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A Continuation of My Efforts to Shatter the Hopes of Democratic Idealists

Posted by Rational Madman , 31 January 2011 · 1,262 views

With Egypt's chief spook Omar Suleiman being appointed to the position of Vice-President, and in consideration of the military's seeming ambivalence about unleashing a fury against the protest movement, I'm getting the feeling that the only substantive political change we'll see in Egypt will be a military supported takeover by Omar Suleiman. Suleiman is highly regarded in the intelligence community, and over the last two decades, has been palpably extending his tentacles to areas outside of his purview, like non-security related domains of domestic policy, and Egypt's largest areas foreign concern---e.g. the peace negotiations in Sudan, and the absurdly weighted dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Suleiman's meteoric rise is due in large part to Mubarak's gratitude for his role in protecting him from the holy wrath of a committed group of Qu'ran thumping assassins, and since then, he has become the sharp end of the Presidency's stick. But as should be painfully evident, the Egyptian population has grown tired of the feeble Mubarak, and fears that the expected triumph of his polarizing son will regress Egypt to the days of King Farouk---when blood connection was the deciding factor for determining succession, and when inbred imbeciles reigned supreme. So I think Suleiman senses an opportunity, and might be setting the conditions for either a soft or hard coup---more likely the former. Probably due to his frail health, Mubarak does not seem to suspect that a game may be at foot, since the knife wielding Suleiman has earned his highest confidence for keeping Egypt pacified through a combination of thuggish brutality, and through shrewd political calculations that would've made Machiavelli proud.

Both of these Egyptian giants can attribute their political ascendancy to the high ranks they held in the armed forces, and consequentially, they can rely on this wing for some of their strongest support. However, Suleiman chose the more politically decisive branch, the army, whereas Mubarak made his career with the less impressive branch, the air force. While Mubarak has maintained the trust of the armed forces through generous compensation, they understand that a better situation awaits them with Suleiman---whom is embraced by some prominent opposition members, and is much less likely to cause the streets of Cairo to fill with protesters. But Suleiman does face some formidable obstacles, because to commandeer the Office of the Presidency, he has to not only force Mubarak out, but win over the Egyptian Parliament, compel Mubarak's ambitious son Gamal to kneel before him, overcome the constitutional provision that prevents military officers from sitting in the big chair, and win the acquiescence of Egypt's principal diplomatic allies.

With these serious obstacles, Suleiman may instead determine that it's less costly to continue his role as Mubarak's ever loyal tyrant. Or in recognition of the legal and political obstacles, he may rather decide to pull the strings of a less controversial, and dependably pliant puppet-President. In this scenario, Gamal could become such a President, since he realizes that his power does not extend far beyond his ailing father and the the National Democratic Party. But since Gamal is a considerable source of popular irritation, though, another candidate maybe chosen in order to appease the opposition. Alternatively, under the guise of ushering in a new era of "reform," Suleiman could declare martial law, arrest his political opponents, disband the Egyptian Parliament, and rewrite the constitution in his favor. This course may lead some of his diplomatic allies to publicly condemn him, of course, but this will be mere posturing, since Egypt is perceived as a critical source of regional stability, and because it may be too difficult to countenance the potential consequences of the political chaos that will assuredly accompany Egypt on the road to democracy. After all, the Middle East has always been a special place where policymaker's messianic faith in spreading the fruits of democracy will at often times become strategically muted. And although the United States may risk taking flak for sustaining its aid commitment, and lending tacit support, there was no movement to expel Turkey from NATO when the Generals launched a soft coup in 1997, and there are plenty of precedents in which "enlightened despots" have been sponsored. So for his patrons, what matters most is that Suleiman's major acts of coercion take place swiftly, with minimal costs, and on the condition that Egypt will someday return to its former glory as a liberal authoritarian.

Forthcoming kids, I'll offer my assessment of the hopeless situation of the Egyptian opposition, lecture about why periods of democratic transition---especially in the Middle East---can be a very bad thing, and offer my insights about Yemen and its rascal-in-chief, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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