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How to Handle the Aftermath of Egypt’s Revolution

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Max Boot analyzes the events in Egypt:

But for the time being, let me offer a thought as someone who is writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

Egypt shows that there is a better way than setting off bombs if you want to change regimes. “People power” protests of the kind we have seen in recent weeks in Cairo and Alexandria have toppled far more rulers in recent decades than all the world’s terrorists and guerrillas combined. East Germany, the Soviet Union, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Lebanon, Georgia, Tunisia, and on and on — the list of countries where popular demonstrations have toppled unpopular regimes is a long one. Now add Egypt to that list…

There is a lesson here for those not too fanatical or deluded to learn it. Put down the bomb, the sniper rifle, whatever weapon you have, and grab a placard, go on Twitter, organize a rally. True, many peaceful protests have been repressed too, as we have seen most recently in Iran; but they offer a much surer road to regime change than does blowing up innocent people.

What is so interesting about Boot saying this is, he is unwilling to follow his own advice. Whether Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Yemen, Boot has publicly stated he has zero faith in the power of other people to change governments or situations he doesn’t like, and would prefer to use the might of the U.S. military to make things happen more in line with his sense of timing.

But even beyond the hypocrisy of Boot’s newfound belief in mass movements to undermine dictatorships and outwit terrorism, it doesn’t make any sense. Terrorists, almost by design, hold a minority view that they feel cannot get a fair hearing in public (it is why they resort to violence to intimidate societies into compliance). They cannot, almost by design, be equivalent to a mass protest movement, which involves large numbers of people generally using non-violent means to petition a government for change. He’s using apples to disprove oranges.

And that’s setting aside the assumption that mass movements are automatically a net good. Today, February 11, is the day that Mubarak resigned his dictatorship in Egypt. It is also the day another mass protest movement brought down a hated tyrant that had abused his people for decades: the Shah of Iran. There, too, millions of angry citizens took to the streets demanding a change. The result can’t be said to have been all that great. Several of Boot’s other examples of “people power” fall into similar traps: Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia. None have necessarily benefited from the uncertainty and upheaval their people power movements created.

In other words, it is not always a good thing when a dictator falls to an angry mob in the streets. We can hope for the best for Egypt (as I certainly do) without making specious arguments about its morality, or the certainty of what comes next being any better than what came before.

Written by Joshua Foust

February 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Analysis

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