll find out soon enough.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana George permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:25 pm

    For now, I’m going to be hopeful for democracy, rather than fearful that repression and fundamentalism will reign. Is there any way ordinary Americans can let Egyptians know that we support their move toward freedom?

    • February 12, 2011 11:02 am

      Diana: I’m trying to be hopeful, too. I think the Egyptians know that there’s widespread American support for their revolution. One of the leaders actually thanked CNN in public for its sympathetic coverage. I don’t know what we can do individually… maybe find an English-language Egyptian activist website and add your comments?

  2. Priscilla permalink
    February 12, 2011 9:55 am

    I would love to celebrate this moment as pivotal in the progression towards freedom in the Arab world…..but, unfortunately, I think that it’s probably more likely that what we will see is a vastly more anti-American, but equally authoritarian regime. I agree with David Frum’s conclusion: “… the most likely course is also the most depressing: Egypt opens a little, then closes again. The regime tries to buy popularity by bloating the state sector. It emits nationalist noises against the United States and Israel, downgrading co-operation with former partners. Its foreign policy pivots away from the West and toward Turkey and Iran.”

    I have a question, and this is not simply rhetorical – why do you think it is that, throughout the exhaustive media coverage of the revolt in Egypt, we have not heard much about Iraq, a nation that has ,in fact, recently transitioned from a tyranny to a democracy? There has been much talk about Iran, which I totally understand, given the parallels between the Shah and Mubarak, and the fears of an Islamist takeover. But not much talk about the difficulties (if not the impossibility) of fostering a genuine democracy in an environment of sectarianism, religious fundamentalism and terrorism. Do you think it is because the Obama administration and media analysts do not want to credit the US invasion of Iraq with the subsequent overthrow of Saddam and the institution of free elections? There are lessons to be learned- both good and bad – from our experience in Iraq and I am afraid that we are ignoring them in our rush to “feel good” about Mubarak stepping down……

    • February 12, 2011 11:25 am

      Priscilla: So many revolutions start out with a rush of idealism… until the ideologues take over. I’m hoping that won’t happen in Egypt, because this revolution was instigated by sophisticated, media-savvy young people who simply wanted democracy (however you define it).

      My one fear is that Egypt’s revolution will resemble the Russian Revolution: an autocrat is replaced by a liberal democratic government, which soon falls to a radical government that’s more oppressive than the autocratic one. I could see this happening in Egypt if the new government can’t resolve the core issues of poverty and unemployment. The mullahs would start making noise, and the people would start invoking the name of Allah. That’s the cynic in me.

      As for how the new Egypt will align itself vis-a-vis Israel and the U.S., I’m hopeful that they won’t discard the Camp David accords. I know there’s a lot of popular anti-Israel sentiment in Egypt, but unless the mullahs take over, I don’t see them becoming hostile in their diplomatic relations. We’ll probably hear protests if Israel clamps down on Palestinians the way they did in Gaza, but that’s probably as it should be. Egypt won’t be anyone’s puppet.

      You raise an interesting point about Iraq. We seem to have wiped it out of our memories already. It could be that the Obama administration and the left feel reluctant to credit the Bush administration with toppling a dictator, but it’s probably also because Iraq is still in a state of flux… who knows how it will play out in the end? But you’re right… there are both good and bad lessons from our Iraq experience that would be useful in our dealings with Egypt.

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      February 12, 2011 11:45 pm

      Priscilla, It doesn’t matter what the government becomes as long as the people get what they want. If they hate the U.S. then it is their decision. We will have to deal with it either way.

      Example:
      WWII Germany hated us and now look where they are today.

      Hate and love is all temporary throughout history in regards to relations between nations. Let us hope that the new nation will understand they have continued obligations to meet and they won’t become “unbalanced” much more than where they have just been.

      If the people truly hate us during Murbarak’s rule then the true identity will show which way they will go.

      Overall, as a Gen X’er. This new tech world with iPhone’s and media is increasing human knowledge and we are beginning to understand more than what our public education system intentionally promised. I also believe this is also occurring across other nations. We are more critical and more alert to those in previous generations. What you are seeing across the planet is an awakening of people of their surroundings. This is because they see changes going on in neighboring countries.

      What this all means is: Media is growing so much that the world… in essence… is “shrinking”.

      We are interconnected to the point that everyone wants what someone else has either democracy, internet, money, jobs, freedom, etc….and in that processing….we all have to figure out how to get along between individuals as well as nations. The problem is as Capitalism (not just money, it’s bartering) grows…do people have a “balance” in their lives to know when not to go to extremes. The Middle East is trying to figure this out.

      The sad thing is that the older generations or those who aren’t ready to change for the sake of change due to fear are going to continue their “hard-line” positions. This can be governments, leaders, media, corporations, religious organizations or any other groups all the way down to the individuals including people in such as bias/prejudice groups. Also, the younger people who have been “brainwashed” by these people may make bad choices when they get their “freedom”. Let us hope that previous ideas don’t ruin any new ones.

      It is apparent to me that Iraq was completed for the most part by the time Obama comes into office. Politically, it sounds that it would be wise to keep Iraq information quiet as a success for Bush’s policy. Iraq is still in a state of flux. Although, Afghanistan is quiet also. I don’t hear about all the deaths over there as much as I used to on the daily news. I suspect that this is because the war strategy is failing.

  3. Priscilla permalink
    February 13, 2011 12:31 pm

    Kent, I agree with you about the new role of technology and social media communications in helping oppressed people better understand the political landscape and organize resistance.

    But, before we reach the conclusion that pure democracy justifies any outcome, I think it’s worth recalling the writings of John Locke, probably the most influencial philosopher on American democracy. He said that people never abdicate their rights within a society, but merely delegate, to a select group, certain enumerated “duties” wherein this small group could act. “Abdicate” here is the key word, because it assumes that the people never “give up” anything whatsoever to government… and that once government has overstepped their bounds, then all power returns to the people individually.

    In other words, people cannot vote themselves or anyone else into slavery – sharia law makes slaves of women, not to mention taking away rights and liberty (not to mention the lives) of gay men and people of any religion other than Islam. So, even if an Islamic theocracy is what the majority of people in Egypt want, in my opinion, we must oppose it. I still cannot understand why our president was willing to come out and support the insurgency against Mubarak, but kept silent during the insurgence in Iran……

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      February 17, 2011 1:39 pm

      Priscilla,

      “Pure Democracy”:
      I don’t understand your using “Pure Democracy” as a replacement to the uprising in Egypt? Democracy is described as a political organization that represents the people. Their is not an Egyptian political organization currently working against the tyranny of the Egyptian government. Their is only organized anarchy with an agenda for a Democracy. Whatever they think it is…it is their right to do so. This is my point.

      If Democracy doesn’t take place then it will be the next generations..

      It isn’t about what we want. It is about what they want. We can’t be dictators on what other nations “should be” when we are at the same time saying be free from dictators. That would be hypocrisy. This is why many people from other nations say we are hypocrites and hate us. We should try to encourage understanding for their decisions and support their happiness. This would eliminate hatred in both directions.

      Abdication:
      People (individuals) always have control, but the amount the people abdicate to Government will determine how much corruption and ego the Government will have.

      People do “abdicate” their rights (privileges) to governments for many reasons…mostly for security, but also laziness. This could be classified as Security (being spoon fed) which can lead to a weak public setting and allowing greed in government. Next the government gets a big ego and oversteps its own reason to exist which is “To do what the people want”. Our recent elections show “change” is possible via its citizens.

      Once a government oversteps its boundaries the people can revolt, but too what extreme measure is determined by the amount of abdicated rights the government thinks it owns over the people. There is a balance and once the scales are tipped too much in one direction it is going to be an extreme action to get “re-balanced”. An extremely controlling government is much like a controlling spouse. If you don’t hold your own and balance your relationship you are bound to let the other person take control and then surrendering your rights. It is only extreme measures to be taken at this point that the relationship can be re-balanced. If at all.

      My thoughts:
      I do believe that “Pure Democracy” for the sake of attaining a future Democracy justifies any outcome (action) as long as the people prefer it as a majority when they demand it. It is only “the best form tried thus far” – Winston Churchill.

      It is obvious that the gap ratio of population/governing leaders is getting larger and there is no doubt Democracy will eventually happen even if the “outcome” for a Democracy immediately becomes a bad choice. Any majority of people within reasonable human behavior should be allowed to change their political ideology. “Some people must learn to walk before they can run”.

      History leads us to believe that political ideologies are that the people searching for the best representation is by the few over the many.

      I argue that our intelligence will eventually give us a new view that the many over the many will use technology as the “key” organizational tool that will allow a new form of Government where people can participate daily. This eliminates pocket veto’s, people who feel unconnected to government and laws being made upon them. Adding to this reasoning is that the dissatisfaction rate increases as the population increases. Thus, leading to protests and a change in government over and over. Basically, a continuing refinement.

      My future guess is….Meritocracy Representation would be better as it eliminates limited representation and everyone has a chance to vote on anything at a certain time ( if they decide to participate), but the human species might not be able to meet that high of a demand due to its own fallacies. I gather over time technology will be so great that critical thinking and participation to be a part of our daily lives and technology will make this happen. Probably not anytime soon. Though I am surprised how fast technology is moving.

      • valdobiade permalink
        February 17, 2011 4:01 pm

        “It isn’t about what we want. It is about what they want. We can’t be dictators on what other nations “should be” when we are at the same time saying be free from dictators.”

        Nope, IT IS about what we (U.S.) want. We want somebody who is “perceptive” to U.S. demands for security. U.S. doesn’t want Egypt to become a second Iran. Even if Mubarak was a dictator he was listening to the U.S.
        If the next President of Egypt is does not pleases U.S. interests, then U.S. will be in the same situation it is with Iran and then U.S. may try to install whatever President U.S. likes.
        It is not news.
        U.S. put Saddam in power, but then Saddam did not listen to the US. Saddam stared to deal Iraq oil as he wanted not as U.S wanted, therefore U.S. had to start a war with Iraq and remove Saddam.

        However, U.S. dared to attack Iraq for it is the poorest among Arab nations. U.S. cannot start an Iraq like war with N. Korea or Iran because these nations are more powerful than Iraq.

        Now, with Egypt, there is more concern for the Jews than for oil.

  4. February 14, 2011 10:19 pm

    Rick
    I have guarded optimism over the future of Egypt, but every time I try to analyze it I come to the same conclusion; we were really only interested bystanders in this revolution, unable to significantly affect the direction, and we will have to deal with whatever results. That’s probably good. No one can rationally accuse the US of interfering in Egyptian self determination here and that may help us in relations with whatever government emerges.

  5. valdobiade permalink
    February 16, 2011 9:03 pm

    There was a revolution in Egypt?
    It looks more like a revolt. Can Google and Facebook “secular movement” govern the new Egypt? Just because a revolt was initiated via Internet, it is not necessarily a revolution, it is “tweet, tweet…”
    The revolt continues with police demonstrations for better salaries… Who will hire them if not a new dictator?

  6. February 16, 2011 9:11 pm

    The question is: will a freely elected, democratic government in Egypt honor its treaty obligations (e. g. to Israel)? Remember that the freely elected democratic government in Gaza was run by Hamas. And when the Shah of Iran was replaced, look at what replaced him. We really can’t say much until we see what sort of government replaces Mubarak

    • valdobiade permalink
      February 16, 2011 9:21 pm

      The question is: what Facebook and Google thinking to do next? A governing from the shadow of Internet?

  7. Priscilla permalink
    February 18, 2011 12:32 am

    “It isn’t about what we want. It is about what they want.”

    So, if Egyptians – or at least 51% of them – want the destruction of Israel, the brutal oppression of Christians, enforcement of barbaric and mysoginist religious codes, that’s it? Majority rules, to hell with freedom and liberty?

    As Bruce observes, the results of democracy cannot and should not be unilaterally supported by our government.

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      February 19, 2011 9:41 pm

      Priscilla
      Christians aren’t being harmed in Egypt…
      there isn’t anyone asking for destruction of Israel who is currently in charge
      There is no sign that the women are protesting in Egypt under suppression…In fact, reports say that their are many “XXX” clothing stores in Egypt, but only women are to buy and they must be married and they must keep the clothing a secret in public.

      One person’s view of freedom and liberty may not be how any other one person views freedom and liberty. This works for the individual and also for a nation.

      I would think that fear and emotion you are speaking of isn’t a part of the Centrist thinking, but I keep forgetting I am writing in a Moderate blog where one can blog and rant about the right wing religious fears that “the Muslim’s are out to get us” and the “Left-wing is out to turn us Communist”. Or is it…The left-wing atheist fear that the “Conservative’s are out to put us into a war”, “make us religious”, or they “don’t care about people”.

      I could fear what Egypt becomes, but I don’t. I don’t think that any nation should be fearful of who we elect in the USA and it should work both ways. Unfortunately, “fear is the problem”. Should we cower and cringe because we don’t get our way in Egypt? Come on!! Should we threaten them? If they want us…they will accept us for who we are.

      Nations come and go, but we don’t have to be the world policeman, but the world’s Dalai Lama. Peace be unto any nation that wants to grow with understanding and then enlightenment will follow. Fear brings no growth to a nation and doesn’t enlighten anyone…it brings only destruction. If Egypt chooses this route then it is their own choosing. This doesn’t mean we should not protect ourselves. All are entitled to protection…based on fear of someone of something.

      If we continue to fear the Muslims and they fear us then we are destined to destroy each other. I refuse to believe the basic Muslim hates Christians and everyone else. We must remember that when the Christians prayed in the square in downtown Cairo….the Muslims protected them.

      Peace comes from peaceful understanding, not from vitriol isolation. When you bring up their way of living as wrong…are you living it? If not, either be active or be quiet. This blog let’s be active, but fear isn’t my reason to blog. It’s to enlighten and come to understanding and then become enlightened.

      “Someone on the sidelines doesn’t determine the outcome of the game”. This is the current position of the USA and many nations.

      There is no doubt that every country population has a preference on what they would like to see in the world. This is called “Ideology” and it is basically based on eliminating fear within its own society by coming to some understanding of how the world “should” work in order to feel safe.

      Yet, lack of understanding between governments, religions and philosophy…are good examples of fear and this slows all nations down to complete enlightenment of the human species.

      I will still refuse to write an “emotional” blog with hypothetical statements. It would be polite that others would use intellect and not emotions in the same regard.

  8. valdobiade permalink
    February 18, 2011 4:46 pm

    Priscilla,
    This turmoil in the Arab world was started by the young generation using the Internet and cellular phones. There is dictatorship in the Arab countries and the young generation doesn’t support it. However, the whole point is that there will be not an united radical Muslim front among Arab leaders, because if there would be one, then we can expect a third World War between radical Muslim and the rest of the world. I hope that the leaders of Arab world will be more moderate in their religious views and cooperate with all countries.

    It is so scary that the mankind still want to commit suicide because that’s what religious teaching is about: The End of the World – it is “prophetical”. There was an imminent end of the world when Capitalists and Communists would start the last world war that will destroy the whole mankind, now we have another “chance” at the prophecy.
    While politically there was no such idea as suicide, religiously it is possible – look at Muslims.

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      February 20, 2011 10:46 pm

      Valdobiade,

      I am not sure mankind will be destroyed. I believe bunkers that can withstand nukes and places where animals are well kept from radiation will keep mankind alive and well.

      I would say that there are “players” in high places manipulating the world. Using money and religion are good tools to use to convince people to believe almost anything. It’s either corruption or playing on people’s fears or both. The naive person in this world doesn’t feel either, though they might one day pick up information on one or the other via social interaction. Example would be the uprising event you mention in Egypt being started by media.

      So much so that you believe you have to act against someone before something actually becomes fact/truth. Sharia Law is is naive to the average believer that it is harmful because they have chosen a side. A corrupt politician chooses corruption and may believe in their own mind they are immune or not harmful.

      Money and religious views are in ways a blessing and a curse.

      To some….money doesn’t bring happiness and religion doesn’t bring solutions they only make things more complicated.

      I wonder what would happen if Capitalists with money shared with Communists with no religion? Would we get Socialists?

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