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In Algeria and Libya, the army is the force that shapes society, that
controls all the resources. All changes, whether pro-Western or
pro-Arab-Nationalism/Soviet-bloc, have come as the result of army coups.
In Egypt, the army is also in charge, and the ruling elite is firmly
pro-Washington. Egypt resembles Tunisia more than Algeria in that
respect. But is there a divergeance of views within the Egyptian
establishment somewhat similar to that which led to Ben Ali's downfall ?
Well, both countries are gerontocracies. Mubarak is 82. All the Tunisian
leaders of the CDR were over 60.
In countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where the average age is 22, that
means a whole middle-class generation is being denied a chance to
express itself. The only option is to emigrate or to have (very) wealthy
In Egypt, Mubarak's death is a matter of months/years. This means, I
suppose, that different factions are maneuvering behind the scenes. Some
see the protests as a sign that the regime must be "liberalized".
Others, again I suppose, mainly contenders for the succession, see a
need to increase their prestige with the military.
The army command itself must be following what Washington says quite
closely. And what Washington said today, to Western media at least,
was : "more democracy". Given that any army clique must rely on the US
for leverage, there is probably a sense within the army that the US
feels that the regime must evolve in a more "liberal" direction. It is a
general feeling that the demands of the people cannot be ignored, if one
wants to protect the long-term interests of the elite. These demands
must be safely side-tracked.
However, those is a position to succeed Mubarak, will call for an
"orderly succession" which means the violent break-up of any
Given the nature of the Egyptian military, a conscript-army that is
highly centralized (since the conflict with Israel in th 60s and 70s),
it is doubtful pro-democracy demonstrators and food-rioters will get
more than bullets and token promises of more jobs and greater "electoral
ElBaradei is not, at present, well-connected with the regime. He might
easily be coopted as a figurehead however.
I really, really hope I'm wrong.