Foreign Policy

Autumn for the Arab Spring in Egypt


Re-revolution in Tahrir Square:

An Egyptian morgue official says the death toll has climbed to 35 during the third straight day of violence that has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.

Most of the deaths were in the area around Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February.

On Monday, young activists demanding the military hand over power to a civilian government skirmished with black-clad police, hurling stones and firebombs and throwing back the tear gas canisters being fired by police into the square.

From al-Jazeera, some observations on where the U.S. stands vis a vis Egypt as elections are planned for that nation next week:

Marina Ottaway, senior associate at the Middle East Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the US has, so far, kept its signals about Egypt's elections relatively muted.

"I think there is a lot of concern regarding this situation, because as far as the US is concerned, Mubarak is gone, and therefore, the revolution better be over now," said Ottaway, who added that Washington may be more worried about the destabilising effects of Egypt's battered economy.

"The United States is not in favour of any radical change, and, in fact, has seen the presence of the military as an extremely stabilising factor there," she said.

Ottaway said she believes the US is "not unhappy that the military continues to play a very important role and seem to be asserting itself more and more".

Washington's decision not to question the way Egypt's ruling military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), has been running the country since Mubarak stepped down is perceived as a slight by many Egyptians, some of whom continue to protest the use of military tribunals against civilians and other issues.

The Christian Science Monitor with more about what's at stake in the upcoming Egyptian elections.

Copious Reason clips on matters Egyptian.

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  1. Washington’s decision not to question the way Egypt’s ruling military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), has been running the country since Mubarak stepped down is perceived as a slight by many Egyptians…

    If America went in there and meddled with their government and occupied Cairo with troops, the Egyptians would be bitching about that, I’ll bet.

    So America, presumably from this quote, assuming this is an accurate assessment, has no opinion and takes no action, and instead lets Egyptian politics take whatever course that the Egyptians set for it. And the Egyptians are still bitching, because we’re not supporting the Egyptian 99%ers.

    I sure do get tired of America being blamed for the inability of Insert Name of Third-World Shithole Here being unable to get their shit together and run their countries. I really do. America shouldn’t be in the regime change/world cop business, period.

    1. America shouldn’t be in the regime change/world cop business, period.

      Agree to the power of 10^100^100,

      However, the US Government has been involved in so much of this shit in the past, that it is a fairly safe assumption that, in any given situation, the US Government is probably involved.

    2. +10 to zeroentitlement

  2. Your last sentence is spot on, but the implication the U.S. is some uninvolved above the fray party in Egypt is wrong. See this on how we as often are funding both sides of any military govt vs. pro-democracy forces there:…..acy-grants

    1. Simple realpolitik. Hedging our bets. When you get right down to it, the US, or any other nation for that matter, doesn’t give two shits about what goes on in another nation as long as it doesn’t affect us negatively.

  3. I had hoped for the best in the “Arab Spring”, but I can’t say that I am surprised that the “Revolution” has (once again) been betrayed.

    1. The revolution had to be betrayed, because it was designed for betrayal. Until the culture takes a huge shift, they’ll be in for one kind of totalitarian rile or another.

  4. I’m sorry, but if you had paid attention in the first place, it never was an “Arab” spring, it was always a military coup.

    1. Yeah. Stratfor gave a good analysis on why the western media and academics were expecting far too much from the ‘Arab Spring’. Liberalization is going to take a long time to happen in that part of the world, I mean you could make an argument that it really hasn’t been completed in the west; what with the proliferation of technocrats and what not.

      1. I thought rock ‘n’ roll liberated Egypt.
        I learned that on Hit & Run.

        1. Well students using twitter certainly didn’t do it.

  5. If there’s any hope that Islamists will ever really take a moderate turn, it’s when they finally get some input into how things are run–and have to compromise with the rest of society to get what they want.

    The army keeping them out of power just relegates the Islamists to perpetual outsider opposition.

    If they ever get to be part of a ruling coalition, where they actually have to solve problems for people through the political system and compromise?

    Good things could happen.

    Standing up to the army is a good thing. It’s support of the Egyptian army that we should be complaining about. I’m not sure how much foreign aid we’re still giving to Egypt–or whether that support is tied to a treaty obligation somewhere or what. But if that’s discretionary spending, we should start using our discretion to wind that support down if you ask me.

    1. Yes, because that worked out so well in Gaza. Or Iran.

      Being a moderate Islamist is like being a little bit pregnant.

      1. I didn’t say when they seized power for themselves and set up a theocracy or a dictatorship.

        I said when they have to compromise with the rest of society to get what they want as part of a coalition.

        1. If you’re talking about militant Islam, they don’t tend to play well with coalition partners. They’re either running a theocracy or they’re suppressed by someone else.

          Would you want to be in a coalition with someone who thought it would be OK to slit your throat if you got in their way? Me neither.

          1. The old saying goes that “Politics makes for strange bedfellows.” I think there’s something to that.

            I didn’t say it’s definitely all gonna turn out hunky dory; I said “Good things could happen.”

            It’s easy to criticize the hell out what other people are doing when the Islamists aren’t responsible for running anything.

            Meanwhile, the people in power have a tendency to pretend like everything’s goin’ great! Obama’s message over the next year is gonna be, “Everything’s going according to plan.”

            So far, the Islamists in Egypt have been like a rookie backup quarterback–most popular guy in town. When the starting quarterback isn’t playing well, everybody in the stands starts yelling for the rookie quarterback to start.

            But once the rookie Islamists get put in the game to play, they’re not gonna be the theoretically better alternative to a rotten quarterback anymore. And if they start throwing interceptions like mad, they’re gonna get benched in favor of somebody else.

            Anyway, I think there’s cause for optimism. I certainly don’t want to see another Iran, but seeing the Islamists having to produce as part of a ruling coalition might not be the worst thing that could happen either.

      2. “Yes, because that worked out so well in Gaza. Or Iran.”

        Two extremely different situations BTW.

        1. That’s the thing, Mr Shultz’s comment didn’t address any differences in situation.

          1. Um… my comment was directed at F. knot.

      3. Not sure what you mean by “moderate Islamist” — there are tons of moderate Muslims. If you include the people who would be content to despise Israel from afar as long as the West stopped (a) colluding with their disgusting rulers to take their natural resources and (b) sending missiles through their windows at the drop of a hat, then they comprise the vast majority of Muslims.

    2. Ken Shultz, that is a possibility, but Egypt could also end up repeating Iran’s history from 1975 to 1985.

      We give Egypt a bit over 2 billion a year. I wouldn’t mind stopping that.

      1. Apparently the overwhelming majority of that aid goes directly to the military too.

        “In 2010, $1.3 billion went to strengthen Egyptian forces versus $250 million in economic aid. Another $1.9 million went for training meant to bolster long-term U.S.-Egyptian military cooperation. Egypt also receives hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of excess military hardware annually from the Pentagon.…..IN20110129

        So, of that $2 billion a year, over half of it goes directly to the military.

        A lot of things that made sense during the Cold War just don’t make sense anymore.

        1. But jeez, if the US stops sending them credits for US military hardware, who is going to prop up all that phony production in the miliary?industrial sector?

          The jobs, Ken! The jobs!

  6. I thought rock ‘n’ roll liberated Egypt.

    It did. While Elvis was around, Egypt was cool.

    Then something happened.

    And the “Arab Spring” is that thing happening some more.

  7. This pressure might be good, and could help elections go ahead. What Egyptians need is political reforms to represent the people and property rights reforms so that most Egyptians are in the legitimate economy (the original revolution in Tunisia was sparked by a man losing his electronic scales to corrupt police). They need to have clear property rights for land, simple application for business, clear recognition of contracts, and inheritance based on contracts.

  8. “The United States is not in favour of any radical change, and, in fact, has seen the presence of the military as an extremely stabilising factor there,” she said.

    And by “stabilizing”, we mean, “we can manage them/twist their arms”… because we’ve been giving them a few billion a year in baksheesh, payoff-money, ever since Sadat signed the Camp David accords….

    and re: “there’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ islamist” – meh. Ken Shultz gets it right. If you spend any time reading FP on the political role of the Muslim Brotherhood, they’re less and less like ‘fanatical religionists demanding Sharia rule’, but more like a proper political party trying to organize a wide variety of constituents under a fairly big umbrella…

  9. Thank you for reporting on this.

  10. It is my understanding that we give them millions to encourage their democracy, but we give their military Billions to oppress their people.

    And to do Israel’s bidding re the Gaza border.
    Something that pisses of the population at large.

    1. How’s it goin’, kwais?

      Didn’t you used to have a place in Cairo?

      Were you in Egypt during any of this?

      1. Hey Ken,
        No, i am out of Egypt, I have missed most of this, but I have friends in the mix.

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