Protests in Egypt began on 25 January 2011...
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Within days, public outrage against the brutal and corrupt Tunisian dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali had grown invincible and ousted his government. And then began the protests across Egypt, as seen above. By now, Tunisia’s example had been noted, as had the understanding (as quoted in this article) that “we have 22 Ben Alis” across the Middle East, and “they all need to go.”
Today, a chastened Egyptian strongman, Hosni Mubarak, clings grimly to the presidential palace, having dismissed his cabinet and promised comprehensive reforms in a long-overdue effort to woo back his countrymen. Whether he will retain power or be driven into exile in the wake of Ben Ali, or whether some compromise will be made by which Mubarak will schedule honest elections closely overseen by international bodies, is as yet unknown. But one thing is clear: Egypt will change, and the changes will begin at the top, with a Mubarak regime that has been the definition of immutable repression from its outset.
Be sure, however, that other actors besides the Egyptians will take an interest in this process and influence it to the extent of their powers. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that they are already busy.
When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it did so in part under the pretext of bringing democracy to the region. Indeed, this notion pervaded neoconservative pro-war rhetoric for several years after the invasion. But to analyze this phenomenon, we must first understand the neoconservative definition of “democracy”: a system whereby a “consumerized” electorate ratifies one option in a false choice presented by a ruling elite, under the illusion that it thereby shapes its nation’s policies. This definition has worked well in the US and Europe for many decades, helping to maintain a docile consumer base for the greater enrichment of the elite, and naturally neoconservatives, given their laissez-faire “free market” predilections, would like to see the model made universal.
However, the neocons are pragmatists, and they have therefore preferred a stable Middle East under a cabal of kleptoplutocrats — ruling elites made up of those enriched by selling the wealth of their nations and pocketing the proceeds — to the unpredictable vagaries of a free market in ideas. And if most of the Middle East remains, in these early years of the third millennium, under essentially medieval monarchies, this is not because its peoples are conservative lovers of illiberal sultanates, but because their countries are still recovering from the effects of colonization and still subject to postcolonial misrule instituted by their former colonizers and perpetuated by the global hegemon. For this reason, neoconservatives and corrupt businesses alike groan in anguish at the ouster of Ben Ali and the frantic scramblings of Mubarak.
But while Tunisia could possibly have been ignored, Egypt is a large nation of incalculable geostrategic importance. Therefore, while it might be actively seeking to tip the balance in Tunisia in its favor, the neocon-dominated CIA certainly will be acting aggressively in Egypt. If it can’t keep Mubarak in power, it will pragmatically throw its weight behind another malleable, Western-influenced leader. What it certainly will not do, given any choice: Permit the people of Egypt to choose freely a government hostile to the US or Israel.
If, therefore, the people of the Middle East have the will to command freedom, they will have to act on many fronts. If the combined powers of the West can be brought to bear exclusively in Egypt, they will very probably bind and redirect the energies of its people, and a “leader” will emerge who puts the interest of Western business ahead of that of his constituents. This is why the revolution must spread like fire and consume the kleptoplutocracies faster than the West can reconstitute them.