11 February 2011

Egypt

Or otherwise, throwing some cold water.

I'm reasonably pleased to be wrong that Mubarak fell as quickly as he did. That said.

1) We don't yet know the shape of the next regime. It could be anything from a democratic reformation in the modern Turkish model (with some Islamic/Islamist influence), the Pakistani model under Musharaf with a strong military dominance on politics, the Palestinian model under Hamas, or an unstable series of counter-revolutions. The main reason for this appears to be that while there's a unified force behind removing Mubarak and his obvious cronies (Sulieman for instance), there wasn't a clear voice declaring what exactly came if he actually went.

2) Now that he is gone, it will probably be some months before a clear government emerges. Elections take a while to organise, oppositional political parties that haven't existed will be formed, constitutional reforms will probably be necessary, and so on. This means we won't have much of any idea what's going on for a while. For Egyptians, some celebration is warranted, it's not every day you kick out a 30 year dictator, even if the regime itself remains mostly intact. For Americans and other interested Westerners, this is sort of like celebrating on Opening Day as though you've just won the pennant.

3) I don't see how this influences positively (or negatively) the peace process in Palestine. Again, we do not yet know the scope and form of the change. I think what appears to be the democratic opinion of Egyptians is that peace with Israel is favorable and should remain, but that peace with Israel including cooperation to be suppressing Palestinians is not (ie, the blockade). To my mind, Israel probably lost what precious little moral credibility in the region it had to continue that blockade last year with its raid on the Turkish flotilla. It's unclear what effect that will actually have on the ability of the various parties to influence policy. But one possibility is the model of the more temperate Muslim Brotherhood on Hamas. Another would be that Egypt would become a hotbed of weapons smuggling into the Palestinian territories.

In reality, what appears to be THE stumbling block is Israel and Israeli intransigence. Based on the leaked Wiki cables relating to the subject, the Palestinian negotiators were basically caving left and right and Israel still basically told them to fuck off. If that's the case, then it will take a lot more than a few Egyptian smugglers running weapons (along with legal trade in food, medicine, and other trade goods) into Gaza to get them to change their tune. In other words, I don't see what difference this really makes. Maybe it will. But it's doubtful.

4) What does appear to be good news for Americans is that there's a less obvious extremist narrative about American hypocrisy propping up dictatorial and corrupt regimes in the region. There's still the Saudis, Yemen, to a lesser extent Jordan, and of course, there's Iraq.

But Egypt was the biggest card in the deck. If it can maneuver its way into becoming even a semi-democratic state, I suspect we're better off from a security standpoint.
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