Egypt has been a pressure cooker for decades. Like others in the region, the Mubarak regime was sitting atop a simmering political crisis, simultaneously attempting to contain rising Islamist violence and snuff out pockets of political resistance. The country has been under a continuous state of emergency since the assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1981. That state of emergency has been the foundation of a policy of “stability through continuity,” which in fact has meant the monarchical exercise and transmission of power by a president backed by a military junta and with the support of the barons and apparatchiks of the hegemonic National Democratic Party. It’s now all crashed down, and Mubarak is gone. How did such a “stable” regime become destabilized so fast?
One reason Egypt’s political development was frozen for so long is the lasting influence of Gamal Abdel Nasser (president 1956–70), who allied the country with the Soviet Union, imposed a policy of economic nationalism and statism, and created huge loss-producing State enterprises and a bloated bureaucracy. Other reasons are Egypt’s geography, geology, economy, history, and geopolitical position, each of which has stifled the generation of an open political and economic system and strengthened the country’s static and authoritarian political system by providing revenue directly to the rulers, without requiring the consent of a productive population. Since the rulers don’