Patrice Riemens on Thu, 3 Feb 2011 17:35:11 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Pravda on Egypt ...(WSJ)

Wall Street Journal organizes seminar with big time talking heads:

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Where Should Egypt Go From Here?

Protests in Egypt have rocked the country's political order, and last
night President Hosni Mubarak announced he would not run in the September
presidential election. Four experts?Francis Fukuyama, Ryan Crocker, Maajid
Nawaz and Amr Bargisi?weigh in on where Egypt should go from here.

Editor's Note: Protests in Egypt have rocked the country's political
order, and last night President Hosni Mubarak announced he would not run
in the September presidential election. Four experts?Francis Fukuyama,
Ryan Crocker, Maajid Nawaz and Amr Bargisi?weigh in on where Egypt should
go from here.

Francis Fukuyama: Liberals Had Better Get Organized
Ryan Crocker: The Army Will Play a Crucial Role
Maajid Nawaz: The Muslim Brotherhood Lacks a Khomeini Figure
Amr Bargisi: Egypt Doesn't Have a Democratic Culture

Liberals Had Better Get Organized

By Francis Fukuyama

Recent events first in Tunisia and now in Egypt demonstrate that there is
no Arab cultural exception to the broad desire for freedom around the

The act of self-immolation that set off these dramatic events was that of
a Tunisian vegetable seller who had his cart repeatedly confiscated by the
government and then was slapped and insulted by a policewoman when he went
to complain. People want political rights because they want their
governments to treat them with dignity, a wish that obviously reverberates
throughout the Arab world.

The revolt does not seem to be driven by the poor, the marginalized or the
religious, but by the middle-class?technologically savvy Tunisians and
Egyptians who don't have opportunities for meaningful work or political
participation. They want to join the rest of the world and not cut
themselves off from it.

But why is the Arab world coming so late to a democracy party that Latin
Americans, Eastern Europeans, Asians and Africans first started attending
20 years ago? Part of the answer is the deliberate strategy that
authoritarian leaders like Hosni Mubarak have pursued?of gutting liberal
opposition and permitting the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to operate just
enough to scare the United States and other Western backers.

This strategy worked on a series of American administrations that paid lip
service to the need for democracy but were never willing to push their
ally, for fear of empowering the Islamist opposition. Those chickens are
now coming home to roost.

If Mr. Mubarak indeed leaves office and there is a clean break with his
regime?meaning that longtime aides like Omar Suleiman, now the vice
president, leave power too?then Egyptians' central task will be the
unglamorous one of institution-building.

Democracy does not magically spring to life once the dictator is gone, or
even after the first free and fair election has taken place. The color
revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgystan, as well as the U.S.
interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, invariably disappointed their
hopeful early backers by not producing effective democratic governance.

Facebook and Twitter are great at mobilizing flash mobs to bring down
tyrants, but they are less useful in building political parties, forming
coalitions, negotiating political programs or making officials honest.

At present, the best-organized forces in Egypt are the military and the
Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptians who want a free and democratic future had
better get busy organizing themselves if those groups are not to inherit
the future.

Mr. Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford, is author of "The Origins of
Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution"
(forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

The Army Will Play a Crucial Role

By Ryan Crocker

However events play out on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, there is
no question that the Mubarak era is over. Egypt faces as fundamental a
shift today as it did in 1952.

The Obama administration has rightly emphasized two words: "orderly
transition." There must be transition?the old order cannot hold. But it
must be orderly.

The crowds in Egypt's streets do not constitute a party or a coalition.
There is no clear agenda beyond Mubarak's ouster and no established
leader. Mohamed ElBaradei is far more respected and known outside of Egypt
than he is within. For all of his distinction, he is no Vaclav Havel.

The Egyptian army will play a critical role, now and as a new political
order emerges. U.S. defense leaders are in direct contact with Egyptian
counterparts. The army has shown remarkable restraint, but each day that
passes without the initiation of a viable political process increases the
risk of violence that could destroy any prospects for a successful
political strategy.

What might that strategy look like?

Mr. Mubarak has announced that he will not be a candidate in the September
elections. He should now offer credible assurances that these elections
will be fair, monitored by an independent election commission and
international observers.

Second, he should initiate a broad political and economic reform dialogue
involving all of Egypt's major political figures?including Mr. ElBaradei,
the dissident Ayman Nour, the leaders of parties including the Muslim
Brotherhood, and emerging figures in civil society. The results of that
dialogue, which are likely to include constitutional changes, could be
submitted to a public referendum or to a newly elected parliament.

Hopefully such steps would mean an end to the street demonstrations. Not
only do those demonstrations contain the seeds of unchecked violence, but
they are devastating to an already weak economy. Tourism will take months
if not years to recover, and investor confidence is badly shaken if not

This will require hard choices by all parties, especially Mr. Mubarak. If
his immediate departure is a sine qua non to end the street protests, he
should be prepared to hand power to his new vice president and prime
minister during the transition period, with the knowledge that this would
represent the best chance to maintain what he has worked for these past 31
years?a stable Egypt.

Our adversaries, Iran and al Qaeda, will certainly attempt to take
advantage of any prolonged disorder in Egypt. We should remember that al
Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian who left the country
during the government's successful repression of Egyptian Islamic Jihad in
the 1990s.

As was clear then, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood are enemies,
not partners. The Brotherhood can be accommodated in the political system.
But al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad would like nothing better than to regain a
foothold in Egypt, the largest Arab country, and destroy that system. That
must not happen.

Mr. Crocker, the dean of Texas A&M's George Bush School of Government and
Public Service, was U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007 and U.S.
ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

The Muslim Brotherhood Lacks a Khomeini Figure

By Maajid Nawaz

Having spent four years in an Egyptian prison for Islamist activism?where
I shared a cell with some of the leaders of the current uprising?I view
these events as far more than just an academic or policy interest. I
abandoned Islamism years ago, but for me this is personal.

First, let's clarify the nature of this uprising: It is a spontaneous
people's revolt. It was not planned by any political party or orchestrated
by any ideologically aligned movement. Rather, it was instigated by the
tired, angry urban young, and fast grew to become an all-Egyptian affair.
The best revolutions are made of the very ingredients that cooked up this
Egyptian storm: spontaneity, inclusiveness and persistence.

Egypt's old guard has long presented the world with a potent choice:
Accept our police state or extremists will take over. Rooted in the old
politics of colonialism, this dichotomy effectively deterred democracy in
the Arab world. What the ongoing uprising shows is that this dichotomy is
no longer valid. Real change is now possible, and the old analysis that it
can come only through empowering Islamists has been shattered.

The new Egypt?led by but not restricted to the youth?has little time for
the octogenarians of old, who include not only Hosni Mubarak but also
Mohamed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and my former
cellmate. Within the Brotherhood, Mr. Badie has recently been challenged
by a reformist faction now led by the younger Abdul Monim Aboul Fatouh
(another former cellmate of mine).

The leaderless nature of Egypt's street uprising raises the question of
who will fill the vacuum after victory. Concerns about an Islamist
takeover are valid. But that scenario is unlikely.

The Brotherhood realizes that this uprising wasn't theirs to begin with,
and that the new Egypt?more patriotic, pluralistic and inclusive?would
likely reject a Brotherhood attempt at usurpation. Unlike Amr Moussa (the
head of the Arab League), Mohamed ElBaradei (the former international
bureaucrat), and Ayman Nour (the liberal party leader and another former
cellmate of mine), no one in the Brotherhood possesses the stature to
unite the nation behind them. There is no Khomeini-like Islamist figure to
hijack this revolution.

In a post-Mubarak Egypt, the Brotherhood would likely increase its
presence in parliament, but no Brotherhood figure is likely to win the
presidency or a key cabinet post. As the Brotherhood becomes an
increasingly legitimate force, though, policy makers in Egypt and beyond
should pressure it to abandon its remaining extremist positions, such as
its insistence that only a Muslim male may lead the nation.

Mr. Nawaz is co-founder of the counterextremism think tank Quilliam and
founder of the Khudi movement, which works to promote a democratic culture
in Pakistan.

Egypt Doesn't Have a Democratic Culture

By Amr Bargisi

As of this writing, the contest between President Hosni Mubarak and
hundreds of thousands of protesters remains a standoff. No one can predict
what Egypt will look like in a few days?let alone the next few months and
years. But from my vantage point in Cairo, I believe that the result will
be one of two evils.

First, the 1789 case?a win for the revolutionaries, as the massive anger
that sparked the uprising is channeled into a Jacobin regime that hunts
down its enemies mercilessly. It is a grave mistake to assume that the
rage of the masses will be placated by the ousting of the tyrant.

Last night, one demonstrator told two friends of mine in downtown Cairo's
Tahrir Square that the next step will be to knock on the doors of suburban
villas and ask the owners: Where did you get the money to afford these?

The second possibility is a reactionary scenario. If the ruling elite
wins?meaning Mr. Mubarak's cronies, if not Mr. Mubarak himself?the country
will be ruled by a contract between the state and the frightened middle
classes to make sure no similar uprising ever happens again. This is an
angle that has been totally missing from Western media coverage, as far as
I can tell without Internet access.

There is another force in the streets of Cairo besides the demonstrators.
Equal, if not in numbers then certainly in influence, are the thousands of
young men standing all night in front of their houses and stores to
protect them from looting.

Perhaps they share the anger of their peers in Tahrir Square, but their
fear is much stronger than their rage. On Friday night, after the police
disappeared, these young men got a taste of what could come: Hundreds of
thugs roamed the streets, looting and burning. Then there are the inmates,
reportedly several thousand, who have fled prison and are apparently still
on the loose.

I believe the reactionary scenario is more likely. But regardless of my
own opinion, what is clear is that Egypt lacks the sort of political
culture that can sustain a liberal democratic regime. The superficiality
of the opposition's demands is matched only by the absurdity of the
regime's discourse. Without knowledge of the likes of Locke and Burke,
Hamilton and Jefferson, my country is doomed to either unbridled
radicalism or continued repression.

[Mr. Bargisi, a former Bartley fellow at the Journal, is a senior partner
with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth. Due to lack of Internet service,
he dictated his comments by phone.]

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