[On screen: The Story of the Egyptian Revolution: An on-the-ground narrative by Sam Tadros, via @NROcorner]
The unfolding events in Egypt have made me wonder whether we are not watching an elaborate kabuki perf0rmance, as I tweeted earlier in the day.
I am not talking about the anti-Mubarak protestors, mind you, but about the response. Suppose I were a senior Egyptian army officer (the army being the only institution in Egypt that enjoys wide respect) and I were thinking like a macchiavellist in the Middle Eastern mold. What would I do?
- I would let the protest swell to the point where Mubarak clearly can’t hang on to power anymore, let alone transfer it to his son (which would be a recipe for suckage).
- I would make sure the army appears to be winking a friendly eye towards the protesters
- Once Mubarak starts backtracking (in typical “too little too late”) fashion, I’d let the army disappear for a bit
- Then pro-Mubarak thugs come beating the protesters up, and the
- And… the cavalry comes racing in (i.e., the army) to “restore order”.
- Mubarak gets sent into the desert as a scapegoat, a senior army or intelligence figure becomes the new strongman, some sops get thrown to the protesters, and…
- … fundamentally the same regime, with a different figurehead, continues to rule Egypt.
Far-fetched? You decide. And bad as this outcome may be, in the warped Middle East reality it may actually be preferable over the alternative (which is a government dominated or co-opted by the Islamists). Would that there were another way, that somehow led to true democracy rather than “one man, one vote, one time”…
[Egypt:] “…Confusion will be my epitaph/As I crawl a cracked and broken path/If we make it we can all sit back and laugh/But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying…”