I’ve been following the news of major political mobilization from the Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon, and now I see in Jordan too, with great interest. Since I was an eyewitness to the changes in East Central Europe, participated a bit and thought and wrote about them during and after, I can’t help but think about comparisons and contrasts. I think Roger Cohen’s piece drawing the comparison substitutes hope and dreams for careful analysis and is overly optimistic. Rather for me the comparison leads to questions and concerns.
I wonder why the roundtables that were key to the transition in Central Europe, but also in South Africa and Latin America, and earlier in Spain, which provided a kind of special architecture for the transition from dictatorship to democracy, are not being discussed in Tunisia.
I wonder to what extent there exists in any of the countries the kind of social custom of pluralistic self organization which provided the micro infrastructure for the successful peaceful transition to democracy in Poland, what I call the politics of small things.
And tonight as I watch the dramatic video reports on television of the intensified protests in Cairo, with escalating violence, I worry not only about the frightening likelihood that by the time I wake up tomorrow, there may be massacres in the street ordered by the dictator in a last ditch attempt to stay in power. I also worry what will happen when he is finally overthrown, and the protestors have their day.
I have no expertise in Egypt and its neighbors beyond what I read in the newspapers and in casual reading of magazine and journal articles. I tend to think that the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood that the regime propagated has been self serving. I don’t know how the Brotherhood will act or whether it will act only in one direction. I worry about sectarian violence, about how changes in Egypt will affect other countries of the region and beyond. I suspect that the measured and cautious approach of President Obama, supporting democratic rights without daring to say . . .
Read more: Transition to Democracy in the Arab World?