Don’t forget the power of power

Posted on | maart 4, 2011 | No Comments

It’s the pundit’s dilemma: make bold predictions and you could end up looking like a fool, don’t make bold predictions and you run the risk of appearing tepid. Events in Egypt have brought forth a lot of predictions, many of them wrong, but keep in mind that most predictions end up being wrong, especially if they are at all specific.

I feel as if I got it partway right with my post on Egypt inasmuch as I thought the Obama administration would play it close to the vest but I was not prepared for an endgame to come quite as quickly as it seems to have come nor was I prepared for Mubarak to give in without more of a fight, assuming that is what he’s really doing. (One lesson: When you lose the troops, you lose. Which is why throughout Africa and indeed the world despots tend to keep the military close, fat, and happy.)

So will these trends continue to spread, as they appear to have done from Tunisia to Egypt? More to the point, will they spread to Sudan?

Here are words that may be thrown in my face, but: I do not think so.

Mubarak may have been an autocrat, but compared to Omar al-Bashir he is a piker. Al-Bashir has never shown even a modicum of reluctance in exercising power as ruthlessly as circumstances have dictated. After the recent referendum in the South in which 99% of South Sudanese voted to separate from Sudan, al-Bashir is not likely to countenance much opposition. And Sudanese troops seem far more likely than those in Egypt to throw their weight around.

Maybe winds of change are blowing inexorably across North Africa and the Middle East. But beware predictions of inevitability. Dictators have a remarkably metronomic tendency to do what it takes to protect their self interest. I would be willing to bet that if the trend of protests continues across the region we are not far from a Tiananmen moment. At some point soon police and military troops will open fire on a crowd in one of these countries. And at some point the power of the people will give way to the power of power.

I hope I am wrong. I just fear that I won’t be.

[This article was written and published at Februari 1, before the troubles in Libya)

AUTHOR: Derek Charles Catsam
E-MAIL: derekcatsam [at]


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