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While many have been surprised by the seemingly sudden uprising in Egypt, the real question isn't about how it happened but why it didn't happen sooner. Despite brave and noble opposition efforts by various individuals and groups over the past decades, it seems nevertheless to have been taken for granted by much of the world that the Egyptian people would live under oppression indefinitely. It seems to have been taken for granted that the revolutionary movements that have shaken half the globe in the past half century somehow couldn't touch one of the world's oldest nations, as if that very ancient history stultified the very modern Egyptian people. Of course, most of the efforts within Egypt have been ignored by much of the world for decades, and if noticed at all, were mostly written off as but spasms of extremism. So the surprise at current events is not, itself, surprising. The grace and humanity of the current revolutionary opposition is a wake-up call not for Egypt, but for the world.

One of the most insidious aspects of life under despotism is that it can create an existential ennui among the subject, a barely conscious layer of hopelessness and helplessness, which then becomes a tacit participation in allowing the despotism to continue. To Franz Fanon, a rebirth of consciousness was necessary, a violent reawakening to the basic rights and responsibilities that are every human being's birthright. That decades of seemingly thuggish stability could be blasted apart so quickly in Egypt speaks to the fragility of that consciousness of suppression. Fanon spoke to a different era, for in these events we see that no existential cataclysm was required. It took but a whisper, a breath, a candle flame, and a people thought to have been completely denuded of will exploded into such full possession of their own unique ability to create their own history that it's clear they had never lost it. It wasn't even dormant, it was lying latent, just barely beneath the surface, where the merest hint of possibility resonates and concatenates. This is a warning. This is the future. This is a reminder of the strength of the human spirit.

The industrialized world has built much of its wealth off the theft, enslavement, and exploitation of less militarily powerful people. The Age of Colonialism and Imperialism couldn't last forever, but in many places it was replaced by but the Age of Neo-Colonialism and Neo-Imperialism, which in some ways was less messy for those reaping the financial rewards. Occupation and the garrisoning of military personnel could be outsourced to locals, with the extra added bonus of further enriching the arms merchants, often by a process of ostensible foreign aid which was, in reality, just recycled back to the home land as corporate welfare disguised as arms purchases. The war profiteers didn't even need wars, and local despots had shiny new toys with which to keep themselves in power and their people under constant threat of violent and torturous repression. As others have pointed out, the tear gas canisters used in Cairo, the tanks rumbling through its streets, and the military jets thundering in its skies, all were made in America. To some, no doubt, this is cause for patriotic rejoicing.

That the West has had to continually recalibrate its response has been revealing, but again not surprising. So many assumptions are failing. That a long transition was floated would have been laughable, had it not been so absurd, but the quick flip from that to the possibility of a quick exit for Hosni Mubarak while his hand-picked successor leads the interim regime is no more likely to be acceptable to the people actually on the ground in Cairo--particularly given that hand-picked successor's role in the brutalities of the Mubarak era, and his deep ties to the CIA. It's fascinating watching the West fumble for answers while ignoring the answers already presenting themselves by the people leading the revolution. But Mohamed ElBaradei is considered suspect to the West, despite his being a secularist, and as much European as Egyptian. Of course, some won't forgive him for having had the temerity to complicate the fervor to invade Iraq by insisting that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. A temerity all the more unforgivable because he was proved right. But even worse has been ElBaradei's insistance on allowing the weapons inspections process to work in Iran, once again, and this time more successfully, undermining the chickenhawks' desire to invade and destroy yet another Muslim nation that has done nothing to merit being invaded and destroyed. And it is perhaps most interesting that Iran itself considers ElBaradei a thorn in its side, which means the Western neocons and the Iranian theocrats are united against much of the rest of the world in reviling a Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat.

But these latter day imperialists are not only consistently wrong and deranged in their movable blood lust, they are also on the wrong side of a critical turning point in world history. They don't recognize the realities of the world in which they live, and they certainly won't recognize the world that is evolving. And they will hate what they do recognize. But they are not now holding the reins of power, and the most curious aspect of the larger state of geopolitical confusion has been the inability of those that do now hold the reins of power to create a clear separation between its approach and that of the antideluvians who are perhaps genetically incapable of anything else. What is happening is obvious. It's not that the West must meddle or force itself on the Egytpian people, it's that the West can do best by but helping to clear the path that the Egyptian people themselves are defining. Convoluted half-hearted solutions are not the answer. The answer is right there, on the ground, in Cairo. It's not only about trying to protect the opposition, it should be about helping them to be heard and empowered. In the end, doing so would be quicker and easier and much less invasive.

Another undeniable dimension of the Egyptian revolution is that the internet once again has played a key role in redefining political possibility. The WikiLeaks revelations seem to have helped inspire the Tunisian uprising, and there is no question that access to the internet has opened worlds of information to peoples all around the globe, people who otherwise would have little access to information that was not directly controlled by their governments. It hasn't received much notice, but Chinese authorities have revealed their own worries by restricting news and discussion of the revolution that is rocking North Africa. The Mubarak regime itself quickly shut down the internet and Blackberry texting. On the other hand, in an attempt to be proactive, Jordan's King Abdullah has sacked his entire cabinet. But perhaps most interestingly, the unrest has yet to hit the oil-rich Middle Eastern states, where local governments are not alone in keeping a close watch. The leaders of the industrialized world have been slow and cautious in responding to Egypt, but their real fears lie in their not knowing what to do if the revolution expands. Current attempts to comprehend and to figure out a path forward will be considered all but politically trivial if the world's economy is potentially to be thrown into chaos. And that's the real secret to what is happening in Egypt. Because the Egyptians, like the Tunisians before them, hardly were alone in but awaiting a reason to believe in the possibility of hope. People around the globe share the yearning, and access to information has become a critical means of empowering that yearning.

It long has been as absurd as it is cruel to expect that the current system of economic and military imbalances can last forever. It long has been as absurd as it is cruel to expect so many people to suffer so much for the financial benefit of so relative few. A world so dominated by the North and the West cannot continue forever. The forms of Colonialism and Imperialism and Neo-Colonialism and Neo-Imperialism have evolved and refined, but the most basic truths have remained the same. People everywhere deserve their basic human rights. Those suffering from a loss of basic human rights will not tolerate it forever. And those responsible for the suffering are going to have to help end it if they are going to claim their own basic sense of humanity. Tunisia and Egypt are not the end. They are barely the beginning. The pace of change cannot be foreseen, but the responsibility of people of conscience could not be more obvious. The world's economic powers no longer can thrive off the exploitation and subjugation of others. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are by, of, and for the people of Tunisia and Egypt. But the larger story is about us.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Another significant part of this saga (29+ / 0-)

    is the high degree of Youth Unemployment throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.

    In short, the fissure between young and old is deepening. "The older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones," former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato told Corriere della Sera. In Britain, Employment Minister Chris Grayling has called chronic unemployment a "ticking time bomb." Jeffrey A. Joerres, chief executive officer of Manpower (MAN), a temporary-services firm with offices in 82 countries and territories, adds, "Youth unemployment will clearly be the epidemic of this next decade unless we get on it right away. You can't throw in the towel on this."

    The highest rates of youth unemployment are found in the Middle East and North Africa, at roughly 24 percent each, according to the International Labor Organization. Most of the rest of the world is in the high teens—except for South and East Asia, the only regions with single-­digit youth unemployment. Young people are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed.

    It's astonishing what tens of millions of unemployed folks between the ages of 18 and 30 can ruminate on when they have nothing else occupying their free time.

    •  Someone made the point in another diary (9+ / 0-)

      That some companies are raising the price of food in order to cause chaos. Businessess around the globe have been making record profits and not hiring or reinvesting into their businesses.

      Think...It ain't illegal yet ! George Clinton

      by kid funkadelic on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:36:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You put your finger on something. (5+ / 0-)

      What's the birth rate been like in Egypt, oh, in the 80s and early 90s? If it's been high, and youth are a proportionally large part of the population...well.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:45:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Outstanding diary! (11+ / 0-)

      Perhaps it is not inconceivable that the 1% controlling the nations wealth here are wondering what will happen if they continue on their course of greed. If not, then they most certainly should. America has just as big a problem with wealth distribution as does Egypt, etc.

      So many more here are in poverty than the numbers suggest. There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth, but how that wealth is being used, is the key.

      •  Oil = Suppression. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cliss

        This is one of the most outstanding diaries I've read about what's going on.  Kudos, Bravo, Outstanding.  But you left out the real reason that all Western governments are being careful.  Food prices are important.  The manipulation of food prices, completely motivated by greed, is absolutely contributing to the unrest.  The greedy are playing with fire -- thinking that they will always control the down-trodden, but the real motivation is control of the world's primary energy source OIL -- yet once again.  This, I believe, will fail.  

        The unrepentant, inexcrable march of history is finally, finally overtaking the oligarchy, in years past, the monarchy.  Now we have the corporatists.  FDR saw it in the thirties.  People no longer believe them, except, worst of all for us, those in this country, controlled by the Koch brothers, who, because of social issues -- read gay marriage, abortion, women's rights, etc. -- continue to vote and scream at town halls, against their own interests.  

        In Egypt, they can no longer be controlled through sham issues.  My ONLY fear is some result in the ME that enables religious zealots to stop the forward march of liberalization of rights.  That, I hope is what the Obama adminstration is endeavoring to reach.  We don't know; we can't know what's going on behind the scenes, but I do believe that in Obama's heart, he is truly on the side of the people, not the oligarchs.  His one true failing is his desire for people to come to consensus to effectuate change.  Sometimes, there is no ground upon which we should agree.  Fighting against the oligarchs, to me, is that ground.

        "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." -- Patti Smith

        by followyourbliss on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 01:00:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  And here is the crux of the problem (4+ / 0-)

      relative to U.S. involvement in the whole Middle East

      They don't recognize the realities of the world in which they live, and they certainly won't recognize the world that is evolving. And they will hate what they do recognize. But they are not now holding the reins of power....

      Through both money (foreign aid) and weaponry, the U.S. has held some level of control over events in that region for decades, and it's almost impossible to give up control once it has been attained.  Especially for the control freaks who routinely bubble up to positions of power in our domestic politics, ceding control is seen as both a personal and national existential threat.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:42:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If I were an Egyptian Protester (12+ / 0-)

    the thing that would keep me from going back to work and being patient with the process that everyone in the elite ranks seem to back is the fear that I would not be able to keep demonstrating until September.

    Who will keep them honest?  Who's going to hold the pressure on?  Why should I stop demonstrating when no one has signed anything, no one's been named.

    Their only option is to demand change now.  But if someone could assure them that in September democracy would begin to take shape, they could put down their signs and go back to work.

    Democracy takes for freakin' EVER.  We know that more than anyone.  Waiting for it when there is none to be found is dangerous.  They know that more than anyone.

    Who can assure them that September will arrive and no one will screw the entire population of Egypt?  It's not like any other nation is going to pile on and help.

    I'm not afraid of guns! I'm afraid of the people that obsess over owning them.

    by Detroit Mark on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:12:33 AM PST

  •  Up the Egyptians! (7+ / 0-)

    And up wikileaks.

    A Catholic, Jew, Muslim and Buddhist walk into Al Aqsa Mosque. Buddhist immediately exclaims: "excuse me I appear to be in the wrong joke."

    by Salo on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:16:05 AM PST

  •  Great summary of the momentum (5+ / 0-)

    I hope you are right that this momentum in Egypt will carry forward to real reform and meaningful change. One thing that has not emerged is a clear opposition leadership. Mubarack and his goons have been certainly jailed, killed, or disappeared potential opposition leaders with the charisma and organization abilities to pose a serious challenge. However, without someone to organize the opposition and keep the protests going, my fear is that there will be enough cosmetic changes to appease some of the protesters and the pace slow enough to discourage others.

    In many ways, Egypt is critical to continue the impetus for change across the region. If the opposition movement in Egypt can not only force Mubarack out and then agitate for early and open elections, then there seems to be a very good chance we will see more happening in other countries. Let it be sooner rather than later.

    Be radical in your compassion.

    by DWG on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:18:54 AM PST

  •  These seem like important, new develioments (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cliss, Dartagnan, karmsy

    I'm not afraid of guns! I'm afraid of the people that obsess over owning them.

    by Detroit Mark on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:19:25 AM PST

  •  Obama Has Little Use For ElBaradei (14+ / 0-)

    He is not beholden to the US MIC for his livelihood.

    And it is perhaps most interesting that Iran itself considers ElBaradei a thorn in its side, which means the Western neocons and the Iranian theocrats are united against much of the rest of the world in reviling a Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat.

    Action is the antidote to despair---Joan Baez

    by frandor55 on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:19:30 AM PST

    •  Beck has already called (8+ / 0-)

      el Baradei a supporter of terrorist. Oreilly calling for WWIII to break out over there.

      Think...It ain't illegal yet ! George Clinton

      by kid funkadelic on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:31:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The thing is (5+ / 0-)

      does the common Egyptian cares about ElBaradei?

      My understanding is that ElBaradei may be hugely popular in the Western World, but people in Egypt barely know him at all.

    •  I fail to see the focus on Obama (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egalitare, Escamillo

      Diplomacy is for grown-ups -- it is complicated and multi-dimensional.

      What confuses me about the dKos respone in general is the obsession over Obama, when this is clearly about the Egyptian people.

      While Obama basically told Mubarak to go, I never got the impression that the U.S. had any real sway one way or the other.

      •  Billions in military aid to Egypt (6+ / 0-)

        That's the influence US has on Mubarak and the ruling party. If there were a credible threat that that aid might disappear, the ruling elite would have to listen.

        What I fear is that Western leaders, not just Obama, are giving lip service to democracy while quietly supporting dictatorship (with money, contracts, business, etc.)

        Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

        by coral on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:42:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Way too true, but... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Egalitare

          Every time the U.S. has taken diplomatic action, Mubarak takes one step closer to the door.

          If the U.S. had come out in support of Mubarak, it's reasonable to speculate that the "uprising" would have ended sooner. Mubarak would have had a green light to put down the protests. We could have blamed it all on islamic radicals and moved on.

          If anything, western lip service seems to be helping, not hurting the democracy effort. So that's why I'm perplexed by the uproar, particularly here.

          •  Putting down protest difficult because of number (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            happymisanthropy

            of people they would have to shoot. Can you imagine the army opening fire on the tens of thousands in Tahrir Square?

            I think they tried to do this on Wednesday and there were just too many people.

            They've been arresting/detaining/beating up/killing journalists right and left. Why do you think? So they can murder their own people with impunity.

            I fear that as numbers dwindle -- from exhaustion -- that they will murder the rest. Obviously, there is a great deal of surveillance going on, and names and pictures are being taken.

            Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

            by coral on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 10:33:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  An Israeli view (3+ / 0-)

        Haaretz

        Barack Obama, the man of promises, flickered to life last week. Packing his bags to leave the Middle East, and perhaps the White House as well, the U.S. president suddenly returned to what he was supposed to be: the leader of the free world heralding change and "yes we can."

        After two years of letting the Middle East down, after inexplicable foot-dragging in the region that threatens world peace the most, Obama appeared in all his glory. It was neither another useless military invasion nor meddling on behalf of another despot, but the right intervention at the right time for a right and just goal....

        •  That's what I keep hearing. But even if Obama... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ybruti

          ...does the right thing at the right time, as Haaretz claims, I get the distinct impression that most of the power lies in the hands of the Egyptian people.

          And for the Israeli press to complain about foot dragging is beyond hypocritical, but that is an aside.

          •  Hamas may end up a "winner" in this (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            happymisanthropy

            The current Likud driven policy of essentially marginalizing Fatah (as strongly suggested in the Wikileaks Palestinian Papers dump) only makes Hamas more popular with the majority of all Palestinians. Any change in Egyptian policy in a post-Mubarak era is very likely to be more sympathetic to day-to-day life in Gaza, which can't help but also boost Hamas politically and economically.

            In short, Hamas may be a long term "winner" in this, and any "Friend of Israel" had better get used to dealing with that particular consequence.

            The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

            by Egalitare on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 09:21:25 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Sulieman (4+ / 0-)

      said today on TV that ElBaradei is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. You can easily see why that propaganda statement was made.

      The torturer Sulieman is our guy (Obama is OKY DOKY with him leading the "transition"). Good.

      ElBaradei is against the US MIC. Bad.

      Doesn't take a genius.

      •  That's a boon to Baradei, I think (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli

        It may make a couple of talking heads in DC think twice about him, but it makes millions of actual Egyptians think more highly of him.  Suleiman, as you'd expect given his background, overvalues US views and undervalues Egyptian ones.

        APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

        by Rich in PA on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:50:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Really matters is what the Egyptian people want (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happymisanthropy

        If Obama is okay with anyone but Mubarak, well, that is the U.S. position. But is the U.S. running the show here? I don't get that impression. The Egyptian people need to choose.

  •  Egypt is OUR future (16+ / 0-)

    everything the Egyptians face---a wrecked economy, high unemployment, a lopsided distribution of wealth, domination of the political process by the privileged--we face too.

    Our response will be the same.  And although it will be a surprise when it comes--it shouldn't be.

    •  I don't know how it's going to pan out for us (7+ / 0-)

      but the whole Arizona and Texas things regarding secession and "states rights" does not bode well for the stability of our union. I felt the first pangs of fear for our country when I heard these pin head (Sorry for the name calling. But, well, no I'm not sorry) secessionists talk.

      An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.

      by rini6 on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:50:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Won't happen (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rini6, hmi

        I mean, I will be hella (to use an old phrase) surprised if this crap gets any real traction.

        Why?

        Because neither Arizona or Texas has it's own military might. Yes, Texas has its own grid and can certainly yank its power off the main country's, but really?

        How will they secede and how will they protect themselves from Mexico? I mean this in all seriousness. They leave our Union and they are screwed, imho. Besides the US military has way more weaponry than either state, and even if each state took over the various US bases insides their borders, really, would this make these people fight for secession? I don't think so.

    •  Sorry, but that is nonsense. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FiredUpInCA

      Why there have been so many posts around here claiming that the state of society here is comparable to that of other countries, I don't know, other than folks wish that things were that bad so they could tear down the system and built utopia from scratch.

      There was no overthrow of government during the Great Depression.  Why would there be now?
      Egypt has no political freedoms (not the case here), has a small middle class (not the case here, where the vast majority is in the middle class), has a 30 year regime headed by a "strongman" (not the case here).

      •  sorry, but it is not (0+ / 0-)

        We live in a banana-republic economy just like they do, where the rich get everything they want and the poor get nothing.

        That situation always leads to rebellion.  Just as it did here in the 30's.

        •  Egypt for the last 30 years (0+ / 0-)

          has been living under a dictatorship, a state of emergency since 1981, a chronic lack of work for the educated class, a security force of 1.4 million personell whose task is to kill dissent. Egyptians are dying in the street, for the most threadbare of Democratic objectives. No serious comparison can be made between our democracy and their society as it has been shaped by their Egypt's singular political history.

  •  Next: China, Cuba and other communist regimes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, sandbox, Only Needs a Beat

    Those are going to be uglier than the relatively peaceful events of the last few weeks.

    Plus Iran. The protests in Iran against the reactionary and totalitarian ayatollah regime will come back in force. I really hope to see the progressives in the West more involved next time.

  •  Extraordinary fine essay (18+ / 0-)

    Some of the best writing and thinking that I've seen here in some time.

    Your powerful and lyrical analysis expresses my hopes and those of people of pragmatic goodwill everywhere, I would further hope.

    Humankind cannot stand too much reality. T.S. Eliot

    by blueoasis on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:20:53 AM PST

  •  What's required to make sustainable (8+ / 0-)

    change in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and many other nations where there's repression and conflict is beyond any possibility to happen.

    Not enough resources or infrastructure exist to make people's lives better and the frustrations of the population will explode over and over again. Look at Ukraine, or any of the Eastern EU countries which struggle with democracy and vacillate back and forth from democratic leaders to despots.

    We spend trillions in the West every year on 'defense' and a tiny fraction on development. Even the tiny fraction we spend on development is usually tinged with military functionality.

    7 billion people. Not enough stuff to go round. The West has propped up heinous dictators and thugs in an effort to maximize business opportunities in energy, food, narcotics, metals for hundreds of years .. and we're about to pay a price much bigger than we can imagine as these dictators and thugs are toppled.

    Watching this dance over Egypt's future, just the beginning of a whole hell of a lot o' shakin' goin' on.

    Fred Koch helped found the John Birch Society

    by shpilk on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:21:28 AM PST

    •  I agree that the issue is resources. (16+ / 0-)

      For Egypt, the critical resource is water. Most of the 80 million residents are crowded into the Nile Valley. The rest of the country is largely empty desert. There is a plan to create a "New Valley" in the western oases (Kharga and Dakleh), but this would involve bringing in lots of water from the upper Nile. And this water would be drawn off at the expense of other African nations. Add to this, a population whose average age is about 27, and you have a recipe for disaster.

      The real problem is that there are just too many of us. Western prosperity is built on a history of colonialism and exploitation. However, people in the rest of the world would like to live the way that the more prosperous Americans do. There are not enough basic resources--food, water, land, etc.--to do that.

      •  The politics of this add a second dimension (9+ / 0-)

        to the issue. We have supported the completely undemocratic Mubarak regime because the Egyptians agreed to a cold peace with Israel, our ally, over 30 years ago. In return, we have given them lots of military aid and much less in the way of humanitarian reform. The military aid is really a sop to our military-industrial complex, since much of this military aid is spent on US weapons systems. I also think that we are afraid of where democracy might lead in Egypt.

      •  The ancient remedy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, happymisanthropy

        Was to invade Canaan and Numidia. Possibly sack cities in Libya.

        They can't do that today.

        A Catholic, Jew, Muslim and Buddhist walk into Al Aqsa Mosque. Buddhist immediately exclaims: "excuse me I appear to be in the wrong joke."

        by Salo on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 09:00:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Like a shot through silence. (0+ / 0-)

        The real problem is that there are just too many of us.

        Corporations have been enthroned and an ERA of corruption in high places will follow -- Lincoln. -9.38, -5.18

        by Nulwee on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 09:08:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  yes and no (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        isabelle hayes, GDbot

        Yes, there simply are not enough resources for the entire world to live at our wasteful and indolent lifestyle.

        But there ARE enough resources to bring everyone on the planet to a good standard of living (the equivalent of $40k per year per family, worldwide). An equitable distribution of wealth would mean the vast majority of the world would see its standard of living improve, a lot, while a small minority of the world would see its standard of living go down, a lot.

        Alas, it is precisely that small minority of wealthy who control all our economic and political systems, and they will not relinquish their position of privilege voluntarily.

        We will have to force them, one way or another.

    •  it's not quite true (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes, GDbot

      The problem has never been that there aren't enough resources to go around--IIRC currently there is enough productive capacity, worldwide, to provide every man woman and child on the planet with around $10k worth of resource annually--about $40K for a typical family. That, of course, would be an ENORMOUS improvement for the large portion of the world that currently lives on less than $1K a year.

      The problem is not that there isn't enough to go around--the problem is that the majority of the world's wealth is monopolized by a tiny handful of wealthy countries, and even within those wealthy countries, a majority of the wealth is owned by a minority of the population.

      Creating wealth has never been the world's problem--DISTRIBUTING it is.

      Equitable distribution of wealth is the basic problem we need to solve.

  •  Awesome Diary, and thanks (7+ / 0-)

    for writing.  

    Egypt: the world watches.  There are so many implications, so many ways it can go.  Many, MANY stakeholders who do not want change.  But change is coming, whether they want it or not.

    Egypt is definitely our future.  What we see there can happen here.  

  •  The sign held up by a protester sums it up... (9+ / 0-)

    US Stop your support of Mubarak
    We don't want to heat (hate) you

    America can have a crisis or an opportunity.
    The ball is in our court.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't.

    by crystal eyes on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:26:57 AM PST

  •  Possibly, But, we should study the USSR. (5+ / 0-)

    The similarities of pre-breakdown USSR and the USA are many. It is possible that the USA will follow the USSR quite closely, with California as Russia, the Mid-West as the Baltic States, and the South as the Stans. Big question, who gets stuck to be Soviet Georgia?

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:27:38 AM PST

  •  When the POTUS made the speech (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    abe57, blueoasis, LLPete, isabelle hayes

    In Cairo the audience knew that he read Fanon . While Klannity and Corsi condemn him for reading Fanon, that will help him. The POTUS knows that revolutions have to be in the voice of the people, not others. If it was Bush the 82nd Airborn would have HELP Mubarak by now. Many republican pundits want invasion by the US or Israel.

    The Revolution MUST be in the peoples voice.

    Think...It ain't illegal yet ! George Clinton

    by kid funkadelic on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:27:52 AM PST

  •  Excellent Diary Mr. Lewis!! (6+ / 0-)

    Thank you.  

    The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people. Noam Chomsky

    by willkath on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:28:18 AM PST

  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

    That's understandable when I realize that I can't feel my body.

    by prodigal on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:36:08 AM PST

  •  Great essay, thanks. (8+ / 0-)

    A couple of things I keep on saying in threads like this.

    1.) Regarding the influence of the internet and Wikileaks on popular uprisings, truly, we can't predict how this will play out. All bets are off.

    2.) A wonderful book is "The Schock Doctrine," by Naomi Klein. It explores how popular uprisings are continually co-opted by neoliberals, who institute economic policies to keep wealth in the hands of a few. She explores many examples of this, including S. Africa and Poland.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:39:14 AM PST

  •  A really fine piece of writing on Egypt (6+ / 0-)

    and us.
    Worth hanging around for this morning.

    Education is too big to fail. Truth is too big to fail. Justice is too big to fail. Peace is too big to fail.

    by Burned on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:42:25 AM PST

  •  I Wouldn't Bet My Lunch Money on This (10+ / 0-)

    I've been watching the power structure tack back and forth gobbling up assets and opportunity for 40 years. Nothing I see about popular movements hints that the people are in position to take back power from global ownership.

    I'd like to believe it, but it's not consistent with what I've been watching.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:42:52 AM PST

  •  I just hope the final outcome is good (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coral, blueoasis, Only Needs a Beat

    So far this has been extremely heartening (if a little bit frightening when you look at Mubarak's response.)

    I mean, when millions are yelling at you to "get out" I don't think the message lacks clarity. I hope he gets the hint.

    An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.

    by rini6 on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:46:11 AM PST

  •  Great commentary, thank you, we the people! (8+ / 0-)

    It seems that this is the turning point for humanity as a species. Either we come together as a human race, or we have gone beyond the tipping point and planetary disaster awaits us.

    The everybody force awakening in Egypt is what must happened, across national boundaries, religious boundaries, secular boundaries, all forms of us versus them, left against right, put behind us in a universal acceptance that it is our planetary destiny at stake now, the time for national and tribal wars is long over.

    So may this awakening continue, day by day, for everyone on earth. There is no sustainable future for our planet and species without a cooperative global humanity awake to our common heritage, and thereby no longer allowing power and resources to be co-opted by the deluded, power-intoxicated, ego-driven, and dependent upon a non-unified people false leaders of humankind.

    The time for a truly morally enlightened leadership of humankind has never been more urgent. May we, the people, claim our rights as the collective governing body of all of earth, that true and right transformations can take place all over our planet.

    Thanks again for a beautifully written piece!

    "Be the change you want to see in the world." --Mahatma Gandhi

    by sanitydotcom on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 06:46:16 AM PST

  •  Corporatization of government (7+ / 0-)

    One of the defining characteristics of our CEOs now is their extremely short-term outlook.  Our politicians have adopted this; probably none of them think much beyond the next few months.

  •  a must read article on Egypt (3+ / 0-)

    The US administration going with the man who led the international torture and rendition, the current VP.

    At least we are consistent.

    Here is an article that lays out the players and the stakes in Egypt. Similar capitalism and corporate takeover there as we have here in the good old USA.

  •  That's fine and dandy, but I await evidence that (6+ / 0-)

    the protesters in one public square, reaching a peak of a few hundred thousand (on the "March of Millions" day) in a city of 7 million (20 million in the metropolitan area) speak for 80 million folks throughout the country. I worry that the West (both the governments and the citizenry) are projecting their own desires onto the demonstrators, and even more so onto the 80 million Egyptians.

    What normally happens in these situations is that the revolutionaries, if they prevail, do so whether the majority of the citizens like it or not, and those citizens just go with the flow.  Let me point out that the majority of Americans did not support the American revolution (about a third did; another third supported the British, and the final third didn't care), and that was an actual country-wide "war for independence", rather than today's more common "revolution via urban uprising" whereby crowds in a nation's capital overthrow the government while the populace throughout the nation is generally untouched by the goings on and aren't consulted at all.

    No, I'm not supporting that Mubarak stay in power; rather, I am cautioning against reading too much into "regime overthrow via urban uprising", for we're seeing in that urban uprising the desires of a particular class of Egyptian society: the intellectuals, the urban youth, the ideologues, idealists, and well-educated; they may or might not speak for the average Egyptian.  

    I say that the protesters will prevail unless Mubarak goes into total-crackdown mode (like what happened in Tehran; and even that might not help him, as it didn't help Chuchesku in Romania) or Mubarak somehow gets out of Cairo and actually shows that he has support among the populace outside of the class that is demonstrating against him.  He's talked of having a "silent majority" of support, but there's no evidence that's the case either.  I'd be interested in seeing either the protesters or Mubarak show that either one of them has support among the wide Egyptian populace.

    •  Yeah, we always misinterpret this stuff. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FiredUpInCA

      Saw a show recently where they showed a bunch of Chinese kids in their late teens/early twenties a photo of the guy in Tienneman Square standing up to the tanks.

      Not one of them knew what the photo was showing.

      •  That's as distant as a picture of Washington (0+ / 0-)

        Crossing the De La Ware.

        A Catholic, Jew, Muslim and Buddhist walk into Al Aqsa Mosque. Buddhist immediately exclaims: "excuse me I appear to be in the wrong joke."

        by Salo on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 08:53:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent analysis (8+ / 0-)

    and I agree with the comment upthread about the unemployment rate of the young people only adding to the unrest in many parts of the world.  Add that to the unnerving shortages in food and water (per bjm's notable comment) and we have a recipe for a lot of unrest throughout the world.  Are we beginning to see a major league shakedown by earth to limit human population?

  •  Neocon = Neo-colonial (4+ / 0-)

    Same basic philosophy, same propaganda and same old scam.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:04:12 AM PST

  •  Great diary. I'm wondering though (4+ / 0-)

    having seen a few notes on Automatic Earth and Naked Capitalism about a tie between the Middle Eastern upheaval and the price disruptions in food, water, and gasoline due to speculators.

    Curious if anyone can point me toward something a little more detailed.  Seems like speculators (now no longer in the housing markets) have moved heavily into commodities, particularly food.

    While I certainly don't discount despotism and other factors, I'm wondering how much "globalism via speculation" is a factor.

    That's understandable when I realize that I can't feel my body.

    by prodigal on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:05:20 AM PST

  •  Genital Mutilation in Egypt (5+ / 0-)

    if human rights are gonna be the big thing in Egypt then perhaps whoever the fuck takes over this hot bed of modernism could address the quaint "cultural norm" of mutilating females genitals so that they won't enjoy sex too much and therefore will be more likely to be virginal when it is time to go down the isle. According to the United Nations;

    "...the Demographic Health Survey of 2008 also indicated that 91 percent of women aged 15-49 were circumcised."

    The use of the word "circumcised" in itself is a bullshit way of staying ever the relativist when discussing abominations of other cultures sort of like describing castrated men who would sing in a  Catholic Mass as "castratos" instead of guys who had their balls cut off.

    http://www.irinnews.org/...

    I can do some mean relativism myself at times but not when it comes to the involuntary butchering of peoples bodies.  

  •  Egypt just another sign (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein

    of how we do business in the world. We have and do prop up some pretty horrible regimes.

    I wonder if Afghanistan will ever forgive us, Iraq will takes decades to recover.

    As for central and South America, maybe we have forgotten about them, lucky them

    "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

    by LaFeminista on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:06:02 AM PST

  •  Unregulated speculation will destroy the world... (4+ / 0-)

    As near as I can tell, one of the top-tier reasons for the Egyptian explosion was the sudden rise in food and energy prices. That rise, which is apparently global, is directly due to unregulated speculation in food and energy commodities. The financial sector, having destroyed the real estate market in the U.S., has moved their ill-gotten billions into commodities speculation, artificially driving up the costs of food and energy at a time when the financial meltdown they created earlier is still not resolved. In fact, in terms of the U.S. real estate market, which inflated the catastrophic investment bubble they enthusiastically created, we haven't even hit bottom yet.

    And I see nothing on the horizon suggesting that anyone with any power to do anything about it has learned a thing from the real estate meltdown, nor do they want to learn anything. The organs of the U.S. government, from the President on down, see their role as protecting the financial sector and assuring its already obscene profits and growth. If that means a few countries melt down or that people in Egypt or Tunisia--or St. Louis or New Orleans or Chicago--can't afford food, well, then that's too bad because if they can't afford it they probably don't deserve it in the first place.

    At least Nero only fiddled while Rome burned. These guys are busy securitizing the water so the fire department can't afford to fight the inferno.

  •  Oh, the irony. (6+ / 0-)

    Reporting from Baghdad — Clamor for political change across the Arab world has reached Iraq, where protests against poor government services have broken out in the capital and other cities.

    On Saturday, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki vowed not to run for a third term, a day after he announced that he would cut his pay in half. Other officials agreed to decrease their salaries in a bid to stave off the kind of unrest erupting elsewhere in the region.

    "We will also enact a law that guarantees equilibrium between the salaries of officials and ordinary Iraqis," said lawmaker Abbas Bayati. "The current circumstances are pushing us to decrease expenses and salaries, and spend them on the low income classes."

    LA Times 2/6/11

    I want to make this point: War mongers like Tom Friedman justified the carnage in Iraq by declaring that it would spread democracy. A decade goes by and it takes a peaceful revolution in Tunisia to spur change from within. No shock and awe. No refugies. No maimed civilians.  And, now the product of the invasion is having to heed the call from those who peacefully seek to bring democracy. You don't hear any Egyptians talking about being like Iraq, now do you?

    "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed." General Buck Turgidson

    by muledriver on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:12:52 AM PST

  •  first popular uprising (5+ / 0-)

    This is a wonderfully thoughtful essay Mr. Lewis, and it brings a lot of important recent cultural history to light. It is important though, to consider the long-term nation of the region as well when trying to understand the surprise being expressed by so many politicians, intelligence agencies, and academics. The fact is that this is the first popular uprising in Egypt in five thousand years of state or imperial control.
    Egypt has a longer history as a unified political entity than any other place in the world. (While the very first cities and states emerged Iraq/Mesopotamia at about the same time, that region was not unified until a few centuries later.) In all of that time there has never been a large-scale popular uprising with support from so many sectors of the population. Yes, as Mr. Lewis points out, there have been occasional brave efforts from individuals and small groups but, for the most part, the people of Egypt have been acculturated to the idea that the autocratic state rule (whether pharaohs, caliphs, or presidents) is the norm for them.
    Every state maintains an ideology among its populace that naturalized the status quo and minimizes the chance of real rebellion. Egypt is a country in which this has been very effective, until now. (In the US we call ideologies like this "the American dream" and it creates a situation in which a man making $40K doesn't support tax increases on people making $500K because he might make $500K himself some day. The chances of that are pretty small for most of us, but we've internalized and naturalized the ideology that supports such thinking.)
    The most interesting questions for those of us who study the Middle East are those that investigate why this is happening now? What has changed in the past few years (or decades?) that has created the context for this kind of change in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond?

  •  Great piece. I hope we're operating on the right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurence Lewis, blueoasis

    side of history in Egypt.  It does seem to be a pivot point.  

    If not, I fear that the militarized democracy (perpetual war against the Muslim world) formally replaces even the marginal form of liberal/social democracy we have in the US.  

    That may seem to be an overstatement, but there isn't any way the safety net can be maintained over time given a culture of destruction and borrowed money.

    "Dega dega dega dega. Break up the concrete..." The Pretenders

    by Terra Mystica on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:28:16 AM PST

  •  A most excellent piece. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, Laurence Lewis, abe57

    The revolutionary ferment in the Middle East is providing direct confrontation with Western neo-imperialism. However, the economic developments in Asia are doing as much or more to contribute to its long term demise. While Americans sit around discussing what they are willing to allow the people of Egypt to do, the world is steadily changing.

  •  Mostly claptrap (6+ / 0-)

    "The industrialized world has built much of its wealth off the theft, enslavement, and exploitation of less militarily powerful people."

    Of course, that same industrialized world is also responsible for dragging much of the world out of millennia of grinding poverty via mechanization, crop genetics, medicine, birth control, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, electricity and, not at all incidentally, ideals of freedom and democracy that have spread with the industrialization. BTW, is the wealth of industrialized China owed to the same theft and enslavement? Russia? Japan? Saudi Arabia? Or is all the bad stuff on the side of "the West?"

    A small point: liberal ≠ Marxist.

    •  I think this position needs to be heard... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Escamillo

      ...and incorporated into our overall understanding of imperialism.  Bill Warren, a British Marxist of the 1970s, showed that you could be an actual Marxist and still have a positive assessment of imperialism.  

      APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

      by Rich in PA on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:48:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely (0+ / 0-)

        there are thoughtful, intelligent Marxists. I don't happen to be one, but that will not keep me from learning things from Genovese or Hobsbawn or Kojeve. Forgive me for thinking that Lewis's essay didn't rise remotely to this level. I'll have to look into Warren—thanks.

        •  Warren is too extreme in the other direction (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justanothernyer

          ...so he's more of a useful corrective to reflexive anti-imperialism (and the implicit celebration of indigenous social structures just because they're indigenous) than a reason to become a total fan of colonialism and post-colonialism.  At least he didn't want or expect postcolonial capitalism to last, unlike the Right-wing apologists of colonialism.

          APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

          by Rich in PA on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 09:06:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  That is one of my annoyances (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justanothernyer, Escamillo

      With trendy leftist commentary. The land that historically constituted modern  England for example was rich before the Romans. Was rich while the Romans were around was rich when the succeeding   Saxons were there etc til the present day. It's rich productive land.  

      A Catholic, Jew, Muslim and Buddhist walk into Al Aqsa Mosque. Buddhist immediately exclaims: "excuse me I appear to be in the wrong joke."

      by Salo on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 08:48:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think we overstate our relevance... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mithra, Escamillo, charliehall2

    ...in these situations.  It's not the Cold War anymore.  We can help change that's going to happen, or trivially and temporarily impeded it, but that's about it.  To think otherwise is its own kind of neo-imperial hubris.

    APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

    by Rich in PA on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 07:49:27 AM PST

  •  Muslim Brotherhood meeting with the government. (0+ / 0-)

    http://english.aljazeera.net/...

    Guess they chose to get their country out of this crisis peacefully--good for them.

  •  But the Egyptian regime WAS the revolutionary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer, Escamillo

    movement! It is the direct descendent of the regime Nassar created, to the approval of Leftists all over the world.

    One of its first acts was to seize all property owned by Europeans, or by Egyptian Jews. There are today almost no Jews in Egypt.

  •  Will Mubarak's regime rig next election? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, kid funkadelic

    I've seen little discussion of the ways and means of 30 years of rigged elections by Mubarak's crew and exactly how the entrenched power structure's grip on the levers of autocracy will be removed by this uprising.

  •  according to the movie W (0+ / 0-)

    building "Empire"

    is about controlling the world's oil reserves.


    So, that points a way for short-circuiting

    their power.


    similar reasoning could be applied to the control

    of food, and land, and water.


    Now if people could learn to use the internet,

    to build community co-operatives,

    and employee-own businesses,

    and networks of people, helping people.


    Where is the "Whole Earth Catalog" of the modern age?

    Where are the "Mother Earth News" magazines?

    Where are the internet resources for surviving,
    without the reliance on "Empire" and all that
    that entails?


    I dream of things that never were  -- and ask WHY NOT?
    -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by jamess on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 08:19:11 AM PST

    •  asked, and partially answered (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LillithMc, isabelle hayes


      "Whole Earth Catalog"
      Back Issues -- The content from many back issues of Whole Earth publications is available here on the website.


      "Mother Earth News"
      current issue   (still around, that WAS a surprise!)


      The Complete "Mother Earth News" Archives on fully searchable CD-ROMs or one DVD-ROM


      I dream of things that never were  -- and ask WHY NOT?
      -- Robert F. Kennedy

      by jamess on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 08:28:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not to be a jerk... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, isabelle hayes

        ...but to be surprised that it's still around is part of the problem.  It's all part of the liberal tendency to join in Reagan-era hippie-bashing in a misguided attempt to "stay relevant", thereby denying our own continued ability to determine what's "relevant".  (This is part of why I could never support punk, BTW.)  Meanwhile, such resouces lie, well, "latent, just barely beneath the surface".  

        Besides, who says the Mother Earth News isn't "for the modern age"?  After all, that sort of thing was all about looking forward to the times we're living in right now.  If I had a dollar for everytime someone in the '70s said "In the year 2000..." I could subscribe to the thing for life.

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 08:43:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent piece Laurence. (4+ / 0-)

    Fine analysis, superb writing, important subject...well done sir.

  •  Very Nice Piece. Thank You, Turkana. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurence Lewis

    Basically everything you say could (and should) be said about the U.S.  The long aftermath glow of our own uprising in the Sixties faded away sometime during the Reagan Administration.  People here are feeling that "existential ennui."  Those holding the reigns of power here keep themselves in power despite their monumental failures by the simple repetition of There Is No Alternative.  TINA really is their mantra.

    Part of the threat the Soviet Union (and later China) posed to ruling circles here was the idea -- one that lasted for a while -- that there was an alternative.  That had to be squashed at all costs.

    John Lennon was so right -- imagination is a powerful political force.

    Perhaps an uprising in one of the more developed economies -- Ireland or Iceland -- could set the spark here.  We certainly could use it.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 08:21:16 AM PST

  •  Neo Imperialism through Wall Street (0+ / 0-)

    Great to see DailyKos highlighting this.  As I pointed out before, Ed Schultz alluded to Wall Street's role in Egypt's social unrest (video here):

    http://www.economicrefugee.net/...

  •  What rubbish (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Escamillo

    Neo-colonialism?  Imperialism?  American weapons used to repress?  This diary could have been written in 1968 in a Greenwich Village head shop.  It is telling what is missing: any mention of Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the actual origins of the current Egyptian regime.

    The current Egyptian regime is not an American creation.  It stems from the 1952 Free Officers military coup which overthrew the existing monarchy.  It is in fact inspired by Arab Socialism, and one of the predecessors of Sadat and Mubarak was Gamal Abdel Nasser, bane of the West.  

    Nasser was a darling of the American Left, despite the fact that he ruled in a repressive manner akin to Mubarak, if not even more so.  Aside from the ruinous defeats in wars against Israel in 1956 and 1967, Nasser also plunged Egyptian troops unsuccessful into the Yemeni civil war - an incident that marked a significant use of poison gas by Egyptian forces.  Ironically, Nasser survived in power only because the US, under President Eisenhower, intervened to keep the Israelis, British and French from overthrowing him in 1956 after he nationalized the Suez Canal.

    Nasser's successors, Sadat and his VP Mubarak, were at the wheel when Egypt made its supreme military effort in 1973 against Israel, the October War.  They commanded armed forces using weapons provided by the Soviet Union.  In a sign of how Egypt is no one's puppet, Sadat threw out the Russian advisers before the war began, since the Soviet Union was lukewarm about the whole enterprise.

    Largely due to its initial successful showing in crossing the Suez Canal, and despite the fact that the 1973 war ended badly for Egypt with the encirclement of its Third Army, the Egyptians possessed enough leverage to go to peace negotiations with Israel. The result was the Camp David Accords, which returned a demilitarized Sinai (an area three times the size of Israel) to Egypt in exchange for what turned out to be a cold, but enduring peace.  Ambassadors were exchanged, trade links grew, and the region was spared another major war between two of the region's most numerous military machines.

    And what of the Muslim Brotherhood?  Founded in 1928, they started off initially involved in violence.  Severely repressed - leftist darling Nasser was the leader who first outlawed them - they have chosen a "peaceful" path largely because their attempts to bomb and assassinate their way into power failed.  Brotherhood-inspired military assassins did manage to get Sadat for the "crime" of making peace with Israel.  Their political platform is unambiguous - renunciation of the Camp David treaties, the promotion of religious over secular law, and the end point of an Islamic state that is likely to restrict and repress groups like women, gays and religious minorities.

    As part of the Camp David peace, the US stepped to replace the Soviet Union as arms supplier and also initiated significant economic assistance. However, the policies of the Egyptian regime under Mubarak have been decided by that regime, not the US.  Against US advice, the regime has refused to reform and open up state enterprises to the extent needed to modernize the economy.  The Egyptian military has resisted attempts to reform it into more of a western-model army, instead maintaining itself as a heavy-mechanized conscript force that to this day still plans and trains with Israel as its assumed foe.  Egypt has policed the border with Gaza, but resisted US and Israeli pleas to crack down harder on illicit smuggling and the arms trade, likely due in part to corrupt elements in Egypt that make money out of this trade.

    Egypt also has continued to play an Egyptian role in dealing with various factions in the region.  Egypt worked as a go-between for Hamas and Israel to end their latest war.  Egypt was part of the unanimous Arab League condemnation of Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq.  

    The mention of Wikileaks in the diary is revealing.  What in fact was in those cables?  They are a mixed bag, in fact showing US officials aware of the problems and urging Egyptian officials to reform (this push for reform has occurred over decades, both GOP and Democratic Presidents included).  

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    Some excerpts from this linked article:

    * [The cables] show in detail how [US] diplomats repeatedly raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers, and kept tabs on reports of torture by the police.

    * Privately, Ambassador Scobey pressed Egypt’s interior minister to free three bloggers, as well as a Coptic priest who performed a wedding for a Christian convert, according to one of her cables to Washington. She also asked that three American pro-democracy groups be granted formal permission to operate in the country, a request the Egyptians rejected.

    * Egyptian state security was concerned enough about American activities in Sinai, according to another cable, that it surreptitiously recorded a meeting between diplomats and members of a local council.

    Ironically, the cables show Obama/Clinton as being less publicly hard on Mubarak than Bush/Rice were.

    Another irony of the diary is its portrayal of US military weaponry being used to crush the protestors.  In fact, the elements most under the control of the ruling party, the police, are using these tear gas canisters.  The Egyptian military - the main recipient of US military hardware - has until now played a relatively restrained role, refusing to be used to shoot protestors.  The situation remains fluid.  But so far Egypt's military has not repeated Tiananmen Square.

    Why is this brief history needed?  Because the diarist chose to leave out the context for the existing regime, its statist and leftist roots, and its character as essentially Egyptian.  He also paints a picture of Egypt as a US puppet state that is at variance with reality.

    The repressive regime in Egypt has long-standing roots.  It does not fit easily into a right-left analysis.  And outcomes such as an Islamist-influenced government could easily lead to a worsening of the human rights situation and the resumption of war.

    That is why Obama faces such difficult choices.  That is why US options, even with the best intentions, are limited.  We can do what we can to help ensure the transition is non-violent, and that strategic US interests such as the Egypt-Israel peace are maintained.  Giving the Islamists a role in government is risky, but probably the least of evils given how continuance of corrupt repressive rule will feed radicalization as people lack the peaceful means to advance their society.

    Are US governments, across the board and over decades, deserving of criticism for not doing more?  Sure.  

    But in the final analysis, this whole situation is not of our doing.  And it will be resolved according to Egyptian, not US, desires.

    "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

    by FDRDemocrat on Sun Feb 06, 2011 at 10:43:46 AM PST

  •  brilliant analysis and insight, Lawrence (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurence Lewis, blueoasis

    I hope our species lives up to your expectations.

    Thank you

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