Egypt’s Revolution, Bush’s Victory?

Who is the hero of the Egyptian revolution? Wael Ghonim? Mohamed ElBaradei? Twitter? The ubiquitous Egyptian man (and woman) in the street?
All good nominees, but there’s one more who’s getting increasing support: George W. Bush. Scoff if you will, but the debate is heating up.

It started with the former State Department official Elliott Abrams at The Washington Post on Jan. 29:

In November 2003, President George W. Bush laid out this question: “Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?”

The massive and violent demonstrations underway in Egypt, the smaller ones in Jordan and Yemen, and the recent revolt in Tunisia that inspired those events, have affirmed that the answer is no and are exploding, once and for all, the myth of Arab exceptionalism … All these developments seem to come as a surprise to the Obama administration, which dismissed Bush’s “freedom agenda” as overly ideological and meant essentially to defend the invasion of Iraq. But as Bush’s support for the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and for a democratic Palestinian state showed, he was defending self-government, not the use of force.

Stephen L. Carter, writing at Newsweek, made the case the Bush and Obama were birds of a feather:

Not long ago, President George W. Bush was considered naive for suggesting that the promotion of democracy in the Arab world should be a staple of American foreign policy. Two years ago, the same charge was whispered against President Barack Obama, when he suggested, in his Cairo address to the Muslim world, that self-government and freedom “are not just American ideas, they are human rights.” True, due to the exigencies of pursuing the nation’s strategic interests, neither man actually pressed very hard for democratization. Still, the more important point is that both were subjected to lectures from experts who insisted that somehow even to speak about democracy and freedom in the Arab lands was to show oneself to be a hopeless romantic, insufficiently hardheaded, out of touch with reality. As of today, that essentially racist assumption is dead.

Full article here.

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I really really have to bite my tongue on this one to limit my response strictly to whether or not Dubya deserves any credit in Egypt.  My short answer is no.  Just because a public figure speaks about 'freedom', or even more plainly about democracy, one would have to show that that speech truly inspired the demonstrators in order to attribute any credit for their success to that speaker.  Unless it can be shown that the Egyptian demonstrators were actually inspired by George W. Bush, then I would have to say that the motion to give him credit for their victory does not get a second from me.

I think the US (and to a certain extent the rest of the Westernized world) would generally like to believe it is caused by a successful export of their ideals, but I doubt this will stand the judgement of history.

I rather believe the fuse was lit due to substantial increases in the cost of staples, especially foodstuffs such as bread, and massive unemployment. A substantial part of the cause of these initiating factors is of course that the governments are corrupted and the leaders focusing on personal enrichment and not national development. But the revolutions did not start as an opposition to the regimes and leaders per se, rather a desperate wish for bread and salaries, the rest is incidental.

On a side note, I am a bit surprised over all the hilarity caused by the 'bread head guys' and people having no clue why demonstrators are taping bread to their heads - it's because the revolutions are about bread.

No matter the reason, I expect bread headgear to become next summer's fashion craze in the West. We civilized people always find a way to recycle and commodify everything. Even revolutions.
If they create something someone needs, make it flashy, slap an apple formed shape on it, and call it iBrheadGear - then yes, it will sell. ;)

the US was concerned about muslim brotherhood that has nothing to do with the revolution..

when the it was all about bread as you said Arcus.


If they create something someone needs


Why "needs"? You have just to point out the fact it's made out of 100% recyclable material, and the biggie is you can recycle it yourself, since it's also edible. 'Responsible consumption' takes a brand new meaning here: Truly Responsible Consumption is when you're personally involved in the entire life cycle of the stuff you buy. Apple could make buyer's remorse and consumer's guilt history with a punchline like this one.

Of course, it will only help sales that bread becomes stale within days or hours.

A Canadian commentator/author recently stated on CBC radio that the greatest cultural change factor in the Middle East may have been the "double tape deck", allowing one to make unlimited copies of USA music for illegal cheap resales. I'd add: followed closely by CD ripping and DVD ripping. Of course some people don't think pop culture plays any role in social change. But I agree with the CBC story, American music and American cinema/television have played huge roles in the perceived self-identification of poorer peoples in the 2nd and 3rd worlds. This culture dissemination/globalisation was greatly aided by cheap copying technology. Cultural changes, no matter the duration of the influence, do not happen gradually, there is usually a very long buildup, then a crucial tipping point. GWB was despised around the world, I don't think anyone around the world really listened to his words, even when he was comprehensible.

But historical revisionism is commonplace and usually overlooks underlying causes, in favour of celebrities.

An interesting article published in International Journal of Human Rights regarding the impact of ICTs claim that:

"We find very clear results suggesting that new ICTs, particularly access to the internet, has

benefits for human rights net of a whole host of controls when assessed against the effects of

older technologies. Our results are robust to a host of different controls, testing methods, and

to the inclusion of time trends as a separate variable. The results taken together do not provide

cause for concern that new technologies will stifle human rights and social development,

demobilizing dissent."

In essence, this leads to the conclusion that multinational internet and mobile phone providers are better at promoting democratic ideals than politicians and governments.

Corporations being the best promotors of freedom, who woulda thought. :)

Who's the Hero ? .. that's a very tough question to answer but no doubt that the Egyptians are the heroes including Wael Ghonim and ElBaradie and many many other public figures who played a rule in this wonderful revolt
i don't think that Bush or Obama or any other administration could claim credits for what happened in Egypt.
Also the revolution wasn't out of hunger or poverty .. it was against corruption and suppression the main demands of the protestors were "Democracy - Freedom - Social justice"
I believe in the butterfly effect globally and locally .. it was a cumulative process that lead to this revolution.

Egyptians are the heroes including Wael Ghonim

It does seem that the internet enabled significant coordination of (at least the beginnings of) these revolts. There's an NPR program about how people even hooked up modems to regular phone lines when their local ISPs went down. One (or more?) European country provided free internet access to the overseas modem line callers, although the callers still had to pay for their calls.

I'll post a link to that show when I get to it.

It isn't that difficult to answer. George W. Bush did react to the idea of democracy in the Arab world. The Gazans can attest to that. With the help of the uberneocon Elliot Abrams (the same as quoted above) the Bush regime (itself coming to power the first time under questionable circumstances) reacted not only with sorrowful words after the elections failed to give legitimacy to the party favored by the US and Israel (but I repeat myself) but they reacted in a more usual, characteristic way:

The Egypt government, at the time in a loving warm friendly relationship with the US and Israel, promised (by word of Mubarak's puppet Suleiman made known per Wikileaks first via Aftenposten) to the Israeli government (via Amos Gilad) that "There will be no elections in January. We will take care of it."

This sort of claim as per Abrams and the like, above is testimony to typical neoconservative disdain for reality, as it would surprise me if they wouldn't try it. That there would exist people on this planet older than 7 who still fall for this kind of crap is what is really worrisome.

Nobody deserves any credits for both the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions , the revolution was spontaneous ; it was a positive feedback... people got tired of their broken systems and of watching the same political figures on TV for decades and without any prgress made. The Egyptians and Tunisians are aware of this fact and they directly attacked those who wanted credits and take advantage of the situation ! I am not going to mention known leaders like Bush or so , but also those Egyptians and Tunisians who used to work for and defend the previous systems in those countries, wanted to emerge as heroes in order to guarantee a chair in the new system !

 again those revolutions were spontaneous and the only ones who deserve any credits are the citizens of those countries .


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