Phi Beta Iota: Below the line is an excellent overview from NIGHTWATCH. Here are the key points:
1. Muslim Brotherhood was caught by surprise, not just the US Intelligence Community.
2. This is a revolution of young people focused on fundamentals, NOT an Islamic uprising.
3. There is no overt anti-US aspect within the young, but Hezbollah and others are trying to tie the US to the dictators it supports–left unsaid is that if the US cannot turn on a DIME (pun intented) it will be skewered with its own sword.
4. Dictator Mubarak may be shopping for an exile estate in Egypt.
INSIGHT: The US Government has no one thinking strategically–certainly not the Goldman Sachs lobbyist now enjoying the corner office and pretending to be national security advisor to the President, and certainly not the Department of State, which has lost its one strategic thinker back to Princeton and has no bench. NOW IS THE TIME for President Barack Obama to decide he wants to create a Smart Nation with Whole of Government strategy and operations resting on a foundation of intelligent intelligence. See ON INTELLIGENCE: Open Letter to the President.
Hezbollah-Egypt: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on 7 February called on Egyptian protesters to continue demonstrating and “change the face of the world.” Speaking to various Lebanese political parties in Beirut via video, Nasrallah said the country’s youth are the protests’ strongest participants. He also said the protests show how Middle Eastern countries will no longer tolerate regimes that align themselves with the United States, adding that the ongoing battle is a battle for Arab dignity. Nasrallah noted that Hezbollah will not intervene in the internal affairs of Egypt.
Comment: The significance of this statement is that Hezbollah has been cautious in commenting on the Egyptian protest movement. This appears to be the most authoritative statement that characterizes the demonstrations in Egypt as anti-American. That shows that Nasrallah links them with Hezbollah’s political ascendancy in Lebanon. His message is that the wave of change that everyone sees as gathering strength is anti-American.
The problem is no English-language sources have reported much overt anti-Americanism in the Egyptian demonstrations … no images of American Presidents burned in effigy or of American flags burned. The question is Nasrallah just cheerleading because turmoil in Egypt suits his agenda or is their other important evidence not reaching Western audiences. The basis for Nasrallah’s interpretation is worth a second look because some of the major news services have slanted their coverage.
Egypt: On 7 February, a report by Der Spiegel stoked news service expectations that the US is engineering President Mubarak’s departure from Egypt to Germany for health reasons. One version said the US and Germany are talking with officials from suitable hospitals, such as the Max-Grundig clinic near Baden-Baden. Another version is that the search is for a private clinic cum luxury estate for Mubarak to retire to.
Comment: The problem with an exclusive is that the lack of context and supporting detail makes it vulnerable to denial and re-interpretation. Mubarak illnesses are a constant feature in the political backdrop that would provide a convenient and credible justification for his departure should that prove necessary. Even were Egypt quiet, officials would be making these kinds of investigations.
The new Cabinet promised to keep subsidies in full and draw in foreign investment, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said on 7 February after the first cabinet since the demonstrations began. He said the government would raise military and civilian pensions by 15 percent and would exempt some late loan and tax payments from fines.
The new government is resolved to promote and implement an open door policy and is confident it will carry out the policies successfully, Shafiq added. The Cabinet has already created a committee tasked with monitoring developments in the nation’s economy.
Comment: While the political focus of the protests has captivated the nightly news, occasionally an item such as the one above sheds light on underlying grievances that often get translated into political action. Stress in a living system always signifies the failure of that system to satisfy the needs or wants of its members. When the failure of satisfaction persists without relief, the members will organize to exert collective, vice individual, pressure on a recalcitrant government. Thus begins an escalatory spiral or staircase in which, for example, economics becomes political.
Political action is invariably interpreted as a challenge to established authority, when in fact it often is, or started as, a manifestation of a need for more food or a wider sharing of the national wealth. Government misreading of the underlying source of discontent leads to applications of measures that do not correct the failure of satisfaction of needs or wants and that backfire, as in Egypt in the past two weeks, by escalating the challenges to its authority. In short order, folks stop calling for jobs and start calling for the President’s job. And when they get it, they find they still have no jobs and neither does he.
Political reform without economic progress almost always means the process will repeat, as in Tunisia over the weekend and continuing. Today’s cabinet meeting is the first official action that looks at underlying drivers for political action that do not make the nightly news and actually might help stabilize the security situation, except for the hard core.
Special Comment: The demonstrations have caught the Muslim Brotherhood by surprise. They appear to be scrambling to find a strategy for taking leadership, if not credit, for them. Thus far they seem to be running hard to catch up. The window for political change without the Brotherhood and similar minded groups in the lead is closing.
The Brotherhood has done enough to gain greater visibility and legitimacy than at any time during Mubarak’s tenure. It might be content to position itself for a next time when it will be better informed and prepared to lead revolutionary change.
BBC reported there are new calls for more protests because normality is beginning to return to Egypt. Airline schedules are returning to near normal; ports are working; banks are open under limited conditions, putting cash back into people’s pockets by affording access to personal and business accounts. If the series of economic measures draws off the energy of the demonstrations, then one inference is that economics was a key driver. There is no way to compel a government to satisfy economic needs and wants except through political processes or violence.