Friday, July 26, 2013

State of the revolution in Egypt

Richard Falk has a "long read" on the revolution in Egypt, Tears for ‘The Arab Spring’?: Recalling the Orientalist overview Aljazeera English 07/22/2013. Here's how he sees the current predicament:

There are two principal battlegrounds at stake in Egypt: (1) Whose legitimacy? The procedural legitimacy of the electoral process or the political legitimacy of demands of an overwhelming number of the people in the streets. Both can be manipulated to the detriment of the public good. Neither provides assurance of decent and effective leadership. Neither should be viewed as an absolute.

Interpretation is indispensable. (2) Whose mandate? The majoritarian mandate of the winners in the political contest however it is conducted or the inclusive agendas of winners and losers, bolstered by respect for minority rights and sensitivities to the needs, aspirations, and above all, fears of the losers.

The good news in Egypt is that the new subjectivity of political fearlessness that was born in January 25 on Tahrir Square persists; deference to the state is more dependent on the performance of the government than in the past, and this reminds the leaders that public accountability is about more than elections.

The bad news is that the Egyptian people in their new mobilisation had to turn to the military to attain their political goals, and many anti-Morsi protestors seemed oblivious to the dangers of doing so. The further bad news is that the new leadership - like the Morsi leadership and the Mubarak leadership before it - is likely to turn the country over to neoliberal taskmasters, internally and internationally, in their indispensable quest for economic normalcy.

Whether this quest will include a significant dedication to equity and the ordeal of the impoverished masses remains an unknown at stage, but without such a commitment there is no prospect of durable political success, no matter how other issues are addressed. [my emphasis]

Javier Salano warns in The Middle East Turmoil Trap Project Syndicate 07/22/2013, "The Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist government, led by Mohamed Morsi, demonstrated all too well its incompetence and incapacity to ensure an inclusive democratic transition. But the solution offered by Egypt’s military is far from ideal. Coups always tend to exacerbate problems, not solve them, and this one is no exception."

He also points out a complication with neighborhing Ethiopia:

Aside from the domestic situation, Egypt has another urgent problem. Egyptians depend on the Nile River, and Ethiopia has begun construction upstream of what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. The project is being pursued in the face of strong Egyptian objections – military intervention has been threatened – yet it continues apace. If the dam is built as planned, the volume of water flowing northward could be reduced by 20%, jeopardizing Egyptian agriculture and the livelihood of millions of people.
Falk notes some implications worth remembering about the US-NATO intervention in Libya in the region:

Each national situation needs to be treated as distinct, with its own historical and cultural characteristics, and particular political context. Only in Libya, once NATO had driven Qaddafi from power, did it seem as though there was almost a governance vacuum, allowing a successor leadership to engage in a state-building enterprise or, failing that, to live with an alarming dispersal of power to tribalised communities run by militias that has dragged human security below tolerance levels.

Early on in Libya and Syria, what started as nonviolent popular demonstrations, mimicking what had seemed to succeed so dramatically in Tunisia and Egypt, encountered violent responses determined to suppress rather than to give ground. There was certainly no willingness by these governments, and others, to go with the flow. If anything, the eerie calm of Algeria amid the tumult was the success model that influenced several regimes to uphold the established order with every instrument of control at their disposal.

In mid-2013 there seem to be different tales of disappointment, but no clear story of fulfillment. Repression had worked in several countries. A NATO intervention with UN sponsorship had produced regime-change in Libya, but post-Qaddafi Libya achieved neither stability nor democracy. [my emphasis]
Falk also sees a refutation of the colonialist viewpoint of "Orientalists" like Bernard Lewis in the events of the Arab Awakening:

Whatever else, the central Orientalist claim posited so dogmatically by Bernard Lewis and his acolytes that the Arab world lacked the capacity to make history relevant to the modern world has been forever refuted. It may not be the history we or many Arabs wish for, but this second Egyptian popular mobilisation, although lacking the inspirational unity of Tahrir Square, bears witness to the insistence by the Egyptian people to claim control over their own destiny, and this is by itself quintessentially modern, whether Orientalists like it or not. [my emphasis]
Crispian Balmer and Asma Alsharif report for Reuters in Egypt's Mursi accused of murder, kidnapping before rallies 07/26/2013 on the popular mobilization that the military government is promoting in support of itself:

Army helicopters buzzed low over Cairo shortly after noon prayers ended, and both sides warned of possible bloodshed. There were no reports of major violence by mid-afternoon.

Mursi has not been seen in public since his downfall and the army has said he is being held for his own safety. But Mena news agency said the former president would now be detained for 15 days as a judge investigated a raft of allegations.

The probe centers on charges that he conspired with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to flee jail during the 2011 uprising against veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak, killing some prisoners and officers, kidnapping soldiers and torching buildings.

Mursi has previously said locals helped him escape from prison during the 2011 upheavals and the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the series of accusations leveled against him.
Juan Cole says, "I have a bad feeling about this," in a post titled Egypt: Military announces ‘War on Terror,’ Calls for Massive Demos Against Muslim Brotherhood Informed Comment 07/26/2013.

He also comments, "I tweeted that when activists call for demonstrations, that is activism; when generals do, that is Peronism." He obviously sees "Peronism" as self-evidently bad. But Peronism has always been a very complicated political phenomenon in Argentina, with a left-leaning social-democratic aspect that has been very strongly represented in the kirchnerismo of current Argentine President Christina Fernández and her late husband and predecessor as president, Néstor Kirchner.

But presumably what Cole means is that what is happening in Egypt looks like a faux-populist mobilization in support of an authoritarian-oriented military government. He notes that the military has given the Muslim Brotherhood, the elected government that the military under Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed, a 48-hour deadline "to sign on to the national road map to the future (new constitution, new elections)." And he observes, "that in history, giving the opposing side a 48 hour ultimatum is often a prelude to war."

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