Egypt has finally dumped its arrogant, paternalistic dictator of three decades in the largest country in the Arab world. That's quite an achievement for a suppressive police state after only two to three weeks of protests that weren't very organized to begin with. But what comes next? Will pure democracy just kind of "appear"? Or does an impossible process of constitutional negotiations between the people, the army, the Muslim Brotherhood, business leaders, and foreign powers need to take place over the next year before anything even approaching a stable and responsive political system emerges? Unfortunately it's that second scenario, the "impossible process of constitutional negotiation" one, that's realistic.
Even though Egyptian protesters respect their military and vice versa, it's still slightly chilling that something called "The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Military Forces" now has complete control of the nation. Even though the military rule will only be in place during a transitional process leading up to the next election, there's always the possibility that the military's top general could change his mind and start thinking, "Maybe I will just not ever cede power and rule the country myself, forever, with all of my weapons." And here's an anecdote that Reuters posted not long ago on its live feed: "Al Arabiya is reporting that the Egyptian Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is touring the presidential palace area." Maybe he'll get a little too used to life in this swanky palace. Wouldn't you? It's a fucking presidential palace, folks.
The military council, though, has said it will wipe out the Mubarak cabinet of cronies and dissolve the parliament until a transitional plan is put in place. Now all these military leaders have to do is draft a new system of government that ably represents the demands of 80 million people unfamiliar with the democratic process in one of the most strategically important nations on Earth. Got any suggestions? They'll probably welcome your emails.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg highlights another important problem going forward: Shitty economic conditions at the root of many political crises. In this case, the fact that there aren't any jobs in Egypt: "The Egyptian economy needs to grow at least seven percent a year to create the jobs necessary for the masses of underemployed, often-over-educated, young people who have been crowding the streets, and economic power is still in the hands of plutocrats and oligarchs, who are not terribly interested in reforming the system that has made them obscenely rich."
The United States government has pledged to help where it can, but come on. As long as oil tankers don't run into any problems going through the Suez Canal, we're basically cool with anything. If Egypt ends up under the permanent rule of a Supreme Military Authoritarian Islamist Junta of Death and Not-Democracy but still manages to keep the tankers running on time, then that's good enough.
[Image via AP]