Egypt is free?

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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30 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Good for them!

    I am relieved that there was not a massacre (I was kind of expecting one).

    (I hope no one has reason to say “meet the new boss…” in the next few weeks)Report

    • Heidegger in reply to Jaybird says:

      Jaybird, Without the liberation of Iraq, the liberation of Egypt NEVER happens. Get ready–an avalanche of liberations are soon to engulf the Mideast. Nothing like a brush fire of longing and yearning and receiving liberty to warm the soul. This is huge–every bit as huge as the liberation of Eastern Europe and USSR after the fall of the wall. Time to blast Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”!Report

      • Matty in reply to Heidegger says:

        Without the liberation of Iraq, the liberation of Egypt NEVER happens.

        Huh? so seeing that the government of Iraq could be changed by foreign invasion persuaded people that the government of Egypt could be changed by popular protest and they then waited seven years until by pure coincidence a far more similar event had occured in Tunisia.

        On a related note I’ve been inspired by the fact that a friend got married in 2005 to buy a new car next month. The connection is just as obvious.Report

        • Heidegger in reply to Matty says:

          It’s a liberation, not an invasion. I should have known this was coming. How many enslaved Arabs would prefer being governed by a brutal tyranny over a transparent and genuinely free democracy? The glass is always half empty for liberals. Misery loves company, I guess.Report

          • North in reply to Heidegger says:

            Heidegger, re-read ol buddy. No one is sneering at what the Egyptians have accomplished. The question is how you reason that any crumb of credit for this event should accrue to the dubious actions of Bush the Very Lesser and his posse of incompetent neo-con sycophants.Report

          • Matty in reply to Heidegger says:

            Dropping the sarcasm for a moment, I was not attacking the idea of a free democracy I was questioning your apparent certainty about the causes.

            Yes there are some similarities between what happened in Iraq and what happened in Egypt in that both involved the end of a dictatorship. My point though is that even the briefest look at recent history reveals events that were more similar to those in Egypt and closer in time.

            If you want to claim a causal link between Iraq and Egypt go ahead, I certainly don’t say it’s impossible but simply asserting a link because they shared a few characteristics that were also shared by other events which you don’t mention is not very convincing.Report

      • North in reply to Heidegger says:

        Heidegger, I’m struck by the irony of your last part there about good Beethoven’s Ode. I had a friend who was very fond of it and played it on his harp as a street performer. This was well received in many places but he was puzzled to discover that when he launched into it in France he would clear his audience faster than Cheney clears thumbnail screws. He was told the Wehrmacht played that particular piece during their invasion of Paris in WWII.

        Beyond that I’m gonna have to side with Matty in asking how you reason that the violence military invasion of Iraq to topple the dictator Saddamn leads naturally to a peaceful mass movement to topple a dictator in Egypt?Report

  2. BlaiseP says:

    Edmund Burke:

    When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose; but we ought to suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver, and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I should, therefore, suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France until I was informed how it had been combined with government, with public force, with the discipline and obedience of armies, with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue, with morality and religion, with the solidity of property, with peace and order, with civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things, too, and without them liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and is not likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate, insulated, private men, but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Considerate people, before they declare themselves, will observe the use which is made of power and particularly of so trying a thing as new power in new persons of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions they have little or no experience, and in situations where those who appear the most stirring in the scene may possibly not be the real movers.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I actually had a mind to quote Burke — I taught a bit of him to the Cato interns just this week — but then I feared someone would see it as proof that I was a conservative after all. Still, it’s apt. Well done.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Heh. I commend Burke to everyone, Liberal and Conservative alike. He was a great friend to the United States and its revolution. If only what passes for modern political theory would study him more closely, many stupid terms would be canceled out and we would return to a sounder intellectual footing all round.Report

        • Heidegger in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Blaise, mein gutes Freund, a GREAT day for Bach’s Magnificat! Cheers! Prosit!

          Hey, we’re on opposite ends of the ideological and political spectrum, but our love of Bach will always transcend that–at least I hope!Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Heidegger says:

            A bit of Schiller, on Goethe:

            Denn dort, wo Sklaven knien, Despoten walten,
            Wo sich die eitle Aftergröße bläht,
            Da kann die Kunst das Edle nicht gestalten,
            Von keinem Ludwig wird es ausgesät;
            Aus eigner Fülle muss es sich entfalten,
            Es borget nicht von ird’scher Majestät,
            Nur mit der Wahrheit wird er sich vermählen,
            Und seine Glut durchflammt nur freie Seelen.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Thank you for this. I’ve been trying for weeks to figure out why I have been unable to say anything about this for weeks even as I’ve been transfixed by it. I think this quote probably answers that question.

      One thing that I have been certain about all along, and which I believe is an unqualified good regardless of how things ultimately play out: these protesters achieved something dramatic against an authoritarian government, in the face of government-orchestrated violence against them, without resorting to violence themselves in any meaningful sense and without any material assistance from the outside world (unless you count drawing inspiration from a neighboring country and having access to global media and social networking).Report

  3. Will H. says:

    Maybe I’m not understanding this properly.
    But I’m pretty sure I understand chain of command fairly well.
    So, I don’t see how ‘the military’ could possibly do anything.
    There are commanders. Whenever ‘the military’ does anything outside of the commands of those commanders, we call that ‘disobeying orders’ (which is different from insubordination, as an illegal order maybe be disobeyed legally).
    And so, I really don’t care what ‘the military’ does (as long as they’re not disobeying orders). Who the commanders are and where they stand is a lot more informative to me.
    But maybe I’m just looking at it wrong.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

      Egypt’s military, like China’s, is waist-deep in the economy, owning large chunks of the industrial and commercial market space. This is a legacy of the Ba’ath Era, when Strong Men used their dictatorial powers to advance their nations.

      There is another problem within the Egyptian military: its uneasy relationship with the mukhabarat, the Secret Police. Like the KGB or the SS of old, or to a lesser (if no less important) degree, the CIA, the mukhabarat are not military so much as a class of Praetorians under the control of the dictator himself. Often they appear in the military itself, as the USSR installed their zampolit, political commisars, spies and toadies within the military itself. The Chinese Army suppressed their zampolit after the fall of the Gang of Four.

      What will Egypt’s military do with its new and unobstructed powers? One thing seems certain: they will not go to war with Israel or anyone else. All during the Sadat Era, when the Arab states ululated and shook the sword and danced round the fire in their hatred of Israel, it was the Egyptian military which did the fighting and dying. No more of that is in the offing.

      Nor will Egypt’s military do any deals with the Islamists. Too much of the military’s power derives from its ties to the West and Egypt’s never much countenanced the persecution of its Christians. Though the persecution does go on, it’s not done with the acquiescence of the military or the ordinary Egyptian.Report

  4. Robert Cheeks says:

    Could one of our blogging captains run another pole? This one on our predictions of what, politically, will become of Egypt, as in ‘democracy,’ dictatorship, or Islamic Republic or whatever else you wanna throw in. And, of course, WHY we thing our predictions are correct.Report

  5. North says:

    Now the difficult part of their journey starts. Let’s hope for the best.Report

  6. Matty says:

    I wonder if they forced his hand

    Given last nights events my (wild) speculation is this.

    The army has been trying since the start to find something that would get people off the streets without a masacre and all the concesions were an attempt at this. Yesterday or the day before they finally realised that only Mubaraks departure could possibly do it so they spread rumours he would resign then pushed him in front of the cameras to do it. Then he (who once bragged of a PhD in stubornness) refused to stick to the script so he was forced on to the helicopter, perhaps even physically, and the more tractable Suleiman was told to make the announcement.Report

  7. Katherine says:

    Woohoo! I really hope they actually do get a democracy out of this, and that the military doesn’t just take over.

    And of course the specter of Iran’s Islamic Revolution hangs over the whole thing – though I find reports of the Muslim Brotherhood mostly hysterical.

    So do I. The Muslim Brotherhood as a political party is relatively moderate. Most Middle East countries are not like Turkey, and will want to see the religion of the populace reflected to some degree in their government, but they can do that without becoming like Iran.Report

  8. Pat Cahalan says:

    Well, Mubarak’s appointed Veep Suleiman had served as the head of Egyptian intelligence services. This makes him the extraordinary rendition guy.

    I’m of the opinion that Mubarak’s appointment of Suleiman was a very pointed message to the West. I’m not certain that the elation in Egypt is going to run very far or very long.

    They’re not out of the woods yet. Violence is still pretty likely, unfortunately, iff’n you ask me. Because as Blaise points out, the military still owns almost everything, so liberalizing the economy (which is what Egyptians actually want) is still diametrically against what the people in charge are inclined to do.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      I am somewhat more sanguine on the chances for success with the Egyptian military in the driver’s seat just now. They, too, have chafed under Mubarak’s corrupt yoke.

      Consider the following phenomena: when the Tahrir Square protests began, the mukhabarat operated at cross-purposes to the Egyptian military. As the days went on, the organized riot police disappeared and the plainclothes thugs began to periodically terrorize and murder a few protesters. Protesters were released, the army saw the protesters were not the threat to public order. The military began a quiet and seemingly inexorable push to control these thugs.

      For all this talk of Egyptian connivance in these “extraordinary renditions” on behalf of the Americans, you may be certain Egypt’s military has grown close to the Americans over the years, faut de mieux. I believe, with only my own limited and out-of-date experience in the area, the American peacekeeping mission in the Sinai led to many substantive contacts between the Egyptian military and their American counterparts.

      Egypt’s military has the respect of the ordinary Egyptian: no other institution in that society has such gravitas. One remarkable photograph emerged from Tahrir Square, I cannot find it just now, but it showed an elderly man in a white dishdasha, lying on his rug, reading a newspaper, his few possessions perched in the tracks and bogeys of an M60-A3 main battle tank.

      Unlike Iraq, where the Army was disbanded by a few incredibly stupid idealists, contrary to the wishes of both Iraq’s citizens and the worthy Jay Garner (who I once served), Egypt will survive the transition to whatever may follow without a complete collapse of its society.

      We must have hope, gentlemen and ladies. Democracy does not spring from the brow of Zeus, full grown. It will be a messy, ongoing thing and it will take many long years before the seeds sown today bear fruit. These are hopeful days, I am cheered to the bottom of my soul to see this newborn child emerge into the world. The world must care for it and love it, but it must thrive on its own, an organic, fundamentally Egyptian thing.Report

      • Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Oh, Egypt’s military in charge isn’t necessarily a bad thing for *us*, mind you. And you’re right with the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” bit.

        Whenever you get a crisis like this we can always hope for a real substantive change. I’m just pessimist enough not to think it’s coming without bodies. I’ll be elated to be shown wrong.Report

    • Katherine in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      That depends on what you mean by “liberalising the economy”. To some extent the Egyptian economy has already been liberalised and that’s been a detriment rather than a benefit to the economic well-being of many Egyptians (as economic liberalisation has been in many countries over the world; pretty much every popular movement in Latin America over the last decade has been in opposition to economic liberalisation). Because generally it means things like removing price ceilings on necessities, reducing social welfare spending, privatising government-owned industries (which typically leads to the private companies laying people off), etc.

      Egyptians don’t seem to be looking for economic liberalization so much as just wanting the economic situation to improve.Report