I have no good idea of what Mr. Ellis is saying here, and certainly can’t see how he could urge us doing or not doing anything thereby, with it seeming to me to be that the good reason he’s confounded is what seems to me to be his constricted perspective of these sorts of things.
Pretty clearly that is he seems to feel that “elites” determine everything, and, somewhat contradictorily, when they don’t the result will always be better . Somewhat Marxisant in nature then, which is not meant pejoratively, but is ironic.
Ironic because nothing could be clearer than that the Marxist movements led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and Mao and his friends were hardly elites or even minutely supported by same, and yet they managed to get in power, and the same goes for Hitler for that matter. Likewise and more to the point even Mubarek was clearly a representative of the elites, and yet of course he was overthrown rather easily.
Moreover, one has to go no further than citing Lenin and the Bolsheviks and Mao to note the error in assuming that just because some elite regime falls to this or that populist one the results are invariably or even likely to be better than before. Indeed it may even be the exact opposite. (Perhaps in part at least because elites prefer stability, and stability has some substantial virtues of its own for the common man.)
No wonder Mr. Ellis is adrift then here. His perspective of “what matters” or “what determines” here is just far too constricted. Lots of time in history—and especially so in modern history—the elites have taken it in the ass, and lots of times that has happened the biggest sufferers therefrom have been the common masses.
Pretty clearly one of the big dynamics at work here in Egypt and indeed in the arab/moslem world generally is that it is going through the process of wrestling with modernity, which was and to a degree still is tough enough for our relatively secular Western societies, and is thus is going to be very very difficult for the most Islamic of countries.
Further ironically however our national error in addessing this is somewhat akin to Mr. Ellis’ as well, which is that clearly our Administration is viewing the Egyptian situation the same way it is viewing the Syrian one which in turn is looking through a far too narrow perspective by simply asking which “side” or “group” of involved in the uprisings or etc. are best for Israel and which are not.
The clear reality however is that nobody really understand the dynamics of all of what is going on in these countries, much less knows which are determinative. And what’s even more opaque is trying to foresee and compare what different results are going to obtain in our pathetic attempts to foresee the possible outcomes. Consequently, and most opaquely of all no one can say with any authority whatsoever how to get X result from taking Y action.
I.e., who knows who is going to “win” and who is going to “lose” and for how long and what is going to be best for “the people” in the long run?
To me at least the clear lesson from all of this is that the last thing we ought to be doing is putting our finger(s) into the mix other perhaps than the strictly and clearly humanitarian. That … our proper posture ought to be standing as far back as possible and simply extending our hope to the peoples caught up in all this for the least violence and loss of life possible, and sympathy for the troubles they are experiencing, period.
And if you ask me further I’d say that just about the best way to end up with some regime or situation hostile to us is indeed for us to try to put our finger on the scale somewhere because no-one but no-one in the region believes that we do so other than to advance Israel’s interest, which is like poisoning anyone we are seen as supporting.