2/08/2016

Living in a Digital Age


It is the fifth anniversary of the so-called "January 25 Revolution" of 2011, which led to the removal from power of Egypt's authoritarian President, Hosni Mubarak.

In the years that followed Mubarak's compelled resignation (followed by his arrest, trial and conviction), Egypt has seesawed between a democratically-elected Islamist President, Mohammed Morsi, and the reemergence of an authoritarian secular military dictatorship in the person of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, an Egyptian general who orchestrated a coup d'├ętat in 2013 that removed Morsi from office, and who later resigned from the military and was subsequently elected as Egypt's President in 2014.

The only constancy in American policy toward Egypt during this time was the absolute lack of any discernible policy in the aftermath of the "January 25 Revolution." 

This dearth of policy stands in stark contrast to the role played by an influential State Department policy maker turned Google executive, Jared Cohen, in formulating and facilitating a form of "soft" regime change policy in Egypt during the "January 25 Revolution" known as "digital democracy."

(It should be noted that Cohen was not operating in a complete policy vacuum; "digital democracy" was enthusiastically embraced at that time by the then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

It was actually the administration of President George W. Bush that took the lead in creating "digital democracy." Jared Cohen was hired by the State Department in September 2006 and subsequently assigned to the Policy Planning Staff to work on issues pertaining to counter-terrorism and counter-radicalism. 

Cohen had turned two years of personal tourism experiences in the Middle East into a best-selling book titled Children of the Jihad, where he postulated that the youth of the Middle East were sophisticated enough to distinguish between people, politics, and religion, and that, having been socialized by satellite television, mobile phones and the internet, were well aware of the realities of the world they lived in; they rejected the conservative politics of their parents, and wanted the same things as American youth did -- freedom (which Cohen somewhat naively couched in terms of access to music, recreation, and members of the opposite sex.)      Read more:
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