Winners and Losers in the Egyptian Uprising

When Zhou en-Lai was asked in the 1970s about the historical significance of the French Revolution, he famously responded that it was “too soon to tell.” Given that wise caution, it is undoubtedly foolhardy for me to try to pick the winners and losers of the upheaval whose ultimate implications remain uncertain. But at the ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
557906_110214_winners1_1090414748.jpg
557906_110214_winners1_1090414748.jpg

When Zhou en-Lai was asked in the 1970s about the historical significance of the French Revolution, he famously responded that it was "too soon to tell." Given that wise caution, it is undoubtedly foolhardy for me to try to pick the winners and losers of the upheaval whose ultimate implications remain uncertain. But at the risk of looking silly in a few days (or weeks or months or years), I'm going to ignore the obvious pitfalls and forge ahead. Here's my current list of winners and losers, plus a third category: those for whom I have no idea.


The Winners

When Zhou en-Lai was asked in the 1970s about the historical significance of the French Revolution, he famously responded that it was “too soon to tell.” Given that wise caution, it is undoubtedly foolhardy for me to try to pick the winners and losers of the upheaval whose ultimate implications remain uncertain. But at the risk of looking silly in a few days (or weeks or months or years), I’m going to ignore the obvious pitfalls and forge ahead. Here’s my current list of winners and losers, plus a third category: those for whom I have no idea.


The Winners

1. The Demonstrators
The obvious winners in these events are the thousands of ordinary Egyptians who poured into the streets to demand Mubarak’s ouster, and to insist on the credible prospect of genuine reform. For this reason, Mubarak’s designated deputy, Omar Suleiman, had to go too. Some of the demonstrators’ activities were planned and coordinated (and we’ll probably know a lot more about it over time) but a lot of it was the spontaneous expression of long-simmering frustration. By relying on non-violent methods, maintaining morale and discipline, and by insisting that Mubarak had to go, the anti-government uprising succeeded where prior protest campaigns had failed. “People power” with an Arab face. And oh yes: Google got a great product placement too.

2. Al Jazeera
With round-the-clock coverage that put a lot of Western coverage to shame, Al Jazeera comes out of these events with its reputation enhanced. Its ability to transmit these images throughout the Arab world may have given events in Tunisia and in Egypt far greater regional resonance. If Radio Cairo was the great revolutionary amplifier of the Nasser era, Al Jazeera may have emerged as an even more potent revolutionary force, as a medium that is shared by Arab publics and accessible to outsiders too. And I’ll bet that is what Mubarak now thinks.

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Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

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