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Sat. May 25, 2024
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Re-thinking Revolution in Egypt
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By Patrick Cororan What changed? Will anything change? How do we know when they have? These are the questions I ask myself repeatedly when trying to understand events in the Middle East. I feel pretty confident arguing that what happened in Egypt was not revolutionary in any sense – especially since those who claim it was, seem to think that it takes less than a month (18 days) for democracy to unfold. Could we argue that the United States or the United Kingdom, France, Germany, etc. have reached a truly democratic standing? Of course not, more than 200 years later, we are still working out the kinks. Why, all the sudden, is Egypt democratic? This issue must be explored, and was so by former CIA Osama bin Laden chief Michael Scheuer; he wrote in a recent National Interest article, "From CNN to FOX to BBC, journalists performed as weepy, ahistorical cheerleaders, describing crowds of Jeffersonian Egyptians filling Tahrir Square to replicate the events of Philadelphia in 1776 and 1787. And then – Mubarak left and democracy was installed!" It would be foolish for us to think that the events in Egypt were revolutionary, in the sense of creating an entire new set of conditions that are completely opposite of what was before for the Egyptian people. And the product of protest is now something that is completely different from what existed a priori. The bourgeoisie remains, and from my readings they were not as involved in the protest, as let's say the 40 percent living on less than two dollars a day was. This is important for two reasons: first, the protest were united against Mubarak, but certainly not united in how to govern post facto. Some are seeking different forms of liberation and some are seeking none at all. The business owners are not going to lose their investments or their land or their influence. The army remains, though they did not interfere with the protest – it remains in strength, and currently has "temporary" power – de facto martial law. The current political situation is status quo minus Mubarak, what revolutionary events took place here? If the Egyptians were in a real revolution, the efforts that were used to remove Mubarak would have stretched to everything he used as a form of oppression against the people – whatever was viewed as a form of domination. The central bank was not overthrown, the education system was not rewritten, non-Egyptian influence was not rebuked, and life for the ordinary Egyptian equals a similar life as before, minus a tyrant, and perhaps some economic and social reforms (like a higher wages and freedom of speech). If these qualify as liberating acts fostering a revolution – then every time workers strike against owners, we would have to refer to it as revolutionary. Finally, an article in Real Clear World argued, "Egypt's peace with Israel will remain in force. If there were to be true democracy, and the people's will truly expressed, the peace treaty with Israel would be abrogated, but that won't happen." Liberation would require Egypt to turn its back on everything that the West, Mubarak or before him was involved with – frankly, it is in Egypt's best interest to not change relations with Israel, simply put: it is anti-revolutionary, but rational. So tell me, where is this rich history of democracy that will anchor these protests into something Jeffersonian-like in Egypt? It just simply does not exist. Prior to Mubarak you had Anwar Sadat (who was assassinated for making peace with Israel), he was just as autocratic as Mubarak, but his reign only lasted for nine years so the perception of oppression in comparison to Mubarak is much less. Before Sadat, there was Gamal Nasser who was in office from 1956 to 1970; he took power via a military coup that overthrew King Farouk who was a disciple of British colonialism. Then there were the British – colonialism and democracies are by their very nature incompatible. Even before that, Egypt was ruled by Islamic-based dynasties, among others. How do we know the Egyptians even want democracy? How do we know our understanding of democracy is the same as theirs is? Simply because the media or the U.S. government tells you that they are – does not make it so. Egypt has been the product of brutal oppression from the tyrannical history of Egyptian government, and also from groups internal, who do not fancy the West or the United States – and what has happened is surely a step in the right direction for some of the Egyptian people, but their society is not going to change all that much – just like the society of the United States' did not change much after the "revolution." Absent from both cases was revolution, and present in both cases was freedom – the very opposite of liberation. Patrick Corcoran is a Doctoral Student of world politics at The Catholic University of America

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