If the "constitution" of Egypt has been subverted and misused to hold in power for a generation someone who, with the approval and support of foreign powers, has oppressed his own population....Then what practical use is such a constitution to the people who have to live under it?
Why should they respect it?
The chaos that occurs from it's overthrow will be a result of the forces internal and external that enforced such an arrangement.
I'm certain that elements within both Israel and the USA were well aware that the policy of entrenching Mubarak would some day lead to a catastrophic failure, but they couldn't be bothered to think of anything better and they all hoped that when the Dam finally broke they would have retired to a bungalow built on high ground.....
I suspect it is way too soon to judge whether recent events in Egypt reflect a changed power structure, or simply changed individuals assuming new roles in the same old power structure. Mubarak did not argue with the rhetoric of the movement, (justice, dignity, more participation, etc.), he attempted to cast doubt on the methods and efficacy of the movement and the reliability of it leaders. All of this (exciting and hopeful) activity may simply have been cover for a regime change, not a change in the structure of governance. We will probably see the shape of the result over the next 12-18 months.
More troubling, at the heart of this essay is a binary view of Arabic - Western relations. The assumption of an "us vs. them" perspective ignores critical integrations between the Egyptian opposition movement and "the West" (perhaps because it would complicate the narrative). Although US and European companies and governments provided weapons and training for repressive forces in Egypt, US and European governments and companies also provided the tools, infrastructure and yes, training, that made organizing Mubarak's ouster possible, (see "Revolution U" published in Foreign Policy a couple weeks back). Western satellite, fiber-optic and server infrastructure provide the backbone and central nervous system for these movements. Al-Jazeera uses a Western-media business and programming model for covering these events, even if the coverage is in Arabic. To highlight one set of relationships and ignore or not mention the other makes me suspect there is some other kind of agenda at work here (other than
The relationships between Egypt (and other Arab states) and "the West" are multifaceted, complex, and cannot be adequately described in a few paragraphs and should not be reduced simply to an "Arab-West" perspective. These relationships should be addressed a far more granular level. Attempting to describe these relationships in broad sweeping statements feels like a tactic to trigger an emotional rather than rational action, a tactic sure to backfire as large institutional players rapidly attempt to evaluate who to trust in the region.
Egypt must deal with critical economic, political, and legal issues to address the hopes raised by it's newly energized popular movement. It remains to be seen how these issues will be addressed through the coalition of students & activists, and the generals. The critical step for building effective civilian institutions, ceding control of the armed forces to legitimate civilian authorities, has not been accomplished. Until then, the Egyptian revolution remains an unrealized dream. The "West" uses an aphorism to describe these circumstances that applies equally to the Middle East and North Africa, "Don't count your chickens until they're hatched."