Monday, January 31, 2011

Balk Like An Egyptian

For the life of me, I'm not sure what to make of the whole situation in Egypt.
As a freedom-loving American who wants to spread the gospel of liberty, the uprising to me is a good thing. And as Jon Stewart pointed out, we managed to foment regime change without firing a shot or spreading shockandawwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
As a student of world history, the unrest in Egypt seems like the kind of fuse-lighting, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. That there's this spreading sense of empowerment across the region--Yemen, in particular-- speaks to me that there may be a bit more here than meets the eye. It's a little hard to swallow the party line, that the fall of a Tunisian strongman has fomented this kind of unrest in Egypt.
There is precedent, of course. One need look no further than our own American revolution and the influences it had in bringing down the King of France. You'll note, however, there was more than a decade between the two events.
Whatever one makes of the differences in communications, and the instantaneity of information now as opposed to the 18th Century, people are still people and emotions are still emotions.
Still, as has been said often, no nation is more than three meals away from a revolution.
To flesh that out, starve a country and you will get pockets of revolution and starve them long enough, you will get a full-blown uprising. And for sure, Egypt has had problems feeding its people. And keeping the lights on.
And finding jobs for youth. And suppressing wages. You Republicans might want to keep a close eye on this.
Indeed, Egypt itself and Mubarak in particular have been a Petri dish for civil uprising, having survived the Bread Riots of 1977.
Obviously, the American government has had to tread carefully. I like the measured words that both Obama and Hillary Clinton have used over the past few days, and this measured response has not seemed to anger the people of Egypt unduly. I think they recognize that the Americans support more freedom but also have to contend with an ally who has now become troublesome.
Indeed, Mubarak's cabinet shuffle seems more about the US pressure than the upward pressure from the people he governs. That Mohammed El-Baradei's name has been bandied about as a successor to Mubarak speaks to me of an American wish expressed in backdoor channels. That particular linkage would go a long way toward res-establishing America's foreign policy credentials in the Middle East. El-Baradei, you might remember, was the UN weapons inspector who the Bush administration all but laughed at when he reported there were no WMDs in Iraq.
That he's being named so prominently in the US media (as opposed to, say, Boutros Boutros-Ghali) speaks to me of an encouragement to Baradei and a warning to Mubarak, but also as a signal that America has regrets over the shabby treatment Baradei received.
The fly in the ointment, and wherever there is unrest, you should always look to the fly in the ointment, is the Muslim Brotherhood. So far, this transnational Islamist movement has made small noises in Egypt, mostly humanitarian gestures to primp its public image, like handing out food and water. Make no mistake, its agenda is to instill Sharia law as firmly as possible in Arab and other Muslim nations, and that they have expressed support for El-Baradei should be looked on with mild alarm.
I mean, really, how often are the US and the Muslim Brotherhood going to be on the same side of anything? Someone's being either misinformed or disingenuous.