“Early 2011 was a dramatic period in modern Egyptian history. The
mainstream mediaa**s narrative on the Arab Spring portrayed popular
uprisings as the driving force that swept away the regime of Hosni Mubarak
and opened the door to democracy. But a closer examination indicates that
the rules of the past still apply. Concentration of power, physical
isolation from the outside world, and dependence upon outside forces for
economic security remain the trifecta that drives Egyptian society and
To understand the Arab Spring one must first understand the factors that
led to it. This is a discussion that must begin, not with the aspirations
of those that protested in Tahrir square, but with the strategic
imperatives of the military, the true vanguard of the Egyptian state.
Nassera**s plan to elevate the military as the vanguard of society worked,
but in years after Nassera**s death the military itself shifted position.
Rather than partnering with the Soviets to create a regional sphere of
influence, the military evolved its vanguard position in Egyptian society
into a system of ossified control. The state still owned nearly everything
of worth, but it was managed by and for the benefit of the military brass.
Everything from banks to import/export to agriculture — already heavily
influenced by the military under the vanguard system — was consolidated
into a series of military oligarchies. Rather than working to elevate
Egypt economically, the military oligarchs mostly divvied up the local
spoils and lived large.
This was a stable system from the late-1970s until the mid-2000s.
Egypta**s shielded geography limited the ability of any international
economic interest to challenge the military staffsa** personal fiefdoms.
Egypta**s partnership with the Americans mitigated international pressure
of all sorts, and in many ways even Egypta**s ostracism from the Arab
world due to its treaty with Israel allowed Egypta**s generals to rule
Egypt however they saw fit.
As (now deposed) President Mubarak aged, however, an internal challenge
arose to the military oligarchy in the form of the former presidenta**s
son, Gamal Mubarak, who wanted to transform Egypt from a military
oligarchy into a more traditional Egyptian dynasty. Doing this required
the breaking of the militarya**s hold on the economy. Gamal and his allies
— often with the express assistance of international institutions like
the World Bank — worked to a**privatizea** Egyptian state assets to
themselves. This process was a direct threat to the militarya**s political
and economic position at the top of Egyptian society. The military also
viewed Gamal, who never completed his military service, as a political
neophyte, incapable of understanding and managing the countrya**s security
The result was the a**Arab Springa**. In the months leading up to the
January demonstrations, Egypta**s top generals were delivering very stern
ultimatums to the president to abandon any hope of passing the reins to
Gamal while looking at their options to unseat Mubarak via more
unconventional means. The military strategically positioned itself early
on in the demonstration as the honest broker and guardian of the
protesters, taking care to avoid a violent crackdown on the demonstrators
while Mubaraka**s internal security forces were vilified on the streets.
Such a light hand was not due to lack of capacity, but due to lack of
need. The demonstrations provided the generals with the means to dismantle
the Mubarak legacy, the biggest liability to their own livelihood, while
maintaining the paramount role of the military.
But perhaps the most central indication that the a**revolutiona** was
misconstrued comes from the participation levels. On the day that Mubarak
ultimately stepped down the protests reached their peak. By the most
aggressive estimate only 750,000 people — less than 1 percent of the
population of densely populated Egypt a** took to the streets. In true
revolutions such as that which overthrew Communism in Central Europe or
the shah in Iran, the proportion regularly breached 10 percent and on
occasions even touched 50 percent. In short, Egypta**s Arab Spring was a
palace coup, not a revolution.”
Email From Stratfor, called “the business of stratfor” leaked from wikileaks sent from one vice president to the rest of the companyPosted: February 27, 2012
The Business of STRATFOR
After fifteen years in business it surprises me sometimes how many people wonder about who we are, who funds us, and what we do. The media refers to us as a think tank, a political risk consultancy, a security company and worse–academics. The Russian media calls us part of the CIA. Arab countries say we are Israelis. It’s wild. The only things we haven’t been called is a hardware store or Druids. Given this confusion, I thought it might be useful to occasionally write to our members about the business of STRATFOR, on topics ranging from our business model to how we gather intelligence.
Let me start with basics. STRATFOR is a publishing company and it publishes one product—our online intelligence service. STRATFOR focuses on one subject, international relations. It uses intelligence rather than journalistic methods to collect information (a topic for a later discussion) and geopolitics as an analytic method for understanding the world.
Stratfor currently has about 292,000 paying subscribers, divided between individual subscribers and institutional ones. This inflates our subscriber base. There are many organizations that buy site licenses for all or many of their employees. We know that most of them never read us. From a strictly factual point of view, 292,000 paid readers is the number. Practically it is less but we don’t know how much less. On the other hand, our free material, two weekly pieces that are sent to our free list and then circulates virally as they say, has been estimated to reach about 2.2 million readers each week. Where our paid subscription is certainly increased by an unknown degree, this is probably and accurate number.
The reason that I can be so casual about these numbers is that we do not allow advertising in Stratfor. If we did, we would be obsessed by the accuracy. But we don’t for two reasons, one of which is not that we are concerned about advertisers skewing our objectivity. We are too ornery for that. The reason is business. We are in the business of gathering intelligence and delivering it to readers. Being in another business, selling our readership to advertisers is too complicated for my simple brain. Plus we would wind up not only depending on my dubious business acumen, but on the acumen of our advertisers. Second, advertising on the internet doesn’t come close to paying for the cost of content production. Content aggregators like Google take free content from others and advertise against that. That’s great business. But when you are actually producing content, advertising simply won’t cover the costs.
We are therefore one of the few original content producers to be making money by simply selling subscriptions on the web without advertising. I’m pretty proud of that, in a world where experts say it can’t be done, and I wish I could take credit for that, but it actually is something our Chairman, Don Kuykendall, came up with in 2000. His view was simple: if you can’t sell at a profit, you don’t have a business. So we asked people to pay and to my stunned surprise, they did. So we had a business.
Until that point we were a consultancy. Only we weren’t a consultancy because a consultant is an expert drawing on long experience to give answers. Its nice work if you can get it. But we never were a consultancy really. We were a service provider—we would find out things in foreign countries for our corporate clients, usually expensive work in unpleasant countries. The problem here was profit margin. It costs a lot to gather information in foreign countries, so the nice fat contracts looked very skinny by the time we were done. We do some intelligence for companies who have been clients of ours for a long time, but at this point about 90 percent of our revenue comes from publishing—you subscription. That supports over 100 employees in the U.S. and sources around the world.
So think of us as a publishing company that produces news using intelligence rather than journalistic methods. That means that we have people in the field collecting information that they pass on the analysts who understand the information who pass it to writers who write up the information, with any number of steps. This division of labor allows us the efficiency to produce the product you pay for. And it has to be a quality product to earn your continued subscription get you to continue to pay. Still gets the point across but sounds less cavalier about it…
The nice part of all of this is that we really aren’t beholden to anyone except our readers, who are satisfied by what we produce, since we have one of the highest renewal rates in the business. Our goal is simple—to make the complexity of the world understandable to an intelligent but non-professional readership, without ideology or national bias. Dispassionate is what we strive for, in content and in tone. In a world filled with loud noise, speaking in a subdued voice draws attention. With over one-quarter of our readers coming from outside the U.S. and Canada, and that percentage growing, these are essential things what are?.
We are more aware than our readers of our shortcomings—everything we do comes under scrutiny from whoever wants to take a shot—including everything I write. Knowing our shortcomings (I will not tell you about them until we fixed them in the event you missed it) is the key to our success. Fixing it is our challenge. We are now in a six month surge focused on increasing quality and staff. The two seem contradictory but that’s our challenge.
Hopefully this gives you some sense of the business of Stratfor that will help you understand us. I’ll be doing these very few weeks (I don’t want to be tied down on a schedule since I travel a lot—heading to Indonesia at the end of this month). But its probably time to make sure we aren’t thought of as a think tank—a term I really hate. When you think of it, think tank is a really bizarre term.
As American’s we’ve learned to embrace the contradictions we face between the things we say, things we’ve said, and its effects on our actual moral stances that we claim to care about. We understand the difference, the necessary gap. By this point everyone of us has implicitly lied, signing a way a long sheet of paper after claiming to have read and understood the whole thing: knowing full well we could not understand its complex entrapping rhetoric had we the free time to read it. We don’t mind this. Many Anti-Rick Perry supporters say “he’ll never be elected! he wanted to seceed the nation!” thinking this self-contradicting statement will hurt both his public opinion polls and his chances of winning primary. It can be argued that if the Anti-Rick Perrian is a remaining Obama Progressive Left supporter that the same statements can be made concerning Obama’s own re-election campaign, and that’s the key. We’ve all learned to realize that ‘politicians are just like people too’ and maybe some of the things they’ve previously said are like old facebook statuses… people are dynamic right? When it comes to wanting to like a candidate we can interpret the self-contradictory logic as part of his human quality.
Earlier today Rick Perry stood firm by his recent open borders policy issue affirming that in-state tuition should be given to illegal aliens if they’ve been living in the in-district house for more than 3 years. Rather than relying on typical policy platform to announce his stance, he is demonstrative and outspoken in what he does or doesn’t veto. By allowing education to be included as part of an economic package, and to be separated from rights of citizenry sets a new tone. It still sticks to the survival of the fittest bottom dollar, think globalization, package but it removes its conservative protectionist policy. The controversy of Rick Perry lies in his disregard for social political values (mexicans/blacks/abortions/hpv’s) but he is very firm in his neoliberal economic policy and his open border policys, and he has been very consistent in his pursuit of global investment opportunities since as early as 2007. Why should texans be offended to have their jobs taken away by somebody willing to do it cheaper and more efficient when it was texans who voted in Rick Perry to allow for the open border policy’s in the first place? It was the open borders NAFTA policy that from 1992-1997 encouraged 35 million immigrants to move to the US as Mexico was unable to compete with cheap corn prices.
It SHOULD come as no surprise then, that the bilderberg group representative Rick Perry, continues on course. It is controversial in light of being found to be controversial, in that a lot of lower class and middle class Texans thought they had voted somebody in to office that would make it easier for Texan citizens to work over non-texan citizens, not more difficult. This is emblematic of the cognitive dissonance most Americans face facing globalization continuing to elect somebody opening us up internationally as long as he’d wear a belt buckle and jeans.
Another odd thing to face in the future will be the discouraging news of the tech industry. We hope that through dominating facebook and google, as Americans we might be able to use tech innovations like apple to make us dominate the international market place. Little do we realize how international these companies are, or are becoming and how little of an effect ultimately it will have on a broader source of income for a large group of social classes. We will say “so the tech industry happened, then why is unemployment at a steady 20 percent?” Looking at Rick Perry who praised austin’s previous tech boom, saying, why can nobody get a decent sandwich or afford bread milk or gas? Why is the rent still too damn why? As the world slips global only those at the top of the totem poll (3 percent) benefit, the rest of us slide our middle class ipad dreams into argentina-style standard of living.
Praxedis G. Guerrero was a young liberal revolutionary famous for the phrase “Mas vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas”(It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees) who lived during the Mexican Revolution. Unlike the Zapata/Pancho Villa section of the revolution, he did a lot of his early work through press releases and political media rather than violence. Their failed revolution of 1906 was due to a few things, one being the attempt to foster a revolution view a newspaper or a source of media, and second, due to the united states postal service both governments were already well informed of all the Junta’s commands. A manifesto of 1911 might be worth reading heavily infleunced by kropotkin. From canada Flores is writing young guerrero (22 at the time) some advice on running the paper
“We will need all the help you’ll lend us in the editing of the newspaper. For our part, we will see if we can write something. I write with great difficulty. The posture in which I can do it is excessively uncomfortable and i had promised not to write for newspapers, but there is a need of writing and I will write, even if it is not much. you will bear most of the load, but if something we get out on bail we will alleviate your hard work.
The newspaper is indispensable not only for our defense and to obtain resources for our defense by means of it, but to encourage those who are growing cold since they know nothing of the fight. Many believe that we are free and upon not seeing any manifestation of the struggle, they think that everything is finished. Others know that we are prisoners, but as they also notice that there is no struggle, because the secret works cannot be divulged, they must think that everything has been postponed and that there is no one outside of jail who continues in the work. In both cases there is the same result: discouragement… The newspaper is needed…they make every effort to leave the cause without a press”
Google is a fancy privatized post office, I don’t think we can expect them to remain completely neutral in the war either.