A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why I Like Qualifying Clauses

One reason I'm not a heavy user of Twitter is because as an Editor, I like nuance, and therefore usually include qualifying clauses, which don't fit in 140-character soundbites. Thank goodness I used some here, back on January 27:
While Tuesday was enormously impressive and yesterday in Suez looked like it was spinning out of control, the regime still has a lot of weapons in its arsenal (and I don't mean that metaphorically). And that's even without turning to the Army, as they did in 1977 and 1986. I can't foresee the future, and Tunisia surprised everyone, but the Egyptian nut will be harder to crack. This won't be over in 29 days. (Always with the proviso that the Army could be a wild card, but probably won't be.)
The Army was the wild card. As for "This won't be over in 29 days" I was technically right: it was over in 18.

Sometimes it feels good to get it wrong, especially when everybody else did, too. (Except, of course, the people of Egypt.)

1 comment:

David Mack said...

You said it won't be over in 29 days, and you are right. The only thing that ended in 29 days was the presidency of Husni Mubarak. At the risk of sounding like a tedious and grumpy old diplomat, now comes the hard part. I won't be surprised to see more demonstrations a year or two from now, as the "revolution" rolls on in ways both good and bad.

It is remarkable how quickly we are celebrating military rule in Egypt. The demonstrations were leading to a classic coup d'etat scenario, as Omar Suleiman warned his interlocutors from the opposition. The Supreme Military Council (junta) will be in charge until September, perhaps even longer in order to organize the elections and give Egypt's weak secular political parties a chance to get organized. Other Arab regimes will welcome such an "orderly" transition. As long as there is deference to the forms of elections with some semblance of civilian rule at the end of the day, the Obama Administration will have to get used to it. Most of the 80 million Egyptian silent majority maybe have even yearned for the military to step in, not only to ease Mubarak out but to restore order so that people living day to day can get back to work. (Half of the population earns $2.00 or less per day, so they can't miss too many work days, and workers in the tourism industry and companies depending on foreign investment were facing layoffs and maybe they still are.) It is too early to be sure that some of the demonstrators will not try this tactic again. That may lead to some broken heads. It will be hard for any Egyptian government, however democratic or orderly, to satisfy the economic grievances. By itself, sacking Mubarak created exactly one job opening. Let's hope for some wise generosity from the Congress of the U.S., which I believe would be a good investment in Egypt's democratic future. But I won't hold my breath for that.