I’m a fairly ignorant American when it comes to international affairs. The Kardashians, I could tell you about; Armenia itself – not so much. And, yes, I realize I should renew my subscription to “The Economist,” but the best I’ve done recently is turn on CNN every few days or so. During the last three-plus weeks, I’ve been provided with “ blah, blah, blah, Egypt, blah blah protest” …but no one took the time to back up and explain:
(a) what was happening;
(b) why it was happening; and
(c) why I should care.
So I didn’t care. However, when a (blonde) colleague turned to me a week or so ago and asked me why the Egyptians were mad at Anderson Cooper, I started digging a little deeper. (not because of this colleague’s ignorance, mind you...but because Anderson Cooper is hot.)
This is what I’ve caught: the Egyptians have had a dictator, not a president. Hosni Mubarak first took office under emergency law when Anwar Sadat was assonated on October 6, 1981. At that time, the premise was to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from overtaking the Egyptian government (I’m not sure why that would have been bad, especially when the Muslim Brotherhood is now to be a “major political force” in the new Egypt). That lasted 28 years. The people felt repressed; they protested peacefully (with the exception of the Anderson Cooper thing) for 18 days and now Mubarak is to be replaced with a high military council.
….And scene. Right? …didn’t think so.
Although the Egyptian people are overjoyed, and we as democratic citizens of the world are grateful that good has triumphed over evil, I have to pause. …could someone explain to me what a “high military council” is? Who makes up this so-called council – besides the Minister of Defense Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (who is not photogenic by the way, and does not instill a lot of confidence in me personally)? …and why am I associating “military council” with “dictatorship” – which happens to be the same reign that oppressed the Egyptian people up until yesterday. Call me a pessimist, but I’ll need some additional details before signing off on this one.
The other question I have is whether democracy will actually work in the Middle East. If Mubarak’s 28 stronghold can collapse in 18 days, what will happen with other governments in the region? Will those currently in power grant concessions to their people, or will their grip on political authority only become stronger? Twenty-eight years and 19 days later, I’m still confused.
To the Egyptian people, congratulations. You have effected significant change, and that is rare and notable. For myself, I still have more questions than answers: Is Egypt truly free? Will democracy prevail in the Middle East? Did the U.S. occupation of Iraq have a significant impact on Mubarak’s fall? And if so, what is the U.S.’s responsibility on this world stage? For now, I suppose I’ll stay tuned.
Egypt – If I were you, I’d sleep with one eye open. Anderson – I’m glad you’re safe. And still pretty.