Egypt has lived through many revolutions. In fact Egypt has been through a lot in general from wars to colonialism from many empires to wars again to revolutions to more wars and then terrorism to a final peace in the last few years. I suppose that is what happens when you have ten thousand years of history. There is no doubt that Egypt has a fascinating history but the newly formed revolution is a new type of history. It is a revolution where the dormant Egyptians finally woke up and said enough. They said no more a dictatorship, no more transition of power from father to son, and no more bureaucracy and they achieved what they asked for. They achieved the unthinkable.
For more than 18 days, the Egyptians demonstrated in hundreds of thousands of people day after day. They came to send a strong message to the government and they were very successful in getting the world’s attention, respect and admiration because in just a little more than 2 weeks they were able to oust the leader of the largest Arab Nation. I must admit that while the events were distressing because of the presence of my family there, I was very proud to say that I am an Egyptian.
But before I get to that historical moment and what it means, let me explain a difference of view in the Egyptian population. As the days of the demonstration grew longer, division grew. While everyone agrees that Mubarak must leave, the division grew on when he should leave. The demonstrators want him to leave now while the people at home want him to stay until his term is over. To understand the rational for both arguments you have to understand the complexion of the Egyptian history.
Since September of 1981, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has been the Egyptian President. That is almost 30 years. For those 30 years, corruption grew rapidly especially in the last 10 years. The rich became richer and the poor became poorer. For those 30 years also he ruled with an iron fist. He ruled with the help of the Emergency Law, which allowed him to crush any opposition and put anyone in jail. The military grew stronger and bigger and unemployment and illiteracy also grew uncontrollably. Thus, the demonstrators became so fed up that they want all of this over now. They are like a wife who just got tired of her husband cheating on her and she wants an immediate divorce. She does not want to talk about it. She just wants it over.
Of course Mr. Mubarak did some good things. He kept peace with Israel and the Egyptian economy grew. He was a strong ally to the US during some turbulent times in the Middle East. He aided in the Gulf war of the early 90s. He fought terrorism and won the fight quiet successfully and he kept the country afloat. So, the people who are sitting at home or the “reasonable” people as they call themselves say that Mubarak should stay until his term is over to ensure that the country does not explode or that the Muslim Brotherhood does not take over. Moreover, some Christians are worried that the immediate resignation of Mr. Mubarak would mean that the Muslim Brotherhood would cling to power or that chaos would rule in Egypt or that Christians would be persecuted.
As Mubarak moved out of the way, the military took over and quickly tried to restore peace and appease the masses. The military suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament and stated that it will be in charge until elections are held. Furthermore, the military commissioned a committee to work on constitutional reforms. Now all seem to be good signs but some questions arise. For example, why did the military keep the Mubarak appointed Ahmad Shafiq government if the people refused that government before? Why hasn’t the military cancelled the emergency laws? Why hasn’t they freed the people arrested during the protests? So, while there are positive signs, there are also unanswered questions, which seem to show that in the next few months the military, the future government of Egypt and the Egyptians must proceed with caution.
In the mean time international support should be present in dealing with the Egyptian new government and military. The previous disarray that occurred since the protests should stop. I understand that a lot of world leaders were caught by surprise that they did not know what to do or what to make of this situation. They did not know whether to support the Egyptian people in their fight for democracy or support a strong ally in the Middle East. In the case of the U.S., however, it seemed that no one had a clue about Egypt.
Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is rumored to be considering a presidential run, stated that ” there is a real possibility in a few weeks that Egypt will join Iran, and join Lebanon, and join Gaza, and join the things that happening that are extraordinary dangerous to us.” Then he said that the current administration ” does not have a clue” and that Obama should “study Reagan and Carter and do what Reagan did and avoid what Carter did”. Mr. Gingrich was so wrong in his statement on almost every level for the following reasons: There is a huge major difference between Egypt, Lebanon and Iran. Iran is a Shiite Muslim country while Egypt is a Sunni Muslim country and let’s just says they do not really get along. Iranians are not really Middle Easterners but they are Caucasian. In fact, they do not even speak Arabic. Lebanon while it has its problems; it is split between Christians and Muslims and has one of the largest Christian populations in the entire Arab world. Lebanon also has one of the most Democratic governments in the entire Arab world. Furthermore, Carter was the President who won the Nobel Peace prize for bringing the Egyptians and the Israelis together and making them sign a peace treaty, which is quiet, an achievement. That is because Egypt is one of only two countries in the entire Middle East that has established peace and relations with Israel in the last sixty years and no other U.S. president was able to achieve that.
Another great example of cluelessness is the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who stated that “the U.S. should learn from past mistakes and support a process which includes candidates who meet basic standards for leaders of responsible nations” Basically, the Congresswoman supports Democracy in Egypt as long as we, Americans not Egyptians, set the standards for what this Democracy is. Can we be more arrogant? And then they wonder why the world dislikes the U.S.
In my humble opinion, we should acknowledge the right of the Egyptians to protest their government and their fight for Democracy and just take a seat back and let the Egyptians make their future that we should not meddle with. I think this is the best policy because it allows us to respect the sovereignty of Egypt and it shows the world that we are respectful of other people.
Now what I don’t understand is why would Egypt or any other country look to see or wait to see how the U.S. is going to react. I don’t understand either why some people in the media and some politicians voice their concern on what can be done in Egypt. Egypt is a sovereign nation that can take care of its own issues. They are not a problem for us to deal with. If they ask for our help then we can intervene. Otherwise we should simply leave Egypt alone and be supportive.
The accomplishment of the Egyptians is unbelievable on almost every level. They toppled a very powerful regime in just a little over two weeks. They proved that democracy does not come through wars as Bush wanted and failed at it in Iraq and Afghanistan. They did the extraordinary by moving from a stagnant society to a decisive society. Every Egyptian should be proud of their astounding success.
However, the protests and the revolution was just the start because serious challenges lie ahead. There is the challenge of a new constitution, new government, and elections for a new president. There is the challenge to move from a stagnant, corrupt, dictatorial government, which ruled for decades, to an active, moral, democratic government. The challenges are not easy. In fact, they are monumental. Good luck Egypt and welcome to a new Era!