The Cairo Facebook Revolution: Is it Berlin 1989 or Tashkent 1991?

Wednesday, February 16th 2011

Cairo 2011. Is It Berlin 1989 or Tashkent 1991.

 

I am not an expert on the Middle East but I could not help wondering why so many commentators have likened the events in Cairo 2011 to those in Berlin 1989. The notion that somehow the revolution that is sweeping parts of the Middle East is similar to the events of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Central and Eastern Europe has gained some traction in much of the media.

This is a serious mistake based on superficial knowledge of both the Mideast and Eastern and Central Europe. Any serious study of history will point out the shortcomings in this theory. The underpinnings of democracy in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary for example were far more robust than those in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. The former three nations had previous experience with democracy, elections that actually meant something, and rule of law before communism was imposed on them by a foreign power--the USSR.

The countries of North Africa and the Middle East have had no such experience. A much better analogy might be to the new independent states of the former USSR since they too have a history absent any significant prior democratic experience. And with only one or two exceptions, these countries today have largely non-democratic governments, led mainly by their former communist rulers but under another political label--whether Russia, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan--the communist authoritarian government has merely given way to rule by the same corrupt oligarchy but without the Communist Party ideology.

This pattern does not auger well for the future of the new "social revolutionary" states of the Middle East. I hope I am wrong in this analysis and that the social revolutions in places like Cairo will eventually lead to more democratic, representative government.  Only time will tell.

 

P.S.  And while we are exploding myths, let's take on the "it could not have happened without Facebook and Twitter."  Utterly absurd--what about all the upheavals of mankind before social networking--all done with face to face communication.  And could someone explain while the Internet was down--even more people came out to demonstrate than when Facebook and Twitter were operating?  I grant you the initial response was encouraged by Tweets and Facebook postings but a lot of face to face interaction really brought out the numbers.

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KIEHL, WILLIAM P.

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Author: Bill Kiehl

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Far From A Democratic Revolution

Far from being a revolution of and by the people, what happened in Egypt last week was essentially a coup d'etat by the military. 

President Mubarak was forced out of office by the same military that kept him in office for decades.  The military was unwilling to allow Mubarak to install his 47-year-old son, Gamal, as his successor, especially because the son has no military background.  The senior Egyptian military officers, who are not exactly radicals, were not about to allow Mubarak to establish the kind of heriditary dynasty the military removed from power  in the 1952 Nassar-led coup.   

Today, Mubarak is out, but the military is still in charge of Egypt's government.

Now, true, the February 13 decisions abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament.  The supreme council also promised a new constitution will be drafted put to the people.  Most important, they said the military would rule for six months or until the supreme council decides it is "an appropriate time" to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

But it remains to be seen when and whether those things will happen. 

Military Coup vs. Popular Revolution in Eqypt

For an excellent analysis of the military role in Egypt past and present and how that plays out in the current post-Mubarak Egypt: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110213-egypt-distance-between-enthusiasm-and-reality

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