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Wednesday
Feb162011

When to Flee: A Guide for Dictators

The events in Egypt are interesting and have not been far off what I’d have guessed at the onset of the protests.  At this point, the Egyptian army has deposed Mubarak, suspended the constitution, disbanded the legislature, and established an interim government.  They’re creating a draft constitutional revision, to be followed (they say) by a constitutional referendum and free elections.  Meanwhile, they’re hoping to disperse the protesters and get trade and tourism back to normal.  The protesters, for the most part, seem happy to clean up and disperse.  This is what you’d expect from a transitional government or a military dictatorship in the making.

The outcome is far from certain, but I wouldn’t rule out all going (approximately) according to the protesters’ plan.  As far as I can tell, the Egyptian military has three priorities:

  1. The general political and economic security of Egypt.
  2. Money for the officials’ families and connections, which mostly comes from tourism and trade dollars.
  3. Future power and influence of the military itself.

The key to that third point is US military dollars, which might explain why the Egyptian military was willing to tolerate Mubarak long after they’d clearly stopped liking the guy.  But borrowing money to give foreign aid to a dictator who can’t even keep order is probably not going to be the most popular policy in America at the moment.  The optimal strategy for the army may be to actually hold free elections.  (And, probably, to (secretly) tell the Americans that they’re ready to take over at a moment’s notice if the wrong people are elected, so long as the money keeps flowing.)

One interesting article I read was this report, which notes (as Moldbug will be pleased to learn) that Mubarak ordered the military to fire on the protesters on January 30 and (as Moldbug will be dismayed to learn?) that they refused.  If that was the case, I’d say that the outcome was more or less settled then.  If you order troops to fire on the crowd and they say no, it’s probably time to pack your bags.

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