National Commentary

Wind of Change Sweeps Through Egypt

Never underestimate the power of people: A fresh revolutionary wind, maybe a Tsunami, is seeking to sweep out the despots in North Africa and the Middle East. Where it will end, no one knows. But the fervor and frustration fermenting the uprising in Egypt will surely bring about a brave new world for those regimes fed up with longtime autocratic rule. The young people especially have taken power. We are learning old soldiers never die, they only fade away.

Never underestimate the power of people: A fresh revolutionary wind, maybe a Tsunami, is seeking to sweep out the despots in North Africa and the Middle East. Where it will end, no one knows. But the fervor and frustration fermenting the uprising in Egypt will surely bring about a brave new world for those regimes fed up with longtime autocratic rule. The young people especially have taken power. We are learning old soldiers never die, they only fade away.

The U.S. was caught flatfooted, and it was still lacking in its high-toned preachments about freedom and democracy when it realized it was far behind the curve. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton then called on Egypt to begin “an orderly transition” and President Barack Obama went further, telling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak not to run again. Egypt, under Mubarak, was close to the U.S. – and vice versa. Each depended on the other.

The revolt of the masses – from Tunisia to Egypt – cannot be stopped. First to go was Tunisia with a quick departure of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who quickly fled the country under widespread protests. The Arab world is hitting the streets, spreading to Yemen. Other big changes are transpiring in Lebanon with the new dominance with the Hezbollah.

Many countries in the Middle East are being branded because of defiance to the U.S. and its allies.

The dramatic events have unveiled an unimagined unity of purpose, with the police and the army along with the Muslim Brotherhood joining the cause to end Mubarak’s 30 year rule. Mubarak has hung on despite at least a million Egyptians demonstrating in the streets.

The uprisings are real and cannot be quelled. The battle cry has been “Mubarak must go!” The social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook, have proved to be powerful instigators of the Egyptian Revolution. The Internet was shut down by the government, but the word of the defiant people was raucously heard. Those systems of communications are changing the world.

Yemen could fall under popular siege next. Morocco seems quiet and stable as a result of a friendly kingdom – so far. Algeria also could topple its strong-arm rule. But the old order clearly is changing with a new face in the Middle East.

The Obama administration is obviously worried over the fate of the other friendly nations in the area, and Jordan in particular, which is heavily dependent on the U.S. for aid and arms. Both Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, but that doesn’t mean that Israel is not worried about the transforming political developments in the Middle East.

“The U.S. wants an orderly transition,” said Clinton. “The U.S. wants democracy to flourish in Egypt and credible elections to follow.”

All of the oligarchs in the region are quaking in their boots.

The U.S. says it wanted the consent of the Egyptian people in what follows the revolt. Clinton suggested Mubarak should start a dialogue with the dissidents. That was interpreted as different from asking the Egyptian leader to step down. But later it was clear the U.S. had joined the populous chant that Mubarak must go.

In the past coup d’état by military strongmen were marked by the immediate shut down of the national radio stations, especially in the banana republics. The new technology is more difficult to overcome and almost impossible – Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

The U.S. can toss the words around, “freedom” and “democracy,” but they will resonate only when people are ready to take action and pay the price. Otherwise those great words are meaningless. Nevertheless, the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt are markedly not anti-American, and the U.S. seems to be thriving in the changeovers.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been strangely quiet. They renounced violence decades ago – and have had a low profile in all the turmoil. The protests are reminiscent of Tiannamen Square – and to a lesser extent, the anti-Vietnam War protests. Those protests were marked by women marching with their young children in front of the White House daily. Women and children also have joined in the overwhelming protests in Cairo and Alexandria.

Mubarak has promised not to run again, but that might not be enough. Anyway, there goes his hopes for a dynasty and raises new hope for the people in the Arab world.