Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
When my NY Times headline feed came in today the headline and then to this article stood out:
Egypt Military Aims to Cement Muscular Role in Government
Reading it, I thought of the euphoria that we felt when Hosni Mubarak left, overthrown by the bravery of the Egyptian people as they had fought and protested for a more democratic way of life. How stirring the unfolding story was of Muslim Peoples beginning to rise up and overthrow the tyranny they under which they lived. The tipping point in Mubarak’s ouster was the support of the powerful Egyptian Military, who promised a civilian authored constitution and democratic reforms. Knowing Egyptian history for the last 60 years or so did little to damp my enthusiasm, despite the fact that every regime change came about by military coup/intervention. Afterwards, like many of us Egypt passed out of my thoughts as other issues came to the fore. Then this story drew me back to the experiences of my life and the stream of disappointments that followed every seemingly triumphant political moment I’ve lived through.
In 1959, when the news came in that Fidel Castro controlled Havana and the brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista has fled the country, I felt tears of joy run down my face, and comforting warmth spread through my body. Cuba was free and justice had triumphed over tyranny. My support for Castro remained even after he adopted close ties with , because the US had always supported Batista and the “Bay of Pigs” was a CIA debacle in attempting to usher in Batista’s return. My emotional support for Castro remained, even though he had gone too far in allowing Russian missiles, because the previous US interference had put him in a defensive position. The Cuban embargo was wrong and so Fidel was hampered in his aims to create an autonomous democratic Cuba. Fifty-two years into the Castro Brothers reign, with Raoul nominally replacing Fidel my initial excitement has turned to disgust. Perhaps the state of Cuban lives is better under Fidel, but anyone remaining in absolute power for Fifty-two years, without a clear line of democratic succession is merely a tyrant, benevolent or not.
This has been a continual occurrence in my lifetime and indeed in history. The hated and hateful Tsars and Aristocracy overthrown in Russia, replaced by a type differing only in name, from Lenin, to Stalin, to today’s Putin. The Tsars deserved what they got, but the Russian people deserve better than they received. The awful Chinese Emperor’s were replaced by the democratic government of Sun Yat Sen, only to have his government overthrown by a collection of bandit chiefs and then rescued from their depredations, by Mao Tse Tung. His Communist party rules the country, but it has become a fascist state, as has Russia. So it goes.
People burdened under the yoke of tyranny yearn to be free, yet tyranny keeps replacing tyranny, and things essentially remain the same in many venues. We in the U.S.tend to view this smugly; after all we’re different, aren’t we? In Great Britain and in most EU nations the tides of Democracy have swept through and yet we see the elements of “Police State” beginning to seep back into many seeming democracies. Is it in fact an overriding truth that humans are constantly driven back to a tyrannical hierarchy? Are many of us genetically wired to respond to and not question authority? Is this the true state of human affairs and thus no different in our society from that of the Great Apes? To maintain my sanity and faith in the future I have to believe this isn’t so, but at times the cynicism of historical experience makes it difficult to believe we can truly change.
Returning to the story I began with, reading between the lines, it does seem that the military is indeed exerting its’ control over the Egyptian people. Given what I know of U.S. foreign policy preferences this might even be aided by our encouragement, since we provide Egypt with considerable funds in military and monetary aid. The purpose may well be to diminish the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. We have seen this kind of rationale byU.S.Foreign Policy’s “Wise old Men” to justify maintenance of tyrannies in power, in the name of a greater good. The problem is it doesn’t work as a hoped for stabilizing force, it merely leads to a string of chaotic destabilization and oppression of people.
I hope, against my better judgment that this somehow works out well for establishing an Egyptian Democracy, rule of law and freedom. I suspect though that it is just going to be the reiteration of a constant historical theme.