The overt age of grand empires gave way to the age of covert imperial hegemony, but now the edifice is crumbling.
And yet, by means seen and unseen, external actors, especially the United States, with a distinct American blend of presumed imperial and paternal prerogatives are seeking to shape and limit the outcome of this extraordinary uprising of the Egyptian people, long held in subsidised bondage by the cruel and corrupt Mubarak dictatorship. What is the most defining feature of this American-led diplomacy-from-without is the seeming propriety of managing the turmoil, so that the regime survives and the demonstrators return to what is perversely being called “normalcy”.
I find most astonishing that President Obama so openly claimed the authority to instruct the Mubarak regime about how it was supposed to respond to the revolutionary uprising. I am not surprised at the effort, and would be surprised by its absence – but merely by the lack of any sign of imperial shyness in a world order that is supposedly built around the legitimacy of self-determination, national sovereignty, and democracy.
And almost as surprising, is the failure of Mubarak to pretend in public that such interference in the guise of guidance is unacceptable – even if, behind closed doors, he listens submissively and acts accordingly. This geopolitical theatre performance of master and servant suggests the persistence of the colonial mentality on the part of both coloniser – and their national collaborators.