The Egyptian Revolution two years on
Two years on, Soccer Dad looks back at the Egyptian Revolution.
The revolution + 2
Uncharted Ground After End of Egypt’s Regime - News Analysis by Anthony Shadid - February, 11 2011
Two years ago last week, growing protests against Hosni Mubarak
eventually (with a nudge from the military) forced him from power.
Here's an arbitrary sampling of news and comment from the New York Times
of those momentous events, plus contrasts to current commentary and
What they thought then:
Egypt’s revolution earned many names in 18 days: Revolution of the
Youth, of the People, of Anger, of Freedom, of the Hungry, and most
poetically, the Revolution of Light. In the end, it was called the
January 25 Revolution, the date of the first protest. In that, it was a
departure from another revolution, that of July 26, when Gamal Abdel
Nasser and fellow officers seized power from a decadent king and
mobilized Egypt for wars with Israel. It evolved into something far less
ambitious: a mantra of security and stability, in which Egyptians and
many Arabs were forced to give up their rights.
A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History - by David D. Kirkpatrick and David E. Sanger - February 11, 2011
Even in his very last days, Mr. Mubarak understood the conflict in those
terms; in his last speech to the nation, he spoke of security and
stability 10 times. The protesters in Cairo wrecked the regional
formula, though their ambitions have yet to offer a paradigm to replace
it. “Leaders in the Arab world are weaker now,” said Sadiq al-Azm, a
prominent Syrian thinker and writer.
Whatever order emerges will almost certainly be less favorable to Israel
and the United States, both symbols to many protesters of Egyptian
subservience. It was no coincidence that the most outspoken proponents
of Mr. Mubarak’s rule were Israel and Saudi Arabia who, with Egypt,
formed the spine of American dominance in the region. Nor will economic
reforms of the kind mandated by the International Monetary Fund make
headway in a country that blames them for creating a class of crony
The White House had been debating the likelihood of a domino effect
since youth-driven revolts had toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali
in Tunisia, even though the American intelligence community and
Israel’s intelligence services had estimated that the risk to President
Mubarak was low — less than 20 percent, some officials said.
Iran Uses Force Against Protests as Region Erupts - Neil MacFarquhar and Alan Cowell - February 14, 2011
According to senior officials who participated in Mr. Obama’s policy
debates, the president took a different view. He made the point early
on, a senior official said, that “this was a trend” that could spread to
other authoritarian governments in the region, including in Iran. By
the end of the 18-day uprising, by a White House count, there were 38
meetings with the president about Egypt. Mr. Obama said that this was a
chance to create an alternative to “the Al Qaeda narrative” of Western
American officials had seen no evidence of overtly anti-American or
anti-Western sentiment. “When we saw people bringing their children to
Tahrir Square, wanting to see history being made, we knew this was
something different,” one official said.
The unrest was an acute embarrassment for Iranian leaders, who had
sought to portray the toppling of two secular rulers, Zine el-Abidine
Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, as a triumph of popular
support for Islam in the Arab world. They had refused permission to
Iranian opposition groups seeking to march in solidarity with the
Egyptians, and warned journalists and photographers based in the
country, with success, not to report on the protests.
Secret Report Ordered by Obama Identified Potential Uprisings - by Mark Landler - February 16, 2011
Iranian demonstrators portrayed the Arab insurrections as a different
kind of triumph. “Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it’s time for Sayyid Ali!”
Iranian protesters chanted in Persian on videos posted online that
appeared to be from Tehran, referring to the country’s supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Iranian authorities have shown that they will not hesitate to crush
demonstrations with deadly force. Other governments across the Middle
East and the Persian Gulf also moved aggressively to stamp out protests
President Obama ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret
report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without
sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe
for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.
They did it - Thomas Friedman - February 12, 2011
Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified
likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how
the administration could push for political change in countries with
autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States,
these officials said.
The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that
has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other
countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests
and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic
demands of the protesters.
This could get interesting — for all the region’s autocrats. Egypt’s
youthful and resourceful democrats are just getting started. Up to now,
the democracy movement in the Arab world was largely confined to the
U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, which, because it was U.S.-led, has not
been able to serve as a model for emulation. If, and it remains a big
if, Egypt can now make the transition to democracy, led by its own youth
and under the protection of its own armed forces, watch out. The
message coming out of Cairo will be: We tried Nasserism; we tried
Islamism; and now we’re trying democracy. But not democracy imported
from Britain or delivered by America — democracy conceived, gestated and
born in Tahrir Square. That will resonate among Arabs — and in Iran.
What Egypt can teach America - Nicholas D. Kristof - February 12, 2011
It’s a new day in the Arab world — and, let’s hope, in American relations to the Arab world. The
truth is that the United States has been behind the curve not only in
Tunisia and Egypt for the last few weeks, but in the entire Middle East
for decades. We supported corrupt autocrats as long as they kept oil
flowing and weren’t too aggressive toward Israel. Even in the last
month, we sometimes seemed as out of touch with the region’s youth as a
Ben Ali or a Mubarak.
From 9/11 to 2/11 - Roger Cohen - February 13, 2011
Perhaps the most effective antidote to 9/11 will prove to be 2/11,
the day Hosni Mubarak conceded the game was up with his 30-year-old
dictatorship and left town under military escort for the beach.
We’ve tried invasions of Muslim lands. We’ve tried imposing new systems
of government on them. We’ve tried wars on terror. We’ve tried spending
billions of dollars. What we haven’t tried is tackling what’s been
rotten in the Arab world by helping a homegrown, bottom-up movement for
change turn a U.S.-backed police state into a stable democracy.
This is the critical opportunity Egypt now presents. Islamist radicalism
has thrived on the American double standards evident in strong support
for the likes of Mubarak’s regime. It has prospered from the very brutal
repression that was supposedly essential to stop the jihadists. And it
has benefited from the reduction of tens of millions of Arab citizens to
mere objects, shorn of dignity, and so more inclined to seek meaning in
absolutist movements of violence.
What we know now:
The Muslim Brotherhood's 213 year revolution - Eric Trager - February 15, 2013
Thus, Al-Dardery said, the significance of Egypt's 2011 uprising was
that it represented the first opportunity for Egyptians to finally
answer collectively, "What is the future of Egypt? Where Egypt should
go?" And the Muslim Brotherhood's successive electoral victories have
legitimized its preferred formula, which reconciles "the Islamic
tradition with...Euro-American developments." Al-Dardery traced this
approach back to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Islamic
thinkers such as Muhammad 'Abduh and Rashid Rida, as well as Brotherhood
founder Hassan al-Banna, who aimed "to take from Europe the best we
could, add it to the best traditions we have, and try to create the
It bears emphasizing that this "third alternative" takes "Euro-American
developments" -- specifically western scientific advances and
administrative procedures, such as electoral politics -- but uses them
to advance the Brotherhood's "Islamic tradition," which emphasizes
"instituting the sharia" and, thereafter, building a "global Islamic
state." This approach makes it different from, say, traditional
Salafists, who until recently largely rejected western advancements as
illicit "innovations." But the Brotherhood's approach ultimately views
western values -- such as political secularism and pluralism -- as
imports against which, according to Al-Dardery, Egyptians have been
fighting for 213 years.
Little Princes survive the Arab Spring - Michael Rubin - February
This is, of course, not what motivated most of the revolutionaries who
bravely took to Tahrir Square two years ago, demanding political freedom
and touting their ecumenism. But the Islamist organization that seized
the revolutionaries' initial momentum has been fighting a very different
battle for nearly a century, and Washington should note that the
Brotherhood essentially views Egypt's revolution as part of an ongoing
struggle against western influence and values. One of the Brotherhood's
own spokesmen, after all, said as much in Washington.
Alas, the Arab Spring may have swept away one generation of dictators
but it did not do away with the “Little Prince” phenomenon. David
Schenker, perhaps Washington’s most consistently correct Arab affairs
analyst, notes the pattern has now re-emerged in Cairo. According to the
True Belief, Cynical Manipulation, Peer Pressure: How Arab Governments Manage the Israel Issue - By Barry Rubin - February 15, 2013
Egypt’s aviation minister says the hiring of President Mohammed
Morsi’s son to a highly-paid government job was justified, dismissing
accusations of nepotism… Omar, one of the president’s five children and a
recent university graduate, got the internally-advertised job in a
department that usually hires with a starting monthly salary of $5,000.
Such a figure is unheard of for new graduates in Egypt, where the
starting salary for a government job can be as low as $75.
Clearly, the Muslim Brotherhood is just as corrupt as the regime it replaced, if not more so.
Islamist Era: Indeed, the rise of revolutionary Islamism put
additional Peer Pressure on all Arab regimes. They needed the Israel
issue more for Cynical Manipulation and, except for the always moderate
Jordanian regime and the Sadat-altered Egyptian one, could not afford to
think of peace. The non-Saudi Persian Gulf states were tempted,
however, as were the main Lebanese Christian forces.
In 2013, support from the UN for the first time made the original
two-stage theory seem possible in practice. If Palestine was now an
independent state, it could win that status without making concessions
or commitments. Using international backing, it could create an entity
which—unlike the one existing under the Camp David accords—could
eventually be used as a base for attaining total victory. Many
Palestinian nationalist leaders were, literally, of two minds.
>Simultaneously, they understood better Israel’s strength yet they
could not shake the need for True Belief, reinforced both by Cynical
Manipulation and Peer Pressure from their own movement and from Hamas.
Islamist regimes and groups—notably Hamas and Hizballah as well as the
Muslim Brotherhood and of course al-Qaida and other Salafists plus the
Iranian Islamist regime—followed the pattern of the early Arab
nationalists. Only the lack of Islam had prevented Israel’s extinction
but they were going to do the task the proper way.
Plus some headlines:
Concerns over media freedoms in Mursi’s Egypt - Al Arabiya - January 24, 2013
Egyptian Currency Reserves Running Critically Low - Wall Street Journal - February 5, 2013
Protests turn to street clashes across Egypt - AP - February 8, 2013
Official: Funds allocated to diesel subsidies have run out - The Egypt Independent - February 16, 2013 (h/t Eric Trager)
What we knew back then:
Taking A Clear-Eyed Look at the Obama Administration’s Full Two-Year Record on Reform in Egypt - ABC News - February 11, 2011
Perhaps more glaringly, while the Bush administration tried to
directly fund civil society in Egypt – pro-democracy groups and the like
– the Obama administration changed that policy and cut funding
significantly, ending an effort to provide direct funding to democracy
groups not “approved” by the Egyptian government, and reduced funding in
the budget for programs to promote civil society groups.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Egyptian Revolution, Hosni Mubarak, Middle East Media Sampler, Mohammed Morsy, Muslim Brotherhood, Soccer Dad