“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Egypt, What Will Happen Next?

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In the West there is plenty of analysis of the situation in Egypt, what’s happening now, what could happen in the near future, who might take over etc

But the truth is no one knows, as with most major world events, ie. the fall of the Eastern bloc.

Sometime down the line, things will settle and ex post facto rationalisations will become the order of the day, borne out, frequently, by the contemporary agendas that are at play.

Still, we would be foolish not to admit how contingent history is.

How a simple action here or there could have changed the order of things. How a trivial mistake by one party or another could have lead to a completely different outcome. That type of thinking tends to get lost after the events when we try to make sense of things, and there is an unfortunate tendency to indulge in post hoc ergo propter hoc.

We all do it, to some degree, but it is more common amongst politicos and politicians, and those who have an agenda to push.

But we shouldn’t forget that, at the moment, no one really knows anything, and despite what will happen, the post rationalisations to come, we are all scrambling around in the dark.

That is not to say that serious researchers in the future might be able to provide insights into the events and the people concerned, however, that seems unlikely in the short-term.

So here is a subjective selection of the thoughts of others.

James Bloodworth makes the point:

“The Egyptian government, however, is a pillar of US policy in the region. Just as in the past the US supported the violent regime of Augusto Pinochet and other unsavoury dictatorships as ‘bulwarks against communism’, so in recent years Mubarak’s Egypt has been feted as a ‘cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East’ by those who see democracy only in terms of how beneficial democratic majorities are to Western interests.

Encouragingly, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood – the largest opposition group in Egypt – has not yet featured prominently in the protests, which have been spontaneous and built on a disenchantment with the neo-liberal economic policies favoured by business elites surrounding President Mubarak. Socialists should be wary of forming alliances with self-proclaimed Islamists simply because they proclaim an opposition to American imperialism.

Less certain is what happens next, both in Egypt and the wider Middle East. It is unclear who will emerge victorious from the power struggle in Egypt; it is even less certain whether other autocratic governments in the region will be next to face the democratic forces of mass mobilisation. Despite the contemptible maneuvering of our political leaders here in the West, our solidarity should unapologetically be with the people of the Middle East who stand up to tyranny, regardless of the political orientation of the regime in question. “

Dave Osler argues:

“What we have so far is, by common consent, a cross-class ‘people power’ uprising in which liberalism has been the dominant note. The calls have been for democracy in the abstract, without a specified class or religious content.

Hosni Mubarak’s gamble in appointing secret policeman Omar Suleiman as vice president has failed to satisfy the clamour for change. Nor have his job creation and food subsidy promises convinced many in a country where half the population of 80m or so live on less than $2 a day.

Unions have declared a general strike tomorrow, and the expectation is that the stoppage will be widely heeded. We know that there is an active Egyptian far left, and Tuesday will presumably provide a pointer to the extent of its clout. The labour movement deserves our solidarity.

Popular self-organisation has so far most been on display in other sections of civil society, although community councils in which investment bankers play a leading role are something of twist hitherto unanticipated by revolutionary theory.

Washington has turned its back on Mubarak, which will be another setback for Egypt’s authoritarian ruler. However, the West would clearly prefer orderly transition to popular revolt. That must deal Mohamed ElBaradei – who counts on the domestic backing of both liberals and the Muslim Brotherhood – a notably strong hand. “

Seph Brown at Left Foot Forward pushes a familiar line:

“It would be naïve to think that a democratic regime would not be more willing to confront the United States on issues with which they disagree. After all, the Egyptian electorate have been systematically oppressed and impoverished by a government propped up by America and the West for decades. Likewise, there is little doubt that a democratic Egypt would be more forceful with its dealings with Israel, who continue to illegally occupy land belonging to Arab Palestinians.

The right to self-determination includes the right to disagree and western governments should call for immediate, transparent elections and not be tempted by orientalist ideas that democracy can work for us, but not for Arabs. “

From the other end of the spectrum, Barry Rubin says:

“Equally, governments blame Israel and America to deflect attention from their own shortcomings. This approach often works. It isn’t working in Egypt right now.

Yet all these factors are often deleted in Western discussions (especially in universities), leaving people unable to conceive that anything might happen without it being caused by Israel. Every time something happens that proves local problems are involved–say, Sunnis and Shias killing each other in Iraq–it must somehow be linked to Israel’s existence or actions.

On one occasion a couple of years ago, the head of a United Arab Emirates (UAE) think tank explained to a startled Swiss reporter how Israel was responsible for the poor educational system in the UAE. Many similar tales can be recounted.

“Actually,” says a veteran Cairo resident and Egypt-watcher, “Israel seems to have hardly been mentioned by the demonstrators in Egypt. Only the `experts’ think this is primarily about foreign affairs, U.S. policy or Israel. It is mainly about Mubarak’s domestic failures and his party’s outright theft of the last parliamentary elections.” “

Back at Tendance Coatesy, he sees things expanding in the region:

“KHARTOUM, Jan 31 (Reuters) – A student in Sudan died from his injuries after being beaten by security forces who broke up anti-government demonstrations inspired by protests in neighbouring Egypt, activists said on Monday.

It was the first reported death as protests continued late into Sunday night, when students at Khartoum university were beaten and tear gassed in their dormitories with at least five injured.

Police and security forces surrounded universities in Khartoum and other cities on Monday, said witnesses. “

In a region stuffed to the gills with dictators, despots and corrupt rulers we can only hope for that much needed change to spread, and for it to benefit the mass of poor people living there.

Written by modernityblog

01/02/2011 at 04:13

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