Friday, February 11, 2011

Reality Check: A Military Coup is Not a Revolution

The protests in Egypt have been exciting, inspiring and even potentially revolutionary, (emphasis on potentially). It is stirring to see so many people protesting throughout a region plagued by brutal dictatorships that have until recently terrorized their citizens into submission. However, the protesters in Egypt had only a couple of simple demands: They wanted Mubarak to step down, which they got, and they asked for more freedom, which they have not got. These do not make up a revolutionary platform.

Now that Mubarak has left and the military is in control, the media are calling it a momentous occasion. They’ve claimed that the Egyptian people have changed the world. Yet how is a military coup momentous? And how has the world changed? Another military coup, ho hum, what’s new?

What if the military does allow free elections in which Egyptians get to vote for a plutocrat or “fatherly” military figure? This is certainly not revolutionary, nor momentous. It may not even yield any increase in freedom. It certainly won’t change the economic relations that oppress the vast majority of Egyptians. It can’t, because as long as Egypt remains a client state of the U.S., its rulers must be subservient to U.S. interests, and its citizens subservient to them.

Obama, in his statement on the situation in Egypt, claimed that the future is in the hands of the Egyptian people. Yet it is clearly in the hands of the Egyptian military, which is to say in Obama’s hands, as the U.S. controls the military’s purse strings. He also said that “we” believe that the universal rights of all Egyptians must be respected and their aspirations must be met, yet the U.S. government gave the Egyptian government over $1 billion per year for the past thirty years so that they could buy the latest weaponry, some of which was used to repress ordinary Egyptians, rather than building schools, hospitals or infrastructure—hardly the behavior of a friend or ally of the Egyptian people. In fact, Obama supported Mubarak until the very end, hoping that he would somehow pull off a Hail Mary that would maintain the status quo, at least for U.S. interests.

The last thing Obama or the U.S. ruling elite want is democracy in Egypt.

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