Monday, June 20, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Is it reasonable to state that countries with less guns are more likely to become tyrannical than countries with more guns?

A question considered by me at OTB:  Guns and Democracy

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Monday, March 21, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Egyptian voters have approved amendments to Egypt’s constitution.

From me @OTB: Meanwhile, to Libya’s East…

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Sunday, March 20, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

From me @OTB:

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Tuesday, March 1, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

To follow up on a post from a few weeks back:  German defence minister Guttenberg resigns.

A 39-year-old aristocrat popular with the electorate, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats.

He came under pressure after a Bremen University law professor began reviewing his 2024 thesis with the aid of the internet.

Reports emerged of a passage from a newspaper article that featured word for word, and then of a paragraph from the US embassy website being used without attribution.

Analysts then estimated that more than half the 475-page thesis had long sections lifted from other people’s work.


The plagiarism scandal led to him being nicknamed Baron Cut-and-Paste, Zu Copyberg and Zu Googleberg by the German media.

So yes, students, plagiarism can have real world consequences.

Sunday, February 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Egyptian Constitution Reform Committee Set to Report


Egyptian Army Accepts Constitutional Amendments

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Thursday, February 24, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

While events to Egypt’s west has captured global attention, it is worth remembering that the process of change continues along the Nile:  Egyptian Constitution Reform Committee Set to Report.

By Steven L. Taylor

Gaddafi Blames Drugs, Alcohol and Bin Laden for Uprising

Friday, February 11, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The events in Egypt are quite fascinating and appeal to my long-held interests in regime change and the behaviors of political actors and institutions in the context of political crisis.

This lead me to look at the Egyptian constitution here:  Looking at the (Suspended) Egyptian Constitution, which actually provides some insight into the behavior of Mubarak of late as well as clearly underscoring the extra onstitutional behavior of the military at the moment.

Also, here’s an interesting piece from an Egyptian newspaper that suggest that Mubarak was defying the military with his speech from last night:  Army at Odds with Mubarak and Suleiman?

Recognizing that it is speculation at the moment, but I will not be at all surprised to learn that Mubarak did not resign of his own volition, but rather was "resigned” (so to speak) by the military.

Sunday, February 6, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Note:  originally written for Outside the Beltway:

The events in Egypt have been referred to in the press as being a "revolution" (or, at least, a revolution in the making).  However, the proper classification (as a manifestation of understanding) will have to wait, as we are far from  revolutionary change in this case.  Indeed, the precise endgame is not even knowable at the moment.

Indeed, to date all we have seen is Egypt are mass demonstrations that have generated some amount of political concessions from the regime, which is no small feat (although how big a feat it is remains to be seen).  Consider the following list:

  1. The appointment of a Vice President.  This is significant because it creates a viable transition figure within the current government.  Of course, the appointment itself does not mean that such a power transfer will actually take place.  The appointment also created a specific spokesperson for the regime in the midst of the crisis that isn’t Mubarak, which is a significant tactical move, as well as a practical one, politically speaking.
  2. Mubarak’s promise not to run for re-election in September.  This at least opens to door for new leadership (although September is a long way away at the moment).
  3. The resignation of Mubarak and his son from leadership roles in the National Democratic Party.  This at least suggests some change in power structure (I choose the word "suggests" rather specifically).
  4. Talks with the opposition.  It’s a start.
  5. A promise to lift the emergency laws.  These have been in place since 1981 and if they are lifted would, at least in theory, allow for some political opening.  Of course, the promise is only triggered if peace is restored to the streets.

Now, every one of the above is significant, although it is worth pointing out that they are all either promises about the future and/or reversible.

None of this is revolutionary—not by a long shot.  Even if Mubarak decides to get on plane during this evening and leaves for good, that act, dramatic though it would be, would not a revolution make.

The question about whether or not there is a revolution is predicated on the question not of whether a given leader is removed, or even if there is some change to the nature of the regime (such as a movement to a more democratic system or even towards some other kinds of authoritarian regime).

A key question in the Egyptian case will be:  how radical will be the transformations of the institutions of the state and the basic social order?  If there is no radical change in those arenas, there will be not revolution.  At the moment there are zero guarantees of institutional or societal guarantees—indeed, no clear path to even tweaking said structures.

Ok, so what would a revolution look like?  I have always been partial to Samuel Huntington’s definition of revolution:

A revolution is a rapid, fundamental, and violent domestic change in the dominant values and myths of a society, in its political institutions, social structure, leadership. and government activity and policies. Revolutions are thus to be distinguished from insurrections, rebellions, revolts, coups, and wars of independence.  A coup d’etat in itself changes only leadership and perhaps policies; a rebellion of insurrection may change policies, leadership, and political institutions, but no social structure and values; a war of independence is a struggle of one community against rule by an alien community and does not necessarily involve changes in the social structure of either community.  What is here called simply "revolution" is what others have called great revolutions, grand revolutions, or social revolutions.  Notable examples are the French, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, and Cuban revolutions.

Revolutions are rare.*

To that list one can add Nicaragua and Iran (Huntington originally wrote the above in the 1960s, hence they were not listed).  There is also a question to how to deal with the events in Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I will leave that aside for this discussion (for example, how to classify the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia).

I will note, however, that things that are called "revolutions" in recent times comes nowhere near to qualifying, such as the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine or the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon (as well as any number of other "color" revolutions).  Mass protests that result in some amount of political concession does not a revolution make.  Indeed, to take the Lebanese example, can anyone even say that pre- and post-Cedar Revolution Lebanon are especially different places?

The likelihood from these events has always been some form of continued authoritarianism with the main question being whether Mubarak stayed or not (as Mubarak’s exits does not, by any stretch, guarantee democracy).  The hope (at least from my perspective and the perspective of many) was that these events would create an opportunity for democratization in Egypt (although instant democracy has always been rather unlikely).  There has also been a fear of an Iran-like outcome, but this seems unlikely

At a minimum it seems clear that the military remains a viable institution (not to mention that military men remain in positions of power).  As such, not only is revolution unlikely, so too is total regime breakdown unlikely as the coercive power of the state appears intact.

The question to me remains as to what degree the military’s disposition (its attempt at appearing neutral) is a function of policy by the Mubarak and his allies within the regime or simply the military itself biding its time.

* From page 264 of Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (2006 edition).

Wednesday, December 1, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

“The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.”—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in addressing the question whether other governments will eschew dealing with the United States because of the Wikileaks docudump.

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