As predicted, the Egyptian revolution has been quickly and thoroughly betrayed by cunning politicians and generals within the existing Egyptian political establishment. They have placated many protesters by simply promising to hopefully hold free elections in six months, while keeping themselves in power in the interim. Never mind that these men achieved their positions of authority by faithfully enforcing Mubarak's brutal laws on the hapless Egyptian masses. Never mind that the chief torturer under Mubarak is still standing within reach of the helm of the Egyptian police state. Never mind that the barbaric state of emergency laws which helped to spark the protests are still in place.
What happened? Why were the generals and existing political classes able to keep their jobs in the face of millions of protesters in the streets? Why were the millions of protesters unable to oust these tools of Mubarak and purge the country of dictatorship completely? Why did the Egyptian police state not starve on the vine, forcing Mubarak's depraved cronies in the military, police, and bureaucracies to go home and make livings for themselves that did not involve robbing, killing or intimidating ordinary Egyptians?
The facile answers to these questions that have been seized upon by the media involve the Egyptians' supposed respect for the military, and the funding that has continued to flow into the country from the United States. Both of these answers are unsatisfying, and ultimately question begging.
On the one hand, while the Egyptian people may have respect for the ordinary soldier in the street, who was forced to pick up a gun by Mubarak's conscription laws, it is hard to believe that the Egyptian protesters could be naïve enough to believe that the military command under Mubarak was not intimately involved in the creation and implementation of the laws they despised and were protesting against. The military command had to have acceded to the blockade against Gaza, for example, or else it would not have been brutally implemented and enforced. Egyptians simply cannot be foolish enough to think that the military command was an unwilling participant in Mubarak's 30-year reign of terror. Surely they despise the military command for its role in the dictatorship almost as much as Mubarak himself. On the other hand, the money that the United States, incredibly, continues to pour into the Egyptian military, also cannot explain how these men have kept their jobs. After all, the U.S. was pouring money into Mubarak's personal accounts for decades, and yet this did not protect him from being overthrown. So, U.S. money cannot explain how these tools of Mubarak were not also similarly thrown out on their blood-soaked asses.
The real reason for these men's ability to keep their jobs and effectively maintain the Mubarak-inspired police state is that the Egyptian people neglected the most important aspect of protest in the modern world; monetary protest. In the modern world of fiat currencies printed by governments like Mubarak's, it is not enough to say "get out and stop oppressing us," even if millions of people are saying it. It is not enough to storm the presidential palace and string up the dictator like a hog, as the still-oppressed people of Romania know all too well. It is not enough to demand elections, and it is not enough to demand freedom. Instead, what is ultimately needed is to cut off the beast's funding and starve it to death. No dictatorship, junta or even republic in the world can survive if it cannot finance itself. The mantra of the revolution ought to have been "Down with Mubarak money!"
The protesters thus ought to have made dumping the Egyptian pound and adopting a non-governmental currency the central plank of their protest. They should have enjoined their fellow countrymen to sell their Mubarak money for gold or silver or anything else that's real, and the value of the pound would have plummeted instantly and massively, which would have spurred even more selling. The patriots who participated in this monetary revolt would have protected themselves from losses by getting out of the pound, while the traitors to freedom in the regime and those who supported the regime by holding onto Mubarak's pounds would have lost everything. Moreover, the police and military that are paid with Mubarak's crooked paper money would see an instant and massive de facto pay decrease. This would have forced Mubarak's central bank to print even more money to finance the military, police and all other bureaucracies, which would have turned the Egyptian pound into toilet paper. The coup de grce of the monetary racket would then be for the protestors to simply use the worthless paper the junta and Mubarak printed to pay their taxes. A hefty dose of their own crooked monetary medicine would be all that is needed to collapse the regime without even one shot being fired (by the protesters, anyway).
There is no doubt that the collapse of Mubarak's money printing and taxing racket would entail much short-term hardship for Egyptians. Money plays a role in every transaction in an advanced economy, and the collapse of Mubarak's money would undoubtedly throw the economy into a temporary tailspin. But, it is not as though the economic outlook for Egyptians is bright as long as they continue to use Mubarak's crooked money while living under a military dictatorship. The inflation rate in Egypt is cripplingly high as it is, which means that the protesters are losing massive purchasing power to the military junta every hour (that will be used to finance and enforce the laws they despise) whether they undertake this monetary revolt or not. This will only get worse as the economy worsens and the junta is forced to finance more and more of the budget through Mubarak-money printing. The protesters would simply be accelerating the process.
On the other hand, the long-term prospects for Egypt are tantalizingly bright if they overthrow Mubarak's crooked money-printing and taxing machine. With their means of financing themselves by simply printing and seizing money in a shambles, the military junta would be forced to drastically curtail spending or else increase taxes. In the wake of seeing millions of irate people in the streets ready to storm the presidential palace to hang Mubarak, however, it is hard to think they would be stupid and rash enough to raise taxes (which the Egyptians would pay with worthless pounds anyway). They might be able to prop up their regime for a short while with funds donated by the United States government, which tends to be the lender of last resort of brutal dictatorships, but the three billion dollars a year that the U.S. is committed to take from its own citizens to prop up the Egyptian dictator de jure is a drop in the fiscal bucket.
With the Egyptian pound sunk, the military dictatorship bankrupted and impotent to enforce the laws that have made Egypt an economic nightmare, and the people shifting to non-governmental currencies, Egypt would finally be in a position to become an economic powerhouse. Freed from the shame of allowing Mubarak's crooked cronies to remain at the helm of the state, and freed from the apparatus of monetary slavery that Mubarak created and the junta still utilizes, the Egyptians could finally start to make decent livings for themselves. Freed from the shackles of a currency that constantly loses value against their food, they could finally start saving and investing for the benefit of themselves and their children. Indeed, they would stand alone in the world as a people that finally possessed a money that their government could not manipulate, depreciate and confiscate.
The existing power of the Egyptian military junta is a direct result of the Egyptian protesters' neglect of Mubarak's monetary monopoly, which still operates as before. Until they do address this central feature of Egyptian dictatorships throughout the past half-century, the Egyptian protesters will never, ever win true freedom for themselves.
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.