Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Rebuking the Romanticism of Revolution in Egypt

As Hosni Mubarak vows to stand down in September, the West should harbour stability by backing his decision, monitoring and assisting the transitional process and resisting knee-jerk reactions that call for Mubarak’s instant disposal so that democracy has a chance of lasting in Egypt...

Many of us have woken up this morning to the welcome news that Mubarak will not run for another term come September.  Queue scenes of jubilation on Cairo’s streets?  In drips and drabs, but it seems many of Egypt’s citizens are out for blood if not Mubarak’s immediate ejection at least.

However, for those of us in the West who are fortunate enough to be monitoring the situation from afar and away from the emotion, violence and anger that is currently encapsulating Cairo, a more pragmatic long term analysis is possible.

Democracy has spoken in Egypt and it must arrive.  Egypt’s protesters should be commended for their efforts and there will be few in the West who do not support their drive for change.  But for the sake of Egypt’s stability, Mubarak should retain office until September so that under the protection of continuity in governance, the next eight months can be dedicated to the achievement of a smooth transition, affording Egypt a better chance of realising the reforms that its people so clearly desire and deserve.  As part of this process, an international collaboration of states, headed by the United States, must assist Egypt in this transitional period, not only to build robustness and support into the process, but to ensure that Mubarak’s promises are kept.

As was argued in last week’s Telegraph, lessons should be drawn from the catastrophic debaathificaton process carried out by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.  Clearly, there are vast disparities between the political situation in Egypt today and what was then in Iraq.  Yet, the underlying theme is the same.  Mubarak may be an ineffective plaster covering Egypt’s social, economic and political wounds, but in this case, ripping that plaster away quickly will not ease the pain.  Just as Iraq plunged into chaos without the guiding hand of experienced (though admittedly brutally oppressive) governance, Egypt would be in danger of turmoil too should a sudden revolution take course over incremental reform.  The fallout would be tremendously difficult to reign in overnight.

Call me a spoil-sport, killjoy or party-pooper, but pragmatism should take precedence over the romanticism of revolution on this occasion not only for Egypt’s sake, but for the stability of the region.  Change is coming in the form of democracy, but let’s give that change a fighting chance of long term survival.

by Dane Vallejo

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 02/02/11, accessed at

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