Has revolution come to Egypt?

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The likely winner of a genuinely free Egyptian election, according to most opinion polls, would be the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers are not particularly radical as Islamists go, but the first thing they have promised to do if they win power is to hold a referendum on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. And most Egyptians, according to the same polls, would vote to cancel it.

By GWYNNE DYER | Orange County Register  |  2011-01-28  [print_link]
http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/army-286175-egypt-police.html 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 3 p.m. on today, the protesters in central Cairo were chanting: “Where is the army? Come and see what the police are doing to us. We want the army.” And that is the main question, really: where is the Egyptian Army in all this?

Like armies everywhere, even in dictatorships, the Egyptian Army does not like to use violence against its own people. It would much rather leave that sort of thing to the police, who are generally quite willing to do it. But in Alexandria, by mid-afternoon today, the police had stopped fighting the protesters and started talking to them. This is how regimes end.

First of all the police realize that they face a genuine popular movement involving all classes and all walks of life, rather than the extremist agitators that the regime’s propaganda says they are fighting. They realize that it would be wrong – and also very unwise – to go on bashing heads in the service of a regime that is likely to disappear quite soon. Best change sides before it is too late.

Then the army, seeing that the game is up, tells the dictator that it is time to get on the plane and go abroad to live with his money. Egypt’s ruler, Hosni Mubarak, was a general before he became president, and he has always made sure that the military were at the head of the queue for money and privileges, but there is no gratitude in politics. They won’t want to be dragged down with him.

All this could happen quite fast, or it could spread out over the next several weeks, but it is probably going to happen. Even autocratic and repressive regimes must have some sort of popular consent, because you cannot hire enough police to compel everybody to obey. They extort that consent through fear: the ordinary citizens’ fear of losing their jobs, their freedom, even their lives. So when people lose their fear, the regime is toast.

It would require a truly horrendous massacre to re-instill the fear in Egyptians now, and at this stage neither the police nor the army are likely to be willing to do that. So what happens once Mubarak leaves? Nobody knows, because nobody is in charge of this revolution.

The first people out in the streets were young university graduates who face a lifetime of unemployment. Only days later, however, the demonstrations have swelled to include people of every social class and walk of life.

They have no program, just a conviction that it is high time for a change – Kifaya! (“Enough is enough”), as the nickname of an Egyptian opposition party that flourished in the middle of the last decade put it. Two-thirds of the 80 million Egyptians have been born since Mubarak came to power, and they are not grateful for the poverty, corruption and repression that define and confine their lives. But who can fix it all?

Washington and the other Western capitals that supported Mubarak for the past three decades are praying that the revolution will choose Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as its leader. He flew back into Egypt last Thursday, and the regime even takes him seriously enough to put him under house arrest. But he is probably not the Chosen One.

ElBaradei is a diplomat who has spent half of his life abroad and is seen by Western governments as a “safe pair of hands.” He would be at best a figurehead, but a figurehead for what?

Since it would be the army that finally tells Mubarak to leave, the military would dominate the interim regime. They would not want to put yet another general out front, so they might decide that ElBaradei is the right candidate for interim leader, precisely because he has no independent power base. But there would then have to be elections, and ElBaradei would not even come close to winning.

The likely winner of a genuinely free Egyptian election, according to most opinion polls, would be the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers are not particularly radical as Islamists go, but the first thing they have promised to do if they win power is to hold a referendum on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. And most Egyptians, according to the same polls, would vote to cancel it.

That would end the flow of official U.S. aid and private foreign investment that currently keeps the Egyptian economy more or less afloat, even though it would probably not lead to an actual war. And there is no reason to believe that an Islamic government could make the Egyptian economy grow any faster, although it would distribute the poverty more fairly.

These longer-term considerations, however, will have no impact on the events of the next few weeks, when Egypt’s example may ignite similar revolts against decrepit regimes elsewhere in the Arab world – or not, as the case may be. But it’s not just Tunisia any more. Egypt is the biggest Arab country by far, and culturally the most influential. What happens there really matters.

4 comments on “Has revolution come to Egypt?
  1. Dear Cyrano,
    Your editors seem to be misinformed about the history and politics of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only were they organized by British intelligence as a fascist organization among Arab nationalists, but they played a thoroughly reactionary role in Iran’s revolution. The organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the US was a man named Ibrahim Yazdi who was in continuous contact with a CIA agent named Richard Cottam (a player in the notorious CIA coup of 1953 in Iran). Subsequently, i 1978, Yazdi emerged in Paris, standing next to the Ayatollah Khomeini — an illegitimate and imposed ‘leader’ of Iran’s revolution. It was through the Muslim Brotherhood that Iran’s secular and democratic revolution was transformed — over the course of 3 bloody years — into an Islamic revival and a rightwing dictatorship, a theocracy. Now, the Muslim Brotherhood — rebranded as ‘moderate’ and virtually ‘apolitical’ is being put forward as the element of sober, rational discourse in Egypt. It’s real purpose is to divert the secular, democratic demands of the mass uprisings in a rightwing direction, to pacify the rebellious crowds and to bring an Islamic character to the movement — ALL in order to avoid socialist leanings. This is the function of Islam in the Middle East — as a bulwark against socialism. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood — which has played no part in the uprisings and has barely supported them — is now being put forward as a leading group. And it is equally preposterous that you are reprinting this propaganda piece from London’s Gwynne Dyer. Check your sources, read your history.

  2. The Editors reply:
    We are indebted to MARGOT WHITE for her expert comment/clarification on this piece by G. Dyer. A longstanding social change activist with an intimate, personal knowledge of revolutionary processes in the Middle East/Gulf region (among other things she witnessed the toppling of the Shah’s regime and ensuing developments) her interpretation of events is more than well taken; it’s probably a swift and well-grounded refutation to the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood may play any sort of progressive role in the turbulent politics of the region, and Egypt, specifically. Indeed, as she notes, the MB, along with any “Islamic” religious option, has been and is being used by Western powers and native elites as a moat in the shifting of Egypt and other Arab nations to the authentic left.

    Since we’re not in this for the money or ego, we are not afraid of criticism of any sort, no matter how pungent the delivery, and Margot can be tremendously eloquent. Hence, far from choosing to respond with some “editor’s have the final word” kind of privilege, which would be a waste of everybody’s time and dishonorable to boot, we celebrate that Margot has taken the time to offer this invaluable insight. In fact, we’re glad to add some further comments she recently sent us:

    “[H]aving been an eyewitness to Iran’s Revolution, I am watching closely the unfolding events in Egypt and Tunisia. I am startled and disappointed to see the post on Cyrano by Gwynne Dyer. While I do understand your “Disclaimer” policy, you are not doing your readers any service to reprint that piece of propaganda without comment. I hastily added one this morning. Muslim Brotherhood serves a very specific political purpose in the Middle East — it is to transform, divert and destroy any democratic and secular movement for social justice, civil rights, and participatory government into an Islamic ‘solution’ — a rightwing theocracy. That is the function it served in Iran’s Revolution and that is why it is being brought forward in Egypt. By their own admission, they have played no part in the uprisings. Why, then, should they be part of the government that emerges? They are a former product of British Intelligence, Patrice! They were specifically organized as fascist enclaves to contain Arab nationalism. Islam has always served this purpose for US and UK interests — keep the Middle East from going socialist. Islam was the Cold War’s solution to Iran’s left leaning potential in 1978, and it is being used now to make sure the outcome in Egypt remains “safe” for corporate plunder. (I’m sure you know the whole ‘war on terror’ ruse is a ploy; the US supports the spread of Islam, supplies it with money and weapons, and then launches wars on the pretext of fighting against it. It’s all smoke and mirrors.)

    I hope somewhere you will find a way to filter your posted articles with a more critical eye. It is one thing to be ‘uncensored;’ but it is quite another to be expanding the reach of disinformation and propaganda such as Gwynne Dyer.”

    At Cyrano, as well as on our fraternal site, The Greanville Post, we would feel honored if Margot found the time to pen a specific piece elaborating further on the influence and role of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar religious players in the drama of the Middle East.

    For the Editorial Board, P. Greanville
    Cyrano’s Journal Today

  3. As an atheist I find the intromission of all religion a disaster in personal and public life, more so when it is the kind that seems to prevail in the Middle East (and in our own backwaters), that is fundamentalist. Indeed, as Ms White indicates the Muslim Brothers are simply a decoy, a dead-end for any hope of truly progressive advances for the people in that long-tormented area.

    Thank you for posting this dialog and a thought-provoking piece.

    JWJ
    Louisville

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