When the recent Egyptian uprising in the wake of three decades of power of President Hosni Mubarak began there were immediate comparisons made between current demands for democracy and the collapse of the Soviet Union, made abundantly manifest to an international audience with the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The 1989 culmination of the Soviet Empire differed from the current events in Egypt in one basic area. Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev demonstrated an awareness that times and circumstances had dramatically changed from the days of the unchallenged rule of Joseph Stalin.
Gorbachev's awareness led the Soviet government to institute glasnost and perestroika, Russian for openness and reform. As a result sweeping changes had occurred by the time that the Berlin Wall was torn down, beckoning the death knell of a Soviet Union that had been experiencing enhanced economic difficulties for some time.
The current Egyptian protests were so spontaneous as to catch the world community flat-footed. It was a product of the computer age, a shrewd use of social networking to promote a response to a rigid dictatorship through online communication followed by strategic coalescing.
With the Hosni Mubarak three decade period of rule reaching an inevitable end, Barack Obama and his State Department functionaries have been seeking to fine tune the departure of a faithful Middle East ally in a manner designed to avoid bloodshed while insuring ultimate reform and democracy to achieve the desired result of the upheaval.
Rather than resembling the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and its ultimate symbolic and tangible result of the Soviet Union's collapse, ongoing events in Egypt are reminiscent of occurrences in the Philippines and Haiti one generation ago. The year 1986, the final quarter of the two term Ronald Reagan presidency, was fraught with challenges presented by public protests in the Philippines and Haiti while later in the year, on November 25, Attorney General Ed Meese revealed initial details of the Iran Contra Scandal.
The Reagan Administration arranged safe passage from the Philippines and Haiti for deposed leaders Ferdinand Marcos and Jean-Claude Duvalier. One of the symbols of each administration had been the presence of high profile wives known for extravagance. Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos, a former beauty queen, was known for her vast collection of shoes. Haiti President Duvalier's spouse was an ex-model accustomed to expensive clothing shop sprees in elegant Paris stores.
The massive uprising that brought an end to Marcos' 20-year rule occurred after the leader and his allies declared to be an election victory that was tainted by fraud. The candidate who succeeded him, his last election opponent, Corazon Aquino, saw her husband Benigno, a strong opponent of the Marcos government, assassinated upon his return from exile in 1983.
The Marcos government was implicated in the assassination. Marcos' removal was augmented by charges that the deposed leader and wife Imelda had embezzled billions of dollars from the Philippines treasury.
In the case of Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc", he had been invested with the title of "president for life" by Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, his father. He assumed the presidency upon his father's death in 1971. Baby Doc ruled for almost 15 years at the time of his departure.