On Egypt.

We Americans often reflexively support revolutions in the hopes that they will lead to governments that protect the natural rights of their people. After seeing Mubarak cede power to the Egyptian military, I’m not convinced that Egypt’s revolution is headed in the right direction. I hope it is. I hope the Egyptians trust their military and that the military trusts the Egyptian people, and that six months from now, the army keeps its promise and restores the authority of a constitutional government. And I hope that government is one devoted to freedom. But we’ll see.

I think our support for these revolutions is reflexive because our revolution turned out so well. But that’s an exception. Historically, revolutions that establish the kind of government I like are rare. I think ours was so successful because, as so many authors and historians have pointed out before, our revolution really wasn’t that revolutionary. Without delving into too much historical detail, the colonies had been governing themselves with minimal interference from Britain for well over a century before the American Revolution. We were used to self-government, and we resented and resisted efforts by the King and Parliament to exercise greater control over us, through taxation or otherwise. Our revolution was more about maintaining the self-government we’d grown accustomed to, not about bringing democracy to America for the first time ever.

I hope these revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East and Northern Africa lead to the kind of freedoms we’re accustomed to here in the U.S. I hope these revolutions are as bloodless as possible, that the people are patient and persistent, and that the ones who favor greater liberty–whether they’re the rebels or the government–defeat the ones who favor greater repression.

A place around the corner is now selling sausage-and-pepper sandwiches on Italian bread. Everything is proceeding exactly according to plan.

17 comments

  1. Glad I’m not the only one who was also concerned upon hearing the military was being put in charge. From what I’ve observed too many people in this country assume the removal of Mubarak will automatically be better for Egypt. I agree that historically sweeping revolutions often bring about worse governments than they depose, but at the same time do you think there are alternatives to this type of revolution in a government so corrupt as to make gradual, constitutional change almost impossible?

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  2. I think America’s response to the troubles in Egypt was relatively wishy-washy. Mubarak has been one of few friendly faces in the region, and is responsible for the peace treaty with Israel. His foothold in Egypt has helped maintain some sense of stability, until recently. That being said I think America still feels that Wilsonian obligation to spread democracy and replace other forms of government.

    But do we discriminate against types of democracy? Would we consider an Islamic democracy an actual democracy? And why should we get a say in how another country decides to be run?

    I personally think the plan to replace Mubarak with Suleiman is a little absurd. He has facilitated rendition in Egypt for the CIA, and while he would be both a friend of America and honor the Israeli peace treaty, aren’t we just replacing one dictator with another?

    I feel badly for Egypt, and I hope they figure everything out.

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  3. As long as the government knows when to give up its power (too soon can be worse than too early), the people will be able to shape the government as they see fit. We all know Egypt won’t become secular, but it will, hopefully, become more like the US. However, as long as the new Government is at least indifferent to America and our allies, I would call the revolution a major plus. If this revolution does not go in America’s favor, expect at least 25 years until we see another change.

    BTW: I think we’re about a decade away from Iran going through the same process.

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  4. @ President Reagan :

    Why would the new government being indifferent to America be a plus? Mubarak’s government was already friendly, not indifferent, with the United States. That isn’t an area that needs improvement, and indifference certainly wouldn’t be an improvement.

    Additionally, you’re assuming that the people of Egypt will have the opportunity to shape the government as “they see fit”. Depending on the type of government established, it will be more likely that only a certain group of people will shape the government.

    As a last inquiry, why do you believe it is in Egypt’s best interest to become “more like the US”?

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  5. @ Blonde:
    (2nd part) I said, “As long as the government knows when to give up its power (too soon can be worse than too early), the people will be able to shape the government as they see fit.” This implies the assumption that they will keep there word to reinstate there constitution and go pro-democracy (or at least the modern meaning as a republic democracy hybrid). Which of course means the people of Egypt will be able to choose because the wait would be long enough to establish political parties.

    (3rd part) I also believe the fact that America is a “shining city on a hill”, and the way we became said “shining city” is by being like us. I also believe this will work elsewhere, but it’s not like the most powerful country has been beating the “other” superpowers for over 244 years has had any success with it.

    (1st part) Also, I never said an improvement, I said a plus. As long as Egypt is neutral, and remains that way, they won’t prevent commerce with them, including allowing our shipping companies to use the Suez Canal. There neutrality to our allies, including Israel, would make them enemies with countries like Iran, simply because it Iran isn’t an ally with any Israel friendly nations, and most likely won’t be. As a result, they become a country that would fight with us, (or at least not against us) in the event there are any major conflicts in the Middle East. As a result, they are our ally the same way Mexico was Germany’s ally during World War I, granted Mexico ended up only making matters worse for Germany.

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  6. @ Blonde
    BTW, in case Mubarak wasn’t clear, the military IS the government now. Just wanted to make sure my definition was in line with yours.

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  7. I am aware of who is currently holding the power, thank you.

    I’m afraid my response will be redundant. I’ll just wait for VDV to weigh in.

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  8. Thank you so much for that insight! However, you should just agree with everything I say and tell me that you had the wrong prodigy all along. I’ll bring you food next time I visit.

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  9. But fine, since he seems set on food.

    I don’t know what order I should answer in, so I guess I’ll just follow yours.

    1. Please, please, please tell me what the difference between too early and too soon is. You have now used it twice.
    2. The spectrum of a democracy is large. Not all democracies are true democracies. Thus, just because a state is established as one, does not mean it is truly run by the demos. I was simply questioning your idealism.
    3. Could we have become us by being someone other than us?
    4. I’m confused by the latter half of your second paragraph, but I assume you’re saying that the United States is a hegemon .. but one that can’t defeat other powers? I don’t know. Clarify that as well, please.
    5. Right, you did not use the word improvement. However it felt implied that by saying the revolution would be a major plus if indifference was accomplished. I was asking you to clarify how indifference replacing friendship is a plus. The likelihood that Egypt will fight with us is exceptionally slim, and they are already NOT fighting against us. So again, please clarify the significance of your points.

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  10. I’ll have to keep my answers short as I’m in class.
    1: too early is if they were to allow the overall change to happen right away, the result would be the people becoming tyronical, in the Western aspect of the word. Too soon is simply not letting the country getting it’s feet up off the ground, thus allowing the weak gov. to be overrun.
    2:When I refer to a demo., I am refferring to our type
    3:I was being slightly sarcastic, of course America is an exception to the rule Mr. V said. But I do not believe other countries can become something like us without our help/guidence.
    4:No, I was saying we can beat other powers and will. And aren’t hegemons a term used for Ancient Greece? What does that have to do with us, unless you’re saying we are an Empire, but in an Ottomon Empire kind of way.
    5:It was not implied, you simply assumed. Also, if the country does indeed become indifferent, the people will most lean the same way as the Gov. does, unlike before. So we would also be seen with indifferent eyes from the people, which would indeed be an improvement, but I’m not going to go into too much detail on the countries demograpg as I know too little about it, I don’t even know if Egypt is primarily Shiete or Sunni (IDK how they are spelt, but the two primary branshes of Islam)

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  11. 1. Isn’t too early synonymous with too soon? That’s where I’m getting confused.
    2. That’s fair, but I was trying to point out the idealism in the belief that Egypt will be able to make a smooth transition into a true democracy. And if the party in power is Muslim, will it be considered a democracy due to the discrepancies between what we view as democratic and Shari’ah law.
    3. Define “something like us” for me. Do you mean democratic? Economically and/or militarily powerfully?
    4. The word hegemon did come from ancient Greece yes, but the term exists today for a plethora of fields, although for this it’s relating to an all powerful state. Hitler was attempting to create a hegemony, Great Britain could be argued as once being a hegemon, etc., and some scholars claim that the United States is one as well.
    5. Being viewed as indifferent is not an improvement to being friendly, I don’t know how else to portray that to you. The importance of Egypt remaining friendly is that without them Israel will have no support in the middle east. And as an aside, I believe Egypt to be primarily Sunni.

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  12. 1. okay
    2. I know they won’t be secular, but ‘m referring to the freedom of religion, so I, being an Anglican, can live there.
    3. The first two, I don’t care as much about THERE militarily, as long as they can’t beat us, but help us beat our enemies.
    4. I do not believe America is one, but, if we so desired, we could become one, or, at least, have a better chance of success at it. It would take a couple decades to plan though, and I doubt there would be 5 strait terms of Presidents who would be for it.
    5. I am referring to an improvement with the PEOPLE of the country, thus making the country stronger. I would rather have a strong man against my enemy then a weak friend. However, I will give you credit: we will be taking the same risk Saudi Arabia did after the end of the Cold War.

    ((speculative to show an improvement)) Also, if Israel is attacked, all countries in the area and in Europe/N. America would have to pick sides, and most likely China would stay out of it at first, allowing them to do what we did in WW1 and WW2 and take the position as #1 SP, but they’d be on our side.

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  13. I for one, appreciate the ability to discuss this topic, which is clearly a complex one judging by the response elicited by its mention on this blog. This ability is sadly lacking in many countries, formerly in Egypt for example. I think we can all concede that the removal of a dictator is a good thing in and of itself, and that doing it relatively peacefully is also a great sign. That being said, it is also necessary to recognize that at this point we can only speculate as to the future of Egypt, whether it is headed in the right or wrong direction, and what that will mean for the international community. I’m always the first to acknowledge that the anecdotes of history must be taken into account, but they are sadly limited in their ability to judge with certainty what will happen. So, having followed this dialogue attentively, I suggest that we all bask in the freedoms afforded to us by our “revolution” and follow this to its logical conclusion. That conclusion being, that Egypt will continue making progress no matter what, and not one of us can say what will be best for Egypt or for anyone, and whether that will happen. I know I speak for everyone when I say I wish the best for Egypt.

    And clearly not enough attention has been payed to the culinary advancements being made right here in Jacksonville…but I digress, a topic for another day…

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