Lessons from Egypt and Edsa

First published on thepoc.net

While Egypt and the Philippines have no defined diplomatic or historical connections, one may be surprised that the United States ally in the Middle East, now entrenched in mass uprisings, may learn a lesson or two from the Pinoy experience of EDSA “revolutions.”

In fact, the lesson which Egypt can draw can shed light on its future beyond the Mubarak regime.

For the first time in three decades, a huge anti-government protest broke out on the streets of Egypt on January 25. The protests were preceded only by a Facebook and Twitter campaign calling for protests on the said date against torture, corruption, poverty and unemployment. A New York Times contributor called it a “Date with a Revolution.”

Coincidentally, January 25 is also the birthday of late former president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino. But Cory Aquino, neither her memory nor the uprising in which she figured, has nothing to do with the protests hundreds of miles away.

Egypt’s protests were clearly inspired by what happened in Tunisia, wherein massive protests successfully toppled the dictatorship of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and sent shockwaves to Arab nations. Yet it must also be pointed out that the political, social and economic conditions necessary for a revolt were already ripe in Egypt: high food prices, widespread joblessness and brutal repression.

As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clings to power despite widespread calls for him to step down, the political situation in the Middle East country becomes even more combustible.

On the eighth consecutive day of the protests today, Egyptian protesters will mount their biggest demonstration since January 25 as they called for an indefinite strike and a “million man march” to finally boot President Hosni Mubarak out from power.

The Egyptian revolution inevitably nears its boiling point. And this is not about simply removing Mubarak from the political equation. Whether Mubarak is ousted or not, Egypt cannot prevent a new political arrangement from replacing the discredited dictatorial rule. The more essential question remains: who will determine the new political arrangement?

Will the Egyptians succeed in charting the course of the revolution this time? Or will foreign interests get the upper hand in determining the outcomes?

The future of the strategically oil-rich country hangs in the dusty air.

As expected, the US, Egypt’s major ally, is scrambling to come up with a right response to the growing revolt against the Mubarak regime. US President Barack Obama cannot just let Egypt slip out of the US scope of influence. Egypt has often been the leader of the Arab world and has for years been a major counterweight by Western nations to Islamic militancy.

As a senior US official puts it, “For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy. For Israel, it’s the whole arch.”

Israel’s military planning relies on peace with Egypt; nearly half the natural gas it uses is imported from Egypt, according to a report. Meanwhile, U.S. military aid to the Mubarak regime totals over USD1.3 billion annually in a stream of funding known as Foreign Military Financing.

President Obama has urged Mubarak over the weekend to undertake reforms (though he did not specify), falling short of pushing a regime change. The unsolicited advice to the dictator was offered   on the conditions that the US will cut its multi-billion dollar aid if the regime fails to heed calls for reforms. Clearly, Obama peddles puppetry.

Meanwhile, the European Union, another major ally of Egypt, has remained cautious of the developments. The bloc generally supported a “peaceful dialogue” also falling short of calling for the resignation of Mubarak.

The vultures are indeed on the watch. And unless the Egyptian protesters categorically call for an end to foreign domination, the results of the uprising might only be temporary.

As Prof. Michel Chossudovsky pointedly said , “If the protest movement [in Egypt] fails to address the role of foreign powers including pressures exerted by ‘investors’, external creditors and international financial institutions, the objective of national sovereignty will not be achieved. In which case, what will occur is a narrow process of ‘regime replacement,’ which ensures political continuity.”

Such was the case in the 1986 EDSA uprising. The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos stepped down, Cory Aquino stepped in. The US cheered on the transition. More than two decades later, we have another Aquino. The US cheered on again. We also have the same oil price hikes, worsening poverty, and corruption in the military.

Indeed, it is one thing to end a dictatorship, and it is another thing to end the puppetry. This is what Egypt must learn from the Philippines.

(Part 2 will discuss the maneuvers of the US to facilitate a political transition in Egypt, and how this mirrors the Philippine experience.)


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