A Note on Egypt: The People Overthrew a Dictatorship Armed Only With Their Voices

Egypt

People will have to forgive me for weighing in on Egypt and the essentially bloodless revolution.  I have two points and both of them link well to local issues.

The people of Egypt brought down a long and at times brutal tyranny armed only with their voices.  They achieved their objective in 18 days primarily because they could not be mollified by promises of incremental change and partly because the military refused to turn on the people of Egypt as militaries have in places like China’s Tiananmen Square.

What should be noted is that the Egyptians achieved through non-violence what the Islamists have never come close to achieving through terrorism and violence.  The people of Egypt did not bomb civilians, blow themselves up, or hijack airliners.  The people throughout the Middle East, not just in Iran, but in Afghanistan and Palestine, should heed these lessons of history, because the people of Egypt accomplished more in 18 days than they have in 18 years or more.

This was not a religious uprising, it was a nationalistic uprising.  It was about freedom.  It was about taking back their country.  And the people of Egypt were not deterred even by the few showings of violence by thugs.

This is not to suggest that things are all going to be great from here on out.  In many ways the difficult part, that of governing, still remains.  We have seen many of a successful revolution fall in the aftermath after the people who were united in a common enemy become divided by disparate interests.

There are the strongmen and dictators that will seize upon the power vacuum to attempt to take their own power.

As the New York Times succinctly put this morning, “The months and years ahead will determine whether the fervor and community of Tahrir Square can translate into a new notion of citizenship, a truce between the state and Islamists and the curbing of the entrenched power of militaries, the police and suffocating bureaucracies that have failed to deliver young people a better life in an Arab world that is becoming ever younger.”

As they also note, “The beginning was as stunning a moment as the Arab world has witnessed, written in the smallest acts of citizenship and the grandest gestures of defiance. From the first day, Tahrir Square represented a model of people seizing the initiative from a hapless government, be it cleaning the streets or running their own security.”

Leaders will ponder whether this strengthens our hand or weakens it.  I will argue that US support for “friendly” dictators undermined our core mission of building democracy in the Middle East and undermined our credibility on the street.  Just as our support in Central America for right wing dictators undermined our Cold War argument about freedom versus communism.

In the end, President Obama could only step aside and let history take its course and try not to bungle it as some would claim President Carter did during the Iranian Revolution.  In fairness, there was not much the President at that time could do in the face of the charismatic and galvanizing Ayahtollah Khomeini, and this time there appears to be no Egyptian counterpart.

“Egyptians have inspired us,” President Barack Obama said before adding, “I’m confident the people of Egypt can find the answers.”

The remarkable facet of this is how much this was simply generated by the people of Egypt themselves without any sort of real agenda other than freedom and a better life.

And herein is the lesson for us all.  The people of Egypt took back their government, the question is why the citizens of this nation and this community cannot do the same.

I speak not of revolutions, but of small things like accountability, transparency, honesty.  We not about overthrows, but about activism and empowerment.

We sat by apathetically, almost as our nation and local communities teetered on the brink.  That brink in September in 2008 was far far closer than is comforting to acknowledge.  It is what happens when we become complacent about our own freedom.

We rest on the unabiding faith in the stability of this nation, but at the same time, we seem to tolerate transgressions by those entrusted with public power as though we were powerless to respond.

What if thousands of people took to the streets, not in far off Egypt, but in our own community, and demanded change?  What would our leaders do if we stayed there for 18 days, their normal acts of mollifying the masses failing, their attempts to appease falling on indifferent ears, and finally they recognize that truth to which this very nation was built on?

Governing is inherently based on the consent of the governed.  Even when it is at gunpoint – which it inherently is at its ultimate level, regardless of the regime.

In this nation we are of course ruled by laws and governed by elected officials, but at its core we are ruled by gunpoint.  Watch no further than what happens when civil unrest occurs in this nation.

The protesters last year, the students who rose up to try to ask for such a modest proposal, in some form of equity and justice in student fees, were met by police armed first with pepper spray, shields and tasers but then with gun power.  Resist further and the national guard comes in with their weapons.  Resist further and face the military itself.

American has what was only a dream to Egyptians – the right to dissent, the right to protest, the right to vote in a real and contested election.  We have faith even when the outcome of an election is in dispute, as it was in 2000, that the system would not collapse.

However, beyond those differences are a lot of things that are not so different.  The world is not presented in black and white, right and wrong, but rather in murky shades of gray.

One thing that remains true, whether in Egypt or America, is that governing rests on the consent of the governed but also the ability of the governed to stand up and be counted.

Today we join with our Egyptian brothers and sisters and celebrate their new-found freedom.  Tomorrow, we join with ourselves and fight every bit as hard to preserve our own.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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73 Comments

  1. Dr. Wu

    40% of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day and grain prices have risen rapidly. Something like half of Egypt’s population is under 30. I do not want to underestimate the significance of what just happened in Egypt, which I think is historic and which I hope will lead to a better life for the Egyptian people eventually.

    But poverty and youth played a big role. In the US we are older and we have sheltered most people (not all of course with 9.8% unemployment) from these extremes. I believe we are in the midst of a slower but significant political revolution/evolution. Unfortunately many of our leaders are either morons (e.g., Michelle Bachman) or often ineffectual (e.g., our President).

    Three cheers for the Egyptian people, but we are in a much different state.

  2. hpierce

    [quote]The people of Egypt took back their government, the question is why the citizens of this nation and this community cannot do the same.[/quote]OK… your position is that the citizens of Davis, and the citizens residing in the DJUSD have had their governing bodies take your rights away from you?

  3. E Roberts Musser

    Let me play devil’s advocate here:
    1) We don’t really know who was behind this “revolution” and whether the resultant gov’t will be more or less democratic in nature. Iran’s silence has been deafening…
    2) It has not been a bloodless revolution – some have been physically injured or died.
    3) It is not clear this “uprising” had anything to do w freedom. Only time will tell what this “revolution” was really about. (My most fervent hope is that is WAS about FREEDOM.)
    4) Even w the mammoth assistance of the United States, Iraq has struggled mightily in trying to achieve some semblance of democracy – it is an alien concept difficult to grasp w trible cultures used to internecine warfare. I have my doubts that the end result in Egypt is necessarily going to be a democracy as we know it…
    5) Obama tried to foolishly play both sides, saying he supported the people protesting but also supported Mubarek as an ally to the U.S., instead of staying out of what was not his business in a situation that was created by unknown causes.
    6) To what are you referring here: “We sat by apathetically, almost as our nation and local communities teetered on the brink. That brink in September in 2008 was far far closer than is comforting to acknowledge. It is what happens when we become complacent about our own freedom.”?
    7) If everyone “took to the streets” as is being suggested here, every time “the people” were upset about something, anarchy would be the result. And just who are “the people”?
    8) We in the United States are ruled at gunpoint? Really? The recent uprising by UCD students over student fee hikes resulted in the use of police force to keep them from moving onto an interstate high speed highway and getting themselves or drivers killed in the process. Protests are not necessarily a good thing, done for “just causes” – the end does not necessarily justify the means.
    9) Not enough people in this country stand up to be counted at election time, when there is usually low voter turnout. Now who’s fault is that? Perhaps voter apathy is the root cause of so much of what is wrong w our country’s institutions…

  4. davisite2

    The Mubarak regime actually allowed quite a bit of freedom of expression as long as it was not translated into tangible efforts that threatened the status quo. For the majority of Egyptians, this is about unacceptable disparities in economic opportunity and wealth distribution,two things that history illustrates are rarely surrendered without bloodshed. Most importantly, regaining Arab dignity and honor,a central tenet of Arab culture which the Egyptian people had lost during their long history of British colonization and 50 years of Western-controlled post-colonial Satraps, injected the transcendent “power” vital to any populist revolt against apparent overwhelming power.

  5. wdf1

    In fairness, there was not much the President at that time could do in the face of the charismatic and galvanizing Ayahtollah Khomeini, and this time there appears to be no Egyptian counterpart.

    Obama’s response was probably a bit more calculated from past failures of the U.S. to offer public support to democratic movements, and even U.S. efforts to support the suppression of democracy (which led to later backlash in certain cases). Iran, Iraq, Philipines, Latin America. The U.S. may yet have to deal with democratic movements in Jordan and Saudia Arabia at some point.

  6. Rifkin

    [i]”The Mubarak regime actually allowed quite a bit of freedom of expression as long as it was not translated into tangible efforts that threatened the status quo.”[/i]

    This is true only if you compare it to the totalitarians in their neighborhood, such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Iran and Iraq when Saddam was in charge. The reality is there was (since the king was deposed in the early 1950s) no real freedom of expression, nothing approaching our First Amendment.

    The Egyptian government has long controlled its press. To operate a newspaper there, for example, you need a governemnt license (and, being a corrupt country, you need to pay off those people in the government who control the licenses). No publisher could question the corruption and hope to keep his license. The people all lived in fear of the secret police who would torture or kill them if they really spoke their minds.

    The technological change which has affected freedom of expression in Egypt has been satellite TV. A lot has been made of Facebook and Twitter playing a role in the demonstrations. However, for many years Al Jazeera has done what no Egyptian media would ever dare to do–it has challenged Mubarak and his repressive police state.

    [i]”For the majority of Egyptians, this is about unacceptable disparities in economic opportunity and wealth distribution, two things that history illustrates are rarely surrendered without bloodshed.”[/i]

    Egypt has no greater disparity in wealth today than it had 5 years ago, 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

    The two economic factors which played the largest role in pushing this rebellion along have been:

    1) the rising middle class. Egypt was (and still is with its military) saddled with a dysfunctional socialist economoy. People in the government (through licensed monopolies and the like) have had all the economic power. But with a lot of prodding from Britain and the U.S., more and more of the Egyptian economy has liberalized in the last 10-12 years. The result has been very strong economic growth (around 8% per year) and the creation of a much larger middle class. Having a large, strong and active class of merchants and professionals is a key component to having a democracy. These are the folks who did not really exist in Egypt a decade ago. The introduction of a market-based economy created them; and they are the ones who largely led this revolt against the old order. And

    2) rising food prices. Egyptians have been used to things getting better economically for the last 10 years. More and more people have been living well. But for the last 6-9 months, the price of basic grains have gone up a lot, and that has united the large poor urbanites with the smaller, but more influential middle class.

    Note that food prices have gone up significantly in countries like Syria and Libya, too. But in those places, with almost no merchant class in their socialized economies, the poor have not revolted.

  7. Rifkin

    [i]”Most importantly, regaining Arab dignity and honor, a central tenet of Arab culture which the Egyptian people had lost during their long history of British colonization and 50 years of Western-controlled post-colonial Satraps, injected the transcendent “power” vital to any populist revolt against apparent overwhelming power.[/i]

    This far-left anti-colonial horse-poop is what has kept dictators in power all over the Middle East and Africa. It’s an excuse. It’s xenophobia run-amok. It’s a neo-marxist pretense that the people of a given country are never at fault for how crappy their country is–it’s the other guy’s fault. And anyone who says, no, we can fix our own country, gets blamed for being a tool of the “colonialists.”

    That is how every socialist regime in black Africa stays in power. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you travel to Zimbabwe to see the daily spin of Bob Mugabe. Every day he rails against colonialism while he starves and murders his people.

    What was so unique in the Egyptian protests was that the crowds–other than those in the Muslim Brotherhood, who seemed to be a small minority–did not rant against “colonialism.” They were not xenophobic. They were democratic, meaning they believe they can better their country if they take charge of it. They blamed Egyptians for Egypt’s flaws. They did not blame England or the U.S. or China.

    That is a huge change in culture. No country which focuses itself on what other powers are doing will ever be democratic. The reason democracies work well is because they are self-critical.

  8. Kane607

    I echo someone elses sentiments, we don’t know who “the people” truly are here. just because people protest does not mean they represent what the overall public thinks. and the new regime that takes power in egypt – what assurances do we have that will be democratic?

  9. Rifkin

    [i]1) We don’t really know who was behind this “revolution” and whether the resultant gov’t will be more or less democratic in nature. Iran’s silence has been deafening… [/i]

    Iran has not been silent at all. (Their reaction to the protests in Egypt has been widely covered in all of our major newspapers ([url]http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/02/iran-backs-egypts-protests-but-nixes-opposition-show-of-support/1[/url]) for the last 3-4 weeks.) The dictatorship in Iran has long hated Mubarak. They hate him in large part because he has been 1) anti-Islamist; 2) pro-U.S. and pro-Britain; and 3) insufficiently anti-Israel.

    [i]2) It has not been a bloodless revolution – some have been physically injured or died. [/i]

    Yet those killed were killed by the Mubarak goons or the secret police, not by the protestors (as far as I know). It’s pretty amazing to me how civilized the anti-Mubarak demonstrators have behaved. The Palestinians should learn something from their brothers in Egypt.

    [i]3) It is not clear this “uprising” had [b]anything[/b] to do w freedom. [/i]

    It seems pretty clear to me that the rebellion was first and foremost about getting rid of an unpopular dictator and secondly about replacing him with a legitimate, democratically elected president and parliament.

    [i]4) Even w the mammoth assistance of the United States, Iraq has struggled mightily in trying to achieve some semblance of democracy – it is an alien concept difficult to grasp w trible cultures used to internecine warfare. I have my doubts that the end result in Egypt is necessarily going to be a democracy as we know it… “[/i]

    I have doubts about where Egypt will be a year from now, too. However, there are two very important differences in the make-up of Egypt’s economy and population from Iraq’s which favor Egypt:

    A) Egypt is mostly homogenous. It is 90% Sunni Muslim; and nearly 100% Arab country. The rulers have not been otherwise.

    Iraq is much more diverse religiously and linguistically and until the U.S. got rid of Saddam it was ruled by Sunni Muslim Arabs, who are only about 20% of Iraq. Much of the problems of Iraq’s democracy results from this diversity problem: that Sunni Arabs are pitted agains Shiite Arabs who are pitted against Sunni Turkomen and Sunni Kurds and Arab Christians and Assyrians and so on. The interest groups in Iraq are mostly based on ethnic or religious differences which won’t change.

    In Egypt, other than with the small Christian minority, this kind of diversity problem does not exist. They are much more “one people.”

    B) Egypt is not an oil state. Fareed Zakaria has long made this case for why oil wealth harms democracy: [quote]Countries with treasure in their soil don’t need to create the framework of laws and policies that produce economic growth and create a middle class. They simply drill into the ground for black gold. These “trust-fund states” don’t work for their wealth and thus don’t modernize–economically or politically. After all, easy money means a government doesn’t need to tax its people. That might sound like a good idea, but when a government takes money from its people, the people demand something in return. Like honesty, accountability, transparency–and eventually democracy.

    This bargain, between taxation and representation, is at the heart of Western liberty. After all, that is why America broke away from Britain. It was being taxed but not represented in the British Parliament. The Saudi royal family offers its subjects a very different bargain: “We don’t ask much of you [in the form of taxes] and we don’t give you much [in the form of liberty].” It’s the inverse of the slogan that launched the American Revolution–no taxation without representation. [/quote]

  10. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    The Egyptian protesters did an amazing thing, but they did not stage a revolution and did not depose a dictator. The totalitarian regime Mubarak headed was always dominated by the military, which is still in charge. The regime Mubarak headed still exists and will continue to exist. Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, now the caretakers of the state, issued its fourth communique today making it very clear that no substantial changes will be allowed. At the end of the day the average Egyptian will eat no better and live no freer than they did prior to the protests that forced Mubarak out of power.

  11. Rifkin

    [i]”The [b]totalitarian regime[/b] Mubarak headed was always dominated by the military, which is still in charge.”[/i]

    It’s hyperbole to call the government of Egypt (under Mubarak or under Sadat or even under a wannabe totalitarian like Nasser) “totalitarian.” Compared with its neighborhood, particularly Libya on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other, the post-royal governments of Egypt for the last 60 years have been mild.

    That’s not to say the people have been free or had democratic civil rights or had fair economic opportunities that the people of the United States have had. Egypt has been repressive. It has a deep level of corruption and a brutal secret police. Its elections have been shams. And on and on. But don’t confuse it with Cuba, North Korea, China, Syria or East Germany or the Soviet Union back in the day. Victims of real totalitarian societies would breathe free in Mubarak’s Egypt.

  12. Rifkin

    [i]” At the end of the day the average Egyptian will eat no better and live no freer than they did prior to the protests that forced Mubarak out of power.”[/i]

    Egyptians are eating better now than they perhaps ever have. For nearly 10 years things have been getting better. That always precedes an uprising. The countries like Cuba, where things stay the same or get worse, never have uprisings. Liberalization of the economy created the middle class; and that middle class created the uprising.

    The key is they need to keep growing their economy by improving the productivity of their industries and agriculture. (It would help if the US and Europe would stop rigging the cotton market.)

    You are right that the corporatist Egyptian military still has enormous power; and it will try to maintain that power for a long while.

    But if the emergency rule is lifted and they have a free election for president and parliament, it seems likely that ordinary Egyptians this year will live freer than they did most of the time under Hosni Mubarak.

  13. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Don’t confuse [Egypt] with Cuba, North Korea, China, Syria or East Germany or the Soviet Union back in the day.

    What did I say anywhere in anything I’ve written that might make you think I would be so abysmally ignorant and uneducated as to even run the rusk of confusing the Egyptian form of government with that of Cuba, North Korea, China, Syria, the former East Germany or the former Soviet Union? Beyond the education I received in California’s excellent state universities, I have also traveled through Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. My arabic isn’t great, but it is fair. That doesn’t make me an authority, by any means, but I know enough to know the difference between Egypt and Cuba.

    It’s hyperbole to call the government of Egypt (under Mubarak or under Sadat or even under a wannabe totalitarian like Nasser) “totalitarian.” Compared with its neighborhood, particularly Libya on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other, the post-royal governments of Egypt for the last 60 years have been mild.

    Your attempt to compare despots is hilarious. Did you see the Big Lebowski? In that movie, a character called Walter used the same logic to criticize nihilists when he said “say what you will about the National Socialists. At least they had an ethos.” Hilarious because the comparison is ridiculous. Saying that Mubarak isn’t as bad as Ghadafi, the Saudi Royal family or other totalitarian rulers is like saying that arsenic is an acceptable poison for consumption because it is less toxic than strychnine or belladonna. They are all poisons. Degree of toxicity is a distinction without a difference.

    The Egyptian government is perhaps less repressive than Saudi Arabia’s (which I would contest – as I’ve said, I’ve been there) but it is repressive nevertheless and the false favorable comparison doesn’t in any way endow the winner with any virtue.

  14. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    ..Victims of real totalitarian societies would breathe free in Mubarak’s Egypt.

    You make is sound like Club Med. I invite you to go there. When you do, I invite you to tell the families of those murdered by the Egyptian secret police how “unreal” their suffering is or how “mild” the political system that killed their loved ones.

    Compared with its neighborhood, particularly Libya on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other, the post-royal governments of Egypt for the last 60 years have been mild..

    Again, this is a false comparison that doesn’t endow the winner with any virtue. Saying that, compared to other repressive regimes, Egyptian repression is mild, and that people from those other systems would “thrive” in Egypt’s lesser repression is like telling my niece, who is beaten by her boyfriend every day, that she would thrive in a relationship with another abuser who only beats her once a week, because her abuse is “mild” in comparison.

    Egyptians are eating better now than they perhaps ever have. For nearly 10 years things have been getting better.

    That wasn’t my point. My point is that this recent “revolution” isn’t going to improve the lives of the average Egyptian. And it also isn’t true. See http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/economies/Africa/Egypt-POVERTY-AND-WEALTH.html

    Countries like Cuba, where things stay the same or get worse, never have uprisings.

    Utter nonsense. Unbelievably wrong. High food prices – or “food insecurity” – as a major driver of political unrest is an undisputed, well- settled historical fact. It is so basic a concept that I learned it 30 years ago in my freshman political science classes. Chinese history is replete with examples of revolutions sparked by famine. The French Revolution was sparked by food shortages. More recently, the Tunisian revolt – which has a much greater chance of achieving actual democratic reform and was the catalyst for the Egyptian uprising – was prompted by decreasing food security. The reasons the Cubans haven’t revolted is because the majority of Cubans support the Castro government. Period – which is careful about providing food security.

    And it is absolutely clear that this most recent unrest in Egypt was also sparked in significant part by food insecurity. The average Egyptian spends 40% of their meager income on food. They live hand to mouth. The revolt started during price increase that went up 17%. Combined with high unemployment and a ruling class living lives of open luxury – and spurred on by Tunisia’s successful example – this increase in food prices made a popular uprising more or less inevitable.

    Incidentally, and a bit off the point, one of the levers the United States used to motivate the Egyptian regime to accept some change was the threat that the US would “suspend” food aid, thereby all but assuring Egyptian famine, which would remove any chance of containing the revolt.

    But if the emergency rule is lifted and they have a free election for president and parliament, it seems likely that ordinary Egyptians this year will live freer than they did most of the time under Hosni Mubarak.

    No. Again, utter nonsense. There will be no free election in Egypt. The ordinary Egyptian will not live freer because of the recent protests. When this plays out, the chairs will be rearranged and new faces will be seated at the table, but the system – the regime – that exists after the protests will be virtually identical to the system – the regime – to which Mubarak served as Chief Executive Officer.

  15. Rifkin

    PAUL: “The totalitarian regime Mubarak …”
    RICH: “It’s hyperbole to call the government of Egypt “totalitarian.”
    PAUL: “What did I say anywhere in anything I’ve written that might make you think I would be so abysmally ignorant and uneducated as to even run the rusk of confusing the Egyptian form of government with that of Cuba, North Korea, China, Syria, the former East Germany or the former Soviet Union?”

    You made me think that when you characterized Mubarak’s Egypt as “totalitarian.” It never was, while the nations at the end of your question are (though North Korea would be at the extreme end of totalitarian and today’s China, given its capitalist economy and the ability of its citizens to travel abroad more-less freely and return home at will at the other end of the spectrum).

  16. Rifkin

    [i]”Beyond the education I received in California’s excellent state universities, I have also traveled through Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. My arabic isn’t great, but it is fair. That doesn’t make me an authority, by any means, but I know enough to know the difference between Egypt and Cuba.”[/i]

    Other than “Salaam Alaychem,” which the Arabs got from the Hebrew, “Sholom Aleichem,” I don’t know any Arabic. But like you I have travelled in that region (though admittedly many years ago and not all that much beyond the tourist sites). I know enough to recommend Petra in Jordan:

    [img]http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/treasury.jpg[/img]

    Mentioning Cuba reminds me of a funny story that a friend told me about his travels there. He is an American, but he was travelling with a group of Brazilians, who were all there to make a documentary for Brazilian TV. This was around 1988 or so. My friend Larry was a cameraman for Brazilian TV. Anyhow, he had with him a t-shirt which had a depiction of Woody Allen in the movie, Bananas. One of his Brazilian co-workers liked it and asked if he could wear it when they were in a city called Sagua la Grande. While the guy was wearing it, a police officer in street clothes came up to the Brazilian group and apprehended Larry’s co-worker. He didn’t punch him or beat him with a baton, but he manhandled him and forced him to the ground; and then he called for other cops, who showed up one by one over the next few minutes.

    What was the problem, the Brazilians asked? It turned out that the depiction of Woody Allen as a cigar smoking Latin dictator was deemed as offensive and a threat to the Castro regime. They ultimately just made the Brazilian give up his t-shirt and they let the group go.

    I presume to this day that cop probably has the t-shirt in a drawer in his house. I also presume that when Fidel and his brother are dead, he will put the shirt on.

    [img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Jp3CKb0Tf9c/TM-2c-j3fwI/AAAAAAAAJQU/2CEaULKeqkI/woody_allen_bananas.jpg[/img]

    *FWIW, I oppose almost all economic sanctions. I certainly oppose our idiotic boycott of Cuba. It has proved ineffectual for 50 years or so of the Castro regime.

  17. Rifkin

    RICH: “Egyptians are eating better now than they perhaps ever have. For nearly 10 years things have been getting better.” (Meaning: revolts follow good times, not bad.)

    PAUL: “Utter nonsense. Unbelievably wrong. High food prices – or “food insecurity” – as a major driver of political unrest is an undisputed, well- settled historical fact. It is so basic a concept that [b]I learned it 30 years ago in my freshman political science classes.[/b]

    Perhaps your Freshman teachers were wrong? (I hope you did not study under my recently departed friend, Chalmers Johnson? He was a nice person and an interesting man. Alas, Chalmers was wrong about just about everything.)

    PAUL: “Chinese history is replete with examples of revolutions sparked by famine.”

    China is a good, recent example of the things are getting better revolt phenomenon. The Chinese lived under dire poverty and totalitarian oppression for decades with no widespread uprisings. But once Mao was dead and things were improving in the late 1980s, the people (largely students) started to protest in big numbers. Of course they were ultimately crushed and the Chinese fear protesting again in a like manner, but it is no coincidence that the introduction of a market economy led to Tianenmen Square.

    [i]”The French Revolution was sparked by food shortages.”[/i]

    I never discounted food shortages. Read my remarks above (10:44). However, it should be noted that the standard of living in pre-revolutionary France was rising from the mid-1600s on. The introduction of capital markets and international trade and shipping and so on, and the repatriated profits flowing into France from its exploitation in African and the West Indies had created a newly minted middle class which did not exist in the 16th C. Sure, most Frenchmen were still peasants by 1789. But it was that new and growing merchant and professional class which was at the helm of the French Revolution.

    And this phenomenon of rising wealth touching off uprisings has not escaped our country. It’s no coincidence that it was the 1960s, following the long post-War recovery which brought about the Civil Rights uprisings and later the cultural challenges to the status quo and ultimately the anti-War movement. Those kinds of things never took place in bad times, like the 1930s, because too many people were just trying to get by. It is the creation of new wealth, as has happened in Egypt, which lays the groundwork for a revolt.

    [i]”More recently, the Tunisian revolt – which has a much greater chance of achieving actual democratic reform and was the catalyst for the Egyptian uprising – was prompted by decreasing food security.”[/i]

    True, but Tunisia’s economy, like Egypt’s, has gone through a liberalization for the last 10-15 years. By contrast, Libya, where food prices have also risen, is still a socialist country led by an odd little man and no rebellion has taken place there (yet).

  18. davisite2

    “Egyptians are eating better now than they perhaps ever have. For nearly 10 years things have been getting better.”

    This statement reveals the bogus nature of the author’s narrative. Most Egyptians are living on less than $2/day and food prices have sky-rocketed. The past 10 years have seen international cooperate free-market policies enrich an elite while pauperizing the majority. As to the future, my prediction is that the old Generals will attempt to only make cosmetic changes while trying to hold on to their position of economic and political power. A second military coup by mid-level junior Egyptian officers is likely that will much more fully support the democratic populist aspirations of the vast majority of the Egyptian people.

  19. Rifkin

    RICH: “But [b]if the emergency rule is lifted[/b] and they have a free election for president and parliament, it seems likely that ordinary Egyptians this year will live freer than they did most of the time under Hosni Mubarak.”[/i]
    PAUL: “No. Again, utter nonsense.”

    It’s utter nonsense that if emergency rule is lifted the people of Egypt will live freer? Or it is utter nonsense to suggest that the laws of Egypt might change?

    PAUL: “There will be no free election in Egypt.”

    You don’t know that. I might agree with you if you said it is unlikely there will be a free election in that country.

    I would further agree if you said a free election is not in and of itself enough to make for a real democracy. Iraq has had many free and fair elections, but is a long ways from a real democracy. Hell, the Palestinians had one free election, though I have heard some say it was not a fair vote. That gave their parliament to Hamas, who soon started killing off their opponents. (Note that Hamas has killed many more Arabs than it has Jews.)

    PAUL: “The ordinary Egyptian will not live freer because of the recent protests.”

    It may not be likely in your calculus, but again, it is possible things will get better there.

    PAUL: “When this plays out, the chairs will be rearranged and new faces will be seated at the table, but the system – the regime – that exists after the protests will be virtually identical to the system – the regime – to which Mubarak served as Chief Executive Officer.”

    Time will tell. Give them a year.

    I won’t say I know you are wrong. But at this point it seems like there is a chance for things to get better.

    Think of South Korea. It was a corrupt militarist regime for about 35 years after the Korean War endeed. But eventually the people there became wealthy enough to throw off those shackles. The middle class revolted against the generals. And they have had a successful democracy ever since. Without the rebellion, Taiwan too transitioned from an authoritarian general to a real democracy. And by way of a vote, the authoritarian dictator of Chile was ousted and they have had a vibrant democracy ever since.

    Because the vast majority of Egyptians are still quite poor, I doubt they are in as good a postion to sustain a democracy as those others. But we will see. Maybe the Arab world is up for something new.

  20. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Rich – Petra is one of the coolest places on earth. I also recommend the krak de chevaliers in Syria – the largest crusader castle ever built.

    You are a smart guy. I will gladly give you that. But you are abysmally ignorant about what is happening in the middle east and/or Asia and why it is happening. Allow me to prove my point:

    PAUL: “There will be no free election in Egypt.”

    You don’t know that.

    Yes I do. This uprising will not result in a free election of any sort. I know that for a fact. Any serious observer and geopolitical analyst knows that for a fact. Only the superficial news media entertains any other outcome.

    PAUL: “When this plays out, the chairs will be rearranged and new faces will be seated at the table, but the system – the regime – that exists after the protests will be virtually identical to the system – the regime – to which Mubarak served as Chief Executive Officer.”

    Time will tell. Give them a year.

    No again. Time has told. What is happening here does not compare in any way with what happened in South Korea or Taiwan. Chile? An even poorer comparison – a Cold War backwater nothing like Egypt or its geopolitical importance. The comparison is laughable. It will unfold exactly as I describe. Oh, there may be some recognition of some opposition groups, but they will be co-opted, provided an exclusive piece of the pie and then become part of the regime. Well, in all honesty, other outcomes are possible, but the one I describe is most likely.

    Because the vast majority of Egyptians are still quite poor, I doubt they are in as good a postion to sustain a democracy as those others. But we will see. Maybe the Arab world is up for something new.

    The Arab world is very much “up for something new.” But the true and ultimate question is whether the United States and its allies, dependent on middle eastern oil, will allow it. Despite the picture being painted in the mainstream media, and despite what looks like confusion in our foreign policy officials, the US is brokering what is happening in Egypt and it is the US that will allow or not allow democracy to take hold. It will not allow it for fear of a repeat of what happened when the US allowed Hamas to run in an election (note t hat the Muslim Brotherhood is bending over backwards to distance themselves from Hamas and arguing that they reject fundamentalist Islam; we remain unconvinced). We cannot allow a hostile government in Egypt and that is why true democracy will not be allowed in Egypt. Deals will be made. Various groups will be bought off. Some new faces will be allowed a place at the table. Totalitarianism/authoritarianism assures certainty whereas democracy is uncertain and unpredictable and that is why it will not be allowed in Egypt, at least not until we don’t care anymore what happens there, and that won’t happen for at least a century.

  21. Rifkin

    PAUL: “You are a smart guy.”
    RICH: “I agree.”
    PAUL: [i]”the US is brokering what is happening in Egypt and it is the US that will allow or not allow democracy to take hold.”[/i]

    I think you strongly misunderstand the United States of 2011. Have you travelled been there? I recommend the Grand Canyon and the Inside Passage.

    [img]http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/alaskas-inside-passage.jpg[/img]

    Your words suggest that this is 1953 and the Dulles brothers are in charge of foreign policy.

    [img]http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h52/Tiktaalik/JFKmccone2.gif[/img]

    The administration of Barack Obama (or G.W. Bush for that matter) will support a democratic Egypt. There is no reason not to.

    (If you presume that a truly democratic Egyptian regime would want to abrogate its peace treaty with Israel, would put in place shariah law, would ally itself with our enemies and so on, you are completely out of touch with Egyptian public opinion ([url]http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/html/pdf/pollock-Egyptpoll.pdf[/url]).)

    [i]”It will not allow it for fear of a repeat of what happened when the US allowed Hamas to run in an election …”[/i]

    The US never attempted to stop Hamas from running in an election. So saying we “allowed” them to run is nonsense. They made the choice on their own. (FWIW, Hamas announced last week they are boycotting the upcoming Palestinian elections ([url]http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-02/13/c_13729456.htm[/url]). Their masters in Iran accidentally broke the news last month, but that does not matter too much.)

    Second, the Muslim Brotherhood is largely unpopular in Egypt. Hamas is popular among more than 40% of Palestinians in most polls; that is a big reason the Palestinians don’t want to make peace. By contrast, the MB gets around 10-20% support, depending on the poll. The latest WINEP poll ([url]http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/html/pdf/pollock-Egyptpoll.pdf[/url]) has the MB at 15%, though that may be low because it was a telephone poll, and the MB draws more support among the poor and uneducated and thus less apt to have phone service.

    Nevertheless, we have no reason to fear the MB winning an election. The Egytpian people are not radical and not interested in a return to the 7th Century. The greater fear is that if Egypt falls into a state of chaos (as Iran did after the Shah left), an unpopular but well organized group with strong leadership will fill the vacuum. That group is the MB in Egypt. That is how Khomeini took over in Iran, amid chaos and an un-Islamic uprising.

    [i]”We cannot allow a hostile government in Egypt and that is why true democracy will not be allowed in Egypt.”[/i]

    You seem to think you know–and you don’t know–that a “true democracy” in Egypt will be anti-American and in other ways against our interests. But you are just wrong, wrong and wrong about the Egyptian people.

    Again, there is a certain risk that the Brotherhood will create chaos and take over. That would not be good. But we have nothing to fear from a true democracy in Egypt. Unfortunately, Egypt may just be too poor to carry on a true democracy for many years. They are more likely to wind up with a corrupt system like in India, until most people there are elevated from poverty by way of capitalism.

  22. Don Shor

    Considering that nobody anywhere predicted the events of the last three weeks, I consider it amazing the extent of certitude folks here and elsewhere exhibit in predicting the likely outcome. I would hope that, if we’ve learned anything from the last decade or so in the Middle East, it would be hubris about our analytical skills and about the extent of real American power there.

  23. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Rich – Okay, so you are discounting my analysis on the ground you think I am out of date and therefore naive? I cannot argue against that because it is an argumentative tactic that cuts off further argument.

    Don – I disagree that “nobody anywhere predicted the events of the last three weeks.” Actually, the current situation in Egypt was not so much predicted as it was anticipated by geopolitical analysts just about everywhere. If you are interested, I recommend the Stratfor Group’s newsletters. There were unknowns and unexpected events, but, for on the whole, the predictions were impressively accurate – even to the point of Mubarak ether leaving and handing over power to the military or being removed by the military, resulting in the same thing.

    I agree that American power is strained and changing – and is still attempting to recover from the destruction wrought by the most recent Bush administration. But, it wasn’t poor analytical skills that did this to us – it was leaders who ignored the best analysis and decided to create and rely on fake analysis that put us where we are now. However, even though the US is currently unable to project power the way it once did, the US still the most powerful military and economic force on the planet and a power broker in much of the middle east, including our client state Egypt.

    That opinion doesn’t manifest from jingoistic hubris. It is simply the truth. It does not overestimate the extent of real American power; rather, the results we see now in Egypt are an example of American’s extant substantial and potent reach using the less brutish, less visible, more effective mechanisms we used prior to George Bush deciding that, because he was an instrument of God’s will, he could throw out the rule book and ignore the wisdom that prevented his father from invading Iraq when he had the chance.

  24. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Don – The following is the tail end of a Stratfor newsletter posted just after Mubarak resigned. I provide it as a very small example of the kind of information available – based on in-depth factual/historical geopolitical analysis – that goes far beyond anything the news media reports.

    We assume that for the next few weeks military rule will be based on the 1952 model when Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the government, with the ruling council composed of mostly if not entirely military officers.

    If this follows the patterns of similar evolutions elsewhere, direct military rule means that the parliament will be dissolved (in name if not in fact) and the military will (at least nominally) preside over a transitional system until civilian rule can be reintroduced. But Mubarak’s government was never civilian in the first place. There certainly may be some rearrangements of titles and offices, but at its core this is cosmetic. The military was in charge before military rule was declared. The military is obviously in charge now that military rule has been declared. And so it is up to the military to determine what happens when military rule “ends.”

  25. davisite2

    “…military rule will be based on the 1952 model when Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the government, with the ruling council composed of mostly if not entirely military officers.”

    The important difference was that the military coup of 1952 was brought off by mid-level junior officers, not the top generals whose interests were tied to the status quo power structure. The concept of Pan-Arabism, i.e., political and cultural Arab unity,in a socialist framework, was Nasser’s vision of his 1952 revolution spreasing throughout the Arab world. Regaining Arab honor and self-respect was always a concurrent undercurrent. It appears, IMO, that the Muslim Brotherhood, are the heirs to this long-simmering desire of the Arab “streets”.

  26. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    I cannot agree more, davisite2. And I disagree with Rifkin that the MB is disliked popularly. But the question is whether what we both agree on equates to a post protest share of power, and whether that power is shared in a significantly more democratic political culture (more players at the table does not necessarily mean the system is more democratic).

    As Dan points out, no one knows for sure, but the smart money is betting no, the MB won’t be allowed a significantly greater political presence. The more pressing question is whether the military will use the threat of muslim extremism to justify the status quo, or whether the military wants to use the threat of MB being included in the political process to improve its bargaining position with the US and Israel.

    NEWS UPDATE:

    Egyptian military disbands parliament, suspends constitution

    Los Angeles Times – Raja Abdulrahim, Ned Parker – ‎31 minutes ago‎
    Military officials also set a timeline, vowing to rule Egypt for six months or until elections are held. Meanwhile, the army makes a sweep of Tahrir Square, ousting remaining protesters.

    See[url]http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-egypt-aftermath-20110214,0,4259980.story[/url]

    Time is telling, Rifkin.

    RIFKIN: But they also promised elections in six months!
    BOYLAN: Yeah, they did, didn’t they? In the meantime, they better shut the hell up and go home.

  27. E Roberts Musser

    PNBoylan: “The Egyptian protesters did an amazing thing, but they did not stage a revolution and did not depose a dictator. The totalitarian regime Mubarak headed was always dominated by the military, which is still in charge. The regime Mubarak headed still exists and will continue to exist. Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, now the caretakers of the state, issued its fourth communique today making it very clear that no substantial changes will be allowed. At the end of the day the average Egyptian will eat no better and live no freer than they did prior to the protests that forced Mubarak out of power.”

    DShor: “Considering that nobody anywhere predicted the events of the last three weeks, I consider it amazing the extent of certitude folks here and elsewhere exhibit in predicting the likely outcome. I would hope that, if we’ve learned anything from the last decade or so in the Middle East, it would be hubris about our analytical skills and about the extent of real American power there.”

    davisite2: “The important difference was that the military coup of 1952 was brought off by mid-level junior officers, not the top generals whose interests were tied to the status quo power structure. The concept of Pan-Arabism, i.e., political and cultural Arab unity,in a socialist framework, was Nasser’s vision of his 1952 revolution spreasing throughout the Arab world. Regaining Arab honor and self-respect was always a concurrent undercurrent. It appears, IMO, that the Muslim Brotherhood, are the heirs to this long-simmering desire of the Arab “streets”.”

    All interesting comments. Which just, IMHO, reinforces my point that we do not necessarily know who was behind this “uprising” or what the ultimate outcome will be. I have my doubts that this “uprising” had much to do with the Egyptian people suddenly seeking freedom…

  28. Rifkin

    [i]”The important difference was that the military coup of 1952 was brought off by mid-level junior officers, not the top generals whose interests were tied to the status quo power structure.”[/i]

    It should be noted that all of those “junior officers” –including Sadat and Nasser — were trained by and close with the Nazis before, during and after WW2. According to a distant Israeli relative of mine, Israeli intelligence officers were covertly hunting down German Nazis hiding in Egypt in the 1950s.

  29. Rifkin

    [i]”And I disagree with Rifkin that the MB is disliked popularly.”[/i]

    We are so blessed to have with us Paul Boylan. He ignores the sourced evidence I presented and cites himself as his own authority on how popular the Muslim Brotherhood is in Egypt. Oh my. We are so blessed.

  30. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Rifkin – Again, you resort to the equivalent of name calling. You now dislike a “Mr. Know it all” when that is the persona you yourself project. The simple fact is I know more about this than you do, regardless of your sources. Mine are superior to yours and, due in part to my own personal knowledge of the MB’s social services network throughout Egypt, my opinion is better. An open mind should welcome superior information. You yourself said that when I first began opining here. Prove it by refraining from ad hominem and personal attacks and sarcasm in the face of contrary opinion.

    My experience, knowledge and resulting opinions about local news and facts are not superior to yours – which I readily – and without the quick and vicious rancor you display – admit. I’ve benefited very much from what you’ve said here about the current condition of the City’s finances, the reasons why it is so and suggestions for reform. I’m told I won’t be selected to fill the vacancy on the City Counsel without your support. So be it. I refuse to kiss up to power. I will disagree with you when I think you are wrong and explain why I think you are wrong. But I am anxious to learn from anyone who knows more than I do about the current crisis the City faces, and that means you, if you are willing.

    Civil Discourse – Thank you sincerely for the citation. I will read it as soon as I can. My wife has plans that include and demand my participation today and I am afraid those plans trump my desire to blog. I trust you understand.

  31. Rifkin

    PAUL: “Yeah, they did, didn’t they? In the meantime, they better shut the hell up and go home.”

    I have never said that I am certain that Egypt will hold free and fair elections and that the people will live freer than they have in the past. I think there is reason to doubt a positive outcome.

    However, unlike the man-who-has-travelled-to-all-parts-far-and-near and cannot cite any authorities but himself for his opinions, I leave room for the chance that things may turn out well for the Egyptians.

    Time will tell.

    I was thinking of betting a coffee or a beer with the man-who-has-travelled-to-all-parts-far-and-near and cannot cite any authorities but himself for his opinions over the question of Egypt at least having in the next 12 months “a free and fair election.”

    But then I realized, since the man-who-has-travelled-to-all-parts-far-and-near and cannot cite any authorities but himself for his opinions will never accept what happens as free and fair or democratic or otherwise a substantial change in the status quo. Why not? Because the man-who-has-travelled-to-all-parts-far-and-near and cannot cite any authorities but himself for his opinions is closed minded. He lets his ideology trump empirical evidence, just as he did when he cites no evidence to suggest how popular the Muslim Brotherhood is in Egypt, today.

    Since his entire theory is based on the popularity of the MB and the unpopularity of the United States, it’s impossible for him to admit that this central tenet of his imgained construction of the situation was false.

    All that said, Paul, I will buy you a beer or a coffee or whatever you prefer to drink if this does not happen within a year: Egypt will hold a free and fair election for its parliament and its presidency; and some respected international group, such as the Carter Center or its equivalent with the UN, will certify that the election was at least “mostly free and fair”; and the restrictive laws under their “emergency decree” will be lifted.

    If that happens, you will owe me nothing. I am certain that the man-who-has-travelled-to-all-parts-far-and-near and cannot cite any authorities but himself for his opinions won’t believe the evidence when it slaps him up side the head. But if it does not happen, as Paul is so sure it won’t, I will pay off with a beer or coffee or whatever potable you prefer.

  32. Rifkin

    How sure am I that Egypt will hold a mostly free and fair election within a year? I’d say there is a 33% chance.

    Why do I modify that with the adverb “mostly”? Because most elections in the rich countries are not entirely free and fair. I cannot hold a poor country up to higher standards. I would expect some vote-rigging:

    [img]http://www.reformation.org/large-ballot-box-13.jpg[/img]

    And I would not be too surprised to find that parties and candidates which appeal to the poor end up buying some of their votes:

    [img]http://www.19sixties60s.com/daley.jpg[/img]

    But if Jimmy Carter or someone like him announces that the election was mostly free and fair, I will accept that.

  33. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    The funny thing is you really believe your own propaganda.

    I demand to know your source for that assessment.

    All that said, Paul, I will buy you a beer or a coffee or whatever you prefer to drink if this does not happen within a year: Egypt will hold a free and fair election for its parliament and its presidency; and some respected international group, such as the Carter Center or its equivalent with the UN, will certify that the election was at least “mostly free and fair”; and the restrictive laws under their “emergency decree” will be lifted.

    I’ll take that bet – but I get to choose what kind of beer.

  34. Rifkin

    [i]”I’m told I won’t be selected to fill the vacancy on the City Council without your support. So be it.”[/i]

    I certainly don’t know any basis for this notion. I have never opined in my column or in private on behalf of a candidate for the City Council in this race. I won’t likely do so from here to the selection date.

    If I personally have any influence in who is chosen, it is entirely indirectly. I have been, going on five years, declaiming the labor contract policies adopted by the City Council. I think it is obvious now that our councils in the past were not acting in the best interests of the taxpayers or the City’s future. And in reading the comments of most candidates for office this time, it appears that this message–which is by no means now mine alone–is largely accepted.

  35. Rifkin

    PAUL: “I demand to know your source for that assessment.”
    RICH: I cite Davisite2.

    [i]”I’ll take that bet – but I get to choose what kind of beer.”[/i]

    I read your bit that you have plans today and thus it sounds like you won’t see this for awhile. However, if you would agree that “you lose the bet if the Carter Center or some equivalent ([url]http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=37004&Cr=ivoire&Cr1[/url]) declares the election mostly free and fair according to their standards,” I would be much happier. And keep in mind, I think going in I am a 2:1 dog.

  36. Don Shor

    i’ve edited some posts. Please avoid from the kind of personal back-and-forth that I removed. Those of you who were doing it know what I’m talking about.
    Thanks,
    Don

  37. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    RICH: I cite Davisite2.

    If Davisite2 is the source, then I concede the point.

    I think going in I am a 2:1 dog

    I honestly don’t know what a 2:1 dog is. Can you explain?

    if you would agree that “you lose the bet if the Carter Center or some equivalent declares the election mostly free and fair according to their standards,” I would be much happier.

    I would prefer the equivalent. How about this: you will win if Dr. George Friedman (CEO of Stratfor Global Intelligence) declares the election mostly free and fair according to his standards. Deal?

    Please avoid the kind of personal back-and-forth that I removed. Those of you who were doing it know what I’m talking about.

    In our defense, we were drunk when what you reference happened. I don’t offer this as an excuse, just as an explanation.

  38. Rifkin

    RICH: “I think going in I am a 2:1 dog.”
    PAUL WHO DOES NOT GAMBLE MUCH: “I honestly don’t know what a 2:1 dog is. Can you explain?”

    Sorry for my gambling argot. It simply means that I think I am the underdog (or “dog”) in the bet. Two out of three you win; one out of three I do.

    I noted above that I think the chances Egypt pulls off a free and fair election are 33%. Where did I get that number? See Davisite2. The man is a genus. And a species to boot.

    If you play poker, very often you will call bets in which you think the other player has better cards at the moment. But if, say, there is $100 in a pot, and it costs you $50 to call, it’s a reasonable decision as long as you are no worse than a 2:1 dog. There is always some chance the other guy is bluffing, and you might be calling with the best of it.

    Say Paul has the A-K of spades; and I have the 8 of diamonds and 5 of hearts. And there are no cards on the board. In that scenario, you are 66.39% to win the hand; I am 33.19% to win; and there is a 0.43% chance for a split. (Players who don’t understand card math might think AK suited is a bigger favorite than 2:1.)

    The problem, here, is really knowing just what your opponent is holding. I might have a pretty good idea based on your betting patterns or some other tell. If it turns out I call and you have both black Kings, I made a terrible call because I was getting 2:1 (meaning $2 in the pot to each extra $1 I had to add to it to stay in the hand) and KK is a 5.15:1 favorite.

    [img]http://edge1.pokerlistings.com/assets/photos/_resampled/CroppedImage180320-michael-mcclain-26805.jpg[/img]

  39. Rifkin

    [i]How about this: you will win if Dr. George Friedman (CEO of Stratfor Global Intelligence) declares the election mostly free and fair according to his standards. Deal? [/i]

    I will buy your potable of choice if you tell me [i]you don’t think they had a mostly free and fair election[/i], based on whatever expert you like. (I assume you are a subscriber to STRATFOR. I am not, and thus will have no way of knowing what Friedman declares has taken place.)

    That said, in my mind, [i]I will believe[/i] they had a mostly free and fair election if the Carter Center ([url]http://www.cartercenter.org/peace/democracy/index.html[/url]) or the United Nations regime (similar to what took place in Côte d’Ivoire last year) says they did. If Jimmy says, no, the election was rigged or undemocratic, then I will concede that I lost.

    FWIW, the character in Egypt I find most interesting is Wael Ghonim of Google. He apparently played a large role behind the scenes in organizing the demonstrations against Mubarak. He is probably too young (just 30 years old) to lead a major political party–heck, he probably makes too much money with Google to want to run his country–but I suspect he might play a role in organizings a new liberal party which will take part in elections.

    This is from the L.A. Times ([url]http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/02/egyptians-filled-the-streets-of-many-egyptian-cities-late-friday-celebrating-the-ouster-of-longtime-president-hosni-mubarak.html[/url]): [quote]“Today is a day for celebration,” Ghonim later told CNN in a live interview. “Today I think the real problem is solved.”

    Ghonim, who had been detained for 12 days by Egyptian security forces after participating in early protests, told CNN he was no longer afraid of the secret police.

    “We are much stronger than all these guys,” he said. “[b]Egypt is going to be a democratic state[/b].”

    Ghonim said he plans to write a book, “Revolution 2.0,” and return to work for Google. He told CNN [u]he does not intend to seek political office[/u] in the new government, and deflected praise to those who died during the recent protests.

    Ghonim told CNN he believes his fellow [b]Egyptians will form a truly democratic government[/b].

    “I trust that these people in the street have broken the psychological barrier and will ensure that anyone in power will work on the people’s agenda,” he said, adding that he trusts that the Egyptian military “really wants the safety of Egypt” and that they will “respect out demands,” calling them “trustworthy.”

    Ghonim also credited social media with fueling the protests and allowing them to convey the urgency of their message to the world.

    What’s next?

    “Ask Facebook,” Ghonim told CNN. “I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him.”[/quote] I know you think you know Egypt better than Mr. Ghonim. But I doubt you do.

    [img]http://pulse2.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/wael-ghonim.jpg[/img]

  40. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Sorry for my gambling argot. It simply means that I think I am the underdog (or “dog”) in the bet. Two out of three you win; one out of three I do.

    Nothing to apologize for. I am very pleased to learn something new. However, I disagree with your assessment: I am most definitely the underdog in this bet.

    I will buy your potable of choice if you tell me you don’t think they had a mostly free and fair election, based on whatever expert you like. (I assume you are a subscriber to STRATFOR. I am not, and thus will have no way of knowing what Friedman declares has taken place.)

    Deal. If I rely on Stratfor’s analysis memos, I will make sure you are satisfied it is accurate.

    the character in Egypt I find most interesting is Wael Ghonim

    I love this guy. Despite my position on the outcome of all of this, Ghonim alone makes the ultimate outcome less predictable than any other factor. He is young, idealistic, possibly incorruptible, and his connections to Google likely make him invulnerable to arrest, incarceration and murder – the usual fate for anyone like him. . He is something new. He is making Realpoitik/geopolitical analysts uncomfortable. Something new. A popular uprising made possible by Facebook and managed by a Google executive.

  41. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    And no, I do not think I know Egypt better than Ghonim. I hope he is right. I won’t be surprised if he is wrong. He is clearly wrong that the demonstrators are stronger than the Egyptian security forces. Stratfor reports:

    Even at their peak, the protesters outnumbered neither the military nor the internal security services, which have roughly 1 million members between them. Compare this to the 1979 Iranian Revolution or the 1989 Central European revolutions when millions of people (in countries with far smaller populations than Egypt’s 80 million) turned out to protest. The military had the option of cracking down on the demonstrations, but did not see the benefits of such an option outweighing the costs. In fact, the demonstrations in many ways helped the military apply pressure on Mubarak to force his departure. In showing restraint, the military both co-opted the protesters, and demonstrated to the vast majority of Egyptians that the military could be trusted with the country. There were two audiences — those on the streets where the cameras were focused, and the other being the millions of Egyptians who, regardless of how they felt about Mubarak, did not feel compelled to join demonstrations that were disrupting everyday affairs. And the combination of the relatively small size of the protests and the military’s end-goal meant that the situation never rose to the point that the military feared losing control over the environment. As such, this transfer of power is a relatively orderly, internally managed process. The military is now playing a more overt role in managing the state, but the underlying power structure remains intact.

    I clearly don’t know more about Egypt than someone born and raised there. But Ghonim clearly doesn’t realize what Stratfor observes that is basic to what is really going on in Egypt. Ghonim likely over estimates the power the protest movement has. It wish it weren’t so, but there it is.

  42. Mind_hunter53

    Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood sought the revival of a Muslim state and the Caliphate and ridding Arab lands of non-believers, Christians and Jews.

    People are foolish to think they no longer hold this philosophy. When this is over, we will long for Hosni.

  43. Rifkin

    I think the Stratfor analysis implies something I believe: that these protestors don’t necessarily represent an accurate cross-section of Egyptian society. My sense is that they were more urban, better educated, more middle and upper-middle income and so on than the country as a whole. That is not to say that there were not poor and lower-middle income Egyptians in those crowds. But rather, Egypt has a lot more poor people as a percentage of the whole than seemed to be represented in the protests.

    And if that is right, it tends to refute the notions that this was largely about the cost of food going up. I completely agree that food prices or other economic conditions at the present were important. However, if rising food costs were the big issue–as opposed to the people there just sick and tired of the repressive government of Hosni Mubarak–I would think that the crowds in Tahrir Square and elsewhere would have been less urbane, less educated, less Twitterish and more poor. But they certainly did not appear to be that way. In fact, I don’t recall seeing one sign (in English or in translation*) which called for lower food prices; nor did I near one protestor cite food prices in an interview.

    *On Al Jazeera English ([url]http://english.aljazeera.net/[/url]), they had a story with a reporter walking through the crowd in Tahrir square reading the signs written in Arabic, telling the audience what each sign said. Almost all of them were simply some variation of “Mubarak must go.”

  44. David M. Greenwald

    I’m not convinced that the Brotherhood is that strong. I mean they didn’t lead this revolution. Nor did they overthrow the government themselves. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be the first time some group took advantage of the situation. That said, I’m not sure we long for the Shah of Iran, only that we long for the days when the Ayatollah is overthrown.

  45. davisite2

    “use the threat of MB being included in the political process to improve its bargaining position with the US and Israel.”

    The inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in future Egyptian governance is a certainty but the degree and nature of their participation(with US “influence”) is a powerful proxy arrow in the Obama/US State Department’s quiver in dealing with Israel without having to suffer the threat of US domestic political fall-out that now stymies direct US pressure on Israel.

  46. Rifkin

    D2: “As to the future, my prediction is that the old Generals will attempt to only make cosmetic changes while trying to hold on to their position of economic and political power.”

    So that means they won’t have democratic elections?

    D2: “The inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in future Egyptian governance is a certainty.”

    So that means they will have democratic elections?

    D2: “A second military coup by mid-level junior Egyptian officers is likely that will much more fully support the democratic populist aspirations of the vast majority of the Egyptian people.”

    So that means you are in discussions with ‘mid-level junior Egyptian officers’?

  47. civil discourse

    Paul Boylan wrote:
    “A popular uprising made possible by Facebook and managed by a Google executive”

    Wouldn’t this be a comfortable way to view the world? Revolution facilitated by Western innovation and Western corporate managers. Gimme a break. That may be comfortable, but that is hype. Popular uprisings use whatever tool is there- leaflets included.

    As far as the Muslim Brotherhood hoopla, read this question and answer from respected scholar Mohamed ElBaradei (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Mohamed_ElBaradei):

    “FAREED ZAKARIA: One of the visions that haunts Americans is of the Iranian Revolution, where a dictator, pro-American dictator, was replaced by an even worse regime that was even more anti-American and more threatening to the region. People worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. Are you confident that a post-Mubarak Egypt will not give rise to some kind of Islamic fundamentalist force that will undermine the democracy of Egypt?

    “MOHAMED ELBARADEI: I am quite confident of that, Fareed. This is a myth that was sold by the Mubarak regime, that it’s either us, the ruthless dictators, or a Muslim al-Qaeda type. You know, the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism, as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people. But they have a lot of credibility because all the other liberal parties have been smothered for 30 years.

    They are in favor of a secular state. They are in favor of working on the base of a constitution that have red lines, that every Egyptian have the same rights, same obligation. The state in no way will be a state based on religion. And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are part of the Egyptian society, as much as the Marxist party here. I think this myth that has been perpetuated and sold by the regime has no—has no iota of reality. As you know, Fareed, I’ve worked with Iranians. I have worked here. There is 100 percent difference between the two societies.”

    * * *

  48. Frankly

    DShor: “Considering that nobody anywhere predicted the events of the last three weeks, I consider it amazing the extent of certitude folks here and elsewhere exhibit in predicting the likely outcome. I would hope that, if we’ve learned anything from the last decade or so in the Middle East, it would be hubris about our analytical skills and about the extent of real American power there.”

    I agree with this point. This will be an interesting future history lesson on two approaches toward democracy: Iraq and Egypt. Years from now, Egypt may very well be the more tragic of the two.

  49. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    A chilling thought. It is difficult to imagine a bigger disaster both for the United States and for the people of Iraq than the consequences of our invasion.

  50. Rifkin

    [i]”Years from now, Egypt may very well be the more tragic of the two.”[/i]

    That’s possible. But my take is that Egypt stands a much better chance of having a democratic future than Iraq has.

    Iraq has two huge obstacles which probably won’t change for a long time:

    1) Its politics revolve around ethnic and religious group interests, and as a result, the parties which are not in charge feel like they are the losers in a zero-sum game. What is good for the Shiite Arabs feels like a loss to the Sunni Arabs. Whatever power the Kurds gain feels a dimunition of power to the other linguistic groups. (It also does not help that their neighbors on all sides, especially the Iranians, are interfering in every ethnic conflict in Iraq.)

    Even in a modern country like Canada where some politics are centered around ethnicity and language, Canada can feel like it is falling apart over such divisions. It just helps to speak one language and to have more of a national identity than a religious identity.

    By contrast, Egypt is much more homogenous. Everyone (including the Christians) recognizes that Egypt is a Sunni Muslim country. The small number of people who are not Sunni Muslims are not trying to change the country’s basic self identity. Also, it is linguistically united. Egypt is not chock-full of non-Arabic speaking tribes;

    2) Iraq is an oil state; and that does not lead itself to democracy or very much value-added capitalism. The state will never rely on developing entrepreneurs who build new businesses and pay taxes and so on. Instead of creating the fertile ground for capitalism, the Iraqi state will likely always just try to pay off those who would challenge it (assuming the ethnic and religious conflicts don’t destroy the state first).

    Egypt, by contrast, has a much more diverse economy. And its economy has improved dramatically in the last 10-15 years. However, most Egyptians are still very poor. And widespread poverty does not lend itself to democracy, either. If Egypt is to succeed democratically, it is going to have to greatly reduce the poverty of its citizens by growing its economy much more.

  51. Rifkin

    This is way off topic, but of interest: India, often called the world’s most populous democracy, seems to be a lot more like Iraq than Egypt. It is full of linguistic rifts and religious conflicts. It makes one wonder how that democracy works. A closer look reveals that in our terms, India is very undemocratic.

    It’s a terribly corrupt (and violently brutal) system which survives largely by paying off people with phony government jobs in exchange for them supporting this party or that party. (To understand how it all works, I highly recommend Edward Luce’s 2006 book, “In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India.” ([url]http://www.amazon.com/Spite-Gods-Strange-Modern-India/dp/0385514743[/url])

    Since it liberalized to some extent, India has a great economy now for its educated, elite, upper crust. But the poor of India are not improving. Their schools are still terrible. Their living conditions have not become better as a result of India’s fantastic IT industries. They are still mired in backwater villages.

    By contrast, China’s much more bottom up approach (with regard to education and industry) has improved the lot of the vast majority of Chinese. China has developed a very thick middle class, full of all of the skills which support a strong democracy. Hundreds of millions of formerly poor Chinese now live a decent life.

    Yes, China is still a brutal authoritarian regime. Virtually every local member of the Communist Party makes his living by way of corruption. In many respects, the Communist Party operates like a mafia state.

    But that won’t last forever. I expect in 20-30 years, China will be a modern country and at least as democratic as Taiwan or South Korea. By contrast, I don’t see India going anywhere. They may have elections. But they won’t really be a modern democracy 30 years from now. They won’t have industry employing their poor. Most villagers will be just as illiterate in 2041 as they are in 2011.

  52. Frankly

    Where in history has any profound change in governance-style happen without significant bloodshed? I think those wringing their hands over the bloodshed in Iraq, miss the point that there would have likely been more getting to this point in their adoption of democracy had it not been for the US military involvement.

    Eqyptians may very well do a better job at a peacful transition like we have seen in Turkey. However, in Egypt, the percentage of the working population employed by the state is 35%. In Turkey, it’s 13%. My thinking is that Egyptians are less experienced with independence and free enterprise and more apt to look toward central government for solutions to their problems. I think this is going to get much uglier over time as Egyptians waiting for something good to happen see it get worse, and then Arab-style militant tribalism takes over.

  53. wdf1

    By contrast, I don’t see India going anywhere. They may have elections. But they won’t really be a modern democracy 30 years from now. They won’t have industry employing their poor. Most villagers will be just as illiterate in 2041 as they are in 2011.

    Or India may offer cheaper labor than China and develop its growth that way.

  54. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Where in history has any profound change in governance-style happen without significant bloodshed?

    The vast majority of military coups are bloodless. The velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe resulted in profound changes in governance style without significant bloodshed.

    I think those wringing their hands over the bloodshed in Iraq, miss the point that there would have likely been more getting to this point in their adoption of democracy had it not been for the US military involvement.

    That, of course, presumes that the formation of a democracy in Iraq justifies all of the other costs associated with the invasion, including but not limited the incredible number of civilian deaths. I’m not ringing my hands over these deaths. My heart is cold, not bleeding. I lean to the right, not to the left on the political spectrum. But I regret a war that resulted in so many deaths and ended up with a government subservient to a now inevitably hegemonic Iran and threats to the stability in a part of the world that the US depends on for its economic health. Sure, they got what looks a bit more democratic than what came before but we lost everything. Our leaders have no business sacrificing our economic and military wealth and security so that a bunch of people can participate in sham elections where one form of dictatorship has been replaced by another. The war as an absolute, unmitigated disaster for the United States. We gained nothing – nothing – from that idiotic adventure. And we may never recover.

    As for the Iraqi people, back when the war was going south, and so many complained about the endless bloodshed and loss of civilian life, the Bush Administration tried to argue they were ungrateful, failing to see the huge favor we did deposing Saddam Hussein. Jon Stewart and Assif Manvi’s response perhaps sums up the idiocy of this position best:

    Jon: There’s no resentment there that these changes that were being brought were perhaps foisted upon this region?

    Aasif: No, no, not at all. Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to thinking of ourselves as you think of us, ‘tiny abstract drops in an oil field of possibility’. Whether we draw our borders without regard for ethnicity or religion, or experiment with unfamilar forms of governance, we always welcome the chance to test the latest theories of your political scientists

    Jon: Thats an incredible way to look at a terrible situation

    Aasif: Well I’m sure its no different from the way your nation views the events of 9/11. Tough Day, Great Opportunity.

    Jon: I dont think we really look at it like that.

    Aasif: Well, I guess not everyone knows how to respond when opportunity knocks their house down.

  55. Rifkin

    [i]”Or India may offer cheaper labor than China and develop its growth that way.”[/i]

    This was one of the most fascinating things I remember from Luce’s fine book: India DOES NOT OFFER CHEAP LABOR. Go to Wal-Mart or Target or Sears or any mass-market apparrel or appliance store. You will find a gazillion items made in China. You will find even cheaper goods from Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, El Salvador, Pakistan and so on. But try to find any manufactured goods or clothing made in India. They don’t have much industry; and almost none of their assembly industry is competitive or export-oriented.

    With the great esception of their fantastic high tech industries–mostly focused around software and bio-tech and other industries which mostly employ the highly educated–India does not export value added goods. They do export some agricultural products and raw materials and some seafood and so on. But India is no China: they don’t make Nike shoes, GE appliances or other world class manufactured consumer goods.

    So as jobs in assembly leave China–as they have been for the last 5 years, because Chinese workers make too much money–they will move to Malaysia and Vietnam and Kenya and Bolivia and Cameroon. But they won’t go to India, due to that country’s very anti-market industrial laws which serve to benefit local manufacturers who have political power in India.

  56. Rifkin

    Great article in today’s New York Times explains how the Egyptians organized their protests over the last 2 years, culminating in the 18-day revolution: A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History ([url]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/middleeast/14egypt-tunisia-protests.html?ref=middleeast[/url]).

    Elaine Musser has stated a number of times that “we don’t know who was behind this movement.” This story goes a long way to answering it.

  57. Frankly

    Rich: good points on the difference between Egypt and other countries in various stages and designs of democracy or anti-democracy. However, I think Egypt is ripe for an explosive degradation based on many of these points. Iraq has a stronger history of enterprise and hence more enterprising people. Iraq also had the US military holding the disruptive powers down while a new democratic government could form. Egypt may be more culturally homogenous, but Egyptians are also more trained to expect government to take care of them. Interesting too… tourism accounts for about 10% of Egypt’s economy and analysts are halving the expectations due to expectations of continued political unrest.

    Paul: “The vast majority of military coups are bloodless”

    Coups are generally to replace one dictatorship for another. The majority of grass roots revolutions that attempt to replace one form of governance with another end up costing many lives.

    On the non-violent velvet revolution… this premise always fails to acknowledge the previous collapse of the communist rules of other Warsaw Pact countries… and the 50 years of cold war that led to the breakup of the USSR at the end of 1991. Taken in context, there were millions killed over this transition.

    ”That, of course, presumes that the formation of a democracy in Iraq justifies all of the other costs associated with the invasion, including but not limited the incredible number of civilian deaths.”

    We will never be able to calculate the costs that would have occurred without the invasion; therefore we are left with opinion only. However, those that wring their hands over the lives lost from the Iraq war fail to consider or acknowledge three very important facts:
    1)Saddam had already killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and had demonstrated his interest and propensity to kill more.
    2)The UN sanctions were already killing hundreds and possibly thousands per month from lack of food and medicine. I don’t hear any hand wringing over this “violence” to the Iraqi people.
    3)Most of the ~110k civilian war-related deaths, and many of the ~50k non-civilian deaths were caused by Islamic extremists blowing up people in terrorist acts (see: [URL]http://northshorejournal.org/the-truth-about-american-deaths-in-iraq [/url]). This is particularly irksome for me, since it appears that the American left/anti-Bush group seems to be helped by terrorism’s increase in body count.

    The question for me is whether Iraq was a good investment for the US. I am still on the fence for that. What does a successful and thriving democracy in a culturally and religiously-polarized country like Iraq do for the rest of the Mid East and Arab peninsula? Given the years of failed foreign policy to bring peace to this area beset with a culture of war and death; and given the realization after 9-11 that the murderous malcontents were hell-bent on killing as many Americans as they could; I think it was time for a different and profound approach. If Iraq succeeds as a democracy, then history may very well look back on the US investment in Iraq as a very good deal.

    Conservatives tend to be isolationists. I have been. But 9-11 changed the game for me.

  58. Rifkin

    PAUL: “That, of course, presumes that the formation of a democracy in Iraq justifies all of the other costs associated with the invasion, including but not limited the incredible number of civilian deaths.”

    It’s a shame that we are not the country which the American-left thinks we are. They babbled endlessly that the Iraq War was all about stealing Iraq’s oil. Alas, we didn’t steal any of their oil.

    If we had taken Iraq’s reserves, the treasure we spent might have been worth it. But the fact is, in opposition to what leftwing-nuts think about Bush et all, this war really was just about deposing a thorn in our side who happened to be a brutal dictator to his people.

    [i]”I regret a war that resulted in so many deaths …”[/i]

    It’s true that approximately 1,421,933 Iraqis ([url]http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq[/url]) have died since we started that war. However, only a small percentage of Iraqi deaths were the result of our guns and missiles. The vast majority were due to what amounted to be an Iraqi civil war joined by the international jihadis. Granted, that civil war never would have begun but for our invasion.

    [i]”… and ended up with a government subservient to a now inevitably hegemonic Iran and threats to the stability in a part of the world that the US depends on for its economic health.”[/i]

    I think you are overstating Iran’s power over the Iraqi government. I don’t say they have no influence. But they are certainly not the hegemon in Iraq’s government–at least not yet.

    [i]”Sure, they got what looks a bit more democratic than what came before but we lost everything.”[/i]

    On the democracy index ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index[/url]) Iraq under Saddam was near the very worst countries on earth. Now they are in the middle rung, though still pretty far from a true democracy.

    [i]”Our leaders have no business sacrificing our economic and military wealth and security so that a bunch of people can participate in sham elections where one form of dictatorship has been replaced by another.”[/i]

    I agree that it makes little sense for Americans to sacrifice our treasure for their benefit. It makes even less sense to do what we are doing in Afghanistan.

    [i]”The war was an absolute, unmitigated disaster for the United States. We gained nothing – nothing – from that idiotic adventure. And we may never recover.”[/i]

    We did gain by ridding this world of Saddam. He was not just a horrible dictator in his own country who brutalized the Shiite majority and Kurdish minority and repressed everyone’s human rights in Iraq. He was also actively attacking his neighbors and likely would have launched another war had we not taken him out.

    That does not justify our actions in a realpolitik sense. But on humanitarian and regional grounds some good came out of getting rid of him.

  59. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    That does not justify our actions in a realpolitik sense.

    Thank you.

    But on humanitarian and regional grounds some good came out of getting rid of him.

    Saddam was on his way out. If nothing changed, eventually his own generals would have deposed him, and, if we wished, a “milder” tyranny would have taken the place of his – but a milder Iraqi tyranny would not have furthered American regional interests. The American campaign to defang Saddam succeeded brilliantly. It followed time-tested American policy. We rendered him toothless, yet ready to assume the only role we needed – i.e., for Iraq to serve as a buffer against the rise of Iranian power and influence. Hs sole purpose – and the reason why his barbaric methods were tolerate – was to suppress his Shia majority – no easy task – from joining politically with Iran. One week after we invaded a Syrian taxi cab driver (a former chemical engineer) laughed at me and said “You think you can control the Shia? We’ve been trying to exterminate them for a thousand years.”

    Prior to the invasion, Iran itself was headed towards political collapse. By invading Iraq, George W. Bush broke the back of the balance that prevented both Iran and Iraq from achieving hegemony. Look what happened since. Iran has risen from a nation on the brink of political and economic collapse to the nascent regional hegemon. When the American army leaves Iraq the Iranian army will be the largest and most capable conventional force in the region. Forget nuclear weapons. They were always a side show, and excuse. When we leave, Iran will have real influence over Saudi Arabia, not to mention a reach into the Kingdom through its repressed Shia minority.

    If we wanted to free a bunch of people horribly repressed by a ruthless, brutal dictator we could have gone elsewhere to get that thrill without risking so much. Pointing to Saddam Hussein’s removal as a good thing that came out of the war is like standing in Hell, breathing deep and saying “at least it is a dry heat.” On a whole, the little good does not even get close to weighing against the disaster the war has heaped upon you, me and generations of Americans to come.

    We did gain by ridding this world of Saddam.

    I’ll tell that to my grandchildren when they ask why they’re lives are nastier, more brutish and shorter than those of my generation and why their rate of mother birth death and infant mortality is higher than in China Europe and Australia.

    Historians will mark the decline of the American Empire, the Pax Americana still-born, from the invasion of Iraq forward.

    I’m really enjoying these discussions (even the occasional – if censored – invective). But a higher duty calls. I have an important brief due in a public records case (a parent suing a school district to provide records on the parents child that the district are insisting are neither public nor pupil records and therefore can remain secret…. forever) that is due at the end of the week. Other than appearing at the upcoming applicant’s forum (which I hope doesn’t last long) I will be absent from these pages.

  60. Frankly

    “It’s true that approximately 1,421,933 Iraqis have died since we started that war.”

    Wow, these counts are all over the place. See here [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War[/url].

    I think 1.4 million is a fantastic and false claim… especially given the Iraq population of 31 million and the speed and efficiency in which the US took out Saddam and his henchmen. Also, for the eight-year long Iraq-Iran war the Iraqi casualties are estimated at 250,000-500,000 killed or wounded (Iran casualties were about 1 million). In addition thousands of civilians died from both sides. So, how does a person reconcile this fantastic claim of 1.4 million Iraqis dead from the war to oust Saddam?

  61. Frankly

    “”It’s true that approximately 1,421,933 Iraqis have died since we started that war.”

    Someone please check my references and math.

    There are 31 million Iraqis. The world average death rate is 8.37%… that is almost exactly where the US lands (8.38%).

    See here [url]https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2066.html[/url]. It shows Iraq having a very low death rate of 4.92 in 2010. Not at all what one would expect for all the stories of death and destruction the media has imprinted on us. Look here [url]http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=iz&v=26[/url]… this shows a significant decline in Iraq death rate over the last decade. Another interesting factoid… the Iraqi death rate (6.4) was higher in 2000 before the war started March 2003, and declined every year after. Again, not the story we are lead to believe.

    So, if I make some simplifying assumptions that the “normal” Iraqi death rate is 4.92 and the length of the war has been eight years and the population is 31 million, then I get 152,520 per year and a total eight year count of 1,220,160. So, the difference is 201,773. This number is much closer to the US estimates of Iraq war-time casualties. But since Iraqi life expectancy has actually gone up since the US took out Saddam… I want to hear from others why we continue to get the media message that the US killed 600,000 or 1,421,933 Iraqis. The more accurate message is that the US actually saved more Iraqis from death. What am I missing here?

  62. Rifkin

    Jeff, I concede I have no idea what the real numbers are. Perhaps the figure I quoted is terribly inflated. I did not look into it. I just quoted that number because that website used it and said it was the number of Iraqi dead.

    You might be interested in this recent column by Max Boot ([url]http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boot-iraq-20110213,0,7998923.story[/url]). Boot is a conservative who supported the Iraq War ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Boot[/url]). Nevertheless, this bit in his column caught my attention: [quote] More than 250 Iraqis died in terrorist attacks in January, up from 151 in December, with most of those attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose obituary has been written more than once. Roughly as many civilians died in Iraq last year as in Afghanistan — about 2,400. Remind me again which country is at peace? [/quote]

  63. Frankly

    Rich: Good article from Max Boot. I don’t disagree with him. The point about the deaths being caused by Al Qaeda, the same group responsible for 9-11, would seem to provide support for what we are doing in that country.

    You said it here: [quote]It’s true that approximately 1,421,933 Iraqis have died since we started that war. However, only a small percentage of Iraqi deaths were the result of our guns and missiles. The vast majority were due to what amounted to be an Iraqi civil war joined by the international jihadis. Granted, that civil war never would have begun but for our invasion.[/quote] I guess we are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t. Leave Saddam in power and he continues to rape and pillage others in the region, kill Kurds and Shia Muslims, and allow UN sanctions to starve his country of food and medicine. Move in to take him out and now we are nation-building and involved in a too costly and unnecessary war.

    My big pet peeve here is the trumpeting media template of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths cause by the US. I had a conversation tonight with someone who disbelieved me that the death rate in Iraq had improved every year since 2000 and was about half the figure for US death rates. This was an educated and otherwise very objective person that had been brainwashed with anti-Bush sentiments… and was “absolutely sure” that my figures were wrong and that his understanding of 600k Iraqis killed was legit and accurate.

    Related to the death rate for US soldiers serving in Iraq, here is a good article citing death rate statistics through 2006: [url] http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=psc_working_papers [/url]
    Some interesting bits:
    -The ratio of deaths to person-years lived, .00392 or 3.92 per 1000, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq (compared to 8.42 for the general population of the US).
    -In Philadelphia, the death rate for black males aged 20-34 in 2002 was 4.37/1000, 11% higher than for troops in Iraq. It would conceivably be safer for a young black man living in Philadelphia to join the military and go fight in Iraq.
    -The Vietnam War US soldier death rate of 21.79 per 1000 is 5.6 times higher than the death rate in Iraq.

    In my dream, we have some balance and objective reporting of these facts so people are informed and not just brainwashed into a false idol of understanding.

  64. Don Shor

    Some parts of Iraq are much better off as a result of our invasion, and others aren’t. Some of that is our doing, and some occurred from the ground up. Some things our military did well; in other aspects we got lucky.

    Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been maimed for life by this war, and will require lifetime medical care. It has cost us over a trillion dollars to date. Given the flimsy basis for our invasion, any attempt at an objective cost-benefit analysis hardly holds up.
    http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/war.casualties/index.html

    The war in Afghanistan has a more solid basis and clearer objectives. I credit Obama’s team with formulating probably the best of several unpalatable options for finishing that war. Ultimately we’ll probably redefine our objectives until we meet them, and then withdraw following the already-ordained timetable. In both countries we will probably have thousands of troops for at least 5 – 10 more years, no matter what.

    On the plus side, the military option so favored by conservatives and neo-conservatives has been thoroughly discredited as a means of attaining limited objectives. We now know that it costs a few thousand American lives, tens of thousands wounded, and at least a trillion dollars to accomplish anything with our military. So the cause had better be worth it. Unfortunately, the same people who advised Bush into these wars are still advising prominent Republican candidates.

  65. biddlin

    “On the plus side, the military option so favored by conservatives and neo-conservatives has been thoroughly discredited as a means of attaining limited objectives. We now know that it costs a few thousand American lives, tens of thousands wounded, and at least a trillion dollars to accomplish anything with our military. So the cause had better be worth it. Unfortunately, the same people who advised Bush into these wars are still advising prominent Republican candidates.” Yeah and they spend other peoples money and kill other peoples kids too.

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