Tuesday, October 25, 2011

General Decline

Photo: Michael Hale

"On the morning of Feb. 11, 2011, hours before Hosni Mubarak submitted to the millions of his subjects clamoring for his resignation, a half-dozen retired generals sipped coffee poolside at the Gezira Club, kitted up for tennis and contemptuously dismissed the demonstrators in Tahrir Square. “Who do they represent?” scoffed a man who until recently had worked in state security. “They are loud, but don’t forget there are 79 million Egyptians who are not in Tahrir Square. They are the majority.”
     It never crossed their minds that Mubarak might capitulate, as he would do later that day, or that the passivity of most Egyptians did not equal support for a regime that had squandered Egypt’s position at the head of the Arab world while excelling only at abuse and corruption. That rank incomprehension — one might less charitably call it arrogant cluelessness — stretched from the coffee klatch at the Gezira Club through the entire government. Yet Egypt had managed to remain a stable linchpin of American policy in the Middle East for decades, until suddenly it wasn’t.

The joke goes that upon being sworn in,
Mubarak took his first ride in the presidential
limo. The veteran driver reached a fork in
the road. “Nasser always turned left here,”
the chauffeur said. “Sadat always turned
right. What would you like to do?”
After long thought, Mubarak decided:
“Just stay where we are.”

     This transformation, along with the internal decline from pride of the Arab world to shameful decaying autocracy, is the subject of Steven A. Cook’s Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square (Oxford University Press). The book clearly was in the making long before the uprising. [...]
     Cook’s central contention is that since the military coup of 1952, Egypt’s leaders have never had an ideology. Instead, they have resorted to an increasingly complicated and cruel apparatus of coercion, bullying the citizenry into consent but failing to create any positive reason to support the state." — Thanassis Cambanis, New York Times
Buy the book here...

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