A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the Land of the Pharaohs

the latest dynasty - that of the Army Colonels - is teetering.  And this for a most unusual reason.  Some say that this is a democratic rising against brutal autocracy; but the brutal autocracy has been in place for at least 30 years - or 6000 years, depending on how you count such things.  But notice that the unrest began over rising prices, and of all the things that brutal autocracies and fluffy-bunny democracies have no real control, prices is numbered among them.  Only after a couple days did folks start to honk the democracy horn, given that the democracies of Europe and America were now watching.  (Observe how many signs in the crowd are in English.  Those were not written for the benefit of native Egyptians.)

"But when the mob takes to the streets in search of food, its first move is usually to burn the bakeries."
-- Jerry Pournelle

There is considerable analysis here:
As I expected, the Egyptian Army has persuaded President Mubarak to announce that he will not run for re-election at the regularly scheduled elections in November. Meanwhile the Army has also announced that it will not fire on the crowd so long as it is "peaceful," and the government it taking passive means to starve the mob out by shutting down trains, roads, other transportation, and communications. The Army is guarding national monuments and resources. The mob is allowed to mill about, but it's getting hungry.
I expect the next step will be Army depots distributing food -- out of town, and in daytime hours. The "General Strike" will go through the usual evolutions and the usual results will apply. The Muslim Brotherhood will try various extraordinary measures, including perhaps some suicide bombings, but Egyptians, while they call themselves Arabs, have never been as volatile a people as their cousins to the east. The Muslim Brotherhood will try to keep the mob in the streets. The Army will try to get them to go home and get back to work.
Return of the Mamelukes
The Mamelukes were slave soldiers, hired by caliphs to defend them, but who eventually took over the caliphate in Egypt and ruled through a council of officers. This rule lased centuries. Think of the Egyptian Army as Mamelukes.
The Mamelukes have spoken, and I note that the instant the Army made that announcement in Egypt, the US press began to credit it to Obama's persuasive powers. It may well be that the Mamelukes in Egypt will be happy enough to let Obama take the credit as it draws attention away from them. The officers councils in Egypt want stability: stability and reliability of the Army first, then stability in civil affairs; but keeping the troops loyal to their officers is the first order of business. You may be certain that the colonels are taking the pulse of the sergeant's mess. I do not think they will be hearing any great support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Mamelukes understand full well what happened to the Shah's army after Carter abandoned the Shah.
Elsewhere, David Warren notes that:
Mohamed ElBaradei -- the man who ran interference for the Iranian regime, against Bush, when he was chief UN atomic weapons inspector -- is now well placed for the succession to Hosni Mubarak, with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter have reached for power fairly cleverly. At first they presented themselves as entirely neutral, between the Mubarak regime and the "spoilt children of Egypt's middle classes" -- inspired by the riots in Tunisia to try their luck in Tahrir Square.

Then, at Friday prayers, many imams apparently told their flocks to go swell the demonstrators' ranks. But this support remained cautious.

Only now that Mubarak's position is untenable -- because the Egyptian army is distancing itself from him -- are the valves fully opening, and is the Muslim Brotherhood appropriating the revolution.

 When the security forces were pulled out, the border with Gaza was left unguarded, and Hamas, which is the Muslim Brotherhood in that district, entered Egypt and became a player.  The "spoilt children of the middle class" have no use for the Islamists; but then the Islamists have no use for them, either.  Remember what happened to Kerensky in Russia or to Bakhtiar in Iran.  Bakhtiar was eventually hunted down and killed by Iranian agents in Europe.  There are certain kinds of societies, it seems, in which a bourgeois revolution cannot "take."  Even the '48 in the Germanies was only ambiguously successful. 

Stratfor, too, provides an anlysis:

There is more to these demonstrations than meets the eye. The media will focus on the concept of reformers staging a revolution in the name of democracy and human rights. These may well have brought numerous demonstrators into the streets, but revolutions, including this one, are made up of many more actors than the liberal voices on Facebook and Twitter.
After three decades of Mubarak rule, a window of opportunity has opened for various political forces — from the moderate to the extreme — that preferred to keep the spotlight on the liberal face of the demonstrations while they maneuver from behind. As the Iranian Revolution of 1979 taught, the ideology and composition of protesters can wind up having very little to do with the political forces that end up in power. ......
Now that the political structure of the state is crumbling, the army must directly shoulder the responsibility of security and contain the unrest on the streets. This will not be easy, especially given the historical animosity between the military and the police in Egypt. For now, the demonstrators view the military as an ally, and therefore, whether consciously or not, are facilitating a de facto military takeover of the state. But one misfire in the demonstrations, and a bloodbath in the streets could quickly foil the military’s plans and give way to a scenario that groups like the MB quickly could exploit.

Read more: The Egyptian Unrest: A Special Report | STRATFOR
 Now we have learned what others had not forgotten: that many Egyptians support the regime, too.  It provides order and security; and the protesters are easily portrayed as unduly influence by Western values.  Democracy is, after all, contrary to Islam.

Why?  Holy Qur'an is not simply a religious text, but like Torah sets out rules for secular society.  But unlike Torah, Holy Qur'an is said to be directly dictated, not merely inspired, by God.  As such, all secular laws are not only found in the suras and hadith, either directly or by qiyas [analogy], but they have the divine stamp of approval.  Since Qur'an is not only divine, but complete, there are no laws lacking.  But the essence of democracy is that the people or their representatives can make and repeal laws.  This is impossible in the Islamic view.  The laws must be found in Qur'an and then enforced by emirs or sultans.  This does not bode well for the "spoilt children of the middle classes" who have picked up alien Western notions.

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