Egypt’s Path to Peace

February 16th, 2011

By Jan Barry

Not since the ancient Israelites slipped out on the Pharaoh in a famous dash through the Red Sea has a mass movement of people in that corner of the world so confounded the powers that be.

“The young Egyptian protesters who overthrew the Mubarak regime on Saturday have accomplished what two generations of violent Islamist revolutionaries could not,” Gwynne Dyer, the noted London-based columnist on international affairs, wrote the other day. “And they did not just do it nonviolently; they succeeded because they were nonviolent.”

This was not just historic, given the victory over violence unleashed against unarmed protesters, it points a path for others to follow. Dyer argues that the uprising in Cairo not only overthrew a repressive dictatorship, but also upended the myth of radical Islamism forever poised to sweep the Muslim world.

“It is a testimony to the good sense of the Arabs, and a rebuke to the ignorant rabble of Western pundits and ‘analysts’ who insisted that Arabs could not do democracy at all, or could only be given it at the point of Western guns,” Dyer concluded.

“It is equally a rebuke to bin Laden and his Islamist companions, hidden in their various caves. They were never going to sweep to power across the Arab world, let alone the broader Muslim world, and only the most impressionable and excitable observers ever thought they would.”

While many “Western pundits” on US television news programs howled over this unexpected display of democracy in a part of the world that’s been subjected for generations to Western guns, the demonstrators in Tahrir Square were gleefully dancing on the graves of colonialism, post-colonialism and American paternalistic patronage of Mubarak’s dictatorship. As the New York Times reported on Monday, the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was fueled by democratic ideas and nonviolent ideals that zipped around on the Internet under the radar of military regimes.

“The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades,” reported David D. Kirkpatrick and David E. Sanger in the New York Times.

“They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley. …

“They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth movement called Otpor, which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene Sharp. The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr. Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify repression in the name of stability.”

After hundreds of billions of dollars in military “aid” to Mubarak’s police state, a trillion dollars spent in two wars chasing after the elusive bin Laden and his mythical Islamist appeals to violent revolutions that Dyer calls “spectacular failures,” the key to constructive change in the Middle East turns out to be far less expensive. It’s a free document called the Bill of Rights, innovative and inexpensive use of the Internet, and a set of books by an American peacemaker recycling a guy whose nonviolent tactics dismantled a large part of the British empire, named Gandhi.

For further information:

Good sense of the Arabs” by Gwynne Dyer, The Korea Times
A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History,” The New York Times

(This article was also posted at EarthAirWater.)

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6 Responses to “Egypt’s Path to Peace”

  1. Tom Carter |

    I certainly hope the outcome of regime change in Egypt is as positive as you see it. It’s apparently coming in some other countries in the Middle East, too. However, I have trouble being as optimistic.

    There is no democratic country in the Middle East (except Israel), and there’s no democratic tradition in the Arab world. This has little to do with the colonialism that ended long ago and more to do with the backward nature of the culture of the region, including the primitive religion that underlies it.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to keep a low profile, to some extent, but it will emerge as a major player in post-Mubarak Egypt when the military either permits it or backs away from ruling the country. All one has to do is look at the repeated pronouncements of the MB leadership’s attitudes and goals to know that radical Islam will be a factor; it’s just a question of how radical.

    No matter how it plays out, it’s virtually inevitable that Egypt will no longer serve as a moderating factor in Arab hatred toward Israel to the extent that it did under Mubarak. That’s bad for U.S. foreign policy interests and will further complicate our efforts to support Israel against those who wish to destroy the state and its people — assuming that remains a U.S. foreign policy goal.

  2. Dan Miller |

    No matter how [the Muslim Brotherhood] plays out, it’s virtually inevitable that Egypt will no longer serve as a moderating factor in Arab hatred toward Israel to the extent that it did under Mubarak. That’s bad for U.S. foreign policy interests and will further complicate our efforts to support Israel against those who wish to destroy the state and its people — assuming that remains a U.S. foreign policy goal.

    Somehow, and maybe it’s just a wild guess, I don’t think the Obama Administration cares much at all about a good future for Israel. Secretary Clinton, peace be upon her, said

    in an exclusive interview with “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour taped on Friday afternoon, . . . said, “I think it is absolutely clear to say, number one, that it’s been American policy for many years that settlements were illegitimate and it is the continuing goal and highest priority of the Obama administration to keep working toward a two-state solution with both Israelis and Palestinians.”

    . . . .

    In December 2010, Clinton took a similarly harsh line against continued Israeli settlements.

    “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” she said in a speech at the Brookings Institution. “We believe their continued expansion is corrosive not only to peace efforts and two-state solution, but to Israel’s future itself.”

    I don’t much wonder what sort of a future Secretary Clinton and her boss have in mind for the only reasonably stable democratic nation legitimately our ally in the Middle East. True, the United States ultimately vetoed an anti-settlement resolution in hopes of assisting a “successful” (i.e. big loss for Israel) peace process, but maintained that the settlements are evil. Now, apparently, the Arab States will attempt their resolution at the General Assembly where it seems likely to pass.

  3. Brian |

    I don’t think that Lara Logan would agree that the demonstrations were entirely peaceful. Perhaps the gang-rape of this female reporter on the streets of Cairo was an anomaly, but I somehow doubt it. It has been reported that they were yelling Jewish epithets at her as they dragged her off.

    Bear in mind that I have little sympathy for a female reporter who should have known better than to be at street-level with Muslim men, but the fact remains that these were not entirely peaceful protests, and I have no hope at all that there will be anything resembling democracy as we know it in any of the nations that are undergoing turmoil presently.

  4. Tom Carter |

    Dan, I think you’re right that the Administration isn’t much concerned about Israel. That’s too bad because we could end up reaping the whirlwind as a result. It’s bad enough that they promote a warped kind of moral equivalence between Israel and the Arab/Muslim nations that are sworn to its destruction and that they refuse to see Islam as the threat it really is. We should remember that Israel won’t go quietly into that night when they’re on the brink of extinction; that happened to the Jews once, and they won’t let it happen again. They’ll fight to the maximum extent necessary, and the U.S. will be dragged into it. It would be much better to pursue a Middle East policy that makes that horrific possibility less likely.

    Brian, I agree. However, the media line is that these protesters are democracy-loving and peaceful, and they don’t recognize that Arab/Muslim culture is so primitive. Sending a blond, blue-eyed young woman into the midst of a mob of Muslim men is asking — begging — for trouble. Just as a note, it isn’t clear that Logan was actually raped; from what I read, she probably wasn’t. The term being used is “sexually assaulted,” which could mean anything from some unpleasant groping to pretty nasty sexual molestation.

  5. Tom Carter |

    I just saw this report:

    New details have emerged about Lara Logan’s brutal attack in Egypt, including that she was stripped, repeatedly punched and slapped and pinched so hard that sensitive parts of her body were covered in red marks, according to a new report.

    Wounds on her body were consistent with being hit by the poles that demonstrators were using to fly flags, London’s Sunday Times reported.

    Bad stuff. Maybe it wasn’t wise to let her go out into the mob, but nothing justifies this.

  6. Brian |

    My bad. In Texas, “sexual assault” has a legal definition that spells out what I believed these articles had sold as rape.

    No, nothing justifies it, but in my mind, this is akin to the famous last words of the redneck: “Hey y’all, watch this!”

    If memory serves, Logan is South African. I can understand how some liberal American journalist might have believed their own press about “peace-loving Muslims,” but it defies my imagination how Logan might have. Apparently, Logan is chief foreign correspondent, or some such, for See BS. Maybe her ambition for the story clouded her judgment. I wouldn’t have gone near that crowd without 120 or 130 of my best friends, all of us armed according to TO&E for 11B and a few sniper teams thrown in for good measure.

    Anyway, you’ve been to the ME, as have I. This thing in Egypt was no Ghandi moment. Even if it were, India still hasn’t come out of the dark ages, politically, in many respects, though I’d certainly prefer dealings with Hindus and Sikhs. The last I looked, it wasn’t the Hindus or Sikhs that were burning for a global caliphate.

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