Saturday, February 19, 2011

Egypt's Future: How to Build a Free Nation (Part I)

by Dr Sam Holliday

On the night of 10-11 February 2011 the Egyptian military staged a bloodless coup to remove President Hosni Mubarak, following two weeks of turmoil and 19 hours of chaos. They promised to carry out the will of the Egyptian people. However, there is no way of knowing who will emerge to lead Egypt, or what the role of the military will be in the long run. For now the regime retains its power, for the aims of the younger military officers of the regime were the same as the crowds, i.e. to get rid of Mubarak and the patriarchs. The regime is a complex centered on the military but includes many civilians in the business and the government bureaucracies.

Since there is no consensus on Egypt’s future, the coming months and years will be a struggle between competing visions. Will it become a real revolution, or will the regime hold its control? This will be determined by the youth. What should be the policy of the United States during this move to a new Egypt—and a new Middle East?

FForemost should be the realization that the new Egypt is the responsibility of Egyptians, not Americans. Egyptians must establish a climate of order and satisfaction, they must rebuild Egypt’s economy, and Egyptians must determine a form of governance based on their own customs and traditions.

Also, the United States must not repeat the errors made, by the foreign policy establishment, around the world since 1945.

U.S. Foreign Policy Regarding Egypt
In relations with Egypt, the United States should do what it can to advance Sacred Red, White, and Blue/Black—the colors in the American and Egyptian flags.
Sacred Red symbolizes the courage, practicality, and duty of Moses, Saint Paul, Oliver Cromwell and George Washington.
White symbolizes the compassion, purity, and honor of Jesus, Buddha, and John Adams.
Blue/Black symbolizes the unity, shared identity, and administrative skill of the Egyptian Pharaohs’ in linking humans with the divine, of Genghis Khan’s “blue sky”, and of America’s founders dreams.

This Red, White and Blue/Black must be integrated into a whole through checks and balances of principles, ideals, individuals, factions, and institutions. The outcome should be the decentralization of power to achieve governance of, by and for the people, rather than the centralization of power in the hands of an elite in accordance with the Hegelian dialectic. Also the United States should do what it can to counter the threats of the socialist collectivism (Secular Red) and the social-political ideology of Islam (Green).

The waving of the Red, White, and Blue/Black flags of the United States and Egypt should be constant reminders that Americans and Egyptians are both in an existential struggle with true believers of both the right (Islamists) and the left (Neo-Marxists). The Egyptian youth were revolting against the paternalistic, unaccountable authority that as prevailed across the Middle East for thousands of years. It is essential to remember that free individuals, making judgments based on their inner compass, are hated by both the Islamists and the Neo-Marxists; some may consider them political opposites, yet they share the Hegelian view that authoritarian control, by true believers, of a collective is the best form of governance.

Democracy is a noble goal; however, since the word “democracy” has so many different meanings, it can be fool’s gold.

For Egypt U.S. foreign policy should seek: (1) a version of democracy which allows Egyptian citizens to determine their own destiny, (2) a constitution which maintains stability and economic development, (3) the recognition of how technology has changed communication, and (4) citizenship which is a privilege for those who give primacy to the interests of Egypt.

In Egypt the aim should be individual Egyptian citizens with the free will to determine their own destiny; the aim should not be equality of outcomes among individuals or factions.

The goal should be equality before God, equality before the law, and equality of opportunity; the goal should not be so called social justice, which takes from the haves and gives to the have-nots. There should be civil rights, given to individuals by God, which protect life, freedom, and property as individuals pursue happiness as determined by Egyptians—not human rights as determined by others.

There should be processes and procedures to ensure long-term governance of, by and for the Egyptian citizens--not processes, procedures and elections to insure compliance with specific written documents. “One man, one vote, one time” must be prevented. A future collective totalitarian state—of either the left (socialistic) or of the right (Islamic) must be avoided.

Consensus on a social contract (expressed in customs and traditions and also in a written constitution) is necessary, but not sufficient. Respect for the rule of law, political parties to champion competing points of view, freedom of speech, freedom of political expression, and freedom of assembly, and freedom of association are all needed to insure the Secular Authority of the state.

In addition there must also be primary economic development to ensure that there is adequate food, water and shelter and that the poorest aspire for a better life. Also there must the secondary economic development so that Egyptians think they are the economic equals of their peers and can see themselves as a worthy descendents of their 7,000 year history. Yet such worldly accomplishments must be in equilibrium with Sacred Authority, i.e. a common identity and shared principles and ideas which provide an inner compass to guide judgments between right and wrong, good and bad.

In the past when communication and transportation were more restricted national identity was based on cultural, ethnic, racial, or religious convictions. However, the global village of today and tomorrow make this impractical. Any future Egyptian nation must be based on shared principles, ideals and beliefs. This makes it necessary to exclude those individuals, groups, and parties who primarily identity with belief in a collective of either the left (neo-Marxists) or the right (Islamists)—as well as those who give their primarily allegiance to another state or to world governance.

Therefore, Egyptian citizenship must become a privilege to be earned, not a right of residency that allows master manipulators to control others. Universal human rights can remain an ideal, but the civil rights of Egypt must govern the behavior of Egyptians. Only those who have pledged their loyalty to, and demonstrated their patriotism for, Egypt should be allowed to participate in the struggles to determine Egypt’s future.

What the United States has Done Since 1945
Since 1945, inept actions by the United States in many countries has squandered billions of dollars, contributed to the deaths of millions, created poverty, and caused the loss of many opportunities. Most of this was done with the best of intentions and humanitarian instincts. Often these were the consequences of unquestioned preconceptions regarding how to build a state or nation. Such preconceptions have dominated the thinking of Americans, in and out of government, who have shaped U.S. foreign policy.

Will this be admitted? Certainly not. Can this be proven? Probably not. Most likely, articles and studies will continue to debate what happened, and why, with the "history" presented determined by the preconceptions of the authors.

In the past many have questioned the appropriateness of the United States being involved in building states and nations around the world. And today this debate continues. During such debates regarding Egypt it is essential that the difference between building a state and building a nation be understood.

State building is the creation and maintenance of legitimate authority, a legal system, and administrative capability to govern territory. Nationbuilding is the creation and maintenance of a sense of common identity among a people. Also it is important to recognize the reasons for the successes and failures made in the name of “nation-building”.

Obviously there have been successes since 1945. Changes in Western Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and even parts of Eastern Europe have been more positive than negative. Yet such progress has primarily been the result of efforts by the people of those countries, and circumstances unique to them. Nevertheless, preconceptions about building states and nations have hindered improvement in much of the world since 1945.

The Preconceptions
Unquestioned preconceptions about the creation and decline of nations were forged during World War II. The horrors of that war were blamed on nationalism and the nation-state. This overlooked the fact that paranoia and unspeakable crimes are to be found throughout history. The horrors committed by tribes, sects, and empires probably did affect fewer people, but they were no less repulsive.

Human beings need beliefs that offer a sense of order, that overcome the fears of an arbitrary environment, that give people some hope of control over random events. Group identity and religion have always been the two main sources of such belief systems. Moreover, human progress has depended on how group identities (be they family, tribe, sect, class, religion, or nation) relate to political structures having a monopoly on the use of force.

Human progress accelerated when the nation-state became the focus of personal loyalties, social order, political institutions, and economic coordination, because it was able to combine the cohesiveness of the nation with the legal authority and administrative capability of the state. However, with this progress came the excesses of integral (or totalitarian) nationalism.

Since World War II three contending ideologies (all called democratic) have been offered as replacements for nationalism: capitalism based on merit, communism based on equality of outcomes, and internationalism based on universal human rights. Yet none of the three have been able to create a sense of identity, vigor, innovation, and climate of order to equal that created by nation-states.

None have provided the new political form to replace the nation-state. This suggests that as a political structure the nation-state is superior to a multicultural state, or a coercion based state. It also suggests that any new world order must be of small nation-states rather than the centralization of power in world governance.

The challenge is achieve common identity among Egyptians yet to prevent the excesses and extremes, which have at times been associated with integral nationalism. Therefore, there is a need for a conceptual framework for building an Egyptian nation, which will be held together by sovereign nationalism—not by the integral nationalism of Egypt’s past statism.

Integral nationalism is intolerant and ethnocentric. Integral nationalism is linked to totalitarianism, and demands the highest loyalty be to the state in accordance with the views of Hegel. Integral nationalism seeks cultural and religious uniformity, plus institutional and economic unity. It tends to arise from religious or utopian beliefs, internal economic and political difficulties, or historical rivalries. The goal of integral nationalism is uniformity of purpose, appearance, beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices. It is linked to the statism, which many Islamic countries took from Western culture during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sovereign nationalism seeks the ideals expressed in American Declaration of Independence. Sovereign nationalism is an expression of the human desire for freedom and self-government. It places an emphasis on popular sovereignty, a constitution, decentralization, and civil rights—it is legitimized by a social contract between a people and their state. Sovereign nationalism is often a melting pot resulting in E Pluribus Unum (of many, one). It is sovereign nationalism that offers hope for the Egypt—and the 21st century. It can provide peace, security, self-government, and stability by creating loyalties, emotional ties, and a common sense of identity among citizens.

United States Misconceptions since 1945
Before offering a conceptual framework for a new Egypt it is necessary to comment on some of the misconceptions, which have dominated the thinking in the foreign policy establishment of the United States since 1945. Those identifying with a nation must be responsible for what happens to their nation. Others can assist, but the leadership, dedication, vision, and energy must come from within. (...)

Copyright © 201 Armiger Cromwell Center, Atlanta, GA 30319.

Permission is granted to forward this article by e-mail to friends or colleagues on a fair use basis. For reprint permission, contact Armiger Cromwell Center at

For more essays and articles published by Dr Sam Holliday on Politeia  please refer to our file on Articles,  "The Armiger Cromwell Center"


- "Who is a Patriot"
- "The Mandate of Heaven" (on authority and sovereignty)


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