Obama Did Not Lose Egypt

It looks like the Egyptian armed forces have confiscated the revolution for the time being. They told the old man Mubarak he had to be reasonable and agree to save face with a simulacrum of power devolution. So, he agreed to resign. They told the revolutionaries on Tahrir Square that they could not have their immediate but largely symbolic victory: The shameful flight of the tyrant of thirty years in the wee hours of morning. Instead, they agreed to celebrate a formal transfer of power from one military dictator to another. I hate to admit it but I am relieved by these developments.

First, the snatched symbolic victory. I can certainly empathize. The French would have been unable to believe they had really changed the system had they not beheaded hapless King Louis the Sixteenth in 1793. That they also killed the Queen Marie-Antoinette a little later shows that blood drinking is addictive. Also, the English had beheaded a king more then a century before the French, largely for the same reasons: It’s not enough to beat your adversary, you have to annihilate him. We are primates, after all.

The Egyptian revolutionaries, with the real but limited wisdom of an old people feigned to assent to the surface change and broke out the fireworks to celebrate their false victory. For the time being, an Air Force general is replaced by the Head-Torturer-In-Chief. This is not equivalent to the fall of the Berlin Wall as Al Jazeera reported. But Al-Jazeera is a smart news beast, I think the comparison was about the crowd’s joy, not about the political reality of the event.

I have been watching the news on the French language channel TV5. The French news anchors are as dingbaty as their American counterparts or more. Those who manage them have enough sense though to bring forth some of the numerous experts on the Middle-East who live in France, as French citizens or as exiles from their native countries. The discussion on TV5 are less stereotypical and less cliché-laden than what I hear and see on American television Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have been clearly out of their depth, as much as their left-liberal competitors, I would say. Here is my rule of thumb: I don’t like it when I have the feeling that I know more than nearly all those who express themselves in the media. Pundits who criticize Obama’s handling of this business don’t have a plan B, I suspect. President Obama did not lose Egypt. It was never his or ours to lose.

Mostly. I follow a French professor who is a native Arabic speaker, Hasni Abidi. I do this although he expresses typical French delusions about the knowledge, power, and influence of the American secret services. It’s a French mental illness. Perhaps it does not affect anything else and, how I wish their paranoia were justified! And I follow Fouad Ajami, an American professor who is also an Arabic speaker. Ajami has been consistently somber when he appears on CNN. I think he is waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Here is what I think will happen next. It’s also what I hope will happen. And, no, I am not confusing my wishes with reality. The armed forces of Egypt, some of whose leaders are younger and more aware of the world than a 80+year-old dictator, will shepherd the country to a gradual democratization. There will be honest elections in six months, or in one year, or in two years, or in five. This will give time for the democratic forces of Egypt to organize themselves into real political parties, to collect funds, to formulate their positions and to articulate them. If elections were held tomorrow, there is a good chance the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate them just because it’s well organized. That could (could) be the beginning of a democratic conquest of power by this ultimately undemocratic group. I know, it’s the reformed Muslim Brotherhood that professes to believe in elections and in a secular state. I am skeptical. I don’t trust people who want eventually to establish the rule of Sharia to be sensitive to the importance of separating religion from governance. Come to think of it, I don’t trust most Egyptians in this respect. Come to think of it, after many years of personal association with Muslims, I don’t trust many Muslims in this connection. In my book, they are guilty until they prove themselves innocent of the confusion between church and state.

I understand my own intellectual dilemma: I believe democracy is the aspiration of most people everywhere (like George W. Bush and his articulate spokeswoman Condoleeza Rice). Yet, as a student of French and English history and of Communism, I mistrust popular revolutions that start in the street. It’s obvious to my mind that they they often end in worse tyrannies than what they replace. Also, they produce aggressive states that will not and cannot leave their neighbors in peace. That’s why I think the outcome I predict is not the worst possible although it will disappoint in short order the aspirations of millions of Egyptians. I said “millions,” not “all.” I still have not seen a single djellaba, the normal garment of the peasantry, on Tahrir square.

There is a domestic aspect to the media tumult of the past two weeks that I am not generous enough not to enjoy. Liberal commentators are like an old lady stuck at the end of a too-long line for the restroom, dancing from one foot to the other. On the one hand, if President Obama has anything to do with Mubarak’s departure, it shows that he, Obama, has also joined the ranks of American imperialist manipulators. On the other hand, if he had nothing to do with the event, it demonstrates again the President’s momentous, historical incompetence. I incline to the latter, of course. He never did know what he was doing. Why would this be different?

Finally, I am not too worried about Israel. It’s not callousness. It think Israel is a big boy capable of taking care of itself. Beside, even if Egypt becomes more bellicose – not at all self-evident – Israel will be facing a weakened Egypt.


About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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6 Responses to Obama Did Not Lose Egypt

  1. Helene Hagan says:

    I suggest you watch the last “Mots Croises” aired a couple of nights ago on French television. An honest discussion on events in Egypt. Video available on the internet, and made available on my Facebook wall.

    The Egyptian population does not have the right to identify itself as an old one and pretend to ancient wisdom to which it is not related. The Arabs invaded that land during the first Great Jihad, (7th century AD) and supplanted the remnants of the old Egyptian population. Regardless of the ethnic or genetic percentage of this one or that one, as a whole and collectively, present Egypt is an Arabic country which is superimposed on an old indIgenous culture, much as today, the anglo-saxon American civilization has replaced the old American Indian cultures on the North American continent, and the two layers have absolutely nothing in common. It offends me to no end when I hear Arabic Egyptians pretend to be the heirs to the old Egyptian civilization.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Helene. Thanks for the tip.
      I don’t know to what extent today’s Egyptians are cultural heirs of the old guys who built the pyramids. Although I know you are a specialist, I don’t think you know either. It’s almost certainly not zero because not conquest is ever complete. The Latinization of Gaul was as quick and as thorough as one may imagine any conquest (I imagine) yet, volumes have been written about the “Celtic” substratum of that latinized society. Some of it was even rational-sounding.

      What I meant in my posting is that many middle-class Egyptians are quite conscious of the pre-Muslim past and therefore, of the contuinuity of their society. That would be trues whether it’s an illusion or not.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:


        Helene E. Hagan
        Now, let me see….In Morocco, the Arabic invasion occurred in the 7th century also, some years after it started in Egypt. Today, despite intermarriage, and several centuries of co-existence, it is not difficult at all to distinguish betwee…n the indigenous Amazigh culture from the Arabic imported language and manners. So it is in Egypt. In Egypt, you have for instance an entire oasis , Siwa, which is 100% Berber speaking. Then, you have the Christian Copts. Those two populations are quite distinct from the Arabic one, and both can claim descendants from the old Egyptian era…. The archaic Egyptian civilization was apparented to the proto-Berber and Libyco-Berber cultures of North Africa, and the vestiges of that civilization are a part of the Berber heritage, as I have demonstrated in my book, published in 2000 , titled: The Shining Ones:Etymological Essay on the Amazigh roots of Ancient Egyptian Civilization.” Malika Hachid in hers, “Les Premiers Berberes, Edisud, 2001, has also brought out an identical to and richer analysis than mine in French. Two other scholars, a Swiss and an Italian have since come forth with similar conclusions in the last five years or so. To wit:

        Arabs do not “own” or can “claim” the Pyramids or the riches of ancient Egypt, no more than the present day Arabs of Algeria or Morocco can claim Volubilis, Tipasa, or the tomb of Tin Hinan (Tuareg ancestress) at Abalessa…. Such remains belong to a different era, a different people, a different culture, and the descendants of those cultures have a right to claim those . In America, the museums are by law constrained today to return bones and artifacts to the living descendants of old cultures, and anglo-saxon invaders cannot claim those as their heritage,nor even harbor them in their museums.

        The director of Antiquities in Egypt, an Arab, by the name of Dr. Zahi Hawass, keeps claiming all the mummies he finds in the desert as his ancestors (a ridiculous notion) and he links their customs to present day customs in Egypt among Arabs, which is also aberrant.See More
        9 hours ago · LikeUnlike

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  2. GaryK says:

    You said “American television Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have been clearly out of their depth, as much as their left-liberal competitors, ”

    All the talking heads are showing their ignorance these days. Not just over this revolution but any topic period. Why?

    They are part of the synthesis created and are too fat and happy wallowing in their own little piece of the pie. Until the weight of the debt, both moral and economic is actually allowed to come down fully and the full pain is seen across the board we will see more of the same and the sound bite lies will keep hitting the same drum to the same cadence – ….

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Gary: You sound as if you relished to coming of the pain! Glen Beck has penetrating analyses much of the time. He is well informed and steps where no other will go. I think that, for someone who is on the air 250 days out of 365, Rush Limbaugh has superb instincts also much of the time, not to mention a great research staff. My definition of having superb instincts is mostly getting to where I was going before me!

      This time, both are flailing, recycling endlessly the same stereotypical issues. I think it ‘s a matter of general American parochialism. I always know about it but I tend to forget until it hits me in the face, like now.

  3. Steve Bankhead says:

    Jacques: I appreciated your restraint and healthy skepticism expressed on your Feb. 13th KSCO radio show. I’m attaching a copy of a letter submitted yesterday to the SF Chronicle regarding the same subject…on the good chance it doesn’t make the editorial cut.

    “As often happens, the Feb. 12th Chronicle opinion page provided a cluster of letters all offering the same viewpoint. In this instance, it was seven letters rejoicing over the apparent victory of Egyptian revolutionaries in opening the door to a bright future of freedom, liberty and democracy. Please forgive my skepticism, but I still have this nagging concern over political power being up for grabs in a region of the world which seems to have more Bin Ladens than Ben Franklins.”

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