The Institution, Not The Man

Why is Mubarak so unimportant?

Last night, president Mubarak finally spoke with journalists – well, one, American journalist – about why he simply can’t step down. Predictably, Mubarak went with the Islamacist meme in which he and his cronies are the final line of defense between freedom and chaos – chaos, he explained, that would certainly plague Egypt if he were to leave office. Newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman also spoke to the media yesterday, and followed Mubarak’s logic. He thanked the leaders of the uprising for expressing their views and reminded them “it’s time for them to stand down and trust the details to the professionals,” as Wright notes.

Yet despite the insistence of Mubarak to hang on until September elections, it appears as though the US is trying to pull out the most acceptable alternative to Mubarak. It has been reported that the US is busy brokering a deal that would secure the immediate resignation of Mubarak, replacing the president with Suleiman who will head a transitional government until elections can take place. Disregard the fact that such a plan would be a) unconstitutional and b) most likely unacceptable to many, as Suleiman has been a Mubarak lackey since 1993 in a position in which he closely collaborated with Israel to shut down Hamas (a history Egyptians are not very proud of). The alleged deal in the works is proof that the Obama administration is approaching this crisis from an unquestionable realist perspective, looking what is best for the country’s interests, though it could be easily argued that this is more of an Israeli realist perspective. Moreover, it is clear that Mubarak is of little import to the United States, and that his role is more important than any man filling it. From Jadaliyya:

The US is not being a neutral actor or a disinterested party to events thousands of miles of way. Obama’s patience with Mubarak signals that, while he might be dispensable as a personality, the institution that he belongs to is not. By remaining in tune with Mubarak’s latest pronouncements, Washington has in effect ensured that Egypt’s next leader will have, at least early in his career, worn a military uniform. Hence, despite the calls for restraint with the use of violence, respecting the universal rights of citizens, and the stability/substantial reform/orderly transition, the administration have proven to be magnanimous in its rhetoric but selective and meaningfully intentional in where it puts its weight…

If this is the case and we see a president Omar Sulayman, Ahmad Shafiq, or Sami Enan, then the deal that have effectively existed since the consummation of the US-Egyptian relations would remain undisrupted.

And the article could be, despite the wishes of the Egyptian people, quite correct. Suleiman, in his speech refused to give any sort of guarantees about his potential interim government, again from Wright:

The interviewer, who is a government employee,  did not point out that the professionals would be exactly the same ones whose vision of reform over the past six years has turned out to be a succession of deceit and empty promises. He played it straight by the rule book which Mubarak, the government and the ruling National Democratic Party have written to suit their own very narrow interests. He gave no promise that his dialogue partners would have a veto over the government’s proposals, constitutional amendments would have to go through the existing parliament, and he did not offer judicial supervision or independent monitoring for the next elections.

It would not be a large stretch to assume that Suleiman is not a large jump from Mubarak. Yet the US is working to install him as President, knowing full well that he doesn’t have the best history of democratic ideals, or the best of friends and associates. Suleiman represents a continuation of the Mubarak institution that holds firm in support of US and Israeli interests – even if this runs counter to the wishes and desires of the Egyptian people.

Meanwhile, at Time, the typically articulate Joe Klein finds himself pondering “How on earth do we get saddled with such creepy clients as Karzai and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, over and over again?” Peter Hart gives an appropriately sarcastic response:

“Yes, why do they keep doing this to us?!”

Photo from MLS

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