14 February 2011

The Egyptian Revolution

What is currently happening in Egypt is nothing short of history in the making. It seems as if the Egyptian people have managed to oust a well-entrenched, autocratic ruler (relatively) peacefully using little more than the internet and people power. At its core, a story as old as civilization itself: chaos breeds dictator, people support dictator, dictator takes power, dictator abuses power, people overthrow dictator. But this one has a 21st century twist. Facebook, Twitter and the like helped connect oppressed individuals who in the past would have been forcibly kept from joining hands, allowing them to come together in such a way and at speeds that would make our Founding Fathers' collective head spin.

These events apparently blindsided the Obama administration and the rest of the world, which is kind of scary but also weirdly comforting in an age of rampant over-connectedness that something this huge can still just happen seemingly without warning. But the cynic in me says there's always the chance this was all a carefully staged, backroom production aimed at toppling the strongest pro-western government in the Middle East outside of Israel. Doesn't look like it though. By my count, this was a legitimate and justified grassroots uprising. Regardless, Obama and his crew were put in a difficult situation and they handled it as best they could on such short notice and with the whole word watching. Live in HD.

Obama's support for the Egyptian people was pretty obvious from the start, but he toned it down out of necessity. To emphatically side with the protestors and all but abandon a longtime strategic ally (who receives billions annually in US aid) would have been a dangerous precedent for Obama to set. He needed to show at least some support for Mubarak in the days when it seemed like he really might stick it out. It just wasn't clear what was going to happen. Until he resigned, Obama (unlike some of his underlings) managed to carefully walk a middle line of mutual support without clinging to a bygone era or stepping on too many toes, all while pushing toward democracy. And in the end, he came out on the right side.

What happens next in Egypt is the most important part. The pro-democracy wave must not break yet. Or ever, really. The people of Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and the military are both actively pledging a reformed constitution and the institutionalizaion of secular democracy. For their sake and ours, I hope this is what becomes of these historic events. Only time will tell. A government by the people, for the people will be the only true sign that this was in fact a people's revolution and not a coup by some nefarious group in the shadows with a hostile agenda. The only thing clear at this point is that Egypt, and by extension the Middle East, will never be the same. Let's hope it's due to progress and not decline.

Now for Mugabe...