Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Toward efficiency but perhaps not democracy

The world watches Egypt. Wishful thinking abounds as we virtually witness the people there protesting, reading twitter feeds, participating via facebook “like” movements. In the pictures, the blood is not virtual. Change, for certain. To what, uncertain. A labeled dictator falls, and in America we applaud.

The change is not our change, and in the case of Egypt, we have been removed from the conditions there for a very long time. Egypt receives brief mention in our National Security Strategy (May 2010). The mention refers to the importance of Egypt and Jordan to facilitate basing requirements in the region. The document, after all, is all about our needs. Once, we strove to shape the world, but this NSS admits that we must “…face the world as it is” in order to succeed. Understanding the “as it is part” is very difficult. In the case of Egypt, we’re seeing a new “is” take shape.

I’m hesitant to use the general term democracy to characterize the destination for this people’s revolution. I’m skeptical in thinking that this revolution and the regional variations are spontaneous. I’m seeing a practical "business" side to this change.

Instead of a move toward democracy, I see a shift to autocracy, a soft, general term for a government much like China’s. One that listens a bit to the people, but a government with a new variation on the theme of dictatorship, a government that is pragmatic and able to efficiently decide, and do it quickly. Countries look to China with longing and fascination.

The look of longing is understandable as China is the customer of choice for energy and trade. China fascinates because they efficiently decide and quickly grow before our eyes.

We Americans tend to be very moralistic. Egypt seems to long for pragmatism, fairness…desperate needs, such as affordable food, require efficient fast solutions. Layers of unofficial funding (corruption) to fund something as basic as a drivers license is no longer an option in this lean, hemorrhaging economy.

China may have a sinister hand in this people’s revolution, but I sense a more practical set of intentions on their part. China has certainly profited from the recent quieting of conditions in the Sudan. China does not require a sophisticated foreign policy, as their policymakers are in the region in the form of business people, writing contracts, securing energy exploration and production licenses with their willing sub-contractors, many of them American based companies.

So given the very autocratic, efficient, and engaged super-customer, China…a customer very engaged in business in this energy-rich region, I’m seeing a collection of customer service providers scramble to situate themselves in this emerging new competitive business market whose banker and energy purchaser is patient, not on facebook and prefers not to tweet.

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