Why Mubarak is Out

Posted by elvira, 7th February 2011

hosni mubarak02/01/2011
Paul Amar

There has been a lot said of Egypt’s “March of Millions”. The uprising marks the emergence of a new political society in Egypt, bringing together a totally different coalition of forces. Many think the main reason for the revolts is the rising of food prices, and although this surely added to it, there were a lot of other forces behind Mubarak’s fall from power.

Knowledge about how Egypt’s political, military and police structure works is key to understanding what’s happening in the country, and most Western commentators tend to see all forces of coercion in a non-democratic country as the hammers of dictatorship, but further insight into them shows that each institution has it’s history, and each one acts acoording to it and it’s current situation.

The police forces are run by the Interior Ministry, they were close to Mubarak and co-dependent of him, but with time they gained a kind of autonomy. In the 1980′s, a growing number of gangs invaded the streets of Egypt, asserting self-rule over some specific settlements and slums, These bands were believed to be Islamists, but were mostly unideological. When the Interior Ministry saw they couldn’t beat them, they decided to work with them, training them in using sexualized brutality against protesters and detainees. It was in this period (early 1990′s) when the Interior Ministry turned the State Security Investigations into a threat, using them to detain and torture domestic political dissidents.

The Central Security Services are what the media are calling “the police”: black uniformed, with black helmets, they became the image of the revolution when cameras captured the dissidents kissing these “policeman” and disarming them while they remained impassive. Although the Central Security Services are supposed to act as a private army for Mubarak, they have often risen against him demanding better wages and working conditions.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic are a different institution altogether. While Egypt is supposedly still a “military dictatorship”, these forces have been marginalized because they haven’t been allowed to fight anyone since 1977. Thus, they have been given huge payoffs and aid by the US, which have turned them into an organized group of national businessmen. But in recent years, a sense of unease has overcome them, and they have felt an increasing sense of national duty, because it was not standing for its people as it should. They want to restore their honor, and furthermore see themselves as the enemies of the “crony capitalists”, Gamal (Mubarak’s son) and his “team”, who have been selling Egypt’s assets to China, the US, and Persian Gulf Capital. Inside the Armed Forces of the Arab Republic the are two elite sub-groups who have remained loyal to Mubarak. This explains why, during the initial revolts at the end of January, some of the military went against the police and the Central Security; others supported the protesters (like the General Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammad Tantawi); the chief of Air Force was named Mubarak’s new Prime Minister and other forces protected the radio/tv building from the protesters. They all had their reasons for doing what they did.

The Intelligence Services, also a branch of the military, were captained by Omar Suleiman, the current Vice President. The Intelligence Services take care of external operations, detentions and interrogations. They are obssesed with stability and have a long relationship with the CIA and the USA military. With the rise of the military and the Intelligence Services, Gamal Mubarak was thrown out and Suleiman became VP.

The “nationalist capital” faction in Egypt joined the protesters on January the 31st in demanding the fall of Mubarak, angry at him for favoring Western, European and Chinese investors of national ones. Parallel with this, huge youth and labor groups, powerful and organized, have begun to arise. Groups of unions from the major agricultural towns formed the Trade Union Federation, interested mainly in protecting national manufacturing and agricultural smallholdings, that have no relation to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Youth is getting more and more organized, and these social and internet coordinated groups are becoming increasingly important, and can be grouped in 3 trends: One group are organized by and around international organization; another by an active liegal culture and independent judicial institution from Egypt; the last one represent the intersection of internationalist NGOs, judicial-rights groups and the new leftist, feminist, rural and worker social movements.

Egypt’s humanitarian history can’t be forgotten, as well as their role in the United Nations. Muhammad ElBaradei, Mubarak’s opposite and former director of the United Nations International Energy Agency is now the head of the United Democratic Front, which have asked him to serve as interim president and oversee the national process of building the consensus and drafting the constitution. Egypt’s humanitarian past tells us that rising food prices are not the only reason for the revolts.

Mubarak’s new cabinet may be a “reshuffled” cabinet, but it signifies a big change in political direction and it’s poised to work to bring together the interests of the new military, national capital and labor, while reassuring the US.

Paul Amar is associate Professor of Global & International Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara

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The Carbon Tax Miracle Cure

Posted by osurce, 31st January 2011

clean energyAlan S. Blinder
1/31/2011

President Obama’s call for a major technological push for cleaner energy could be realized if decision-making is left in private hands and the jobs created will be in the private sector. Such a policy would not cost taxpayers a dime and would eventually reduce the federal budget deficit. Blinder says the “bang for the buck” from a phased-in CO2 levy would be infinite at first–lots of jobs at zero cost to the federal budget. Up to now our country has done next to nothing to curb CO2 emissions. A stiff tax would make a world of difference. Blinder promises that the US will eventually succumb to the inexorable logic of a phased-in CO2 tax, if you’re young enough to live that long.

Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and vice chairman of the Promontory Interfinancial Network, is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

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Slowly but surely, Obama’s economic medicine is working

Posted by osurce, 31st January 2011

UnemployedSteven Rattner
1/31/2011

Job creation is slow and difficult, especially in the aftermath of a recession. Companies are understandably reluctant to invest a great deal in new employees. In the president’s State of the Union speech, he used the word “jobs” 31 times but did not offer specifics on investment, competitiveness, and the deficit. Nonetheless, the economy is on a decidedly upward track and America’s productivity is still high (it grew 20 percent between 2000 and 2009). We should not “tinker with the labor market,” Rattner advises, nor should American leaders balk at addressing those necessary specifics (such as higher taxes and entitlement spending) that are essential to confronting the budget deficit.

Rattner, a co-founder of the investment firm Quadrangle Group, served as counselor to the Treasury secretary and lead auto adviser in the Obama administration.

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Comparative Advantage and American Jobs

Posted by osurce, 26th January 2011

Jeff ImmeltMatthew J. Slaughter
1/26/2011

Slaughter welcomes the news that President Obama has created a Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. This is a positive development, as America has much to do to address its jobs crisis. To succeed in helping create good jobs, the administration’s new council should recognize that excessive government backing of particular companies and industries often squanders taxpayer resources and stifles sustainable growth. Three principles can guide the council away from repeating past errors: the focus should be on American jobs, imports do not represent failure, and a globally competitive America must invest abroad as well as export there. Slaughter argues that US workers win when industries are free to invest where they are the most productive.

Slaughter, associate dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a member on the Council of Economic Advisers from 2005 to 2007.

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Where was Obama the centrist in his State of the Union?

Posted by osurce, 26th January 2011

ObamaJennifer Rubin
1/26/2011

Those expecting either a moderate speech turned with an eye toward 2012 or a bold speech in the vein of the president’s best work were both disappointed on Tuesday night. He focused primarily on new investments and spending projects while offering only token cuts to compensate. Fiscal responsibility for Social Security and Defense was shifted to the Congress and to Chairman Robert Gates, respectively. In all, the president was surprisingly timid and predictable.

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The India-Indonesia Alignment

Posted by osurce, 25th January 2011

India Taj MajalHarsh V. Pant
1/25/2011

The long partnership between India and Indonesia is deepening against the backdrop of a more menacing China. The basis of the India-Indonesia partnership dates to the founding of these nation’s founders–Jawaharlal Nehru and Sukarno–who offered a distinct worldview that drew on their shared colonial experiences. Economic engagement between New Delhi and Jakarta is growing rapidly and has gained further momentum with the signing of the India-Asean free-trade agreement last year. Pant concludes that by wooing Indonesia, India is signaling that it is indeed serious about its presence in Southeast Asia.

Pant is a professor of defense studies at King’s College, London.

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The Talent Magnet

Posted by osurce, 25th January 2011

ObamaDavid Brooks
1/25/2011

Brooks says it will be interesting to see if President Obama talks about economic growth and competitiveness in the standard or visionary way tonight in his state of the union address. He considers what a visionary speech might encompass, including a look at how America’s position in the world is changing moving from the Big Dog nation of the 20th century to a different world today. In order to thrive America must become the crossroads nation where global talent congregates and collaborates. He says the nation with the most diverse creative hot spots will dominate the century and government’s role will be like at a university: it must establish an overall climate with competitive tax rates, predictable regulations, and fiscal balance. It should actively concentrate talent and then work aggressively to reduce the human capital inequalities that occur in an innovation economy.

Brooks is a New York Times columnist.

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Can Deregulation Work?

Posted by osurce, 21st January 2011

Paul H. RubinPaul Rubin
1/21/2011

Based on his experience at two regulatory agencies during the Reagan years, Rubin is not optimistic that the president’s recently announced deregulatory initiative will be a success. He writes that without managers with a strong interest in deregulation and with the backing of senior administrators, there will be no serious power to buck the staffs. The current executive order seems to impose a cost-benefit analysis, but it has enough loopholes (“equity, human dignity, fairness”) so that agencies will be able to do whatever they want.

Rubin is a professor of economics at Emory University.

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Don’t Bank on China ‘Rebalancing’

Posted by osurce, 20th January 2011

China shopJoseph Sternberg
1/20/2011

There are deeply rooted reasons–from banking habits to government policy–why the Chinese are unlikely to increase consumption anytime soon. For starters, China lacks the infrastructure of modern consumer finance and is years–possibly decades–away from building it to the standards of the developed world. Its banks face significant structural and regulatory barriers to offering more consumer-finance products. China needs to reallocate capital and labor to orient itself toward producing goods and services that its consumers want. China’s investment-driven growth may already be witnessing declining marginal returns. Shifting to a new model for GDP growth will require changes at every level, right down to the bank branch.

Sternberg is an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal Asia.

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