The momentum is with the rebellion, not the repression. That's why the president looks so pathetic right now. He's spent decades assembling a potent police state, and still he's losing.
Perhaps that isn't how you expect such events to play out. If you mention the idea of a revolution driven by civil disobedience rather than violence, you're apt to hear the old saw that such revolts only work in countries with good-hearted leaders at the reins, not savage regimes held together by torture and terror. But contrary to the popular stereotype, Gandhian uprisings don't succeed by shaming rulers until they can't bring themselves to crack down. They succeed by delegitimizing authority—by breaking the braces that support the structures of social control, so the rulers can't crack down. Political power is not a pyramid fixed in stone. It's a complex, dynamic ecology of shifting loyalties and allegiances. When those loyalties and allegiances shift swiftly and in sufficient numbers, the result is a revolution. (...)
Domestically, meanwhile, there's a wedge between Mubarak and the military. From the first day of the protests, the Egyptian army has presented itself as a neutral party, at one point declaring that the demonstrators' demands are "legitimate" and that it would not use force against the crowds.
Needless to say, that doesn't mean the army joined the uprising. The same troops who refused to shoot the demonstrators also refrained from intervening when the president's supporters assaulted Tahrir Square. And when Mubarak appointed a new government, the grassroots opposition wasn't appeased, but the army brass surely appreciated the ascension of their man Omar Suleiman to the vice presidency. Nonetheless, it's telling that Mubarak has had to rely on undercover cops and mobs-for-hire to do his dirty work. The country's biggest arsenal hasn't been his to command, and the people who do command it have been asserting their independence.
If it were up to Egypt's generals, we'd see a smooth transition to a new strongman—an outcome that probably isn't that far from what Washington wants. And that, minus the smoothness, is what we might ultimately get. But there may be another wedge at work, and it could change the endgame entirely: a wedge detaching the officers from the rank and file.
It doesn't matter what the generals want if ordinary soldiers won't follow their orders, a lesson several dictators and would-be dictators have learned the hard way. Egypt has a conscript army, and many soldiers surely sympathize more with their friends, relatives, and neighbors in the streets than with the men issuing commands. The police are more closely tied to Mubarak's regime, but a similar dynamic is at work in their ranks as well. There have been reports of policemen fraternizing with protesters, removing their uniforms, refusing to fill their assigned social role. The more the momentum turns toward the opposition, the less risk there will be for other cops and soldiers to follow suit.
If you're wondering what will happen after Mubarak falls, this may be the most important wedge to watch. If the revolution ultimately hinges on the generals switching sides, the military that already dominates the government will have the central role in deciding what happens next. That doesn't have to mean the police state will continue. Chile's transition from the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship to democracy and civil liberties happened after the armed forces refused to impose martial law, with one general heroically tearing up an order right in front of the despot. But if the military coopts this revolution, Egypt will likely end up with Suleiman or someone like him as president, a few token reforms, and little else. If the revolution relies on a mutiny in the enforcers' lower ranks, by contrast, the rebellion is much less likely to be reduced to a backdrop for a palace coup.
If there's an iron law of politics, it's that everything can always get worse. But if you want a reason to be optimistic about Egypt, there's this: Unlike a coup, an invasion, or anything involving a vanguard party, a people-power revolution strengthens rather than disrupts civil society. Of all the ways a regime can fall, this is the path that's most likely to lead to a freer country. When it comes to political models, the liberated zone in Tahrir Square beats a barracks any day.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:24