Monday, February 7, 2011

Egypt's Potentially Bogus Transition

Rami Khouri (in today's Daily Star) very eloquently makes a point that others have begun to address as well: Egypt's military, which has dominated political life there since 1952, is not about to relinquish its power over the Egyptian state:
The armed forces, it seems, are the key to moving forward toward real political change in Egypt while avoiding more large-scale violence or chaos. That is a dubious prospect because it is precisely the diminution of the role of the armed forces in governance, rather than their assuming center-stage, that holds the key to genuine transition to democratic, accountable and stable governance in the Arab world.
Although the US is insisting (though hardly with the voices of its various spokespersons united) that Hosni Mubarak needs to exit the political stage (and even he says now, in his interview with Christiane Amanpour, that he's tired of being president), that does not mean he's going to leave all that soon.  And his V-P Mr. Suleiman, who's going to be meeting with opposition representatives, is himself a military man (and, as Juan Cole notes, the guy who oversaw Egypt's role in the rendition and torture of alleged "terrorists" as W. was waging his "war on terror" - hardly, it would seem, a paragon of democracy and human rights).  I hardly expect him to "fight the powers that be.")

At the end of the day - the "transition" process - I sense that the "new" Egypt is going to incorporate at 75% of the "old" Mubarak-regime Egypt.  The reformers may succeed in getting a few bones tossed to the thousands who demonstrated in Tahrir Square, but the forces of "stability" are going to win out.  Either Mr. Suleiman or perhaps a younger officer will take the helm - or, at best, a civilian leader who will profess fealty to the military and promise not to undertake any programs that don't suit its agenda.

And, I'll wager, Obama-Clinton will give it a ringing endorsement as the vanguard of the "new Middle East" - and a year from now, we may wonder what all the fuss was about last January.

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