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Egyptian Revolution


  • Originally published 08/20/2013

    Egypt's Malawi Museum looted

    CAIRO — As violent clashes roiled Egypt, looters made away with a prized 3,500-year-old limestone statue, ancient beaded jewelry and more than 1,000 other artifacts in the biggest theft to hit an Egyptian museum in living memory.The scale of the looting of the Malawi Museum in the southern Nile River city of Minya laid bare the security vacuum that has taken hold in cities outside Cairo, where police have all but disappeared from the streets. It also exposed how bruised and battered the violence has left Egypt.For days after vandals ransacked the building Wednesday, there were no police or soldiers in sight as groups of teenage boys burned mummies and broke limestone sculptures too heavy for the thieves to carry away. The security situation remained precarious Monday as gunmen atop nearby buildings fired on a police station near the museum....

  • Originally published 08/19/2013

    Egypt boils over: Harvard prof. E. Roger Owen explains how unrest rolled out, and where it may lead

    The tension and unrest that arose in Egypt last month after the army ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi exploded this week, with hundreds of people killed as security forces broke up camps of protesters demanding Morsi's return.The widening violence raised questions about the democratic future of a key American ally and an important partner in Middle East peace efforts, and also cast a shadow over the durability of changes wrought in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.To better understand what's going on in Egypt, Gazette staff writer Alvin Powell spoke with Harvard's E. Roger Owen, A. J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History Emeritus, about the fighting and about what Egypt's future might hold.GAZETTE: What is at the roots of the clashes going on in Egypt today?OWEN: Well, I think there are two roots. One is a very long antipathy—or fight to the death—between the army and the Muslim Brothers. Most of the time since the [Gamal Abdel] Nasser revolution of 1952, the army has been involved in putting Muslim Brothers in jail. So there's no love lost between them.

  • Originally published 08/16/2013

    The Egyptian Revolution Goes Napoleon

    The same disillusionment set in as the French Revolution progressed. In fact, in a superb article in the Chronicle of Higher Education published in 2006, Howard Brown of the University of Binghamton described how events of the Revolution presaged events of 2006. It seems to me that Brown's article actually does even better to foreshadow what has happened in Egypt the last month and especially this week. His article concentrates on the trajectory from constitutionalism to repression under Napoleon. The biggest difference is the incredible speed of the current transformation compared to two centuries ago. It took a month in Egypt for what transpired in France over a decade.  This, of course, relates to the same acceleration in the revolutionary process that Alyssa Sepinwall described elsewhere in this blog.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Why Egypt Fell Apart

    Resorting to violence is a long-term, deeply-ingrained habit in human history, and is not easily discarded.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Christian Donath: Egypt -- Making Sense of the Senseless

    After weeks of pro-Morsi demonstrations, the Egyptian military has now chosen to use force to end the sit-ins. With fatigue and anger toward the demonstrators high in Cairo, General al-Sisi and his allies believe that they have another 'popular mandate' to reassert control. Appalling and unnecessary violence has been the predictable result.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Daniel Pipes: Will Turkey's Military Emulate Egypt's?

    Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.That is the important question asked today by Steve Coll:Will Egypt's counter-revolution inspire Turkey's fragmented, avowedly secular military—which once dominated the country's politics, via coup-making—to reorganize and reassert itself? Could the military do so if it tried? … recent events in Egypt will surely stir and tempt Atatürk's heirs in the opposition.My take: It is hard to imagine, given how the top Turkish brass submitted so meekly to AKP control and permitted the imprisonment of so many of its members that, at this late date, it will find the gumption to challenge Erdoğan & Co.If there were to be a revolt, therefore, it would more likely come not from the ranks of the generals – who carried out all of Turkey's prior coups d'état – but from some disgruntled colonel fed up with his superiors' supine responses to Islamist domination and inspired by Sisi's bold action in Egypt.

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Q+A: Professor Joel Beinin on Egypt’s recent unrest

    Joel Beinin is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and a former Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo. As Egypt continues to grapple with the aftermath of a military-assisted popular uprising against the incumbent president, Beinin talked with The Daily about the recent events in Egypt, the role of the military in bringing about a change of government and how the transition may affect American foreign policy towards the African nation.The Stanford Daily (TSD): What do you make of the recent events in Egypt?

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Stop Thinking of Only the "Arab World"

    For now, most serious treatments of the Arab uprisings will remain inadequate from a historical perspective, including this one! The first objective is to avoid the outlandish or lazy analytical treatments that proceed from some idiosyncratic political or cultural essence, and/or those monist approaches that reduce outcomes to one variable. There is no place for either sort of reductionism in serious political or historical inquiry. The second objective is to recognize the limits of our ability as analysts in pinning down the right mixture of weighted variables in explaining revolutionary outcomes. But explanatory despair should not be the takeaway from these precautions. The trick is gradually to refine the conversation on the question of causes. Revolutions, or uprisings, are not a science -- even according to Political Scientists! We simply can’t predict them, but we surely can do much better than the outlandish and the monist.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Announcing "Revolutionary Moments"

    With the world once again filled with anticipation and dread of revolution, it is reasonable to examine what relevant past events our predecessors experienced. Inarguably, the past is at least a set of experiences that may be useful in considering the present. Even that relatively modest claim requires some hesitation in that historians do not write as oracles, somehow outside the fray. Politics, despite the best intention of scholars, inflicts this work. Nonetheless, reviewing the revolutionary past will be at least interesting and potentially instructive.Thus, the moderators propose to introduce questions relevant to current events with the notion that scholars who study revolutions throughout the globe will comment. Postings must be under 250 words and conform to scholarly norms.

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    The Danger in Egypt is Real

    Egypt’s future stability and prosperity now depends on whether the officer corps and youth are mature enough to return to pluralist principals and cease persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood just because Morsi was high-handed.

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Mark LeVine: Who Will Control the Egyptian State?

    Mark LeVine is professor of Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine, and distinguished visiting professor at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden and the author of the forthcoming book about the revolutions in the Arab world, The Five Year Old Who Toppled a Pharaoh.After 887 days of protests, tear gas, tanks, camels, horses, tent cities, marches, birdshot, live ammunition, ultras, great music, torture, rape, disappointments, spears, knives, Facebook campaigns, undercover thugs, military detentions, men with scimitars, show trials, elections, referendums, annulments, arson, police brutality, negotiations, machinations, committees, strikes, street battles, foreign bailouts, extreme theatre, revolutionary graffiti, television drama, Leninist study circles, and Salafi sit-ins, Egypt's young revolutionaries have managed to do the near impossible: force the “nizzam” - the system - to restart a deeply flawed transition process in a manner which, at least at the surface, puts civilians in charge of a fraught transition process that was likely doomed the first time around the moment SCAF took control....

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Abdullah Al-Arian: Egypt's Democratic Outlaws

    Abdullah Al-Arian is an Assistant Professor of History at Wayne State University, where he specialises in the modern Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood has been here before.In the fall of 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood put its faith in the revolutionary transition in place after the 1952 military coup, backing the wrong horse in General Muhammad Naguib, and was ultimately outmaneuvered by Nasser. In one fell swoop, the organisation was outlawed, its offices burned down by angry mobs, its newspapers shut down, and its leaders imprisoned, executed, or exiled....But if Mohamed Morsi’s rise to the presidency was a remarkable achievement for a once outlawed opposition movement, his sudden fall at the hands of a military coup backed by a mass revolt in some ways signifies an unprecedented low point in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only does it face the prospect of enduring banishment at the hands of a cold and calculating military regime yet again, it will do so to the thunderous applause of millions of Egyptians.

  • Originally published 10/25/2013

    Unpacking the Arab Uprisings (Part 2)

    Figuring out the cause of the uprising is different from why it's perpetuated. I return to this blog after a break, with delight. I would like to continue the unpacking I started in the first post (here) by addressing a methodological point about the question causality. We need to separate the question of causality into two parts, in the Syrian and other cases: 1) What caused the uprising? And 2) What perpetuates the uprising? The answers are different. The first deals primarily with local factors and the second with a combination of factors tilting towards external ones. Even in dealing with the first question of causes, we must separate the structural from the circumstantial, by separating between the large structural reservoir of causes that built over time and the immediate causes that instigated social mobilization on a large scale. Syria, is a good case here. Herein, I will address the question of structural causes. The question of what instigated the uprising is less complex, and merits a detailed treatment once more information is available, though the facts are not too controversial. Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian experiences just one to two months prior, the narrative of the young kids who called for the regime’s fall on the walls of their school in Der`a constituted the first flame that ignited the heap of hay accumulating for decades. Surely, the local strongmen’s brutal response guaranteed the wider mobilization there at first, but it was bound to happen after a few such dissenting attempts. The same incident, if it had occurred one year prior, would have fizzled out within days, if not less. However, the regional domino effect and the continuing collective focus on the broader context gave that incident prominence while changing the calculus of individuals vis-à-vis the risk and potential success of taking to the streets en mass, especially in the more rural areas and small towns. The rest is bloody history. The set of structural causes that I would like to highlight, beyond the constant factor of repression, relate to political-economic factors that have engulfed Syria since 1986, when the regime effectively began shifting its social and political alliances from labor to business. Namely, I am referring to the growing relationship in the past few decades between the political and economic elite in Syria, and its continued policy implications for nearly twenty-five years. This new nexus of power pervades most global political economies but produces deleterious effects to the extent that the context allows. In many developing countries, including Syria, it is associated with the protracted process related to the unraveling of the state-centered economy, which also constitutes the rolling back of redistributive policies on which the masses increasingly relied in the absence of economic growth. I must caution in the same breath against the emphasis on such factors as singular causes for the uprisings, in Syria or elsewhere. Instead, I address this factor as a central one, not the only, one. Thus, this cannot be a comprehensive account of structural causes. Politically, the new nexus of power between the political and economic elite in Syria seems to have buttressed authoritarian rule in Syria over the past two decades, whether or not other factors contributed to this outcome. This is not simply a function of “support” for the status quo by beneficiary elites, for this is the norm nearly everywhere. It is also a form of legitimation of a changing status quo because the corollary of this particular nexus of power involves various forms of “liberalization” or state retreat: this includes a “budding,” “growing,” or seemingly “vibrant” civil society that may be considered a sign of political “opening;” a “freer” economic environment in which the state gives up its monopoly over some sectors of the economy; and a large “private” sector that purportedly grows at the expense of the state-run “public” sector, giving way to a broader dispersion of resources with economically democratizing effects. Though these outcomes are pleasing to some external actors (including that amorphous conception, “the international community”), they are not felt in any positive manner by the overwhelming majority of the population, who must fend for themselves as public provisions, jobs, and welfare dwindle. Quite the contrary, the majority of the Syrian people have seen their fortunes decline with the deepening of this alliance between state and big business since the mid 1980s.