Yasmin Moll, a Ph.D. student in socio-cultural anthropology at NYU, has been our woman in Cairo, reporting what she saw during and after the protests that led to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year reign. I asked Yasmin last week what she thought of George Friedman’s analysis of the events. Friedman, editor and CEO of Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a Texas-based global intelligence service, writes in “Egypt: The Distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality“:
What we see is that while Mubarak is gone, the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased its power. This isn’t incompatible with democratic reform. Organizing elections, political parties and candidates is not something that can be done quickly. If the military is sincere in its intentions, it will have to do these things. The problem is that if the military is insincere it will do exactly the same things. Six months is a long time, passions can subside and promises can be forgotten.
I agree with the writer on many points – namely, the major one that the military is now in charge and that may not bode well for the pro-democracy movement. Indeed, the fact that the military has come out with several proclamations now basically condemning the continuing demonstrations by different groups as a “threat to national security” is very worrying as this is exactly the same line Mubarak was spewing after Jan. 25.
At the same time, I don’t agree with the writer’s claim that what happened in Egypt was not a popular uprising, but an engineered and pre-mediated military coup that used the people as a cover. Of course, I am not privy to the behind-the-scenes machinations of the army (and neither is the writer I presume), but for the average Egyptian who took to the streets did so out of a profound sense of injustice and a desire for change in the system – change meaning not a military junta, but a democracy. Yes the military chose not to confront the people, but this does not mean it was in control of the people. I was just reading in al-ahram some accounts of the hours preceding the Friday night speech and how Mubarak was ostensibly ready to step down, but his son convinced him to give it one more go to see if the protestors would leave – of course they didn’t and we know how that turned out. To completely marginalize this as an element in Mubarak’s resignation, as this writer seems to imply, doesn’t seem entirely accurate to me. Anyway, if we take the social construction of reality school seriously, the Egyptians who partook in these events perceived themselves and were perceived by others as partaking in revolutionary change.