Breaking up is hard to do, as the Egyptians — both the good ones and the not-so-good ones — are learning to their considerable pain.
Hosni Mubarak is history, a gift from the army, and if the price of order is taking orders from colonels (and occasional second lieutenants), the ordinary Egyptian seems likely to take what he can get.
The crowds in Tahrir Square, chanting, "We're almost there, we're almost there," may have got it just about right. For now the men in the U.S.-built Abrams battle tanks are the men in charge. The new president, Omar Suleiman, will sleep in the luxury of the national palace for only as long as the generals say he can. The army's frothy assurances — "We're here to safeguard the nation and the aspirations of the people" and "everything you want will be realized" — will be verified only in the passage of time. For now, they're cheap and easy promises, maybe sincere and maybe not.
The omens in the success of the democratic wave coursing through the Middle East are bad news for the progeny of the men who have established the various satraps. The bloodlines have been cut, and being a dictator's son is not the surest, swiftest route to corrupt state power that it was only yesterday. The list of wastrel tyrants-in-waiting is a long one. Some have come already to just deserts, and the prospects of others have dimmed considerably in the wake of the uprising in Cairo (and before that in Tunisia).
Saddam Hussein's evil sons, Uday, 39, and Qusay, 37, were particularly heinous, raping, beating and torturing for fun. Disappointed by the performance of the national soccer team entrusted to his care, Uday once called in his players for a beating after a particularly bad showing. On another occasion, to entertain guests at a dinner in honor of the wife of President Mubarak, visiting from Cairo, he killed his father's valet with an electric carving knife. The brothers were killed in a shootout with U.S. Special Forces in 2003 after the U.S. Army got a tip from "multiple sources" that the brothers were hiding together in a villa in the town of Mosul in northern Iraq.
Other infamous sons have been dispatched to relative obscurity, in attempts to appease popular revulsion, by such villains as Moammar Gadhafi, Idi Amin, Daniel Arap Moi, Jomo Kenyatta and King Abdullah of Jordan (who once intervened with Saddam Hussein to go easy on his son Uday after he killed the valet at the dinner party).
"It doesn't take great psychological insight to conclude that the exaggerated sense of privilege these young men assimilate leads them to think there is no limit to the reckless depravity that's allowed them," says Stephen Kinzer, who has covered many of the corrupt regimes and is the author of "Reset: Iran, Turkey and America's Future." In addition to excesses of sex, alcohol, drugs, and gambling," he observes, "many share another favorite young man's pastime, sports. Marko Milosevic loved racing fast cars, Baby Doc [Duvalier] rode equally fast motorcycles, and sons of both Saddam Hussein and Gadhafi took charge of their country's athletic programs. Saadi Gadhafi even named himself to a spot on Libya's national soccer team."
Perhaps the most fortunate nations have been led by founders who left no progeny. George Washington, a man who could have been king, fathered no children. Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, like Washington, had no sons. Ottoman sultans of the old days sometimes strangled their sons with silken cords, just to be sure, and let those who survived him choose their successors.
The origins of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and the quickening anger across Arabia, are usually put down as resentment and despair over unemployment, brutal cops and the oppression of free speech and movement. So, too, the license assumed by the tyrants and their families. The feelings of revulsion resonate across the region, and the spirit of revolution pops up in unexpected places.
"Something felt really special about what was happening in Egypt, and I wanted to take part by showing solidarity," the Los Angeles-based Syrian-American rapper Omar Chakaki, says. He put his sentiments into rap:
I heard them say the revolution won't be televised
Al Jazeera proved them wrong,
Twitter has them paralyzed
80 million strong
And ain't no longer gonna be terrorized
Organized, mobilized, vocalized …
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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