A sign of movement in Egypt

It appears that the Egyptian army — the power behind Hosni Mubarak’s throne, and almost certainly the final arbiter in the process of naming his replacement — has decided it’s time for the protests to end and for the next chapter in this story to begin in earnest. From McClatchy Newspapers:

Besieged by two weeks of protests, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime has offered once-unthinkable political concessions and started negotiations with its fiercest adversaries.

Some things in Egypt, however, don’t change so quickly.

The Egyptian military has rounded up scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists in recent days without formal charges, according to watchdog groups and accounts by the detainees. While most arrests have been brief — lasting fewer than 24 hours — experts say they’re a sign that the regime’s notorious tradition of extrajudicial detentions is continuing even as Mubarak appears to be on his way out of power.

Arbitrary arrests by police forces are among Egyptians’ bitterest and longest running complaints against their government, which gives security services sweeping powers under a state of emergency that’s been in place almost nonstop since 1967.

The perpetrators of the latest arrests, however, are Egyptian army soldiers, deployed on the streets for the first time in more than two decades after the police all but disappeared following clashes with protesters on Jan. 25. The man most likely to lead the transition to a post-Mubarak era, Vice President Omar Suleiman, is Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief.

(H/t: Hot Air)

For those hoping for even a somewhat democratic government in Egypt, headed by moderates rather than clerics, this may be the best outcome out of those that are also realistic. Generations of Egyptians have been raised and educated (or not) in a country without a lively political opposition or a civil society that had the freedom to develop potential national leaders concerned with enhancing the people’s liberties. There’s no sign that the Egyptian Mandela, or Aquino, or Attaturk, or Washington, is about to walk through the door (as I’ve written before, Mohamed ElBaradei isn’t that guy).

But, if the army is still calling the shots, we might not get the Egyptian Khomeini. In the interim, that probably maintains the status quo in the region regarding Israel. And anyway, replacing Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood probably wasn’t what led the Egyptian youths in Tahrir Square to risk their lives and livelihoods.

It won’t be an ideal outcome — it probably wasn’t going to be in any event. The most likely result of a government that is most dependent on the army is more of what Egyptians experienced under Mubarak.

But it may be an outcome that, from an American perspective, allows us to keep intact some of our strategic interests while using our influence there in the future to do more than prop up a dictator. Now is the time for the Obama administration to make clear to Suleiman and the Egyptian army that we are adding the development of true democratic institutions to the list of conditions for their receiving American aid.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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34 comments Add your comment

Linda

February 7th, 2011
12:47 pm

The protesters are looking to the US to support them. They are afraid our position is that we favor stability over democracy, that we are more concerned about our interests than theirs.
We have already placed stability in the Middle East over the human rights of the people. It has failed.
The best hope is that both stability & democracy will prevail.

Jefferson

February 7th, 2011
1:09 pm

To expect those folks to live and act as we do in the USA would lead to expectations that are too high.

CJ

February 7th, 2011
1:15 pm

Now is the time for the Obama administration to make clear to Suleiman and the Egyptian army that we are adding the development of true democratic institutions to the list of conditions for their receiving American aid.

It’s reasonable for American aid to come with strings attached, and this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand.

By the same token and related to the unrest in Egypt, aid to Israel, our largest beneficiary, should also come with strings attached—perhaps requiring Israel to stop expanding settlements on Palestinian territory, removing settlements that beyond the 1967 borders, and/or taking other steps toward a peace agreement. Anybody working toward a Greater Israel, as Mike Huckabee and other Republican politicos are, is working toward greater instability in the middle east, more death and destruction, and less economic certainty for Americans.

jconservative

February 7th, 2011
2:02 pm

Our “ace in the hole” in Egypt continues to be the Egyptian Army. Remember that a delegation high ranking Egyptian Army officers were in the Pentagon for meetings and consultations when the protesters took to the streets. And most of our aid goes direct to the army, not to civilian organizations.

This relationship needs to be maintained, nurtured and massaged for our long term benefit.

ByteMe

February 7th, 2011
2:36 pm

Do not confuse the Egyptian military with the Egyptian police. The latter is run from the Interior Ministry and is highly corrupt… the former owns hotels and other income-producing property and is likely going to be the arbiter of any negotiated solution.

Halftrack

February 7th, 2011
2:58 pm

The President does not have a “let me be clear” position on Egypt. The position of his staff/ administration officials, all contradict one another. It appears he favors the brotherhood and puts on another face for the news media.

carlosgvv

February 7th, 2011
3:03 pm

Old dictators usually don’t give up without a bitter fight and much bloodshed. I doubt Mubarak will be any different.

@@

February 7th, 2011
3:25 pm

I’m all for the military leading the way. Will they want to face another uprising at some later date? I think not.

It cannot be said enough. This uprising was fueled by emotion. The youth failed to choose the voice that would speak on their behalf. Instead, they let other (less savory) characters do it for them.

They should come organized next time around.

Road Scholar

February 7th, 2011
3:49 pm

jconservative: Hello! Also many of the ranking Egyptian officers were trained in the US, which provided them a taste of democracy and freedom. They know “how it could be”.

The interviews on ABC Sunday morning were fascinating ; the ABC reporter interviewed Murbarak (SP), the vice pres of Egypt, and others. The talks with the people on the street was very revealing as to the need for facts and the need for an orderly succession. Heck, their present constitution doesn’t allow a lot of what needs/want /will be done.
Now lets hear from the right…Should they honor their Constitution?

Linda

February 7th, 2011
4:29 pm

Isn’t it ironic that Mubarak’s net worth is exactly the same amt. that the US has provided to Egypt since the treaty was signed? $70 Billion!
His real estate taxes must be sky high with homes in London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris, Dubai, Manhattan, Beverly Hills & along the Red Sea coast. Shu! He has “secret” bank accts. in Switzerland & Britain & owns some hotels, etc.
Heard his sons are also billionaires, too.
All this while 40% of Egypt’s population is at the poverty level or below, making $2 per day or less.

Road Scholar

February 7th, 2011
6:12 pm

And I guess consrvatives want them to pay for their own healthcare!

Linda

February 7th, 2011
6:31 pm

Talking about money, I need some help here. Either my Direct TV satellite or my calculator is amiss. I thought I heard Obama say today (again) that he planned to cut $400 B over ten yrs. My calculator says that’s $40 B per yr. Since the interest on the debt is $3.5 (some say $3.8 to $4 B) per day, that will save us 11.43 days of interest.

http://www.defeatthedebt.com/understanding-the-national-debt/how-much-do-we-owe/

I also thought I heard him say 10 times today that we need to invest (translated to spend) more money, same as my TV transmitted during his State of the Union speech.

Should I call Direct TV?

Linda

February 7th, 2011
7:06 pm

Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat, confirmed we are borrowing 40 cents on every dollar we spend.

http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/jan/27/kent-conrad/kent-conrad-said-were-borrowing-40-cents-every-dol/

Doesn’t that mean we need to simply cut out 40% of the fed. govt. just to break even?
Doesn’t that mean we need to cut out another 5-10-15% of the fed. govt. to pay down the natl. debt?
Don’t we need to eliminate entire departments & programs?

What’s wrong with my calculator?

BW

February 7th, 2011
7:38 pm

Linda

The dollars are the dollars but simply indiscriminately cutting programs ain’t going to happen. There are too many stakeholders with too much money regardless of the ideological bent of the legislative or executive branch.

BW

February 7th, 2011
7:44 pm

There are no easy answers. Even if the army is in charge it’s still not a democratic society. We just can’t have another anti-Western regime in place. We have to figure out what our foreign policy is going to be towards these nations…”friends” that run autocracies. Neo-cons would have you believe that we such help any nation secure a free and democratic government but only to the extent that you don’t have a Hamas elected. We’ve spent far too much human treasure in this region….let’s focus on energy independence. No that isn’t going to be a petroleum fueled independence nor will it be a cheap independence but the more we bicker about how we proceed the deeper the hole gets. We already rely on 70% of our oil from abroad and that number will not drop all that much if all our known oil reserves were tapped tomorrow.

Linda

February 7th, 2011
7:46 pm

BW@&:38, I don’t disagree with you. Our country is going bankrupt. There will be riots on the streets no matter what we do. It is too late.

OldTimer

February 7th, 2011
8:21 pm

Do not confuse the Egyptian army with a real army. The kind that has gnads. Egypt is known for it’s rivers and women, it has no men.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

February 7th, 2011
8:33 pm

Just look up Anbar Province if you want to see how most Arabs feel about living under the rule of lunatics.

Bush was right and liberals hate it.

BW

February 7th, 2011
8:42 pm

I Report

The question is not whether people like dictators but should the United States intervene in other nations to the extent of overthrowing that government. More importantly do the American people want to pay with a military draft and with taxes….my gut instinct is no.

Linda

February 7th, 2011
8:57 pm

BW@8:42, The questions are:
Should the US buy our friends/allies?
Should we give aid to countries whose leaders are dictators? Why or why not?
Should our emphasis be for democracy of the people or our stability?
Should we buy stability from dictators who torture their people & enrich themselves with our tax dollars?
What are the consequences short-term vs. long-term?
When tortured/disenfranchised/hungry/poor people rise up against a dictator, who should we support?

killerj

February 7th, 2011
9:07 pm

What better way to come out of a recession eh kyle?,careful what you wish for for those losing money would not have to do the fighting,why do I get the dissonance feeling it,s headed that way? people are to easy to jump on the band wagon for righteousness then cry when you have to pay the ultimate price.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

February 7th, 2011
9:13 pm

There is no need to intervene in Egypt, the people will throw off the fanatical lunatics that long to oppress them, same as we will with ours, in 2012 anyway.

Just sayin…

Linda

February 7th, 2011
9:26 pm

killerj@9:07, You are the prime example why the fed. govt. needs to close the Dept. of Edu. If my grammar was that bad, I would never, ever, blog on any site.

BW

February 7th, 2011
11:09 pm

Linda

Those are great questions …ones that no longer get debated in a world of 24 hour news cycles and the cacophony of the politicos going at each other. One thing is simple….we use (at least for the moment) the most oil and others have most of the known economically viable reserves. Our foreign policy, in my opinion, is calibrated around insuring stable transit of oil from the Middle East to the US. The Chinese are starting to do the same in many countries in Africa by building up the infrastructure so the minerals can be brought to market. Is this sustainable in the long term? I don’t know…I do know that there are a lot of conflicting goals out there that seem to be mutually exclusive. I don’t think that we can continue to intervene in other countries in a effort to bring democracy though.

Linda

February 8th, 2011
12:07 am

BW@ 11:09,Please scroll up to Kyle’s blog he had over the weekend, Remembering Reagan, to 2/5 & read my comments @ 5:57 thru 6:14 & get back with me.

@@

February 8th, 2011
7:08 am

We’ve spent far too much human treasure in this region….let’s focus on energy independence.

Makes one wonder why energy independence wasn’t promoted as a national security issue, don’t it?

Because there was money to be made and Al Gore saw it as an opportunity to do just that.

nels

February 8th, 2011
8:04 am

The U.S. taxpayers have funneled more than 60 billion of aid since Mubarak came to power and more than one half went to supplying weapons. An arrangement that has benefited American military contractors rather than ordinary Egyptians. They need food more than guns, development aid more than weapons but that does not serve as a stimulus plan for American factories.

Egyptians say that the aid has served to intrench a dictator at the expense of democracy.

Now, the U.S chief export to Egypt is corn and that commodity in the U.S has gone up dramatically. Livestock eat corn, more expense raises cost of meat at the stores.

Our chief import from Egypt is natural gas. The corn we are sending them could have gone to producing ethanol for our consumption.

What we should be exporting to Egypt is Democracy, promoting a democracy like our own, where all people are free to live according to the Constitution.

Here Spot

February 8th, 2011
8:35 am

The Military needs to stamp down this rebellion, restore calm. Obama needs to keep his mouth shut.

Pappa Grizzly

February 8th, 2011
8:52 am

Obama has really screwed this up. If McCain had been elected we’d see democracies across the middle east because McCain and Palin believe in democracy and Bush’s freedom agenda. The libtards are to blame for this mess.

joe

February 8th, 2011
9:05 am

Any govt will be fine there as long as they don’t implement sharia law…and for those keeping score here, we must do all we can to outlaw sharia on this side of the world…not only within our borders, but north and south of us as well.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 8th, 2011
9:15 am

Well argued, Kyle. As always seems to be the case, looks like Chauncey prematurely threw Mubarak under the bus.

Intown

February 8th, 2011
9:47 am

This is a tough call. My heart is with the protesters who want instant results. They seem to be young democrats who yearn for freedom — not the Islamist anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood. But, my brain is with America’s (and secondarily Israel’s) interest in a stable and smooth transition to democracy that does not provide too much chaos and advantage to the Islamists.

[...] for the actual importance of the occasion: I’ll stick with the thoughts in my post earlier this week anticipating the practical impact of the army keeping control as Mubarak was replaced. Admittedly, [...]

[...] for the actual importance of the occasion: I’ll stick with the thoughts in my post earlier this week anticipating the practical impact of the army keeping control as Mubarak was replaced. Admittedly, [...]