The “third force” returns to world politics – why National Review and Obama are both dead wrong about Egypt

Over at National Review Online there is great angst about the potential for a political vacuum in Egypt, one that would be filled by Islamic reactionaries. Under the circumstances they are giving Obama “critical support” for his temporary backing of Mubarak. The NRO headline is a classic nugget of cowardice and stupidity: “Mubarak should go – but not yet.”

Their position, which indeed is the same as Obama’s, is that since there is only Mubarak or the Islamists better to prop up Mubarak until some force can be found – presumably in the army – that can take power to fend off real structural change thus denying the Islamists their victory. Ironically, the view that it is either Mubarak or Islam, is also the view of the Islamists themselves!

But NRO, Obama and the Islamists are all wrong – there is a third force at work, namely the Egyptian people themselves who are forming their own democratic movement now as we speak. And as in Tunisia there is a independent democratic labor movement in Egypt that has been willing to confront the Mubarak regime as waves of privatization have threatened “Egyptian socialism.”

Thus, far from a Hobson’s choice between Mubarak and the Islamists, there are three camps here, with a democratic movement a new third force that we should support. I explored such third force politics in my recently completed book manuscript on the Nicaraguan revolution. There, too, the US refused to support the independent democratic movement and instead backed the reactionary Somoza regime and then the illegal contra proxy army. The result was a decade of providing the Sandinistas an excuse to crack down on their own population, despite the heroic role that population had played in overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship. And once again the FSLN is in power in Nicaragua.

Are we going to make the same mistake in north Africa? It would seem the National Review and Barack Obama are intent on doing so.