Steven A. Cook: The Pharaoh's Legacy





Steven A. Cook is the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square.

Hosni Mubarak is dead, or very close to it. The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that the former president was pronounced clinically dead after having a stroke on the evening of June 19 -- a statement that was quickly denied by a member of the ruling military junta, who clarified that Mubarak was nevertheless in critical condition.
 
Whatever the case, Mubarak's final moments in a military hospital in Cairo would not be what many Egyptians had in mind when they sought justice and revenge for those who suffered at his hands. No doubt, his supporters would have preferred the pomp and circumstance of a state funeral honoring a man they believe was a transitional figure who had placed Egypt on the path of prosperity and even democracy.
 
For better or worse, Mubarak's predecessors, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat were larger-than-life figures who accomplished big things, whether it was nationalization of the Suez Canal or negotiating peace with Israel. Once Mubarak, for all his failings, seemed larger than life himself; but he will not join their ranks. Instead, he will be remembered for the squalid politics, brutality, and repression that characterized the last decades of his long reign, and the mass demonstrations that ended it so abruptly.
 
Looking back over the late Mubarak period, it is hard to believe that his presidency began on October 14, 1981, with promise...


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