Egypt behaved during the Mubarak Era as if it were in the eye of a slowly spinning hurricane. But it never spun quite hard enough to blow them over. As long as President Mubarak kept the trains running on time, (figuratively of course, almost nothing in Egypt is ever “on time” by the normal definition of the term), the nation somehow kept it together. But in early 2011, it all came unglued.
The opposition factions have been deeply divided from the very start. The Salafi movement wanted a stricter adherence to their hardline interpretation of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood has tried to brand themselves to this faction as “Lightweight Salafi”, but the light Coke is never the same as the real stuff isn’t it? For those associated with the old regime, it was simply a wish to return to positions of power. After being imprisoned and tortured by these figures for so long, the Muslim Brotherhood was surely never going to allow this to happen. And for many of the secularists, anything short of an extreme secularism was never going to suffice. And so it has gone, these separate factions never being able to work together toward a common goal. And so the tents were erected and the carnival of political chaos in post-revolutionary Egypt was begun.
Downward spirals have an end
In political terms, Egypt has been in a downward spiral since the revolution, and downward spirals have an end. This end may be coming in the very near future. Some suggest it may come perhaps as soon as this weekend at the planned June 30th protests. Yes, there are many in Egypt and throughout the Middle East who are very excited about the idea of President Mursi being pushed out of power. Using a street mob to topple a government in such a manner, which will most likely be accompanied by heavy violence, should always be the “nuclear option” (if at all). Should we really believe Egypt needs two such interventions in the span of only two years? Are we to believe this revolution will be so much better than the last one? We have no reason to think so.
Albert Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results. Egyptians would be wise to take note of his words. Repeating the same mistakes will not produce the desired ending. Banging your heads against the wall will not break it down. It’s only going to give you a headache, not much different from the ones you have now. New ideas are required. Our Egyptian friends can learn from the example of others.
I know this will offend many in the Middle East who feed off anti-American sentiment, but what I’m about to say is no less true. It’s easy to imagine America as a colonizing power and forget it was in fact, a colony itself. It was once in the same position Egypt is in now. And though many in the region despise America for a variety of reasons, some valid and some imagined, the American Revolution is still today, an example of how to get it right. But Egypt is not America and we don’t really want a Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East. Before their revolution began in earnest, representatives from every American colony came together, and wrote their declaration of independence. These representatives were from factions and sects every bit as divisive as those in Egypt today. But somehow, they found a way to agree. They reached compromises. It took months to complete this document, and even when finished, it was not perfect. No one got everything they wanted, but everyone got enough to sign their name to it in the end. Despite all of this, it was not until the 1960s that U.S. emerged as a fully-fledged Democracy.