Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

Juan Cole: Why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Here’s Juan Cole on why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979. As always, consider the source and keep a healthy skepticism, but this is a guy who knows a lot about the Middle East.

Let’s hope he’s right.

Also see below on possible outcomes in Egypt.

He later clarified in his actual post that what he meant by “pull a  Khamenei” was that the usual suspects: the military, the pro-Mubarak people, etc. would prevent real change and real democratization. He also noted that this possibility seemed diminished after the events of Friday.

History Makes Fools of Us All

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

In the almost 2 weeks since the Egyptian protests broke out, Ross Douthat’s New York Times column on the perils of change in the Middle East and perils of US response to it is one of the best I have read.

On the one hand, Douthat argues, Hosni Mubarak has proved a bulwark against Islamist extremists taking control of one of the most important countries in the Middle East. On the other hand, there is a good argument to be made that Mubarak’s 30 year rule of Egypt radicalized many Islamist extremists as well as vindicating the worldview that sees the US (not incorrectly) as an enabler of autocratic regimes in order to maintain stability, secure an inexpensive flow of oil and protect Israel.

The fact is that, while we can all argee that Egyptians have a right of self determination, and democracy in the Middle East could potentially stabilize the region in the long run, we have to face that fact that the new government replacing Mubarak would almost surely be less reflexively pro-American and less supportive of peace with Israel.

All of this reflects the perils of our policy in the Middle East and around the world. As Douhat notes:

History makes fools of us all. We make deals with dictators, and reap the whirlwind of terrorism. We promote democracy, and watch Islamists gain power from Iraq to Palestine. We leap into humanitarian interventions, and get bloodied in Somalia. We stay out, and watch genocide engulf Rwanda. We intervene in Afghanistan and then depart, and watch the Taliban take over. We intervene in Afghanistan and stay, and end up trapped there, with no end in sight.

Sooner or later, the theories always fail. The world is too complicated for them, and too tragic. History has its upward arcs, but most crises require weighing unknowns against unknowns, and choosing between competing evils.

After two weeks of protest, it is clear that Mubarak can no longer remain in power. Whether he leaves right away, or stays on for a few more months is largely irrelevant, but it’s important to guarantee that he, his son or his cronies are not running the show.

Ideally, an interium government will be able to ease the transition between Mubarak’s regime and a new democratic order and create some political space that will allow a constitution to be drafted. This constitution must respect human rights, including the right of expression. While there has been much discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood, most observers seem to believe that they would not be able to immediately win a national election. However, the new constitution needs to be written so that if the Muslim Brotherhood (or any other organization) were to take power, violations of constitutional and political rights would not be tolerated and hopefully the military would be committed to enforce any breach of the constitution.

This may be too much to ask, but that’s all the more reason that it’s more important for this to be done right than for it to be done fast. What happens in Egypt over the next few months and years will impact the region significantly. Whether that impact is for better or for worse remains to be seen.