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Egypt and the spider’s web

[ by Charles Cameron — a short course in my own ignorance, plain, simple — and having to do with Egypt ]


Nathan Brown writes with humility (“I do not know what Egyptians should do”), and a lucidity that Lewis Carroll himself might admire in What’s Next in Egypt? A roadmap for backseat drivers:

Egyptian legal disputes could only have been diagrammed by M.C. Escher

And that, I’d say, is just the beginning of a very tangled web.


Spiders and dewdrops

Spiders and dewdrops do a pretty convincing job of portraying a certain level of complexity in this node-and-edge diagram of the global situation.


When, say, Castro hands over power to his brother, or Musharraf has to give up control of the Pakistani army, it’s like snipping a couple of threads in that spiders web — and the droplets fall this way and that, carom into one another, the fine threads they’re on swing down and around until a new equilibrium is reached…

That’s something I wrote a while back, as you can see — but drop in a few different names and places, and it’s still good to go today.


I mean — can you imagine? Let’s use me for a guinea pig — or you can try it for yourself.

Mentally assign as many factors in the present situation as you can find to the various dewdrops on the spiders web — in such a way that cutting a given thread would nudge and budge, tear relationships apart and form new partnerships, until the whole thing settles into that new equilibrium — or even skip the Egyptian part, just imagine one of those threads snapping in the spider’s web itself, or a gust of wind shaking it, and the systemic shifts that would result…

Here, in full, are my own lab notes from that experiment:


Well, how about those better informed than I?

Morsi was living in Egypt, I’m not. Morsi speaks Arabic, I don’t. In addition to what anyone on the Cairene street might know, Morsi had access to whatever secrets could be derived from the Brotherhood apparatus, and from the Mukhabarat and sister services. He had a powerful position as President, and presumably preferred to keep it rather than going back to his old professorship at Cal State Northridge or languishing in Mubarak-like confinement.

He made his decisions with a view to aligning events in his favor. And voilà, he got what he not wanted.

I, of course, was not blinded by his particular lust for power, nor endowed with the perspective that researching and writing a dissertation on High-Temperature Electrical Conductivity and Defect Structure of Donor-Doped Al2O3 would give one… I just got dizzy at some point, wandered off and listened to Grimaud play Bach instead — but surely Morsi should have been able to figure out the future of Egypt, eh? Or Mubarak, perhaps? You’d have thought Mubarak at least must have had his finger on the pulse..

And Hilary Clinton? What with NSA hoovering, or better, dysoning up all the world’s communications, secret and otherwise, she must have seen both Mubarak’s fall and Morsi’s a mile off, eh? — and switched out Anne Patterson months ago, right? So we’d be well-placed for the turmoil that now ensues?


My sources for the DoubleQuote:

  • Steven Metz
  • Leah Farrall
  • And here, finally, for your consideration, is another tweet I liked:

    G’day, all.

    8 Responses to “Egypt and the spider’s web”

    1. zen Says:

      When, say, Castro hands over power to his brother, or Musharraf has to give up control of the Pakistani army, it’s like snipping a couple of threads in that spiders web
       It is like snipping a spiders web. However, Castro chose to delegate power to his brother ( his longtime closest henchman) while the it was the Pakistani Army most senior brass that shook off Musharraf and not Musharraf who decided to cede direct command of the military. One is the cutter and the other is the cut

    2. Charles Cameron Says:

      Heh — hence my phrase “Musharraf has to give up control” — I wasn’t suggesting Musharraf did the snipping, but that the situation played out that way.  But yah, clarity is good.
      I guess my real point is that we may have a good sense of first order effects, a guestimate of second — but beyond that, we’re often in the dark, whether we’re in power, or in intelligence, or simply bystanding, half a world away.

    3. Kumail Says:

      These two are by far the best takes on the crisis in Egypt I’ve read so far. 



      The power of modern military institutions in (largely) pre-modern societies such as Egypt and Pakistan explains a lot for me.

    4. Charles Cameron Says:


    5. Grurray Says:

      This isn’t about Egypt but is about sorting out the configurations and teasing out the tensions:



    6. Charles Cameron Says:

      Very useful for some of my purposes, too!  thanks!

    7. Grurray Says:

      One more I would like to share if you don’t mind me butting in too much.
      Kellen’s interviews were classics.  Here is a strategy paper from 1971
      You might find pages 9 & 10 interesting.
      The VC were relentless about morale. They operated in brutal almost torturous conditions, but if a 
      commander noticed anyone’s spirits down they would immediately initiate this group therapy. 
      It was extremely effective and resulted in few desertions.

    8. Mr. X Says:

      Speaking of @RobertCaruso (mentioned in the tweet above) he has @OathKeepers derangement syndrome. Seems that’s one group of bitterly clinging right wingers that really has him and other Beltway types freaked out.
      The rest of his obscenity laced rants against me are too vile to repeat on a family surfed website. 

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