Back to Tahrir
Obviously events are unfolding fast, and anything could happen. Some quick thoughts that can be elaborated later.
1. My working theory has been that a military crackdown is not likely:
– if the army and protesters come from the same, relatively homogenous population, and
– the regime is not premised on some revolutionary ideology.
Thus, the Alawite regime in Syria doesn’t hesitate to kill Sunni protesters, or the Iranian or Chinese regime can unleash military crackdown, but in Egypt or Tunisia, the army folds instead of propping up individuals.
A distinct theory is that the army will get involved in serious violence only if its corporate interests are threatened. Of course, the theories are not mutually exclusive. A minority dominated regime or a revolutionary state can give its army a set of corporate interests that can be threatened by majoritarian or popular democracy.
But what if, in a non-revolutionary, homogenous state, democratic uprisings threaten army’s corporate interests?
In Egypt, the majors and captains will hesitate to kill their cousins in the streets, and the generals will hesitate ordering their kids’ slaughter, for an individual Mubarak or Tantawi. And the same story holds in Bangladesh.
But what if the protesters demand an end to the army’s corporate interests?
2. Protests are an important part of politics. But they are not the only way to do politics. And in some circumstances, they are actually counterproductive for democratic politics.
Eroding the army’s grip on the economy may be desirable in its own right. But that’s probably not what animates all political players in Egypt. Organised parties, particularly of the Islam-pasand kind, have their own agenda. And they are not in the streets.
Instead, they are campaigning for the coming elections. If they win a plurality in the elections and reach a power sharing agreement with the army, liberal democracy will take a hit in Egypt.
But are the protests the best way to avoid that?
Protests may well remove Tantawi — see the first point. But then there will be another general, ready to do deals with organised parties. Then what?
Nearly a year after the first stirring of protests in that part of the world, it’s time the Egyptian (and other) liberal democrats graduate from protests to organisations.