It is moving to see Egyptians trying to take control of their futures and pushing to create a political and social system that is less repressive. The Egyptian people have been under the thumb of Mubarak and his ruling party for many years.
My biggest concern is that the process of changing a political regime is complex, open-ended, and there are many opportunities for things to go wrong. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching DVDs of the HBO series “John Adams.” Looked at from a distance of almost 240 years, the success of the American war for independence from Great Britain seems like a certainty, but it was anything but inevitable. Thirteen very uncertain years passed between the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
It’s not certain what kind of political change will come to Egypt. Mubarak may yet survive, though that seems increasingly unlikely. Even if Mubarak is forced out, it is likely that many vestiges of his regime will remain. Even if wholesale change comes, it is a lot to hope for that the result of change in Egypt will be the emergence of a multi-party representative government. A lot of the cultural ingredients for such a system of politics – like a free press, and a history of clean elections – are currently missing in Egypt. Whatever happens, U.S. influence in Egypt will be reduced. Mubarak was “our” guy. Egyptians aren’t going to forget that.
Dick Merriman is the president of Southwestern College.
Tourism is the basis of Egypt’s economy. They have no comparable exports. Protestors in the street and political instability will keep tourists away. Journalists are flocking, the world is watching, but then angry mobs attack journalists for being foreigners. That’s economic suicide. The loss of tourism will cripple the whole country, all the way down to the beggars. The longer it lasts, the worse it’s going to be. With the economy hurting, the state will be weaker. That means their government will be even more dependent on foreign aid from the U.S., which is already a source of public resentment. That’s not a good basis for a new start, whoever ends up in power. Revolutions in other countries over the last decade have raised lots of hopes at first, but over time left the people all the more frustrated because changing the system is hard and slow. New leaders have it harder because they’re expected to solve big problems fast. That may be impossible, if tourists wait and see how it all shakes out before going back.
Stephen Woodburn is the assistant professor of history.
My biggest concern for Egypt is the world reaction to its political problems. We have already heard some pundits declare that what is happening in Egypt is on balance with the end of the Soviet Union. It is natural for people to seek historical connections but the Egyptian people do not strike me as reflecting on the events of Nasser’s nationalizing of the Suez Canal or Sadat’s pro U.S. stance. Rather, I think they are responding to serious matters that are particular to civil society in that country. It is a political dialog that the Egyptian people need to have. So the challenge is for all of Egypt’s neighbors and allies not to over-react, under-react, or dabble to the detriment of that society. That can be a very hard balance for national governments to achieve.
Andrew Sheppard is the vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.