Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hope and Change in Egypt

First Tunisia, now Egypt.  People swarming into the streets in these countries are suddenly conscious of their own power, and less afraid of government repression.  They have already toppled one dictator, and now they are causing anxiety for Egypt's leadership.  According to this report in the New York Times, the charge in Egypt is not being led by any of the organized opposition parties, which seem surprised by the sudden uprisings, but instead by young people using new forms of communication and new organizing strategies. 

Should President Obama get some credit for ushering in a new wave of democratic protests in the Middle East?  His speech in Cairo in 2009 may have kindled an interest in reform in Egypt and elsewhere.  But I'd prefer to think that instead of one man changing the world, it is a worldwide movement of mostly young people that brought change to America in 2008, that shook Iran in 2009, that is bringing democracy to Sudan, that toppled a dictator in Tunisia in 2011, and that is now trying to bring change to Egypt.

The administration may even have been taken by surprise by how fast events are moving in Egypt.  There must be concern about the stability of a key U.S. ally in the region, and the possibility that radical Islamists could take advantage of the situation.  Despite those concerns, reports today indicate that the U.S. has already shifted its tone to keep up with what is going on.  Secretary of State Clinton said today (in Jordan), in contrast to a more cautious statement yesterday: "We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people."  Will President Mubarak seize that opportunity, which presents the risk that he will lose control anyway, or will he revert to traditional methods of repression to put down these protests?   

And just for fun, here's some further commentary from the Bangles:


  1. Let's hope whatever government gets installed is moderate and not overly theocratic.

    I would credit those standing up for themselves and Facebook more than anything else.

  2. I think we are pretty much in agreement on this, Harrison. The message has to be, democracy is not enough. It is just as important for any government to establish the rule of law and respect for human rights.