Sunday, February 20, 2011

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

by Dr Sam Holliday

Continued from Part I

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.

There are several critical differences between building a nation and the creation of a state, or the expansion of an empire, or the formation of a federation.

- A state is based on coercion--by either force or law--and administration.

- Expanding an empire i.e. creating hegemony, requires a desire to dominate, superiority of armed forces that control territory, and ruthlessness.

- A federation requires agreement among its parts.

- A confederation is a state with considerable decentralization of authority to smaller self-governing units.

From these, Egyptians must determine the form of governance of the new Egypt. At the heart of the new Egypt will be the creation and maintenance of a common sense of identity from which behavior will be self regulated, and coercion will only be required against criminals and insurgents.

Attempting to persuade rival groups, prepared to use force to eliminate each other, to form a coalition government is not wise. This should not be attempted in Egypt. It is naive to treat factions, each of whom demand control of an all powerful centralized government, as parties in a system of parliamentary government based on checks and balances.

This was the error the United States made from 1945 to 1947 in its policy toward China. The United States made the same error in Vietnam, the Middle East, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan—and many other places. Obsession with (1) authority of the central government, (2) “rule of law” to replace custom and tradition, and (3) “democracy” defined as universal suffrage and elections, have caused this same error to be repeated again and again since 1945.

Ideological tunnel vision of American policy makers, who wanted others to have the benefits of American democracy and economic system, have often squandered billions of dollars and produced meager results.

Economic development of the kind practiced by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), often hinders more than it contributes. It has left a trail of destruction and poverty. It has propped up corrupt and chaotic governments. Many of the dams and highways it has financed have damaged the environment and destroyed social patterns of cooperation. It has contributed to the debt of many of the poorest countries.

Economic development has too often been determined by desires of central governments in their attempts to increase the state’s power. This view of economic development needs to be replaced with economic change to provide a better life for the people of Egypt.

Economic development in Egypt is essential; however, it should not focus on centrally controlled projects financed by an external source. There should be primary economic development, controlled at the local level, which provides the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter. There should be secondary economic development that provides the education and training so that Egypt can take advantage of technologic changes in production, distribution, financing, and marketing so as to benefit from an integrated worldwide capitalistic economic system.

The creation of a nation is a long--several generations at least--process; the maintenance of a nation is a never-ending process. This is at odds with the American desire for a quick fix. Today there are many examples of how long it takes to build a nation, even under favorable conditions. Spain after 500 years is still trying to absorb the Basques and the Catalans. After 300 years as the British Isles, Ireland broke away in 1922; both Wales and Scotland still have separatist movements.

Although some countries in South America and Asia seem to have developed national identities, it is difficult to find any true nation in Africa. Will Canada breakup? After extreme efforts in Germany and Italy to build nations around common languages, the primary identification of many Germans and Italians remain with something other than their nation-state.

Both building and preventing the decline of a nation is an art requiring the balancing of many factors. It is not something that can be done quickly or by following a specific recipe, and foreigners certainly cannot do it. However, a realistic conceptual framework of nationbuilding can be a useful tool for Egyptians as they tackle the difficult task of building a new Egypt.

A Conceptual Framework for a New Egypt
Egyptians should pay continual attention to four interrelated tasks:
  • Achieve Security
  • Provide effective local authority
  • Organize and motivate
  • Satisfy aspirations
Achieving a security shield is the first task since it is a prerequisite for the other three tasks. However, security cannot be seen as an end in itself. It is merely a means to the end of building a new Egypt. Also, if the focus was primarily on the creation of an Egyptian state, actions to establish centralized control by the police and the Army might be carried to the extreme--such actions would actually hinder identity with the Egyptian nation since they would not produce a self-regulating equilibrium.

Security is achieved when the various levels of government have a monopoly on the use of force, and no group within Egyptian territory is willing to use force to achieve political ends. In the new Egypt internal security will primarily be the responsibility of the police of the districts, villages, and neighborhoods; however, these police must be integrated into an alliance coordinated by the central government in Cairo. In addition, the central government would have the Army to protect Egypt’s interests and to ensure stability within Egypt.

Any group committed to the use of force to weaken or overthrow the established government must be neutralized. For Egypt this would mean insurgents of either the left (neo-Marxists) or the right (Islamists). First of all, this requires an effective intelligence system that will allow rapid response to any attempt at intimidation by any insurgent group, or payment to it.

When terrorism becomes a tool, a capability greater than that appropriate for policing ordinary crime must be added. This will usually require some temporary limitations on civil rights and the legal system. Finally, if insurgents gain control of a part of Egypt’s territory, control must be regained, using both the police and the Army, and the leaders of the insurgent group must be either killed or confined.

A second task for the new Egypt is to provide effective local authority. Each individual lives in a concrete, human, face-to-face world of clear and specific events and situations. Aspirations and an unseen environment may shape spiritual and material life of an individual, but he knows through what he sees, hears, smells and feels. This task provides local leadership.

Leadership which is: alert for signs of problems, inequalities and injustices; able to use initiative and flexibility to win loyalty and produce results; capable of countering acts of intimidation, violence, and destruction; able to see that everyone can earn a decent living; able to accomplish primary economic development; loyal to the established institutions; capable of educating each individual with values which blend freedom, ambition, duty and responsibility as well as the skills needed for economic improvement.

The third task of the new Egypt is to organize and motivate the people. The new Egyptian nation will be no more than Egyptian citizens welded together by a common destiny that binds into an active whole, yesterday, today and tomorrow. This task creates and maintains shared values, attitudes, habits and goals which shape the institutions through which a nation lives and grows: patterns of cooperation and conflict; the fabric of sanctioned relationship; the unseen lines of magnetic strength which link, join and confine; the elusive cultural environment. This task creates kinship and facilitates both primary and secondary economic development.

The fourth task of the new Egypt is to satisfy aspirations of Egyptian citizens. The fuel of progress is the never-ending attempt to satisfy aspirations. Economic development is a critical part of satisfying aspirations, but it must be joined with belief.

At this time Islam provides the strongest belief system in Egypt, but the Islamists would return Egypt to the 4th century. The belief of modern Muslims is not strong enough to effectively challenge the Islamists—nor is that of any other religion. Therefore, the only belief system that can provide a stronger horse than Islam is Egyptian nationalism and patriotism. The Egyptian military are well suited to use this belief system to neutralize the Islamists.

Aspirations can unite people in common effort; yet, aspirations can set one against another, preventing progress. Satisfying aspirations is an elusive, two faced task. Sole concern with satisfying aspirations can only result in turmoil, frustration and bitterness; as past aspirations are approached new and more demanding ones are invented.

This task means that Egypt must have its own, unique, ideology. Egypt must reject the ideologies of the Islamists and the neo-Marxists, since both would enslave Egyptians to the control of non-Egyptians. However, this task, just like the first task of achieving a security shield, must not be carried to an extreme.

If this conceptual framework is to be useful for the new Egypt, actions to accomplish these four tasks must be interrelated, and the building and maintenance of the new Egyptian nation must be seen as a never-ending process.

Egyptians need to remember the meaning of the Sacred Red, White, and Black of their flag. They must be prepared to fight against the ideologies of the neo-Marxists and Islamists. Americans cannot do any of this for the Egyptians, but they must understand and support Egyptians as they do about accomplishing the four tasks of building a new Egypt.

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)


James Higham said...

The thing to remember is that there is an agenda, of which the timing of the Arab world revolutions are the next step towards the hegemony of Them in the first instance and the conflagration of the middle-east in the medium term, before the final taking on of Israel itself.

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