Despite a couple of notable exceptions, specifically the French and Iranian revolutions, I’m generally in favor of popular rebellion against excessive state power. As a lover of freedom it’s thrilling to see events develop in Egypt. My thoughts are with the long-repressed people of that ancient land, my hopes are that they craft a new, stronger republic. I trust that Egypt’s mature foreign policy of recent decades isn’t just Mubarek’s Realpolitik, but that it will be continued by the government that takes its place.
Yes, things went all wrong in Iran, with the revolution promptly coopted by a coterie of vicious old men addled with religious fundamentalism. (I don’t care what religion it is, fundamentalism addles its adherents.) But I don’t believe that such a stance is inherent in an Islamic people breaking free from despotism. Egyptian parents know they want decent jobs, decent infrastructure, decent services, and decent education. While there are those in Islam that want nothing more than to build mind-narrowing madrassas, and every religion does need to train priests and theologians, the public knows full well that the education needed is in communications, engineering, medicine, law, and a host of other fields that allow graduates to be productive in a modern world. Government needs to keep the peace and deliver the mail. Even the Muslim Brotherhood understands this.
If I Were King, I’d take Mubarak aside and point out the obvious: Having failed to build the secure modern society that Egypt deserves, it’s time for him to walk away and let someone else pick up the challenge. I’m sure that safe transportation for Mubarek and his family is available from numerous nations. And he should make the call to turn the internet connections back on before he starts packing.
If I Were King, I’d meet with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and make the point that although set back by three decades of oppression, Egypt needs to continue as a mature member of the international community, that the Brotherhood needs religious freedom and a voice in society proportionate to their numbers, but not religious law.
If I Were King, I’d encourage the leaders of the protesters to continue their “hug a soldier” campaign to build relationships with the military, but also to immediately attempt to get control of the looting and other criminal activity that is taking advantage of the absence of the existing police force. (Whether there is any possible rehabilitation for Mubarak’s current security forces is another matter.)
If I Were King, I’d take Dr ElBaradei aside and suggest he look into the concept of regency. As regent for two years, forswearing a permanent role in government, he could use his reputation to start the process of building a new state based on the values of the Egyptian people. He’s obviously smart enough to do more in two years than Maliki has done in Iraq.
And to all, I wish you well. A chance like this comes rarely to any society, don’t screw it up.