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Friedman: Egypt's path forward from three revolutions

  • (JACK OHMAN / Sacramento Bee)

If you’re looking for any silver lining in what is happening in Egypt today, I suggest you go up 30,000 feet and look down. From that distance, the events in Egypt over the past 2 years almost make sense. Egypt has actually had three revolutions since early 2011, and when you add them all up, you can discern a message about what a majority of Egyptians are seeking.

The first revolution was the Egyptian people and the Egyptian military toppling President Hosni Mubarak and installing the former defense minister, the aging Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, as the de facto head of state. Tantawi and his colleagues proved utterly incompetent in running the nation and were replaced, via a revolutionary election, by the Muslim Brotherhood’s party, led by President Mohammed Morsi. He quickly tried to consolidate power by decapitating the military and installing Brotherhood sympathizers in important positions. His autocratic, noninclusive style and failed economic leadership frightened the Egyptian center, which teamed up last month with a new generation of military officers for a third revolution to oust Morsi and the Brotherhood.

To put it all in simpler terms: Egypt’s first revolution was to get rid of the dead hand, the second revolution was to get rid of the deadheads and the third revolution was to escape from the dead end.

The first revolution happened because a large number of mostly non-Islamist Egyptian youths grew fed up with the suffocating dead hand of the Mubarak era — a hand so dead that waytoo many young Egyptians felt they were living in a rigged system, where they had no chance of realizing their full potential, under a leader with no vision. After some 30 years of Mubarak’s rule and some $30 billion in American aid, roughly one-third of Egyptians still could not read or write.

The generals who replaced Mubarak, though, were deadheads not up to governing — so dead that many liberal Egyptians were ready to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi over a former Mubarak-era general in the June 2012 election. But Morsi proved more interested in consolidating the Brotherhood’s grip on government rather than governing himself, and he drove Egypt into a dead end — so dead that Egyptians took to the streets on June 30 and virtually begged the military to oust Morsi.

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