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Remedies for a Bad Strategy

These days, whenever I’m asked the usual question of “we eh akhbar il thawra?” (What’s happening with the revolution?). I tend to respond with: Not doing so well.  The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), in my opinion, has succeeded in controlling the minds of the population and are having their way with things.

Reforms are for show, not for change, and while some are pressing on, the majority of people just want to get by with life and get it over with.

Above all that, almost everybody — except those stranded in the square– are hating the revolutionaries at the moment.  It’s just not going in the right direction, in fact, things seem to be taking a nasty turn and it’s only getting worse.

The harsh truth: Everybody hates us

No matter where I go or who I speak to, almost all are against what the revolutionaries are doing today, not only in Tahrir but in all of Egypt’s squares.

I even went around four different cities last weekend hanging out with taxi drivers, mechanics, lorry drivers, gas station employees, military officers, Bedouins, business owners and just about anybody else I could sit with.  My Conclusion? They all hate our guts and think we’re fucking everything up.

Even the young military officers and soldiers I spoke with have now turned against us and are on the SCAF’s line of thought/brainwashing.

Why is this significant? Because what we need to understand is that we are at war and the Egyptian people are our foot soldiers (metaphorically of course).

What we have now is, in military terms, is a mutiny within our ranks. It reached the point that the residents of Abasseya put themselves in harm’s way to go out on the streets and fight against the protesters coming from Tahrir to stop them from reaching SCAF’s headquarters.  The residents were even on standby the weekend after, ready with all their weapons, just in case the protesters thought of going back again.

Now of course, I’m very aware that some say that the residents were pressured / paid / brainwashed / scared into doing what they did. Some even go further and say most attackers were mere “thugs” and not residents. But whether we like it or not, that’s the long and short of it: Residents DID attack, and they would again if they heard of another march going to SCAF’s headquarters.

If we use the war/military analogy, what just happened is that you sent two divisions to fight a battle with the enemy, then one of your divisions sided with the enemy and trapped your loyal troops and attacked them.  Our enemy has had a great success in spoiling the image of activists and the struggle in Tahrir with just about everything they could throw at us.  Now, Tahrir is associated with Islamists, “Filool,” (remnants of the old regime), foreign agents, baltageya (thugs), unemployed people with nothing better to do, etc.

The objective is to fight a battle and win it, but as it stands, your own troops are against you. If you go to the battle field now you’ll be wiped out (as you have many times before).

The moral of this story and all these analogies is the following: Without the moral support of the people (the silent majority, if you will), we will all fail.

A simple description of SCAF’s main tactics

The skeleton of SCAF’s tactics is clear:

1.       Allow protesting

2.       Infiltrate with baltageya/amn dawla/il 3afreet il azra2

3.       Have agents attack/provoke troops

4.       Attack protesters and end it.

5.       Use media to highlight the fact that the protesters include baltageya and that there are hidden motives to the protest aimed to create chaos and spread disharmony

6.       Another protest happens against violence or to release those arrested

7.       Protest is infiltrated

8.       Etc.

This is the cycle that feeds itself, with the aim of creating more protests with the exception that each time it happens the protest (along with the protesters) becomes weaker rather than stronger.

The more we continue to protest, the more ammo we give SCAF, i.e. it working against us.  It has become an old method and they have become experts at fighting it — our cause has become the most vulnerable in a protest.

Alright, so what do we do then?

Let’s say you’re doing a crappy job grilling steaks for your friends, to the point that all your friends hate your guts.  Then one person keeps trying to act like a pro and keeps begging to take over and flip them himself, you get sick of it and say “alright, go ahead then! You do it!” Then he does a crappy job too and everybody gets annoyed at that person instead.

That’s what we need to do.

We need to take the MASSIVE (negative) spotlight that is on us right now and put it on SCAF instead. Give them no excuse for fucking up, because when they do (and they will), that’s our opportunity to strike again.

Don’t be in the picture, be on the sidelines. Instead of grilling the steak, sit back and mess up the beef’s marinade (tatbeela). Play dirty.

What must happen is a complete pull-back from protests for at least 1-2 months, and for a well-planned covert media effort to take place to taint the image of SCAF with the people.  This must also be done hand-in-hand with smart political lobbying on all levels.

Once we manage to create general discontent towards SCAF for being the ones who can’t get the wheel of production (that we all love) moving again, we can reclaim our troops and head back to war. This time is when we will need them most, because the period between the parliamentary and presidential elections is by far THE most important time for us to be able to get out there and exert pressure.

Those sitting in in Tahrir are now the first and biggest excuse for SCAF to get their way with things.  Take that excuse away from them and they have lost their most precious weapon, then we turn around and fight them differently.

Change tactics, be unpredictable, strike where the enemy can not see.

For more of the above, follow me on twitter: @AmrBassiouny


16 responses to “Remedies for a Bad Strategy

  1. Joan H Craig July 31, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    No 8 etc perhaps includes circulating a YouTube video of #scaf in Washington giving textbook answers…

    Ramadan – time to meditate.

    All those guys you were talking to wouldn’t be able to choose to go on a long demo: families to feed, employers & customers to please. So they would herbal bit fed up with you all – and the extra disruption to their lives It’s not to say they don’t want what Tahririans want, in the end.

    As far as I can understand it from afar, focus needs to be on election strategy & tactics, issues affecting everyday life – wages, prices, housing, jobs …democracy, water. Winning hearts and minds, that’s the thing, but how, who, where?
    ‘Gossip the Gospel’ is an old church phrase for an effective means of evangelisation. Which is to say, get up off your backsides, get out of you comfort zone, get out and about and talk to ordinary folk in ordinary language – about the issues and problems they may not think can be changed. Tell them about the possibilities for solving some of the problems, get them involved in the campaign. Tell them your story, help them to know they can be part of it. Especially, there is life beyond Cairo.

  2. Perfectionatic July 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Nice analysis and I think your overall strategy is sound. The only trouble is that you got a moral issue at hand that if dismissed will do serious damage to your credibility.
    The families of the martyrs are likely to face abuse from the police if the sit-in breaks. The were the prime force behind the sit-in in the first

  3. Perfectionatic July 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    The analysis you made and the strategy you propose are well thought-out and sound. It might be a bit simplistic, however. We have a sensitive moral problem at hand. The families of the martyrs were the core around which we sit-in started in the first place. If we end the sit-in now and step back from the spotlight, as you suggest, those families are likely to suffer nasty abuse at the hands of the police. The police officers in question will see those families as a greater threat to their careers than at any other point in time and they will continue to apply pressure and harass them.

    The families do not want to leave the square. Shall will such dismiss them as collateral damage in media/disinformation war with SCAF? If we do, we loose a tremendous amount of moral capital and we would appear as heartless generals who would even honor the memory of their brothers for a sake of tactic that may or may not be successful.

    If we stay, then all what you mention applies and we enter that cycle again. We need to think of some sort of a workable solution that would make the families feel safe. Not sure about the details, but I don’t think just pulling out of the square like many of coalitions and political forces did is the honorable thing to do.

    • Joan H Craig July 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Dilemma, isn’t it. There’s no end of hurts needing healing, but I see your point about these families. Could you make a big noise in the square about this very specific issue, at the same time find a contact who would lean on someone who could, in private negotiate a way forward?

  4. Observer July 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    You have a problem with framing the issue as revolutionary v.s. SCAF. At that first point you lost 90% of the population. Yes the performance of SCAF is weak and there are very relevant reasons for that. The majority of the population are welling to wait on SCAF for 6 month or so till we have a free a fair elections, have an elected parliament and government and then do whatever we want. wither it compensation for families of martyrs, fair trials or whatever. An elected government will be more responsive to the demands of the people. Direct democracy techniques like sit ins and protests has many problems and that is what we are seeing in Egypt and this is why all democracies in the word use representative democracy. We need to move in that direction. Get ready for elections.

  5. Marwa July 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm


  6. Tallulah July 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve been saying this for some time now but it bears repeating: Stop preaching to the choir and start preaching to the congregation. The revolution MUST start educating Egyptians to the truth of what has been happening. Remember that these people might not be as aware as revolutionaries about the criminal actions of SCAF. Tell them! Give them proof. Educate them.

    Also, educate them as to what the revolutionaries want for the new Egypt. Show them how, by supporting the proposed democratic changes, their lives will improve.

    Think of this next step as marketing a new Egypt to the public. It is time to advertise, advertise, advertise, educate, educate, educate. Utilize the country-wide media to reach as many people as you can. Put that education in writing to be taken into all the homes of Egyptians, so they can read it, rehash it, share it, and assimilate it in their own space. It will make more sense to them if they can take time to regurgitate it over time. Use the time leading up to the elections as a time to re-educate, inform, and sell your New Egypt to the country.

    One thing that must end is the continued protests because they are feeding the insecurities of the general populace, and allowing your enemies to manipulate things to their benefit.

    It is time to change direction in this war to save Egypt from the dictators. People will not respond well to anger, frustration, aggression so give them enthusiasm, vision, anticipation, and win them over to your side. It really is a battle now between good and evil, and if you want to win, you must do so without becoming the evil. Win the population`s support by overwhelming them with a positive vision for their future. By doing that you will show SCAF up for what they really are: pawns of a dictatorial regime that doesn`t want to relinquish control of the country.

    It is important to remember the crimes of the past, but don`t allow those crimes to derail the revolution. It is time to look forward, and inspire Egyptians towards a new Egypt.

  7. NB July 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Strongly agree with your analysis. It is time to really listen more too, to understand the issues.. public support and moral support comes through giving the same. What are people’s needs right now? How can revolutionaries help satisfying those needs? How can we protect the vulnerable and win over hearts and minds? We have to do the work the military council can’t/won’t/doesn’t understand. Ignore SCAF for a while and move forward. I’m also sure whatever the revolutionaries will do in this time will definitely be better than anything SCAF will accomplish.

  8. Mark E. Smith August 2, 2011 at 11:40 am

    The families of the martyrs are likely to be abused whether or not the sit-in continues, as SCAF only considers police and military to be martyrs. Civilians are just people to be controlled so that they don’t interfere with the $1.3 billion a year SCAF gets from the US to protect Israel.

    New strategies and tactics would be great if there was enough social consciousness to sustain a revolution. But even most revolutionaries don’t seem to want a revolution. Observer seems to think there is something good about representative democracies when they aren’t even real democracies. Look at the protests in Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, and Spain. Iceland actually had a real revolution, albeit nonviolent, and their government can no longer incur debts without the consent of the people and then force the people to repay those debts. This is not the case in the United States where our elected civilian government has destroyed our economy, bankrupted us, incurred debts our grandchildren can never hope to repay, and forced us to pay for illegal wars we don’t want. Our “representatives” have stated openly that they do not allow public opinion to influence policy decisions. What we have is a tyranny pretending to be a representative democracy. When representatives ignore the will of the people and cannot be held accountable, what good are they?

    2% of the US population owns most of the wealth. We have the widest income disparity in the world and the highest percentage of our population in prison. There are no jobs and wherever you go in the US you will find homeless shelters overflowing and families sleeping in the streets. But the wealthiest countries in the world still consume most of the world’s wealth. They do this by controlling foreign governments, installing corrupt dictators, or simply bombing the country to rubble if it won’t give in. Yet most Egyptians seem to think that the US is some sort of admirable model, instead of the enemy of social good. I know of only a small handful of Egyptians who are even familiar with socialism and socialist revolutions. Most are looking for reforms, not for revolution.

    A revolution has to have the goal of changing the form of government, not of mere reform. Reform is not revolution. Reforms, such as those made in the US after the great depression, are easily undone. A revolution has to have the goal of forming a new government where power is vested in the hands of the people, not in the hands of monarchs, dictators, representatives, or other elites.

    The elected civilian government in the US has no control over our military. Most military and intelligence agency operations are classified secrets. Only a small handful of Congress Members have access to them, and then only on the condition that they not tell their Congressional colleagues, much less their constituents, what they know. But the military and intelligence agencies have been known to lie to Congress and to withhold information from the President. They do what they want and the elected civilian government might learn about it later on, or might not. All the civilian elected government can do is transfer money from citizens to the military, but cannot oversee what they do with that money. Our Pentagon loses, meaning they have absolutely no records of and cannot account for, trillions of dollars every year while many Americans don’t have adequate health care, access to decent education, or even enough food.

    Revolution is impossible in both Egypt and in the United States because in neither country does there exist the necessary level of social consciousness. There can be, and usually are, many protests and demonstrations, for which law enforcement is well prepared and which are easily suppressed. In the US unarmed civilians are killed by the police all the time, usually for no reason at all, but often for being non-white, and they are not called martyrs–just as in Egypt they are called thugs and criminals and most of the population, except for their friends, families, and a tiny minority of leftists, believes it.

    If the protesters in Egypt, like the protesters in Israel, want luxury condos, fancier cars, bigger TVs, more business opportunities, and the other benefits of being part of the imperialist, neocolonialist, predatory capitalist world, it is misleading to say that they want social justice or a revolution. If I am part of a system that loots and pillages, that kills millions of innocent people so that a small elite can have obscene luxuries, and my only complaint is that I’m not getting a big enough share of the loot, it is not a valid complaint, not even if I’m unemployed, penniless, and starving. Unless I can say that I want to change the system so that nobody has obscene wealth and everyone has a decent basic standard of living, I am not a revolutionary, just more collateral damage of a system that puts profits before people.

    I follow some Egyptians on Twitter who are socially conscious, understand the difference between socialism and capitalism, and are true revolutionaries. But most Egyptians are as ignorant and materialistic as most Americans. Until that changes, irregardless of strategies or courage, no revolution is possible here or there,.

  9. yshawkat August 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Spot on. What we – those who want change – need to do to be part of the wider call for change is join it rather than turn into an exclusive minority that ‘thinks’ it can do it better. The key to snowballing towards change is rounding up all those affected by social injustice, whether its those affected by rolling power cuts in the delta to keep Cairo air-conditioned, whether it the thousands of families of over 7000 loved ones who perished last year alone on Egypt’s notoriously unsafe roads, or whether its the millions of underpaid farmers and workers who barely survive the week’s pay. All this injustice needs to be put into perspective and how participating in making our government means less injustice and more equality.

    Tahrir became an exclusive club of sorts. Last night’s atrocious attack on it was a rude wake-up call that there is more than a patch of traffic circle to claim.

  10. Tallulah August 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    So what is the alternative? To stop protesting altogether? To accept that the military, aka the dictators, will run the government, or the MB will? Or to continue on the path they’ve begun, learning from mistakes, and keeping the goal of a free, transparent, secular democracy as the beacon that leads and inspires?

    The West has stalled in their pursuit of this goal. Our governments (Canada & USA et al) certainly are not working for us, but The People, for the most part, seem resigned to this, and are not striving for anything better. I can only speak for Canada when I say that our system of government is flawed and does not really represent The People as it used to do when the country was young. As we have grown our system of government should have grown too, and on the surface we were told it has, but scrape that surface and you find the flaws. It is slowly dawning on The People that things are not as they should be, but we don’t have an alternative… yet. The Arab Spring has opened many eyes in the West, so maybe we, too, will begin to demand more accountability of our governments.

    Egyptians have started down the long road of change and they cannot turn back now. Every step they take away from Mubarak & Co., is hopefully a step towards the kind of democracy that is uniquely Egyptian, and one that works for everyone.

    • Amr Bassiouny August 3, 2011 at 6:13 am

      You can’t force people to want change, and even if they want change, you can’t force them to want to fight and suffer in order to achieve it. I never said sit back and forget about getting your justice and freedom, I just said change tactics because you’re losing miserably now :).

  11. Pingback: A Call To Action « amrbassiouny

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