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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.

Originally posted to yomamaforobama on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 07:17 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  I liked (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      We Won

      what Obama said about dignity as a universal right.

       Somehow I think he had thought about this before.

       The tricky part is now. Filling in the vacuum of power with good government won't be an easy chore and it is definitely time to be wise and careful.

      ~a little change goes a long way~

      by missliberties on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 09:53:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And then contrast that to (20+ / 0-)

    what Pawlenty said at CPAC about being the bully:  "might makes right"

    And on Christianne today, he is calling the President's statement after Mubarak left "incoherent".

    I guess they don't understand words like "Gandhi" or "non-violence".

    And it's our collective fault for letting them win last year.

    Lesson learned. (I hope)

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 07:31:28 AM PST

  •  Well Informed Soft Power (19+ / 0-)

    As this article shows, the protesters were armed with information on how to launch a peaceful protest.  They all understood the need for non-violence and how to maintain the high moral ground.

    •  Good point. (8+ / 0-)

      Nonviolent resistance is not simply do-your-own thing pacificism. It requires courage, discipline, coordination, and unity. Hard concepts for Americans to grasp, on both sides of the spectrum.

      "If we work in unity, we will achieve our goal." ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

      by jan4insight on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 03:31:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The guys who road in on camels and horses (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      were not received with rose petals and group hugs.  More rocks and fists than I'm used to seeing categorized as "non-violence".  I feel quite confident that if American protesters had defended themselves likewise, they would be roundly denounced hereabouts for their use of "violence".  Take a look at what happens to the riders when the "non-violent" protesters get their hands on them.  (I completely understand the reaction and it lessens my support for the revolution not one bit.)

      "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." ~Frederick Douglass

      by ActivistGuy on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 08:22:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Palestinians engaging (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high5, ScienceMom

        in the same response to attacks by Settlers on a peaceful protest have been widely denounced in the American media as "terrorists", and the use of live ammunition against them has been portrayed as "justified".

        Everyone knows that only witches stand up for accused witches!!

        by JesseCW on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:46:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Egypt Falsified Well-Armed Populace Arg (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        While the Egyptian protesters did follow the tactics of Gandhi in their usage of civil disobedience and mass resistance it's true that they did not use strict Gandhian passive resistance. Gandhi held that even attacks should be met with non-violence but the Egyptian protesters did violently defend themselves from direct attack. However, in general they did not initiate attacks and did not attempt violent revolution.

        The greater point that is being emphasized by many is that they achieved their victory without the much more lethal weapons of guns and bombs. Unlike the tactics of AlQaeda, there were no suicide bombings of the army or of government facilities. Their achievement was done without the usage of modern weapons which are often held out by many Americans as the only hope against a tyrannous government. In other words, they proved as false the assertion that the only defense against tyranny is a well-armed populace.

    •  This was my favorite part (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Curt Matlock, isabelle hayes

      No guns.

       The earnest honest passion of protesting for 18 days! Wow!


      ~a little change goes a long way~

      by missliberties on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 09:55:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Muslim Brotherhood (10+ / 0-)

    is the bogeyman the political elite in Washington use to instill fear in Americans about Arabs and Muslims.  They misread the uprising because they did not pay attention to the voices of the people of Egypt who were desperate for freedom.  Thirty years of oppression under Mubarak while our govt focused solely on American interests (oil, and other resources, and the agenda of the Israeli govt). They suffered  while we were told that Egypt was a major player  in the"stability" of the Middle East.

    President Obama handled the situation as well as could be expected.
    We all have to look at how our government supports Israel's violent, brutal actions toward the Palestinians. It diminishes our credibility and fosters resentment in Arab countries.  

    We need to change because the Arab and Muslims in the ME are speaking loud and clear....they will no longer allow the US and Israel to dominate policy in their countries.  They are fed up with US Imperialism.

    Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved.

    by lightshine on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 03:22:04 PM PST

    •  Making a boogie-man out of the MB (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      missliberties, Jagger, hardhatmama

      is the only rationalization they can think of for keeping Mubarak in power.

      For relevant sci-fi and fantasy, go to

      by Kimball Cross on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:14:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  the real bogeyman for the political (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, begone, Mortifyd, isabelle hayes, rf80412

      elite is genuinely populist-driven soft power.

      The Muslim Brotherhood (at least the MB of their imagination) is an enemy/player that they understand and can get their brains and powerplays around.

      authentically grass-roots uprisings are harder for power elites, first of all they never believe they actually exist, often attributing them to fifth column actions or covert shenanigans from various arms of other elite players.

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 05:21:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The cooperative nature of soft power (0+ / 0-)

    is part of the reason why it has less impressive prospects in the United States.  Far too large a segment of the American left is contaminated with hate and paranoia against all institutional powers, and has a great deal of difficulty dealing with society in a coherent, constructive way.  Its dialog with government usually devolves into a gaggle of dissonant voices, many of them little more than infantile complaints about symbolism or day-to-day decisions on parochial subjects.

    The example of Egypt is thus both cause for celebration and somber reflection, because I don't think for a moment that Americans under identical conditions would have succeeded.  Out of a fear of becoming "The Man" or alienating highly sensitive members of the protest community, there wouldn't be the kind of self-policing we saw in Egypt, so stupid anarchists and psychotic fringe elements would run amuck and convince the army that it was time to shut things down.  Our movement bears the contagion of our country - we fear to take responsibility for anything.

    Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

    by Troubadour on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:12:19 PM PST

    •  We also (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, isabelle hayes

      have a pretty soft life, comparatively speaking.

       You get the feeling that these folks had nothing to lose.

       There was a protest here that was fairly successful. Remember when the Latinos poured into the streets in vast numbers and used their cell phones to organize their protests a few years back.

      ~a little change goes a long way~

      by missliberties on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 09:59:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agent provocotuers don't exist (0+ / 0-)

      and CoIntelPro never happened.

      It's that dastardly violent Anarachist Left.


      That's it.

      Sometimes, reading comments here is like reading a Hearst paper from 1922.

      Everyone knows that only witches stand up for accused witches!!

      by JesseCW on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:48:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not "dastardly" - imbecilic. (0+ / 0-)

        And since you and I both read comments here, you know exactly what I'm talking about when I refer to paranoid, perpetually self-righteous headcases incapable of working with other human beings.

        Ask me why I do the right thing, and I will tell you the truth: I have nothing better to do.

        by Troubadour on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 08:05:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think the rift between the military (0+ / 0-)

    and the popular movement is beginning. The activists are refusing to leave Tahrir Square.

    For relevant sci-fi and fantasy, go to

    by Kimball Cross on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:16:26 PM PST

  •  An expanded tactic is called for. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ScienceMom, isabelle hayes

    Soft Power works extremely well in the beginning, but it must be expanded upon.  Holding a central square in Cairo makes good footage for the 6 o'clock, but that's all it is, now that Mub-Rah is gone.

    They have the Army on their side of the issue, and they need to exploit that. Break the central focus into three:  One at the Presidential palace, to remind "Substitute Mub-Rah "Su'" that he's going to be held to account.  One to the supposedly-now-vacated Parliament Building (no vandalism, now; take the media in there with you), and the remainder stays at Tahrir---big enough to maintain a solid presence, but downsized so as to allow Cairo to start functioning again.

    And---put the Army in all three as well, just to remind the regime's tattered remnants that "Soft Power" can carry with it the veiled threat of the big stick.

    Sort of like a Teddy Roosevelt, but with less emphasis on that stick....

    I count even the single grain of sand to be a higher life-form than the likes of Sarah Palin and her odious ilk.

    by Liberal Panzer on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:36:14 PM PST

  •  Speak softly.... (0+ / 0-)

    ....and carry a big stick.  He spoke softly and sent the message that there was an opening, if the protestors could make it happen. Never necessary to use the stick. However, if elections do not happen, they should consider the amount of military aid we sent to Eqypt.

    British Petroleum: I think that means it's foreign oil.

    by Bensdad on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:39:28 PM PST

  •  Dictator out, Military Junta in... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... Parliament dissolved. Constitution suspended. If this had happened in Central American, we'd be wouldn't be toasting the spread of "Freedom".

    OK, the parliament was packed by one party... because elections were rigged by the constitution. Good riddance,  but  I'm keeping the champagne corked until after September.

    The Army's leadership is old guard, but the troops are conscript. Perhaps that's why the citizens feel that the Army is "theirs". Their sons and brothers are in uniform, or have been. There are few exemptions and college student may delay, but not defer, their service.

    I expected the Brass to truck a battalion of rural troops into town to bust the heads of city boys... like the Chinese did at Tienanmen Square. Perhaps the units are too well integrated in Egypt to permit that without risking mutinies.

    Let us hope that the troops can compel the generals to follow through on reform.

    Conscripts for the army and other service branches without a college degree serve three years as enlisted soldiers. Conscripts with a General Secondary School Degree serve two years as enlisted personnel. Conscripts with a college degree serve one year as enlisted personnel or three years as a reserve officer. Officers for the army are trained at The Egyptian Military Academy. -- Wikipedia

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 06:55:50 PM PST

    •  Yes. (0+ / 0-)

      It will be interesting to watch if the military rule will abide by their promises or succumb to the power vacuum and use force.

      Question:  Didn't the Egyptian people WANT Parliament and the Constitution suspended?  Wasn't that one of their demands?  This dismantling of any structure of gov't., ruled now by the army, is quite frightening.  To have this power vacuum for 6 months until a civilian gov't. is elected could tempt the worst elements to move in.

      On the other hand, I think this is what the people wanted.  I just hope no other catastrophe, natural or other, hits Egypt in the next 6 months.  Could be chaos.  Let's keep everything crossed that does not happen.

  •  Go soft power! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ScienceMom, libnewsie, hardhatmama

    The Egyptian Revolution was a beauty to behold.  I've gained an enormous amount of respect for the Egyptian people in the last 3 weeks.

    One small quibble with the diary:

    Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Palestine and maybe, just maybe, Iran, all want what Egypt now has.

    Let's give credit where credit is due.  Tunisia got the ball rolling... Egypt wanted what Tunisia already had, not the other way around.  :)

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

    by Lawrence on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 07:14:18 PM PST

  •  How sad we look in comparison. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Our party's leaders use the excuse of what it 'politically possible' instead of pursuing what vitally needed.  Just more excuses for their corporate masters...

    "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets..."

    by Back In Blue on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 10:36:29 PM PST

  •  Kind of sad, now that the honeymoon is over... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    missliberties, Lawrence

    They're all realizing that getting rid of Mubarak will have been the easiest step in the process they've embarked upon.

    Regardless, the first step is huge, and necessary.

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:47:39 AM PST

    •  We saw the same (0+ / 0-)

      in our elections. The easy part was getting rid of Bush.

       Getting rid of Mubarak is just the beginning of what will be a long likely bumpy road to change. Now the hard work starts, and it is actually a bit of a precarious moment on the road to a well run government. Lots could happen.

      ~a little change goes a long way~

      by missliberties on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 07:10:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What they have for now is a Junta. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That does not mean, of course, that said Junta won't keep the promise it's made to hold free elections and return power to the People.

    But it hasn't happened yet.

    What has happened so far is the changing of the face of the regime.  

    Everyone knows that only witches stand up for accused witches!!

    by JesseCW on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:43:23 AM PST

  •  The revolution worked in Egypt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    because, as someone more knowledgeable than I said, the Egyptian Army would not attack the people and the people knew that.  Other ME countries do not hold with that tradition, as we are beginning to witness.  Meanwhile, back in Cairo, the police are trying to clear Tahrir Square with billy clubs.

  •  T&R (0+ / 0-)

    I read this while the Beatles "Love is All You Need" played in my ear ... and really it all seemed to go well together! :-)

    Thank you for the diary, it needs to be pointed out again and again, that non violence even against violence can and does win.

    Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

    by Clytemnestra on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:47:17 AM PST

  •  Concern about the Muslim Brotherhood (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is way out of proportion to the facts on the ground.

    Scott Atran, noted anthropologist, says on Best of the Blogs:

    in the wake of 9/11, President Mubarak had good reason to demonize the Brotherhood as well as pump up its alleged size — that meant more military aid from Bush, and more of a license to crush dissent of all stripes.

    As for the Muslim Brotherhood's influence he says:

    If Egyptians are given political breathing space, Mr. Kaseem told me (Atran), the Brotherhood’s importance will rapidly fade. “In this uprising the Brotherhood is almost invisible,” Mr. Kaseem said, “but not in America and Europe, which fear them as the bogeyman.”

    The Muslim Brotherhood is a loosely constituted movement. The MB in one country is not defined by the MB in another.
    And when you look at what those who have studied them say, the "concern" at CPAC and elsewhere in the United States is exposed for what it is - another opportunistic grab at any political straw deemed to be useful against Obama.

    The "fear" that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to bend Egypt to its will is almost comical.  It's like saying the Tea Party will be the dominant political party in the United States, because it appeals to the values of average Americans.

    As ridiculous as that sounds, in comparison of the two, the Tea Party's ascendency to actual political party and capture of both houses of congress and the presidency, is the much more likely of the two.

    Now, damn, that's something that is truly scary.

    The community of fools might be small if it were not such an accomplished proselytizer.

    by ZedMont on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:58:57 AM PST

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