Feb 11 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis

This has been a historic day for Egypt (and an excellent opportunity for a meandering post). The recently appointed (as of January 29th) Omar Suleiman, Vice President of Egypt, appeared on Egyptian television today and announced that Hosni Mubarak had resigned after 29 years of rule. Only yesterday, Mubarak himself had announced that he would wait until September to step down. The half-measure announcement angered protesters, more people poured onto the streets, and by today Mubarak “resigned” (he is thought to have fled to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, “The City of Peace”). His Vice President’s words were brief, but translated by NPR as:

“In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state. God is our protector and succor.”

The protests leading up to Mubarak’s resignation were inspired by Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution of December and January. From January 25th until February 11th, the Egyptian masses demanded change… and today, it appears they have finally got their wish. What that change will be, is anyone’s guess, and a lot of people here are worried because we just don’t know what will come of this. Conservative fearmongers are claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood will sweep in and establish a Muslim state (90% of Egypt is Sunni) under Sharia Law, despite assurances from that society that they have no interest in promoting a candidate. Others are claiming that this is a diplomatic nightmare for the United States (and by proxy, Israel) who have lost a valuable ally in the Middle East. Personally, I’m not concerned. It’s more important to me that the country’s population is able to exercise some self-determination and develop a government that supports them and their rights, than worrying about how pro-West they will be.

I can’t help but think that this is exactly the way these things should happen. Lasting change only happens from within. The people of Egypt rose up against their government and with the exception of some military / police / pro-government responses (~300 dead, ~3000 injured), brought change without resorting to armed revolt. So what happens now? Suleiman’s announcement indicated that the army (i.e., Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) would fill the power vacuum until new elections could be held. While this is not ideal (i.e., martial law was one of the major items being protested), someone or something needs to get the county moving again. I just hope that if it is the will of the people, that the army is willing to step down as well. Time will tell.

With few exceptions, relinquishing power has never been easy…

“Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.” – George Washington, Annapolis, 23 Dec 1783