Foreign Policy Blogs

Links from Around the Web: Egypt

Coca-Cola Commercial – Lyrics: We have sworn to erase the impossible/ It should be
hope, or no other alternative/ No matter how long they say the night is/ There
is no sleep, when it is time for seriousness/ Make tomorrow better, with your
hands, you will defy the clouds/ Make tomorrow better, the sun rises
everyday. Source: YouTube


Selected links to recent articles and excerpts below:

As Egypt’s post-revolutionary politics oscillate between protest and politics, the uneven progress of change has led to widespread frustration and suspicion
that the remnants of the old regime are sabotaging efforts at fundamental change. While key individuals from the former regime have been removed from
their positions of authority with some facing the prospect of prosecution, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the country’s ultimate ruling
authority until elections are held, has adopted a haphazard and opaque stance toward transition, including its approach to dealing with the former regime.
(from Special Report: Why the Past is Crucial To Egypt’s Future, by Michael Wahid Hanna).


The role of the Internet is an aspect of the Egyptian revolution that Egyptians and outsiders alike have remarked on excessively. Yet I am determined not to fall into the trap of calling this a digital revolution. Too much blood was spilled in Tahrir; too much happened during those six days when the Internet was turned off by the government (January 27—February 2) for one to accept the account that pits the technologies of globalization against the “medieval” tactics of the Mubarak regime. BBC Arabic is pithy: “The revolution of laptops versus camels,” a phrase repeated by an Egyptian magazine in an article titled “The ‘LOL’ Revolution.” (The camel reference is to February 2—quickly dubbed “Black Wednesday”—when forces loyal to President Mubarak rode horses and camels into a crowded Tahrir Square, wielding whips and sticks, and beat demonstrators brutally.) 

Putting the Internet in this privileged position, it seems to me, effaces or downplays the bravery and the spontaneous organization of Egyptian demonstrators by implicitly giving credit to the West for inventing technologies that created the wave of demonstrations in early 2011, from Casablanca to Damascus. In the several months before the Tahrir uprisings, mainstream American publications such as Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker, and the New York Times Magazine had variously discussed and debated the role of social networking media in effecting change, and reported on efforts within the US State Department to try to harness the power of these media. The winter and spring revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa seemed to confirm this technocentric understanding.


For 18 days, Tahrir Square served as an inspiring image of people committed, against all odds, to changing their country. But after a while, the crowds in
the square became emblematic of a difficult dilemma facing post-Mubarak Egypt’s new political actors. While Tahrir remained a focus for activists, the rest of  Egypt—the masses whose votes the revolutionaries would someday need—was being ignored. At the same time, the revolutionaries feared that, if they stopped the demonstrations altogether, they would lose whatever leverage they still had against the counterrevolutionary force of the military government.


As USAID and its American NGO partners proceed with their democracy and governance programming in the run-up to the first legitimate elections in most Egyptians’ lifetimes, they must do so with an abundance of caution and sensitivity to people’s suspicions. Stephen McInerney, the executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, realizes that. “Training and support made available to all groups can avoid them being seen as trying to engineer elections,” McInerney says. Support must be provided to “the system,” rather than any individual actors.


Egyptian companies and multi-nationals are now using images of and references to the youth-led uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in advertisements to sell internet service, mobile phones, soft drinks, tourism and more. The marketing has sparked something of a backlash among young Egyptians and has contributed to a rise in politicized street art and graffiti. Some street artists hope to reclaim the message in the streets by breaking the taboo of criticizing Egypt’s military rulers.



Mobinil Commercial – From the song “Egypt is my mother,” by Afaf Rady
Lyrics: Egypt is my mother, its Nile is my blood/ Its sun is in my tanning, its
semblance is in my features/ Even my color is wheaten, the color of your
goodness/ Egypt, Egypt.  Source: YouTube



James Ketterer
James Ketterer

James Ketterer is Dean of International Studies at Bard College and Director of the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. He previously served as Egypt Country Director for AMIDEAST, based in Cairo and before that as Vice Chancellor for Policy & Planning and Deputy Provost at the State University of New York (SUNY). In 2007-2008 he served on the staff of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education. He previously served as Director of the SUNY Center for International Development.

Ketterer has extensive experience in technical assistance for democratization projects, international education, legislative development, elections, and policy analysis – with a focus on Africa and the Middle East. He has won and overseen projects funded by USAID, the Department for International Development (UK), the World Bank and the US State Department. He served on the National Security Council staff at the White House, as a policy analyst at the New York State Senate, a project officer with the Center for Legislative Development at the University at Albany, and as an international election specialist for the United Nations, the African-American Institute, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is currently a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has also held teaching positions in international politics at the New School for Social Research, Bard College, State University of New York at New Paltz, the University at Albany, Russell Sage College, and the College of Saint Rose.

Ketterer has lectured and written extensively on various issues for publications including the Washington Post, Middle East Report, the Washington Times, the Albany Times Union, and the Journal of Legislative Studies. He was a Boren National Security Educational Program Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and in Morocco, an International Graduate Rotary Scholar at the Bourguiba School of Languages in Tunisia, and studied Arabic at the King Fahd Advanced School of Translation in Morocco. He received his education at Johns Hopkins University, New York University and Fordham University.

Areas of focus: Public Diplomacy; Middle East; Africa; US Foreign Policy

Contributor to: Global Engagement