Monday, February 7, 2011

The US and the Egyptian Mess

It's downright funny watching the Obama administration flounder around trying to decide what to do about the revolution in Egypt. The obvious answer is to announce publicly that this is something for the Egyptian people themselves to decide, and our part is simply to stand back and watch; I don't see Obama or his staff doing that, though.

For the past 30 years the US has dealt with Mubarek simply because he was there. He was the president of Egypt; therefore we had to deal with him. Who else should we have dealt with? Ali the cab-driver? Yes, we knew that Mubarek was a shabby little tyrant, but we gave him trade, alliance, military goods and foreign-aid money anyway. After all, he swore he wanted to be our "friend": that he was, first, a good anti-communist and, after the fall of the USSR, a good anti-terrorist. What else should we have done with Egypt? Besides, there was always the hope that he'd grow used to getting money from us, and we could use that to pressure him into keeping the peace with Israel and suppressing the Jihadists. To some extent, that worked. Egypt has not attacked Israel in a very long time, and just before the revolt broke out, Muslim congregations in Egypt made a point of guarding Coptic-Christian churches against attack by the Jihadists.

Nonetheless, Mubarek did in fact tyrannize and abuse his own people until they'd had entirely enough. So out they went into the streets, performing a marvel of Civil Disobedience -- with as little bloodshed as possible, given that the police and the army have served as Mubarek's bully-boys for decades. The police had the sense to run away and hide. The army has had the sense not to attack the demonstrators. Mubarek has had the sense to promise that he "won't run for re-election" -- which means that he's seen the handwriting on the wall and is stalling for time; I think we can be sure that he's moving his money and family out of Egypt, to some safe haven for rich ex-tyrants, as quickly as possible. If he keeps moving out, and if the protesters keep up the pressure, this will end in a successful and remarkably peaceful revolution.

Of course the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the grandfather of all the Arab terrorist organizations in the middle-east, is scrabbling about trying to grab the new reins of power. If the rebels continue to show solidarity between the Muslims and the Coptic Christians, the Muslim Brotherhood will gain a few headlines and nothing more; the US will transfer its agreements to the new Egyptian government, and all will be well. If the Muslim Brotherhood does succeed in grabbing power in Egypt, the US will have to end all such agreements and boycott the whole country. I suspect that most of the educated people in Egypt, of whom there are a remarkable number, are aware of this fact.

Alas, the US government says nothing out loud about all this. Obama mouths pretty platitudes, the various Intelligence groups blame each other for not predicting the revolt, and the State Department whaffles about What We Should Do -- all of which makes our government look like a pack of idiots.

Of course, that may not be very far from the truth.

6 comments:

Brian Dunbar said...

The obvious answer is to announce publicly that this is something for the Egyptian people themselves to decide, and our part is simply to stand back and watch; I don't see Obama or his staff doing that, though.

NPR had a guy from the State Department on this morning. I believe he was trying to say that. The phrase 'the government does not pick winners or losers' was lodged into my brain.

And it was lodged there because the government sure enough does pick winners and losers in the marketplace.

Not that I think this will be a position the government actually adheres de facto

I have faith that whatever happens, it will not be good. Revolutions are like cooking rice: unless you do things just right you get a sticky mess and a horrible time cleaning up the pot.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Brian. It's good to know that the State Department, at least, is daring to say in public that this is purely a matter for the Egyptians to settle.

As to what comes out of this, I expect that all the usual suspects will jump on the bandwagon, trying to grab power. Nonetheless, I've seen evidence that the intelligentsia of Egypt have been planing this for a long time, and have their plans too well set for opportunists to take over. Note how, as soon as the police became scarce, neighborhood militias formed to prevent looting and burglary. Note how both moderate Muslim and Coptic-Christian religious leaders started holding rallies together. Note how, despite the govt.'s shutting down the Internet, local hackers and phone-phreaks managed to get the news out. These are good signs.

--Leslie <;)))><

ravenclaw-eric said...

I remember the Iran mess very well---I knew a lot of Iranian students at the local junior college. From what they said, I figured we'd have been a lot better off just staying back and saying that the whole thing was Iranians' business to deal with on their own. Given our national tendency to be a busybody, I'm surprised we aren't even less popular in many places than we are.

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, since this is in fact something for the Egyptian people to decide, it may not be necessary for the United States to say anything at all.

After all, when the neighbors down the street are having a spat, you and I don't have to hold a press conference to say what we think about it. None of our business, right?

doragoon said...

"when the neighbors down the street are having a spat, you and I don't have to hold a press conference to say what we think about it. None of our business, right?"

so we ignore our neighbor's troubles until some idiot grabs a pistol and shoots a congresswoman. then everyone wonders, "how did we let this happen?"

which is it? do we sit on our hands and say nothing until our neighbor starts shooting people? or do we get involved and try to give aid and advice when they are in troubled times?

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Doragoon. Good point, but there is a happy medium. We can keep our hands off of Egypt, but our eyes on. If Egypt goes democratic, we offer the usual alliance deal. If it goes Jihadist, we withdraw all alliance, declare it an enemy, and aim our missiles at Cairo and points south; the moment the new Egypt throws an attack at Israel or the US, we pound it to rubble -- then we move in and occupy. The other Jihadists should get the hint.

--Leslie <;)))><