Kemper: Mubarak must go

Kemper Fi

The poetical trappings of the revolution in downtown Cairo are the meat and potatoes of great literature. It evinces Chekhov’s rule: If, in the first act, you place a gun on the stage, by the last act it must be fired. If, in building a city, you include “Tahrir (Liberation) Square,” eventually it will house a revolution. It is a struggle of barricades already written by Victor Hugo in “Les Miserables.” It is a clash of archetypes.

But while Tahrir has become the spiritual fulcrum of the revolution, the struggle will not be won by tearing up sidewalks. The pillars of the regime — the army, the bureaucracy and the businessmen — must be persuaded to support a new system.

The Internet has come back to Cairo, and with it Cairo Scholars — the e-mail list for expats in Cairo — has roared back to life. One post describes the road to the airport — lined with tanks at 50-meter intervals to protect the fleeing foreigners. Rebukes bury a passive defense of the pro-Mubarak supporters. The administrator began to search for spies, lest posts with more sensitive information pass under the eyes of intelligence services.

Another poster — pointing out how quiet most of Cairo actually is — wrote, “This isn’t Somalia. This is Egypt and the unspoken pact seems to be: so long as you stay out of the fray (i.e., their biznass) you’ll be left alone (i.e., to your own bidnass).”

In my column on Monday I wrote that the priority must not be to remove Mubarak, but rather to address the protesters’ grievances: political liberties, a humane and decent government, less corruption and more economic opportunities. Those must remain the destination, but Mubarak cannot be part of the transition.

The underhanded attack on the protests was reprehensible. Withdrawing the police from the entire country and shutting down basic vital services such as banks and transportation in a game of hardball demonstrates that Mubarak values his own power over the continued stability of his country.

But Mubarak is not alone; he represents a ruling cadre of bureaucrats, businessmen and security types who stand to lose enormously from a regime change. Frankly, these people have stolen, lied and killed under Mubarak’s aegis. These are the ranks attacking the protesters. They will continue to fight not because they prefer dictatorship, but because they think their lives are on the line.

Our government carries enormous influence from a long and close relationship with Egypt. It can help make a deal that protects Mubarak’s people, one that will keep the focus on building a new society and off of revenge. It can broker an arrangement that will prevent the security forces from starting an Iraq-style Ba’athist insurgency and one which will put Egypt on the path of South Africa, not Lebanon.

There is a partner capable of handling the transition. Mubarak lost control when he put the military in the streets because, unlike in “Les Mis,” they refused to attack the protesters. Drawn from a more educated, better off tranche of conscripts than the members of the police and paramilitary Central Security Forces, Egypt’s military looks down on the Ministry of the Interior and its thuggery.

Furthermore, the Egyptian military has not put down mass rioting since 1977. They are unwilling and probably unable to control the crowds in Cairo. At the same time, they have strong ties with America, and tight relations with Egypt’s business class. While they will continue to be a powerful force in the country, they will not want to be in charge.

A deal can safely dismantle Mubarak’s regime. Our government can make one with the military, and it can make one today.

We would not have won our own revolution without the help of the French. Now the Egyptians need us.

Our country has enormous strategic interests at risk with the fall of this government. Mubarak has kept Islamists at bay, kept the Suez Canal open and provided a foundation of support and stability for the Middle East over the last 30 years. Losing Mubarak imperils all of that.

But we also have moral interests.

Mubarak no longer represents the camp of order. If we are to be uncertain of the outcome, let us at least be certain of our ideals. Mubarak must go.

Nicolas Kemper is a senior in Pierson College.


  • ignatz

    I’m not about to defend Mubarak. But if you stop and think for a moment, there can be no greater “moral interest” in the Middle East than keeping radical Islam at bay. Just look at Gaza, where America foolishly brokered the first “free election” for the Palestinians — and they elected Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization. Today the people of Gaza live under Sharia law, enforced with automatic weapons. So much for freedom.

    The lesson should be obvious — toppling dictators is heaps of fun, and induces warm feelings of moral superiority, but it can bring far greater suffering to the people whose freedom is supposedly being vindicated. Sadly, the knucklehead in the White House has no comprehension of any of this.

  • Arafat
  • Omar_Mumallah

    Incredible article Mr. Kemper — this is the one I awaited from you. Keep up the good work!

    Don’t mind the fearmongers above. If anyone wants to know about the Muslim Brotherhood, start here:

    For the Brotherhood’s Draft Party Platform, see this Carnegie Endowment report

    Thanks again Mr. Kemper.

  • ClaytonBurns

    In case Ivy League students have not noticed, the US is afflicted with obsolescence. If we were to examine the mysterious practices of AP Psychology and note the potential to teach fundamentals to students from grades nine to twelve by starting with a good text in Cognition (Ashcraft) and then working into Memory (Baddeley and/or Schwartz), we would see that the generic AP approach to Psychology is hopeless.

    The fundamental texts for the English language are the COBUILD grammars, intermediate and advanced. It is also important to have an official high school corpus dictionary, such as the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English with its powerful CD. Language, of course, is an important subject in Cognition. Within the Psychology “community” (APA etc) the “idea” of how to teach English is absurd. A Psychology department would be likely to offer “The Academic Writer’s Handbook” as a substitute for all the advances made in the corpus revolution in Linguistics in the past twenty years.

    Young people might think that this disarray is just normal churning and obsolescence, and that you can’t do anything about it. However, if we were to track the activities of the FBI, we would note routine incompetence (in 9/11), and even today, at a level that indicates training is too inept to count for much. (I was not at all surprised to receive a despairing e-mail from a professor at Marine university indicating that American universities are so mired in curriculum conservatism that it is impossible for them to be truly reflective about their practices.)

    If terrorists were to decide to take out Yale, Harvard, or Princeton with a dirty bomb, it is quite possible that the stumbling FBI would just miss obvious signs, or fail to collate information. The FBI would not then revolutionize practices in psychology in its training. It would just expect the young people of Princeton, Harvard, or Yale to pay the price for its inept mindset. What prevents the FBI from teaching the books in Psychology and English that I have mentioned? Nothing. Just abrasive indifference to duty.

    It used to be that young people could graduate from university and look for a ready-made role in society. But the world has changed forever. The youth will have to create systems so that when a CIA/FBI training/education pathology has been identified, the disorder will be overpowered in a timely way. Anyone who did a close reading of “Class 11,” the shaky and inconclusive book on CIA training, would be amazed at the dullness of intellect that goes into such programs.

    That systems now exist for decisive policy/practice corrections must be seen as a dream. I think that it would be extremely creative of Ivy League students to develop I would certainly read it religiously. The UK Guardian, The Australian, and WSJ would be decent design models.

  • Goldie08

    ClaytonBurns, what are you talking about? I think someone should report him. Talking about psychology and linguistics and the CIA like the AZ shooter.

  • ClaytonBurns

    [I like bringing a tone of general irreverance to the comment section. Apolitical and primarily concerned with having fun. Why can’t we all just get along?]

    You are a deep thinker, Goldie08. Proof that a Yale education still has gold-plated value.

    I will remember you in the simpler portions of my dreams. If at all.

  • Arafat

    If anyone wants to know about the Muslim Brotherhood, start here: