Democratic revolutions are wonders to behold. The people rise up and force out unpopular rulers, especially rulers governing without a mandate from the people. The recent revolutions in Tunisia and now in Egypt are forcing out unelected leaders and ushering in change. But what protesters need to realize is that in the loss of power from one leader creates a power vacuum that is quickly filled by another powerful leader, often one who is not willing to tolerate the types of protest that cost the ousted leader his or her job. And thus, things get worse.
This seems like an obvious point from afar, but read some of the protester quotes the New York Times has featured. Here’s one example:
“I brought my American passport today in case I die today,” said Marwan Mossaad, 33, a graduate student of architecture with dual Egyptian-American citizenship. “I want the American people to know that they are supporting one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and Americans are also dying for it.”
I’m stunned at the ignorance of Mr. Mossaad. Though Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been ruling for 30 years under a “state of emergency” (giving him stronger power to rule without democratic support), his leadership has lead to a lasting peace with Israel and strong relations with the United States. To suggest that removing President Mubarak from power will result in reform is audaciously optimistic.
Consider signs and pictures hoisted in the protests. Some, featured by the Times, have shown President Mubarak’s face covered by a Star of David, indicating protest against President Mubarak’s relationship with Israel. On what planet does Mr. Mossaad reside that he believes a change in leadership will result in greater security and prosperity for Egyptians? If protesters are demanding that President Mubarak step down, then what is their proposal for choosing future leadership? If the test is who can burn an Israeli flag the fastest, then President Mubarak should have some stiff competition against religious conservatives who wish to rule Egypt under Sharia law. If that happens, I wonder which country Mr. Mossaad will choose to live in? He can bring down a regime in one country and then return safely to the United States, never having to face the consequences of his actions.
The only reasonable way to oust President Mubarak is to use the protests to call for democratic elections, in which President Mubarak can run for re-election. Should the election be tainted by fraud or should other tactics be used to deny the democratic process, then protesters can resume their efforts. But such a plan is the only way to work toward a peaceful transition of power. Without this, then the leader that comes next (whether someone new or a newly empowered President Mubarak) is sure to be far worse than the regime the protesters are trying to bring to an end.