Mubarak's November Elections
By Micah Halpern
Monday November 8, 2010
For the past decade United States foreign policy wonks, those so called advisers within several Administrations, have failed to understand and correctly predict events in the Middle East. They have failed miserably.
The most recent and glaring example of US ignorance in Middle East maneuverings and politics can be seen in Egypt. The United States has been caught completely off guard by the announcement that there will be elections in Egypt in November. Yes, this November, November 2010.
If the United States ever hopes to get a handle on the Middle East, Washington must expand its pool of knowledge and broaden its circle of advisers.
For the past decade the United States has been focusing on the transition of power in Egypt. Washington has been pushing Egypt to liberalize, to open up, to become more and more democratic. Washington has been pushing political Egypt to become more Western. Washington has refused to even consider what Egyptian leadership knows for a fact - that liberalizing Egypt is synonymous with a big win for religious extremists in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, the forerunner of al Qaeda.
The US has paid no attention to the potential price Egypt would have to pay in the name of democratization. Egypt could easily go the way of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. The United States is not even remembering how when, in the name of democracy, Hamas was permitted to stand for election and then promptly and very successfully routed Fatah from office and then ousted the PA from Gaza.
Hosni Mubarak of Egypt may be called President but it is just another way of saying all - powerful dictator. And although there are periodic elections in Egypt, they have no significant impact on what happens in Egypt - because in Egypt, Mubarak is in charge.
All these years US advisers and wonks were convinced that things were changing in Egypt. Why? Because DC thought that it was time for change in Cairo. Because DC thought that Cairo understood that it was the perfect time to transition. After all, the thinking in Washington went, President Mubarak's health has been in question, he is eighty three years old and has ben in power since Anwar Sadat's October 1981 assassination at the hand of Muslim extremists. It's time for a change.
And that thinking explains why Washington went reeling when they discovered that not only will there be elections in November, but that Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, has put himself up for election yet once again. There is no time for challengers to prepare their strategy and there is no chance of their winning even if they did.
Washington has assumed that Mubarak's successor would be his son. And for the past two years analysts said that the true test of Egypt's move toward democracy would be seen in how open the next Egyptian elections were. And they assumed that the winner of the next election would be Gamal, son of Hosni.
The foreign policy people in Washington had no idea that Hosni Mubarak had another plan in mind. That's because Washington has no understanding of the politics and practices of the Middle East.
Of course Mubarak is going to run for office again. Mubarak can't retire and no transition in Egypt will happen through the electoral process. A change in Egyptian leadership will occur only through an official handing off of the baton. Hosni Mubarak must articulate the transfer of the mantle of leadership publicly and while he is in good health. This must happen so when Mubarak's time does come there will be no questions. The Egyptian people do not decide, the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak decides.
If the mantle does go to Mubarak junior there will be no chance of failure and no question as to who controls the font of Egypt's power, politics and military. Mubarak might talk about liberalizing his country but he cannot in fact actually liberalize Egypt. In the eyes of Mubarak transitioning power and liberalizing are impossible while maintaining stability.
You see, Mubarak understands the Middle East. Not to see this coming was downright irresponsible.