A Tertium Quid Unfolds in Egypt

The U.S. has supported several dictators, believing that by doing so, it will prevent radical Islam from seizing control.  However, why are there only two options?  In case you have been living under a rock (or in law school), the Egyptian Revolution supports a third option, or a tertium quid if you will—popular, self-determined democracy.

Pervasive unrest in Egypt over unemployment, corruption, and poverty sparked the first protests on Jan. 25, 2011 in Ismailiya, Alexandria, Suez, and Cairo.  During Mubarak’s 20-year presidency, the state-run media aired massive amounts of propaganda with harsh penalties for journalists who criticized the government.   For example, renowned blogger and journalist Wael Abbas was sentenced to six months in prison for being convicted of “providing a telecommunications service to the public without permission.”  The protest was mainly fueled by the most affected and idealistic social group, the Egyptian youth.  They were largely responsible for propagating the protests using Facebook and camera phones to stay off the government’s radar.  In fact, after the outburst of protests, the Egyptian government realized how influential social media was and completely shut down Egyptian Internet Service Providers for eight days. Facebook, blogging, and Twitter were also topics of interest when interrogating detained revolutionaries.

After 17 days of protesting, on February 10, rumors circulated that President Mubarak was going to announce his resignation, but instead he transferred some power to the Vice President and addressed the Egyptian citizens “from the heart, as a father speaks to his children” and refused to leave office.  The protesters were incensed, and on February 11, they marched on the Presidential palace, and finally Mubarak resigned office.

When Mubarak stepped down, he delegated power to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. However, the Egyptian Constitution calls for the Speaker of the House to serve as acting President, so the Armed Forces’ intervention gives the impression of a military coup.  Following Mubarak’s resignation, revolutionaries systematically exposed the Mubarak regime’s human rights abuses.

Egypt’s future is important to the U.S. in several ways.  First, Egypt is a powerful member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”).  Second, Egypt is a cornerstone of peace-building in the Middle East and became the first country in its region to officially recognize Israel in 1977.  Third, Egypt has been a long-standing U.S. ally, and accordingly, Egypt is the second largest recipient of American foreign aid—it receives about $2 billion each year.

The Egyptian singer nicknamed the Voice of Egypt, Mohamed Mounir, croons in his song “Ezzay” about the Revolution, comparing Egypt to a lover: “How to make you happy with me, dear? Your name is beloved but you continue to upset me. How can you not feel my basic goodness?” Similarly, the U.S. should trust that the best government for Egypt is created with Egyptians’ own special something, their tertium quid.


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Elizabeth Blair, The Songs of the Egyptian Protests, NPR, Feb. 11, 2011,  http://www.npr.org/2011/02/11/133691055/Music-Inspires-Egyptian-Protests.

Egypt, Amnesty Int’l, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/egypt (last visited Mar. 11, 2011).

Egypt Internet Shutdown Q&A, ISOC Monthly Newsletter, http://isoc.org/wp/newsletter/?p=3100 (last visited Mar. 11, 2011).

Egypt’s Facebook Faceoff (Video), PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/2011/02/egypts-facebook-faceoff-video.html (last visited Mar. 11, 2011).

Egypt’s Revolution: Interactive Map, BBC News, Feb. 11, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12327995.

Curt Hopkins, Egypt’s Facebook Police Target Protesters Facebook Page, ReadWriteWeb, Feb. 7, 2011, http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/egypts_facebook_police_target_protesters_facebook.php.

Protests Over Case Against Egyptian Blogger Wael Abbas, BBC News, Mar. 12, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8564878.stm.

Revolution in Cairo (Video), PBS Frontline, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/revolution-in-cairo (last visited Mar. 11, 2011).

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