There is nothing more beautiful than an idea, an action that works. Such were the events in Egypt over the last 18 days. Soft power worked, was almost perfectly orchestrated and thus, has provided a momentous, admirable example for other nations to ride on Egypt’s coattails to freedom and justice. Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Palestine and maybe, just maybe, Iran, all want what Egypt now has.
In a nutshell, for 18 days the Egyptians peacefully protested the three-decade long dictatorship that ruled them. They strictly adhered to non-violent, although unrelenting, demonstrations. Their own volunteers searched citizens entering the downtown squares for any arms. Medical personnel from their own ranks tended to those needing attention. The people, all during the siege and now at its conclusion, are all chipping in to clean up the public squares. The Egyptians are taking good care of themselves and great care of their country.
Politically, now that their nemesis, Mubarak, is gone, they continue their trust in the military. This is one of the most atypical yet interesting aspects of this revolution, i.e. the fact that it was the army whom the people trusted. In return, the army has vowed to lead the transitional government and to cede power once a civilian government is in place. Additionally, the armed forces have promised to adhere to all the international commitments and treaties that were in place during Mubarak’s reign, thus giving allies such as Israel and America hope that peace will prevail. But make no bones about it: this was a coup, although a “soft” coup that so far, has had the blessings of the masses. While we hope for the best, vigilance of democratic principles must be ongoing.
Perhaps the biggest fear for Egypt’s foreign relationships was that the Muslim Brotherhood would step in and usurp power, replacing a civilian dictatorship with an extremist theocracy. Before the last elections, the Muslim Brotherhood held about 80 seats in the approximate 500- seat Egyptian Parliament. That is, until Mubarak fixed the elections and threw out the Muslim Brotherhood completely from the Parliament. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood also seems to want to participate in the democratic love fest that is currently going on in Egypt and has, though not convincingly to me (actions speak louder than words and only time will tell), promised to abide by free and fair elections. Will reason and goodwill prevail, or will some faction, tempted by this void of power in Egypt, use the temporary and fluid situation to assert their own ambitions?
All of the good feeling seems too good to be true. However, the real value of soft power, the reinforcement of doing the right thing, the euphoria of uniting on the side of freedom and justice, are very contagious. Magnify that satisfaction ten times over when the world throws accolades at such a process. Yes: we could do a lot worse than want what just transpired in Egypt. With patience, foresight and a longer-term view for the future, soft power works.
The basic principle of soft power is smart, sane and safe. As if that weren’t sufficient to make the world a better place, the contagion, produced by the success of soft power, is the clincher. “We want what they have” could just be the new mantra of Spaceship Earth. Led by Egypt and now coveted and imitated by other nations throughout our planet, peace, freedom and justice could be the new “war.” Let’s run with that for a while.