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After almost a week of riots in Egypt, what next? A lesson?

Watching the protests and riots in Egypt over the last few days, it seems the country is simply spiraling towards chaos; to no end. As you probably already know, Egyptians are protesting to end Mubarak’s 30-year rule. According to Al Jazeera’s reporter in Cairo, the last ISP within Egypt has now been shut down. The protesters are now massing in Tahrir Square to organize their next steps. They are plotting for a “decisive” step, perhaps marching to the presidential palace.


Shaun Rein has an excellent article out today, “What China’s Leaders Need to Learn from Egypt’s Turmoil?” China could one day face protests for legitimate reasons. He believes the most likely corner of society to feel disenfranchised are university students unable to find jobs. It is inevitable China’s economy recesses some day. When that happens, and if the whole population feels injustice, they will take to the streets. Chaos can quickly engulf the country as we see today in Egypt. And, it’s never clear how the country will re-emerge.

  1. February 1st, 2011 at 01:18 | #1

    No doubt somebody will point to William Engdahl, and here, Russian Today interviews him.

  2. February 1st, 2011 at 01:19 | #2

    White House blog: “President Obama on the Situation in Egypt: “All Governments Must Maintain Power through Consent, Not Coercion””

  3. February 1st, 2011 at 01:24 | #3

    From Obama’s speech, my take is that Mubarak’s government is now out of favor.

    Given the U.S. wanting Egypt to continue as an important ally, it is smart for Obama to now side with the Egyptian public.

    How things unfold in the next few days could have a big impact to the Middle East.

  4. silentvoice
    February 1st, 2011 at 09:08 | #4

    Your mentioning of the possibility of China facing protests from University students unable to find jobs reminds me of a book I’ve recently read. The book is called “America and the World”. In the book, a reporter interviews Zbigniew Brzezinski (the former National Security Adviser to Carter) and asks him what he would advise the U.S. govt. if there’s another ‘Tiananmen Square’ type protest in China in the future.

    I’ll summarize his response in two points:

    1. The important thing (to him) is whether there is ‘solidarity’. Students protests all the time in different countries. But where is the rest of society? What about the intellectuals, the working class, and the peasants? A democracy movement needs to be supported by more than the students to be legitimate.

    2. A gauge of whether a movement can succeed is whether the army is prepared to open fire. The army always senses who it is aiming at. Quote: “If it feels it’s a relatively small segment of society, it will start shooting”. “Armies are drawn from people as a whole and won’t attack people as a whole”.

    I think it makes a whole lot of sense. Draw what conclusions you will with regard to Tiananmen Square, the ‘Color Revolutions’ in Eastern Europe, and the current Egyptian situation.

    ———–
    For those interested in conspiracy theories, here’s another RT video, made in November 2010– TWO MONTHS before things began to unravel.
    http://rt.com/usa/news/democracy-promotion-usa-regime/

  5. colin
    February 1st, 2011 at 11:11 | #5

    This certainly is a good lesson for China, or its rulers at least. It shows that revolt is just around any corner and government needs to be careful. But in the end, I’m too cynical that this or anything can turn government into the utopian benevolent dictator. Government is composed of people, who have human failings and especially greed. Those in power will always naturally try to take from others and give to themselves. The egyption riots in the end will just cause the Chinese rulers to be a bit more careful in their dealings and be less overt in corruption.

  6. February 1st, 2011 at 14:42 | #6

    I recommend this article, but bear in mind though, if the Egyptians could remain loyal to the U.S. and still have a prosperous society, I think the U.S. would welcome it. The over-riding goal of the U.S. is to have a “friendly” Egypt, no matter if the country is ruled as a dictatorship or democracy. No matter if the country is dirt poor or filthy rich.

    “The Protest Movement in Egypt: “Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders”
    Global Research, January 29, 2011
    by Michel Chossudovsky

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22993

    The overriding powers of empire are not mentioned. In a bitter irony, president Obama has expressed his support for the protest movement.

    Many people within the protest movement are led to believe that president Obama is committed to democracy and human rights, and is supportive of the opposition’s resolve to unseat a dictator, which was installed by the US in the first place.

  7. r v
    February 1st, 2011 at 17:15 | #7

    In Tiananmen, the students started the protests.

    In Tunisia and Egypt and other ME nations, it’s the common man. (Many of the educated elites of Egypt have good paying jobs in Egypt or elsewhere.)

    It goes back to Mao’s theory that revolutions in China are determined by the farmers, the majority of the population.

    Frankly, for Tiananmen, the students were the ones with the grievances (on lack of scholarship, etc.), the farmers of China had no reason to join it. In 1980-1989, the farmers of China were the first ones to see the benefits of Deng’s reforms. They had little reason to sympathize with the students’ grievances.

    *Today’s China is seeing problems with disparity of income as well as inflation. But again, the farmers are not bearing the brunt of the problems.

    Inflationary prices on cost of food is actually causing farmers to hoard and make more money.

    Farmers are returning to rural areas, because of central government investment in rural infrastructure, and urban jobs are declining.

    Farmers get tons of aid for emergencies and disasters from the central government.

    City folks in China might complain, but in the end, they can’t start a fire.

    *The ME chaos is a recipe for foreign interference. With no clear strong leaders remaining in any of these countries, factionalism will reign. US and Europe, and Russia and China will undoubtedly extend their influences into the next batch of leaders, at least, tempted to do so for various reasons.

    I have no doubt that Chinese government will be tempted for nothing but economic reasons alone.

    That is very bad for the people of these regions. It would be colonialism all over again.

    *Thus, I strongly urge that China tone down its influences in the ME in the foreseeable future. Don’t be rush to squeeze in to get leverage. No good will come of it.

    We Chinese should sympathize with the people of ME during these time of chaos. They should determine their own futures, and we should stand by them and offer them support, no matter what decision they choose for themselves. (That would be in tune with our long held belief in non-interference).

    Let the Western nations fall all over each other in rushing to ensure their own selfish interests in the ME.

  8. February 1st, 2011 at 23:11 | #8

    They should determine their own futures, and we should stand by them and offer them support, no matter what decision they choose for themselves. (That would be in tune with our long held belief in non-interference).

    There’s a lot of wisdom in that.

  9. Charles Liu
    February 2nd, 2011 at 01:02 | #9

    Mubarak just announced he will not seek reelection and work to transition. This is one of the better outcome for Egypt IMHO. Hope the few thousand young people rioting will be satisfied.

    Something our media downplayed is the number of protesters. Here’s a rare report that put the Cairo crowd at no more than 15K.

    I’m sorry this is not democracy. When few thousand violate 80 million Egyptians the right to choose, it’s just replacing one form of oppression with another.

    Imagine what China would be like today if Egype or Tunisia happened in 1989, instead of preservation of sovereignty, functioning government.

  10. r v
    February 2nd, 2011 at 10:48 | #10

    Now, there are violent clashes between pro-Mubarak supporters and protesters. over 100 injured.

    Here come the reactionaries. Interesting how things turn.

  11. Charles Liu
    February 2nd, 2011 at 10:55 | #11

    @r v

    You said it. Now trigger words like “rioters”, “orchestrated”, are showing up in our media’s official narrative.

    Protect the peaceful protesters? Did our media just collectively fell on their heads and forgotten that 10 policemen were killed in the 1st few days of the “peaceful protest”, and government buildings were torched by anti-government rioters? Looting and assult was already happening at the start of the protest according to tourists who escaped Cairo.

    And no one should be happy about any of this, not now, not then. Replacing one form of violence with another is not democracy.

  12. r v
    February 2nd, 2011 at 11:08 | #12

    I have to consider that Egypt might be just a ripple from Tunisia. And that this “revolution” might not be sustainable, or only sustainable via outside interferences.

    One thing that I would note as significant is, unlike Tunisia, where the protests spread massively in the countryside, and then INTO the cities, Egypt’s protests are confined to the large cities.

    The Egyptian protests may have been “copied” from Tunisia, but the anger seemed much less widespread. In other words, we don’t see the countryside people protesting substantially on their own.

    They come into the cities, where they coalesce into large numbers, because their numbers are significantly less in the countryside.

    Meaning, this was not as widespread or grassroot as we thought.

    *This is similar to TAM, where the students only gathered to protest in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and there were no significant protests in rural cities.

    *Also compare the widespread and grassroot protests in the former Soviet Republics during the color revolutions.

    You can notice the differences.

  13. Charles Liu
    February 2nd, 2011 at 13:29 | #13

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/02/02/egypt.world.reaction/

    Now that patriotic pro-government Egyptians that didn’t protest are sick of the chaos created by these Red Guards of Democracy, they ride their camels into Cairo to take their country back, suddenly we started to condem the violence.

    Never mind that violence started last week when the peaceful anti-government protesters showed up.

  14. r v
    February 2nd, 2011 at 17:02 | #14

    Ah yes,

    The Western governments are already tripping over each other. Nothing like a few condemnations to earn some PR points. (Doesn’t cost them any thing.)

    So typical and so kneejerking. Seriously, it’s like watching drug addicts twitch.

  15. r v
    February 2nd, 2011 at 18:54 | #15

    It occurred to me just now that the Muslim Brotherhood may be attempting to draw US (and West) in, by purposefully escalating the protest to violence.

    Consider that most of the responses to the protests have been rather muted. And the Muslim Brotherhood was waiting on the sideline, until just now when it got violent.

    This might have been the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan from the start.

    It wanted US and West to support Mubarak, and when they didn’t issue strong support for Mubarak, they escalate the violence to force the US and West to commit to a position one way or another.

    *It sounded very strange to me, why Muslim Brotherhood was silent all this time, and then waited until the protest escalates to come out to support and urge the protesters to continue.

    It kinda make sense now. They were waiting to throw their weight in at the critical moment.

    Interesting gambit.

  16. February 3rd, 2011 at 00:47 | #16

    @ r v,

    I just read this article on the Muslim Brotherhood at NPR:
    http://www.npr.org/2011/02/03/133455504/post-mubarak-muslim-brotherhood-could-play-role?ft=1&f=1001

    The end of the article self-contradicts doesn’t it?

    White House spokesman Robert Gibbs indicated that the U.S. would not walk unconditionally into a relation with the Muslim Brotherhood. That the administration need assurances on several fronts: “Adherence to the law, adherence to nonviolence and a willingness to be part of a democratic process but not use that democratic process to simply instill yourself into power.”

    Gibbs stressed it’s not for the U.S. to determine who governs Egypt but as a powerful ally, Washington will try to work with any power brokers there.

  17. r v
    February 3rd, 2011 at 06:40 | #17

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/Egypt-Hezbollah-cell-escaped-in-prison-break-security/Article1-658121.aspx

    Thousands of prisoners tied to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood escape in mass prison break DURING the anti-Mubarak protest.

    Hmmm…. I think everyone has been underestimating the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to plan and execute complex strategies.

    Which means, we have all underestimated their influence in the protests.

  18. wwww1234
    February 3rd, 2011 at 09:13 | #18

    The Egyptian crisis seems to have more to do with government performance (legitimacy) rather than voting processes.
    Any country without a one child policy, voluntary or involuntary, is doomed.
    See
    http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/egypts-class-conflict.html

  19. February 3rd, 2011 at 13:04 | #19

    @silentvoice

    A friend of mine read your comment and we were discussing your summary of Brzezinski’s points. We thought they were very perceptive.

    @wwww1234

    Great read.

  20. r v
    February 4th, 2011 at 12:54 | #20

    NPR had some Egyptian callers saying, US could help by cutting off military aid to Egypt.

    Of course, the unintended consequence from that will be, Egyptian military falls apart, Muslim Brotherhood takes over.

    Realistically, it will just get worse in Egypt, no matter what happens now (unless they have a miracle economic recovery).

    *Side note: some media follow up on Tunisia indicate that they are not getting any better.

    Still few jobs available. Political factions aligning to fight over meager jobs and political turfs.

    *another side note: Some Egyptians openly acknowledged that “though Muslim Brotherhood is banned from all past political offices, those affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood will in the future simply run as independent candidates. And they have exerted significant influence in the countryside, where there are significant poverty, in recent years.”

    I’m no fan of Mubarak’s incompetent management of his country. But I wonder if these “democracies” are really roads paved with good intentions leading to Hell.

  21. r v
    February 4th, 2011 at 13:49 | #21

    One must learn to enjoy the crazy logic that flies around in the media these days.

    1 I heard recently, that the pro-Mubarak supporters must be hired thugs, because Mubarak is using the violence to spread fear in the people, and forcing them to seek his regime’s police and army for safety and security. (This was from a US professor).

    Well yes, if we go by that kind of stretchy logic, then same could be say as true for US and European countries, that the Pro-Mubarak supporters are US and European hired thugs, in Egypt to spread violence and fear, so that they would continue to turn to US and Europe for safety and security, despite what happens to Mubarak.

    Of course, that sort of logic goes weakly against the prevailing wisdom, that anti-government protesters are generally the one causing chaos and violence, because it’s their goal in the first place to show that the government is no longer in control.

    “Peaceful protest” is a self-contradicting term. Protests are designed to disrupt the government and the society, forcing the government and the society to confront the underlying issue, one way or another.

  22. February 4th, 2011 at 13:52 | #22

    @r v

    It’s back to the age-old division between the rich and the poor. When the poor feels their plight is due to the few rich and powerful collaborating with bad foreigners, the resentment only grows. Indeed, a miracle economic recovery is the only thing that can probably stem that for Egypt.

    This is a tactic of the anti-Chinese government groups. They want to sow discontent within the Chinese poor. But they are doing it at the worse of times as China is really well run right now.

  23. Thorun
    February 4th, 2011 at 18:33 | #23

    Well, hard to tell who started what now… Yet, as I recall it was the Egyptian Police who killed protesters first. Then, afterward, the protesters might have killed a police officer, and that is questionably fact.

    Regardless of bruises, assaulting police, and feelings being hurt, once someone is killed with a bullet to the head for tossing rocks or holding a camera [taking pictures], It is then that the line has been crossed into a haze of non-peaceful police control. At which point, personally, I support the pro-democracy side of the equation.

    It was wise of the military to calm and stop such violence to escalate any further than which it did. In part, I think the violence that did occur was predictable in any society to date. And was really minimal, considering the amount of people present.

    Here’s a link. 28th January 2011:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1351314/Egypt-protests-Government-shuts-internet-ahead-biggest-demonstrations-yet.html

    In Regards To:

    “Protect the peaceful protesters? Did our media just collectively fell on their heads and forgotten that 10 policemen were killed in the 1st few days of the “peaceful protest”, and government buildings were torched by anti-government rioters? Looting and assult was already happening at the start of the protest according to tourists who escaped Cairo.

    And no one should be happy about any of this, not now, not then. Replacing one form of violence with another is not democracy.”

  24. fancia
    February 4th, 2011 at 23:18 | #24

    Speaking from my own experience, the Egypt’s citizens should be careful not to become like ours. Although the dictatorship had been overthrown, they still retain enough money and power and it’s not easy to clean them up since their roots has been planted very very deep during their regime. They could still use their money and power in the shadow to make it difficult for the new ‘democratic’ government to do their jobs. Thus, it doesn’t solve the problems at all, sometimes it often creates more chaos than not.

    Looking back at our own riot 12 years ago, I wonder now whether the ordinary people especially the farmers and the people lives in poverty really wanted a democracy or not. Instead of demonstrating against the government, they robbed and burned only the ethnic Chinese’s belongings; it got worse in the capital where they also killed the Chinese, raped the women before they were killed; the police and the military did nothing to stop them. Now, I could often hear them say that they miss the old times where the country was stable during the dictatorship; they even grieving and very sad indeed when the dictator died of sickness.

  25. February 4th, 2011 at 23:58 | #25

    I would argue if Martin Luther King Jr had looted and rioted, he would be brutally suppressed, and the outcome of his Civil Rights movement would have failed.

    @fancia

    I guess compared to 1965-66, the 1990’s attacks were less intense. Now that China is stronger economically and Indonesia’s relation is better, I hope things continue to improve.

    Also, on your point about some missing the old times of dictatorship – I wrote about the day-in and day-out smearing of everything China and Chinese will some day create the conditions for backlash in the West against people of Chinese heritage:

    Opinion: Citizens of Chinese heritage in the West to also bear the brunt of Western media bias

    So I think it’s very real.

    Dictatorships and democracies are equally “good” and equally “evil.”

  26. Thorun
    February 5th, 2011 at 01:31 | #26

    @YinYang
    “I would argue if Martin Luther King Jr had looted and rioted, he would be brutally suppressed, and the outcome of his Civil Rights movement would have failed.”

    MLK Jr. was smart. He knew to be heard and listened to, he needed the media.

    All riots prior to his movements did absolutely nothing for Black Americans back then. Because of this, with other political organizations with their own agendas [including liberal minded media], and a deep seeded divide in U.S. Government stemming back to the U.S. Civil War, were the reasons MLK Jr. got the media attention necessary to use Ghandi like methods for protesting [which MLK Jr. borrowed directly from] which all added up to MLK Jr. becoming a martyr. Afterward, the legislation being pushed for the Civil Rights Bill finally passes in favor and becomes law.

    For the Egyptians it was 4 or 9 people who lit themselves on fire that spurred the majority of 40% of the population under 35 years of age, who can’t find a well paying job educated or not, towards the protest to begin with. Which was mostly organized by modern media [much different from the 1960’s], and then grew because of the media.

    If the media was shut down on day one, there would be no Egyptian uprising. Protest over. No protection from the media, no revolt. People’s lives go back to normal, like nothing happened.

    Modern media information and control of it makes and brakes dictatorships and democracies, whether for the “good” perspectives, or the “evil” perspectives.

  27. r v
    February 5th, 2011 at 17:23 | #27

    Tunisia’s police fired upon violent protesters, even after the “democracy”.

    I guess things don’t get better.

    In Egypt, there are signs that various military and police commanders are holding their own talks with much of the leaderless protesters.

    Some in West have called it a good sign, but I think it’s the military establishment who are factionalizing and jockeying for positions of power.

    Egypt will undoubtedly become yet another military dictatorship. And Mubarak and his military minions are just waiting it out.

  28. February 6th, 2011 at 12:23 | #28

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0206/Iraq-swirls-with-rumors-of-Egypt-like-protests-to-come

    Now, chaos infecting Iraq.

    *funny part: I don’t get the relevance of posting a photo about Iranians on top of this article.

  29. r v
    February 8th, 2011 at 08:21 | #29

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/opinion/06brooks.html

    I agree with some of this analysis, but the last bit about the need for Egypt to do “party building”.

    Frankly, if the people really know what they wanted, they would already have built parties underground. And they would be streaming out of the pavements at the first sign of protests.

    No, Egypt is a ideological vaccuum, stymied by decades of complacency under the stewardship of the Western backed dictators.

  30. JO
    February 12th, 2011 at 02:58 | #30

    Well, I seem to remember how China “handled” some studnet protest pretty well, slaughtering everyone in sight. I might refresh your memory with a clip from Youtube, but if you really are in China then you won’t be able to access it anyway.

    Also, China is already facing TONS of protests every day regarding local issues such as corruption, pollution, labour, etc.

  31. r v
    February 12th, 2011 at 14:18 | #31

    Well enough not to collapse for 20 years after.

    “slaughtering” is a wrong description. “Democracy is messy” as Rumsfeld said, is more accurate.

    At least it wasn’t a war against “insurgents” that lasts over 10 years and more, like US is stuck in.

    I have some Wikileaked video of US helicopters “handling” Iraqi families in station wagons. Whether you see or not, that’s how “democracy” is still “handling” democracy. Convenience and justifications don’t change reality.

    *China is facing TONS of protests every day. Hmm… Handling pretty well, despite all the naysaying from the last 20 years.

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