Listen! The Pharaohs Are Laughing!

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 An Egyptian boy holds a megaphone while chanting anti-government slogans in Tahrir Square the afternoon of January 31, 2011 in central Cairo, Egypt. Protests continued unabated in Cairo January 31, as thousands marched to demand the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)  Continue reading at Egypt Protests In Cairo | NowPublic Photo Archives“‘We want a leader who has used public transportation.’” (The Second World, p. 201) Put that on a placard! But, The Economist argues Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is “not done yet”.

Though the size of Egypt’s public protests seem quite impressive on television, it remains unclear to me whether the turnout represents mass opposition of sufficient scope to swamp the regime’s considerable capacity for coercive containment. It’s important to remember that Cairo itself contains almost 8m inhabitants, whilst the larger metropolitan area boasts upwards of 20m souls. Alexandria, which has seen some of the largest and energetic protests, is a city of over 4m. The mass in mass opposition is generally a relatively small portion of the overall population, but it’s not obvious to me that the protests so far have added up to enough to force regime change. So far they haven’t. If these numbers swell, it may well be all over but the cryin’. Al-Jazeera reports that opposition leaders are calling for over a million protesters to take to the streets tomorrow, as well as for a general rolling strike. And there is always the question of whom the grunts and cops will ultimately side with when the rubber bullets hit the road.

Let me say categorically, that the optimal solution for the US does not involve Vice-President Omar Suleiman. Even if the next ruler of Egypt is not Gamal Mubarak, Suleiman is just another autocrat. I’d like to see the US follow these pundits’ advice, particularly the broad point about communicating to the street about outcomes. But, that said, Americans, as well as Washington, has to be ready to accept Islamists. Washington can also rein in the Egyptian military, but perhaps the EU can deal with the opposition, a point Parag Khanna quoted. “‘We like the Europeans because they are less committed to Mubarak, and have the kind of parliaments to which we aspire’, a reformist politician explained.” (The Second World, p. 200) In the end, I accept Khanna’s main argument: “The Western policy of prizing stability over democracy has become a pathetic cliche, for such stability never lasts more than a generation and culminates in instability.” (p. 201) Yet whether the Obama administration acknowledges this is unclear.

As thousands of protesters in Egypt continue to call for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, the Obama administration is being careful not to advocate a specific outcome in the conflict, instead calling for an “orderly transition” to a more representative form of government in the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit the airwaves Sunday calling on Egypt to move toward a more open political system, but stopped short of calling for Mubarak to step down.

Oh, the folly of power.

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Filed under: Africa, bhtv, Europe, USA Tagged: barack h. obama, egypt, eli lake, eu, heather hurlburt, hillary rodham clinton, hosni mubarak, muslim brotherhood, omar suleiman, parag khanna, protests


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