Professing My Ignorance About Egypt

To the person who demanded “write something about Egypt!” — uh, okay: I have nothing useful to say about the situation in Egypt whatsoever. I suspect I am more aware of the recent history of Egypt than most Americans, but this means I am just aware enough to know that any attempt at substantive opining about the situation will expose me as crushingly ignorant, albeit slightly less so than the average person here in the US. Me admitting this now just eliminates the middleman.

I do have a reflexive inclination toward the protesters, because among other factors it’s difficult to root against people standing up to an authoritarian government, and I worry that the Army and police there are going to just say “screw it” and open up on them. I’m also glad I’m not the president today, because there’s a dude hoisted on the petard of realpolitiks today, isn’t there. This isn’t specifically about Obama, incidentally; it McCain were president today, he’d be hoisted on that same petard.

But beyond that what I’m mostly doing is watching and seeing what happens, because among other things, this is further evidence that the vast majority of things that happen in the world are not about me, and me trying to find a way to shoehorn myself into the narrative one way or another is a little silly. The best thing I can do in a situation like this is to read up on it now and get more context and understanding, so the next time I want to or am asked to comment on it, I have something slightly less ignorant to say.

108 thoughts on “Professing My Ignorance About Egypt

  1. The protests are about the permanent state of emergency Egypt has been in for the past 25 years, and the lack of meaningful elections against Mubarak. So I kind of side with the protestors.

    But the protests were instigated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, so I kind of side with the government.

  2. The last thing the nascent movement in Egypt needs is the interference, or even the appearance of interference by Americans. Obama’s wisest course would be to speak in favor of peace, democracy and so on in general terms, and not contact anyone directly in Egypt. If he needs to, he can go through Jordan, or other more friendly countries.

    That said, hooking up the people in Iran and Tunisia with the movement in Egypt and in other countries, and getting them all to talk would be helpful. Some more difficult to kill system of mass electronic communication than Twitter needs to be developed. If the US wanted to promote freedom, giving the world a bulletproof way to communicate that would be free from governmental shutdowns would be a good start.

  3. @Foobear:

    The problem is that the Muslim Brotherhood hasn’t been the major players, but the Egyptian government is trying to tell everyone they are. On the other hand, they would benefit hugely if the government did collapse, which would make the complicated U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East even more complicated.

    In any case, I don’t think Egypt will turn into another Iran, so I guess beyond that it doesn’t matter.

  4. One thing that is evident that the Egyptian government has succeeded at shutting down virtually all communications networks going in and out of the country. This notably included turning off BGP so that the Internet has “gone dark” vis-a-vis Egypt, as well as SMS and Blackberry services.

    Interestingly, this didn’t happen when rebellious activity assortedly occurred in Russia and China in the somewhat distant past.

    Apparently, there are few enough services that the Egyptian government considered crucial that they were willing to shut “it all off.” For the Internet to represent a protection of civil liberties (and such), it is necessary that shutting it off be as “fatal” or “more fatal” to the government than whatever dangers are presented by leaving it on.

    From an “internet policy” perspective, this shows that national control of represents a potent sword to hold.

  5. I wonder what the rate of unemployment is in Egypt and how their standard of living compares to others in the Middle East.

  6. Mike T:

    Well, I don’t often let my ignorance stop me from saying any damn fool thing I want, I assure you. However, in this particular situation I do sense the potential for my ignorance to make me look especially jackassed. So I’m going to let prudence guide me, just this once.

  7. It’s a Scylla-and-Charybdis situation. On the one hand, Mubarak is undoubtedly an autoritarian dictator who tolerates no opposition to his rule within Egypt and has maintained the country in a state of emergency since 1981 to ensure that he has the powers needed to do so. On the other hand, he is about as pro-Israel as it’s possible to get while still being the leader of an Arab nation, something which the Muslim Brotherhood definitely aren’t. If he goes away too suddenly, they will almost certainly rush in th fill the power vacuum, and that could well have a further destabilizing effect on the reigon.

  8. The Egypt situation came on the news, Blaine said “has anyone been following this”.
    I was a bit flabbergasted. I understand the importance of things that are going on around the world, but with so much of what goes on being tainted by different political views…things can be distorted.
    I try to pay attention, but at the same time I don’t want to be taught or teach false facts.
    What is a person to do other than watch, absorb, and try to make statements based on more facts than possibilities.

  9. On the “political side,” it sure looks like there’s a lot not to like about the major players (e.g. – Mubarak, versus the Muslim Brotherhood).

    If all the sides that have material power are up to dreadful things, that sure makes it tough to come up with realistically good solutions.

    I fully expect that this leads to a lot of world leaders making general “hand-wringing declarations” that suggest they wish for good things for Egypt. And in the absence of wish-genies and fairy godmothers, that’ll be little more than words. Redeployment of the Fifth Fleet isn’t likely to help in any way.

  10. I just can’t believe it’s happening. I lived under a succession of dictators for twenty years before moving to the US, and the bravery of all these people is just mind-blowing to me. I’m desperately hoping, but I don’t know what exactly I’m hoping for. I guess among other things, as you said, that the military won’t just say “F*** it” and start killing people. I also agree with Josh Jasper that the west should make general statements about peace and democracy and not directly interfere. Historically western countries get involved by imposing sanctions or by supporting the “least evil” of available strongmen. Usually neither option turns out well for the common people.

  11. My bona fides: I have an MA in history (focused on Egypt, the medieval period), speak and read Arabic and I took language classes at the University of Cairo in the early aughts (02-03)

    Four things to keep an eye on.

    -The Muslim Brotherhood: While they are a substative threat, the Mubarak government has been using them as a a catch-all boogey man for years. Bad economic turn? Muslim Brotherhood is disrupting recovery. High rates of unemployment? Muslim Brotherhood is keeping out new investments. Mubarak’s government makes these arguments with a straight-face and the average Egyptian knows they are lying.

    -The “Average Egyptian” here is the key. He (and She) is likely better educated than the western media would admit. About 35% of Egyptians go on to some form of higher ed. (equivilant to community colleges and universities in the US) and over 85% of the general population is literate. That might not sound impressive, but for a relatively poor country in the Arab World it’s head and shoulders above others. The average Egyptian is getting their news via Al-Jazeera, both broadcast and online. There’s also the element of what all the pundits are calling “the Arab street”. Really, what this is community communication. Old as time, it’s gossip and rumor moving at the speed of motorbikes. Young Egyptians love to drive and will literally shout from the back of their bikes goings on. The cut off of telcoms is allowing rumor to replace fact. This is where things get scary.

    -Technology: The “internet kill switch” came because the telcoms are nationalized. Mubarak’s people (Mubarak himself is 83 and there have been questions as to his mental competency for years.) may have shot themselves in the foot with this move. Allowing rumor to supercede news lets things spin out of control even faster. Yes, protests are less coordinated, they’re also wilder and more reliant on reaction. Pay attention to where the protests are taking place as well

    -In cities like Cairo, the students and the poor don’t live in the high rises. Sounds obvious, but look at the footage of where these protests are taking place. These are the well-off areas of Cairo, including places where the tourists stay. Egypt’s reliance on tourism can’t be understated. The masses are moving into the “green zone” if you will and the military/police (same difference under the Emergency Law rule of Mubarak) response is going to be even more brutal.

    Random thoughts:
    -Joe Biden’s defense of Mubarak is repulsive, but predictable. He’s a dictator and thug whose fatted himself while Egypt has suffered, but he’s our dictator and thug and Egypt is second only to Israel as a consumer of American military hardware. Mubarak is a good customer!

    -The chants I keep hearing on Al-Jazeera are pointedly not religious. Things like “Mubarak is a criminal” and “Mubarak steals our future”. Yes, you hear the Takbir (Allah Ackbar) as well, but that’s almost background noise. The focus here, the anger, is about Mubarak.

    Sorry to yammer on.

  12. For 60 years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East—and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

    As President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address: “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way.”

    We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. When we talk about democracy, though, we are referring to governments that protect certain basic rights for all their citizens — among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate. The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children — boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police.

    Condoleezza Rice, Cairo Egypt, June 2005

    I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

    That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

    There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

    President Obama, Cairo Egypt, June 2009

  13. Until it got too dark to see much, Al Jazeera had some great live coverage. Now it’s a bit more sproradic, but still good stuff:

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

    Very odd to be cutting back and forth between coding and seeing Cairo burn.

    Big concern: NDP (ruling party) HQ is in flames, and no firefighters in the vicinity. The National Antiquities Museum is right next door. As you can guess, they’ve got a few kinda cool antiquities there. Losing them would be a *huge* blow.

  14. Ack, my oh-so-clever {/understatement} tags got ignored in the previous post. “They’ve got a few kinda cool antiquities” is definitely an understatement.

  15. So you’re saying it was right that my mother canceled her long-planned tour group trip to Cairo, departing tomorrow?

  16. @ MG Farrelly – the thing that I have kept hearing from blogs and newspaper articles is that the average Egyptian really doesn’t care that much for Israel and that the Israelis are worried that if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, Israel will have a more hostile neighbor on their southern border. Is this the case? I’m aware that Al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist radicals thinks the Brotherhood is too moderate and squishy for their tastes, but I’m reminded of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran where the various opposition groups on the left and the right made common cause to kick the Shah out and then the Khomeinists purged the leftist/socialist groups and took over. Does the average Egyptian on the street hate Israel because of the Sinai war? Or is Israel a handy tool that Mubarak used to distract the populace from his dictatorial government?

  17. Yeah, it’s not good the way Mubarak is governing. Unfortunately, it’s like Russia. Democracy is great and all, but they need an autocrat to make things happen. Or in Egypt’s case, to keep the wolves from tearing down the house.

    I suspect if Mubarak were willing to move aside, he’d find a way to gracefully ease ElBaredai (sp?) into power to bring the gov’t in for a controlled landing. Too bad that seldom ever happens. Occasionally. (America fired the British Parliament instead of sparking a homeland revolution after chasing the Red Coats back to Canada and Bermuda. The Soviet Union held a going-out-of-business sale.)

  18. You can indeed be “hoist” on your own petard, and yes, they are explosives, generally used to blow holes in fortifications. The Shakespearean reference to being “hoist” meant being blown up by your own explosive, metaphorically and literally being caught in your own trap or connivences.

    Renaissance slang aside, is anyone else as annoyed as I am by the continued “awarding” by the media of credit for both the Tunisian and Egyptian “events” to Twitter and Facebook rather then as the bitter fruit of a long and enduring autocratic economic and political history?

  19. While admitting my own ignorance, I would be unsurprised if the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in this is exaggerated.. It would be an excellent way of tempering the tendency of much of the world — especially a certain 800-pound gorilla — to reflexively side with protesters.

  20. Fascinating fact: Egyptians consider the Yom Kippur War a victory for them. The main bridge in Cairo is the “6th of October Bridge”, named for the start of that war.

  21. One of my formative memories of the larger world was the events of the fall of 1989, when I was 15 going on 16, and the eastern European communist dictatorships collapsed.

    This moment has the feel of that moment – it’s substantially more violent, to be sure, but otherwise it has the same feel: the whole region shaking as people stand up to their governments and say, no more.

    I hope it turns out as well for the Arabs in 2011 as it did for the eastern Europeans in 1989.

  22. #23 by Deano: “Renaissance slang aside, is anyone else as annoyed as I am by the continued “awarding” by the media of credit for both the Tunisian and Egyptian “events” to Twitter and Facebook rather then as the bitter fruit of a long and enduring autocratic economic and political history?”

    Sadly, I mostly burned out on that particular flavor of annoyance back when the media started trying to make dog-bites-man stories into man-bites-dog stories simply by adding “on the internet” to the headline.

    Of course, this is a real story. But the variants of “on the internet” have obviously become a bad habit.

  23. #17 by Jon Marcus: “The National Antiquities Museum is right next door. As you can guess, they’ve got a few kinda cool antiquities there. Losing them would be a *huge* blow.”

    If they have anything there from the Library of Alexandria and it gets destroyed, it would be depressingly symbolic.

  24. #6 by Paul: “I wonder what the rate of unemployment is in Egypt and how their standard of living compares to others in the Middle East.”

    This article on the BBC news website has a table at the bottom (scroll down) of some social indicators, such as unemployment, and compares Egypt to other countries nearby: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12204971 (at least as of 2010 GMT 28/1/11 it does).

  25. From a Business Insider blurb:

    Egypt is facing a demographic crisis. A few facts:

    Egypt’s population will grow 32% by 2040

    Egypt’s median age will drop from 33 to 23 by 2040

    Half a million Egyptians enter the job market every year

    Egypt, outside the desert, has the highest population density in the world, with 2,000 inhabitants per square kilometer

    In short, an incredibly dense population is expanding rapidly, creating hundreds of millions of unemployed and angry youths.

    There’s a similar problem in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia, and all the other places where riots have erupted recently. This problem isn’t going away, and it will take more than regime change to fix.

  26. gilmoure @33:

    I kind of doubt there will be “hundreds of millions” of unemployed in a country of ~80 million…

  27. I have to wonder how powerful the Muslim Brotherhood would be in Egypt if we didn’t keep sending billions to the guy who’s shooting his own citizens on the street for having the temerity to protest.

  28. Re: Twitter and Facebook – I think it’s almost impossible to overstate the effect of technology on some modern uprisings. Having a cell phone from which you can immediately send news, pictures or warnings to several of your friends/relatives/news-media simultaneously is a big deal. I’m not saying protests wouldn’t happen without technology – people have been suffering for a long time. But it makes a difference.

  29. #37,

    I don’t think anyone would argue that it doesn’t contribute to the metastasizing of the uprising but the media and pundits tend to be treating it as a causal effect rather then a contributory factor.

    And bluntly it easier for them to say “it’s a Twitter revolution!” than it is to explain the historical and cultural ethos of an event.

  30. @Chris Shaffer

    Well, Israel is often seen by many in the Arab world through the distortion field of the media. Conspiracy theories abound and the paranoia about Israeli “Sooper-Seekrit” plans is almost funny. When I was in Cairo my hosts found out my girlfriend at the time was Jewish. This led to at least one guy in my cohort becoming convinced that I was an Israeli plant. It was already weird enough for them that I was a chubby Irish kid from Chicago, but the fact my GF was a (lapsed and atheist) Jew was proof of a Zionist conspiracy.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is not going to “seize power” as I’ve seen a few right-wing blogs scream over the past 24 hours. The MB is not a political party, it’s an intellectual/religious movement.

    The MB has been a minority presence (due in large part to governmental pressure) for years. Supporters of the MB won 20% of the Egyptian Parliament, but again, they were not all one party, but rather like-minded individuals. Think conservatives, not Republicans. The MB are fairly moderate (for a theologically minded group whose main goal is to resurrect the Caliphate and re-establish the golden age of Dar-Al Islam, or the “house of Islam”) I suppose. They’re more focused on internal development than on foreign policy per se. Mubarak, like every other Arab leader in the past 60 years, has used Israel, and the specter of Mossad agents under every bed, to his own ends. Mind you, Egypt’s relative peace with Israel is financially beneficial to both countries, and any new regime is going to realize that, quickly.

    As for being a threat to Israel, not likely. This revolt isn’t about religion as much as it is about a fairly brutal dictatorship that has lost it’s grip on the younger generation. The under 35s in Egypt are jobless, angry and have grown tired of Mubarak. Some of them cotton to the MB ideology, but just as many simply want real elections, an end to the censorship and Emergency Law of the past 30 years. This is not a rebellion to purify the faithful, it’s about “kitchen table issues” which is why the crowds are so massive and the support so widely spread.

  31. What Deano said at #38.

    Basic literacy is a hugely important tool in modern revolutions, but one doesn’t see it mentioned in headlines, because it doesn’t have the same easy attention-grabbing pop-reference value to reporters/editors/producers.

    To be fair, it’s not just the media. Alec Ross, a Clinton’s senior adviser, was recently quoted as saying, “Revolutions no longer take months, They take weeks. You can go from zero to 60 like that,”

    It’s like a musician being called “an overnight success” … after years or even decades of practicing and performing.

    Yes, events in that area are moving quickly now, but (a) there are a lot more factors than the tech and (b) I’m sure it looks a lot more sudden than it really is, because most people haven’t been paying attention.

  32. @Deano & Bearpaw – okay, that makes sense. And I like the musician analogy – writers go through that, too. :)

  33. They take weeks. You can go from zero to 60 like that

    Just like Czechoslovakia in 1989? :) Or Portugal in 1974?

    I mean, it’s pretty much generally been true that revolutions happen in an almost-instant … once the tipping point has been reached and it’s clear that (a) the mass of the people are behind it and (b) the government doesn’t have the stomach for slaughter.

  34. #42 by aphrael:

    “Tipping point”, yes, exactly. I’m only a very casual student of history, but my impression is that revolutions nearly always seem sudden, dramatic, and unexpected, even for the people who more-or-less lead them. But the conditions that lead to the tipping point generally have been building for a while. Not that the specific conditions are ever well-understood for any example, even after the fact. Generalities, at best. At least, that’s my impression. I’m sure historians and sociologists have a far better understanding of the dynamics than I … and no doubt they all disagree with each other. [grin]

  35. @MG Farrelly, do you know if the Muslim Brotherhood would support ElBaradei’s bid for presidency? Considering he’s been outside Egypt for so long, I’m not getting a good feel for how much popular support he has, and his is the only name I’ve heard put forward, other than Mubarak’s son…

  36. I know very little about the situation either, but I’ve always found that whenever I see a guy throwing a rock at a tank, I find myself siding with the guy with the rock.

  37. I know very little about the situation either, but I’ve always found that whenever I see a guy throwing a rock at a tank, I find myself siding with the guy with the rock.

    Not with the poor mineral being caught up in someone else’s struggle?

  38. @Illiadfan:

    ElBaradei’s an outsider to the Muslim Brotherhood as well, he’s not part of their philosophical wheelhouse. His stance on Iran irks some Sunni hardliners (who would love to see Tehran plastered one) as well, but he’s pretty broadly respected amongst most Egyptians and seen as an accomplished man of international distinction.

    Mind you, if he were to step up he’d be inheriting a huge mess and his personal capital would only hold that together for so long. The longer Mubarak holds on to power, the worse the riots/responses get, the more damage is done to infrastructure and societal order…yeah…getting someone like Elaradei in there, and quick, would be ideal.

    Especially if this report, out of the Telegraph, that the US has been pushing this revolt for almost 3 years bears out.

  39. While it would not surprise me at all if the US were quietly giving some support to anti-Mubarak elements, that’s not really what the documents says. Though no surprise that teh Telegraph spun it into OMG SEKRIT US PLANZ.

    Aside from the guy with the rock, I also find myself siding with the guy who was partly run over by a personnel carrier. You know, one of the vehicles that was scattering people by making wide loops and spins through the crowd of protesters like a kid doing wheelies with his truck on a neighbor’s lawn.

  40. While I know both my fellow liberals and my not-so-favorite conservatives will be howling in both directions, the only sensible policy here is modest, humble and simple. Basically, shut up and keep our noses clean.

    Exactly what Obama just did.

  41. @MG Farrelly – I certainly wouldn’t want to be ElBaradei (or any other prominent Egyptian) right now. With so many problems to fix, there would be a crazy number of opposing voices about what to work on first and whether they’re taking too much on or not enough. Though I guess that’s how political change works.

    Thanks for the insight and the link! That’s an interesting article. I don’t see what the US would gain from actively supporting opposition groups against a long-time ally. My instinct is that this may be creative – and wishful – thinking on the Telegraph’s part. I’m more inclined to think that if this is true, it was a CYA-move just in case the protests were successful. That way the new Egyptian government would also be pro-US, and there would be no disruption in the relationship.

    I assume everyone’s seen Mubarak’s announcement about dissolving his cabinet and appointing a new one. Methinks he’s kinda missed the point…

  42. No one under 30 in Egypt likes Mubarak. He’s the symbol of corruption in the country; the reason why a country with so many natural resources and intelligent people is still a third world nation and not nearly as successful as a country like Jordan.

    Thus, it doesn’t take much to cause unrest against Mubarak. The young people are very civil, but i can’t say the same for the government.

  43. Methinks he’s kinda missed the point…

    Well only in the sense that it wasn’t that many years ago that he promised democratic reforms and hasn’t followed through. At the time his promise made big news in Egypt and beyond, especially coming on the heels of successful elections in Iraq. So his big problem now is credibility. As in he ain’t got much.

    And given the fact that he did make such a promise and that there are going to be elections later this year, the Telegraph piece loses some of it conspiratorial ambition since it is in the US interest to help groom a political class that has respect for Democracy. Remember, the fact of a dictator means that there is a dearth of professional political types.

    The US has a vested interest in the orderly transition to a democracy, and a political upheaval is not welcome since there is no telling who might ride that tiger into power. The outcome of outright revolt is a crapshoot and the odds are not in our favor.

    Besides everyone in power in the US remembers Carter and Iran.

    No one wants to see that particular outcome repeated in Egypt.

  44. @Iliadfan

    Putting on my speculation cap, I think the US has locked up some deals with generals in the Egyptian military. The next 12-24 hours will confirm or deny that. If the US has reached out to the military, you’ll see very little in the way of a crackdown, more of a “hold the line” with an emphasis on defending against looting or vandalism Which is not to say the protestors are vandals, but there are always opportunists, see the looting of Baghdad’s museums in 2003 as an example.

    If he US cut deals it’s likely to help create a smooth transition to whatever comes next. Keep the military in check, prevent open warfare, keep things orderly.

  45. A justifiable fear of instability in Egypt is a cardinal concern of Western/Middle East relations. There do not appear to be many secular alternatives to Mubarek, and my fear is a decent into decades-long Lebanon-like chaos or a state like Iran’s oligarchy.

  46. @ MG Farrelly.

    I don’t know how “moderate” the Muslim Brotherhoold could be “whose main goal is to resurrect the Caliphate and re-establish the golden age of Dar-Al Islam.” Given that you seem to have some expertise in this area, is that a serious goal for the MB, like it is for al-Qaeda, or merely just a wish and a slogan?

  47. The Internet is really a boon, several Arabic news sites and bloggers are offering a lot of information, as well as unfounded rumor and conjecture, in a far more coherent and interesting way than CNN could possibly hope to.

  48. lil mike@56

    As someone who lives in a (non Mid-East) Muslim country, my best advice is that you look at these visions of resurrecting the Caliphate & Golden Age of Darul Islam as your average American would look at sentiments of “the South will rise again” & the lost causers visions of the Confederacy.

    It’s an unlikely event to happen & it’s being driven by rose-tinted views of a past that never happened – or at least where the unseemly bits have been plastered over.

  49. @58
    When good ol’ rebel boys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks turn those pickups into truck bombs, I’ll grant your analogy.

    Whichever non ME Muslim country you are living in, these mujahideen might be looked at as mere posers, but in the ME, they are taken seriously because that is where they carry out their acts of murder and initmidation.

    That being said, I think that any caliphate-restorers in Egypt are just taking advantage of a huge amount of discontent in order to further their goals, as are other factions.

  50. There are more armed, actively hostile persons involved in fighting for a renewed islamic caliphate of some sort than there are for any other neobarbarian cause – and arguably, than have been for any such cause at any time in history.

    That said, Egypt is not Pakistan’s or Afghanistan’s Pashtun areas. It’s modernized, westernized, and the uprising is among middle class people who have cellphones, jobs, internet connections, and a surprising number of whom read or speak english.

    There is at least one obvious non-sectarian Egyptian candidate for a new leader – Mohammed El-Baradei, formerly the International Atomic Energy Agency head for about the last decade. He’s never liked Mubarik that much and has been campaigning a bit for reform in Egypt. He’s currently under house arrest, but not apparently under active threat of harm.

    Both the current middle class in the streets and the Army are likely to burn or shoot any Moslem Brotherhood members who would try to actively impose Sharia. A multiparty system with the Brotherhood as a recognized legitimized party – for example, see Turkey’s current government – is an outcome they would probably tolerate.

  51. When good ol’ rebel boys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks turn those pickups into truck bombs, I’ll grant your analogy.

    Not sure I’d joke about that after Tucson. The veneer of civilization is thinner than we think

  52. Methinks he’s kinda missed the point…

    Actually I think it is much worse than that from his perspective. First he offered a concession which proves to the protestors that he is feeling threatened but the offered concession completely fails to understand or acknowledge the actual concerns. This makes him look weak and emboldens further protest. Secondly he has just alienated his political allies and even opponents who have a vested interest in the system remaining intact and by dissolving the cabinet he has potentially angered them but because he and the Minister of the Interior are the primary targets of the anger this actually serves to enhance the aura of legitimacy that they may have. I would expect to see some of those cabinet members appearing on the other side in the near future.

  53. Rob @ 59

    The analogy was limited to the perceptions of their aspirations & not intended to be all encompassing – or even extended to gauge the different levels of threat that they are.

  54. “I’m also glad I’m not the president today, because there’s a dude hoisted on the petard of realpolitiks today, isn’t there.”

    Oh. For a moment there I thought you meant the president of Egypt.

  55. @59
    ‘When good ol’ rebel boys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks turn those pickups into truck bombs, I’ll grant your analogy.’

    There’s been one of those. Oklahoma.

  56. re 65

    Really?? Any group who doesn’t have a good answer to “Where were you when the crap hit the fan” isn’t going to be a Big Power after things settle down; they’re too busy doing damage control.

  57. I think the potential outcomes in Egypt track with what happened in Iran. No, not last year. Back in 79. 1953 operation Ajax CIA and MI6 overthrow the democratic government of Iran and intall the Shah. Shah is in power for decades. Gets massive military support from the US. Starts a massive secret police group that imprisons and tortures tens of thiusands of Iranians. He was put in power by the US and remained in power because of the US. The Iranian revolution of 79 showed Iranians had reached their tipping point. There were people in Iran who were hoping Iran would return to democracy and forward thinking politics. The Ayatollah and religious extremists returned to Iran and started taking power.

    The Shah fled and went to the US for “medical treatment’. Iranians demanded America return the Shah for trial (and certain execution). The US refused. Iranian students charged onto the American Embasy and took everyone hostage, demanding the shah be returned.

    The US history interferring in Iran didnt help. But actively protecting a pet dictator and thumbing their nose at at a revolution that had legitimate complainta about the brutality of the regime they had overthrown pushed the revolution towards the extremists solution.

    We have supporrt Egypts dictator for decades. the thing wwill be whether the revolution views the US as activy opposing their legimate goals of overthrowing a brutal dictator. If that happpens, this revolution could radicalize towards the more zealous extremists and we could end up with another Ayatollah type of ruler to deal with.

    I dont know if the US has to stay out of this. But if we get involved we can either get involved to protect our own interests and become the enemy of democracy in Egypt or we can acknowledge our benefits of having a dictator on the payroll, acknoledge the mistake that behavior is, and get involved to help the inevitable democracy that must eventually form.

  58. @ lil Mike

    The MB’s serious goal is moving religion more into the public square. Muslims in Egypt are largely Sunnis and moderate Sunnis at that. This is not Iran, nor is it the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. The analog is to the nominal to “faithful” Christians in the US, not the Fred Phelps, uber-fundamentalists.

    That said, the MB would like to see governments embrace Islamic law, use Sharia (which is a whole body of law not unlike Talmudic law) law as a basis for judicial construction. Mind you, there are millions of US Christians who ask that their leaders be Christians and use the bible as a basis for governance too.

    As you can guess, I’m trying to temper statements about Sharia Law, given the PANIC-FREAKOUT that many Americans seem to have when that comes up.

    The MB would like to see more Islam in the government. Would that lead to an Iranian style theocracy? I don’t think so. They’re not terrorists like Al-Queda but they’re not secular progressives by any means. Given power I think they’d push their own brand of “culture war” issues and see pushback from the educated and secular class of Egyptians.

    The focus now is on removing a dictator, how that goes down and how the MB takes advantage is going to be crucial. If they try to push a hardline, they are going to alienate a great many Egyptians, to say nothing of foreign support. The MB, unlike more zealotic Islamic groups, is not blind to monetary considerations. They’d be better off talking jobs than Jihad.

    This is where someone like ElBaradai, who has respect across many groups, could play a role. The longer Mubarak holds on to power the bigger mess he’s making, one that fringe elements could exploit.

  59. By the way, regardless of your take on her politics, Rachel Maddow did some really great reporting on the situation in Egypt on her show Friday. Good historical context, laying out the history as well as the US relationship with Egypt. Good brain food on the subject, and unlike so much noise in the media on the story, it’s not all about “the twitter” or horrible word play.

    Seriously, one more “Walk like an Egyptian” gag and I’m kicking someone in the shin.

  60. #65: Ecxept they seem to have a very vague idea of how Egypt, Egyptian politics and the Muslim Broterhood work.

    From a Western, but non-American perspective (that is, we don’t have to defend the govnerment because they’re a strategic partner of ours), e.g. Biden’s defence of Mubarak is sickening. He’s a dictator, ruling a country with limited freedom of expression and lousy economy. We can only hope they’ll get rid of him quickly.

  61. I totally heart this post; and in a generic sense not just in this situational sense.

    It’s a great lesson in, if you gather a following of people through doing what you do really well, there are going to requests of you to speak on topics you’re not so hot on, and on current events that you know nothing about.

    So, instead of weighing down your two cents, you can legitimately and politely decline; because it’s not your story at all.

    I totally saved this piece as a PDF in my folder of neat clips from around the web; I hope you place this in your next non-fictional book that springs out of Whatever, Mr Scalzi.

  62. is anyone else as annoyed as I am by the continued “awarding” by the media of credit for both the Tunisian and Egyptian “events” to Twitter and Facebook rather then as the bitter fruit of a long and enduring autocratic economic and political history?

    It was five years from the Boston Massacre to revolution. That delay was in part due to a communication channel that relied on word of mouth, travel by horse, and Guttenberg-style printing presses.

    Did the printing press win the award for starting the revolution? I think it is one of the required components. I think the founding fathers realize that communication is an important component of any democracy and codified its importance into the bill of rights.

    I don’t think twitter “caused” this revolution. But communication is a required component of any revolution, and of any substantial change like we are seeing the seeds of in Egypt. Especially in Egypt, where the “press” is a state owned propaganda channel. The people of Egypt needed some sort of communication channel outside state control for this to happen. Twitter and cell phones are the modern day replacement of guttenberg presses and travel by horse that gave us word of mouth communications two centuries ago.

    Communication among the people is a required component. Not the only piece needed for revolution. But it is needed.

  63. @ 65 Johnny Carruthers:

    I’m sorry, but that blog post is pure drivel. The author is drawing a comparison between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban with scare talk about “flattening the pyramids” and such. Nonsense. The protestors have protected museums and cultural sites along with the military (who are blessedly holding back, even getting between the security forces and protesters) and while there has been looting it’s nothing like what was seen in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is not going to destroy the Egyptian tourist economy. Even the most fervently religious Egyptians I knew and met in my time there were enormously proud of their ancient heritage (even though you can get into a whole debate on who is really descended from the Ancient/Pharonic Egyptians and who is part of the myriad conquering forces to march through over the past few millenia) and barring that, like the money it brings in.

  64. MG @69: I’m convinced that some of the Islam-hatred from the reactionary right in the US is simply envy. THEY got to impose THEIR fundamentalist, my-interpretation-is-the-only-right-one version of their holy texts on everybody and we can’t, SO UNFAIR!!!!

    It really does say quite a bit about the real motivations of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, though, doesn’t it? In Egypt, the regime is being toppled by (largely) peaceful massive protests of citizens. Not by suicide bombers or motorcyclists throwing acid at schoolgirls.

  65. It really does say quite a bit about the real motivations of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, though, doesn’t it?

    More importantly, it must scare the he’ll out of al Qaeda et. al. It is pretty clear that the “Arab street” is enamored with democracy, of form of government that the Islamists loath and proclaim to be heretical.

    And dare I say that a transformation of the area to democratic reforms is precisely what the neo-cons argued for and attempted to bring about as an antidote to Islamist ideology?

    Talk about dominos….

  66. democracy, a form of government that the Islamists extremists loath

    Fixed that for you.

    democratic reforms is precisely what the neo-cons argued for and attempted to bring about

    Two things here.

    One: there is no “bringing about” of Democracy. It either is generated from within the country in question or you end up with something decidedly not democracy.

    And B: If the neocons who put the Shah in power back in ’53 (The British asked Truman in ’52 to support an overthrow of the democratic government in Iran, he said no. They asked Eisenhower in ’53, he said yes.) who put Saddam in power in ’83 to oppose the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and to prevent the Iranians from winning the Iran/Iraq war (When the UN tried in 1986 to condemn Iraq for using chemical weapons against Iran, the United States was the only nation to vote against the condemnation. Operation Nimble Archer and Praying Mantis ’86 and ’87 attackd Iranian oil platforms, Iranian navy ships, and Iranian gunboats. In ’88, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655.) if these motherfuckers get the “democracy in the Middle East” award, then to quote Jack Nicolson, I’ll eat my fucking flat hat, man.

  67. from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/01/who-is-omar-suleiman.html

    “After dissolving his cabinet yesterday, Mubarak appointed Suleiman vice-president, and according to many commentators he is poised to be a potential successor, and an alternative to Mubarak’s son and intended heir until now”

    Who is this guy?

    “Suleiman was the C.I.A.’s liaison for the rendition of an Al Qaeda suspect known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi”

    He’s an American puppet. The CIA would love to have him rule Egypt. The Egyptians demanding democracy? Not so much.

    In other news, Isreal, who’s Operation Cast Lead 2008/2009 killed 1,400 civilians and leveled much of Gaza, came out in support of the Egyptian dictator Mubarak. Probably because America pays Mubarak tons of foreign aid every year, and in exchange, Mubarak maintains peace with Israel.

    So, thugs are acting as character witnesses for other thugs.

    News keeps reporting about a massive march beign organized in Egypt. Protesters are generally ignoring orders for curfew. Doesn’t look like they’re standing down.

  68. Greg, please be aware that Suleiman was also the middleman between Israel and both Hamas and Fatah. I’m not sure he isn’t a thug by any means, but his main job was *not* CIA liaison: he was the head of Egyptian intelligence. And I suspect he isn’t anyone’s puppet either.

    As to Israel- people here are really afraid that in 2-3 years we’ll have a second Iran on our south border. Not healthy.

    MG Farelly- a question, if you will: I know that Hamas and MB grew from the same roots. How likely is MB to radicalize and start acting the way Hamas is acting in Gaza? Israeli media tends toward alarmism on this front.

  69. Antongarou @79

    Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

    — motto of the Muslim Brotherhood

    The Muslim Brothers “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

    “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America,” by Mohamed Akram, May 19, 1991.

    Just for reference….

  70. Antongarou: his main job was *not* CIA liaison: he was the head of Egyptian intelligence

    From the link in #78 you may have ignored.

    “he was the C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances”

    The CIA was like “dude, where can we take all these prisoners and have them tortured by non-americans to minimize the backblast but hand them over to someone we know will do a good job of torturing and not get squeemish about it.” and Suleiman was like, “Dudes, I am your man”

    people here are really afraid that in 2-3 years we’ll have a second Iran on our south border. Not healthy.

    Israel’s continual expansion and seizure of Palestinian land, its bombing of an entire Palestinian civilian population in response to teh actions of a small number of militants, it’s near complete seige/blockade and resulting starvation of Palestinian civilians for years on end, in other words Israel’s Dahiya doctrine(*), and its projected international attitude of having divine right to do all this, now that is unhealthy.

    America’s unwavering defense of thugs like the Shaw got us the radicalized version of the Iranian Revolution. America’s unwavering support of Israel got us 9/11. Mohammed Atta signed his last will and testement after seeing Israel’s attack of Lebanon in 1996 resulting in the Qana massacre.

    Stop the slow invasion of Palestinian land, stop making a two-state peace impossible, then we’ll talk about what is and is not “unhealthy” outside Israel’s borders.

    (*) IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot said “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. […] This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”

  71. Greg: Israel’s continual expansion and seizure of Palestinian land, its bombing of an entire Palestinian civilian population in …..

    I fail to see how this is relevant. No, I don’t like many of the things my government does currently, which I kind of expected since I voted to the guys now in the opposition. But fear of Egypt turning into Iran 2.0 is a rational fear from the standpoint of the information I have, both on Egypt and on the way the 1979 revolution worked in Iran. Please, try to avoid fallacies.

  72. Well, since Frank is invoking cherry picked quotations, here’s a slightly more rounded background:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_brotherhood

    the Muslim Brotherhoodwas founded in 1928 and since its beginning has “officially opposed violent means to achieve its goals”.

    “This position has been questioned, particularly by the Nationalist Secularist NDP Egyptian government currently headed by Hosni Mubarak,”

    Because we should take the word of a thirty year brutal dictator about what is and is not violent.

    “The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, and members have been arrested for their participation in it.”

    Because we should take the word of a thirty year dictator about who is and is not a terrorist versus a valid political opponent.

    “The Brotherhood condemned terrorism and the 9/11 attacks”

    Those bastards.

    “advocates of violence at times breaking away to form groups such as the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group) and Al Takfir Wal Hijra (Excommunication and Migration).”

    People in the Muslim Brotherhood wanting to commit violence end up breaking away and forming their own organizations. Gee. I wonder why they would do that if the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing but a bunch of violent thugs.

    “once Al Qaeda was fully organized, it [Osama bin Laden] denounced the Muslim Brotherhood’s reform through nonviolence and accused them of “betraying the cause of Islam and abandoning their ‘jihad’ in favour of forming political parties and supporting modern state institutions”

    Uhm, yeah. Maybe these aren’t the boogeymen that Mubarak wants us to believe they are.

    Certainly if the US or Israel tries to alter the outcome of what’s happening in Egypt right now, tryign to keep Mubarak in power or putting a different puppet with the same master in charge in stead (like Suleiman), then it might cause the more violent elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to radicalize MB towards violence too. Just like the US interference in Iran radicalized the revolution to the extremists.

    But the only way one can give the overall conclusion that the Muslim Brotherhood is inherently and unquestionably violent is to cherry pick the evidence. Al Queda denounced them for being not violent enough. That right there speaks volumes.

    The only people who give blanket condemnation are poeple liek Mubarak who doesn’t want any opppostiion to his tyranny. And then there are the folks who want Mubarak to stay in power because he’s America’s thug and some americans think the best foreign policy is to have thug puppets in power around the world, rather than doing, say, the right thing and supporting democracy. And then there is Israel who just the other day came out in support of Mubarak because Mubarak was paid off by the US to keep the peace with Israel. Israel who has been accused of committing war crimes against the Palestinians by every nation but the United States.

    The only people afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood are people who want Egypt to transfer power from Mubarak to another thug dictator who is the puppet of the US. Suleiman was willing to torture people for the CIA, so he has street cred for being a puppet thug of the US.

    And how do you get people to support a torturing puppet-thug? Well, one approach is to take a generally non-violent political organization and demonize them into being worse than Al Queda. And then hope people don’t notice that Al Queda themselves condemned Muslim Brotherhood as not being violent enough.

    But, I think this is important enough that people are noticing.

  73. I fail to see how this is relevant.

    Israel’s behavior can worsen the situation, that’s how it is relevant. Israel’s behavior gave us Atta. And Israel’s recent support of Mubarak was rather short-sighted self interest in Israel’s part and had nothing to do with what would actually be best for the people of Egypt as a whole.

    And just like Israel’s massacre at Qana gave the world Atta, Israel’s actions around Egypt might push the revolution to more radical elements.

    This is not happening in a vacuum. Israel’s behavior has made things worse. And Israelis need to understand that, rather than demonizing everyone else from Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood like you just tried to do above.

    But fear of Egypt turning into Iran 2.0

    Iran’s revolution overthrew a dictator. At the beginning of the revoultion, there were people in Iran who were hoping the country would return to the democracy that it had been before the US overthrew it in ’53.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_hostage_crisis#Carter_administration

    “Shortly before the revolution on New Year’s Day 1979, American president Jimmy Carter further angered anti-Shah Iranians with a televised toast to the Shah, declaring how beloved the Shah was by his people.”

    Not a good start.

    “the hostage takers hoped to depose the provisional revolutionary government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan which they believed was plotting to normalize relations with the United States and extinguish Islamic revolutionary ardor in Iran.”

    So there was a more moderate element to the Iranian revolution at the start.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Interim_Government_of_Iran

    “The Interim Government of Iran of 1979 (also known as the Provisional Revolutionary Government) was the first government established in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. ”

    “October 22, 1979 the U.S. permitted the Shah – who was ill with cancer – to attend the Mayo Clinic for medical treatment. The American embassy in Tehran had discouraged the request, understanding the political delicacy,[19] but after pressure from influential figures including former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Council on Foreign Relations chairman David Rockefeller, the Carter administration decided to grant the Shah’s request”

    This pretty much killed any hope of any kind of moderate government coming out of the Iranian revolution.

    is a rational fear

    It’s a rational fear, but you seem to think that a revolution is radicalized by no influence from the outside. That’s just wrong. Israel’s behavior caused Atta to sign on to the 9/11 attacks. Iran’s revolution had initially tended towards normalizing relations with the US. But the US botched it by givign the middle finger to Iran. And then the more radical elements took over.

    from the standpoint of the information I have, both on Egypt and on the way the 1979 revolution worked in Iran.

    The “information” you have appears to be little more than fear mongering about the Muslim brotherhood. Certainly they could radicalize, but as of yet, being condemned by Osama Bin Laden for being not violent enough, ought to count as probably the best character witness testimony in defense of MB.

    As for how you think the Iranian revolution “worked”, I have no idea. But if you are startign from the false premise that it radicalized all by itself and the actions of outside nations had no influence on which way it could have gone, that’s really nothing more than demonization.

  74. And just like Israel’s massacre at Qana gave the world Atta

    Please stop dehumanizing terrorists. People make choices, in this case moral choices. Atta had other choices then massacring civilians, say to try and blow up military installations, but he chose to do that. Israel didn’t tie him down in that pilot chair. Where there can be no blame there can be no praise.

    It’s a rational fear, but you seem to think that a revolution is radicalized by no influence from the outside.

    sometimes they do- if you don’t believe me please look up what happened after the French Revolution.

    Iran’s revolution had initially tended towards normalizing relations with the US

    citations please?The citation you gave only said that’s what the hostage-takers believed, it doesn’t cite any of the evidence they had.

    As to the MB, I hope I’m wrong, but the way they have been described several times in an Egyptian blog I read(Rantings of a Sandmonkey, which hasn’t been updated in a rather long time) makes me suspect they might not be. I simply don’t know enough about them except the fact that they are extremely confrontational toward Israel.

    But if you are startign from the false premise that it radicalized all by itself and the actions of outside nations had no influence on which way it could have gone

    according to this there are several important scholars who claim the radicalization had been at least partially planned by Khomeini. Not that the US was helping any- note that both US and Israel are have done next to nothing this time around: some complaints from my government, but no actions either way. Not even a major elevation of army readiness in the area AFAIK.

  75. Greg: And just like Israel’s massacre at Qana gave the world Atta

    Antongarou: Please stop dehumanizing terrorists. People make choices, in this case moral choices. Atta had other choices then massacring civilians, say to try and blow up military installations, but he chose to do that. Israel didn’t tie him down in that pilot chair. Where there can be no blame there can be no praise.

    Greg: just like Israel’s massacre at Qana.

    I’ll tell you what. When you as an Israeli citizen can form a single, simple, unqualified sentence with one subject and one verb that makes Israel responsible for its actions at Qana, or for its massacre of 1400 civilians in operation cast lead, when you demonstrate you practice what you preach, then I’ll have some respect for your preaching about Atta above. Until you do, and so long as you do NOT, as long as you specifically and israel in general is so judgemental about its enemies to demonize them, to dehumanize them, to treat civlians as if they are legitmate military targets, then you do NOT get to lecture me about moral choices.

    This is not the UN where all criticism of Israel is silenced by a well-lobbied, well-paid bunch of US politicians.

    the radicalization had been at least partially planned by Khomeini.

    I’m sure he was radicalized the moment he fled Iran years before. The poitn is that the population in general doesn’t follow a radical like him unless they feel that moderate approaches don’t work. When the US protected the Shah and refused to unfreeze Iranian assets and generally view the overthrow of their brutal dictator from a purely Ameican Selfish Interest poitn of view, and ignore the tens of thousnads of Iranians who had been tortured over the years by teh Shah, then the Iranians will get the message that moderate approaches won’t work, that America is really doesn’t give a flying fuck about them, and that America is essentially an an enemy of the Iranian people in general.

    That is what radicalized the *population* to follow the Ayatollah.

    Not that the US was helping any- note that both US and Israel are have done next to nothing this time around:

    You don’t seem to appreciate the little things.

    President Carter had given a speech that said the Shah was a friend of teh Iranian people. That one lie was the spark that finally set the Iranian people over the edge and launched the revolution.

    In the last few days, Israel defended Mubarak’s rule. Completely out of their own selfish interests. Mubarak is a brute and a thug and the Egyptian people have decades of harm from him. And Israel tries to defend him?

    That position by Israel, being forwarded at this crucial time, could be enough to radicalize the population of Egypt against Israel. And against the west. Yay you.

    Egyptians are already calling for the West to stop backing Mubarak, to stop treating him with kid gloves, and to protect the innocent civilians that have already been killed by Mubarak as he cracks down on protestors.

  76. I don’t want to get my hopes up to high, but this may be good news:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/02/the-crowds-of-cairo.html

    “Last night at midnight, a lieutenant colonel took the microphone and told the crowd, “We have not taken out our guns, even though we have enough ammunition to finish off everyone in the square in fifteen minutes. But I guarantee that we will not fire a single bullet at the crowd. I refuse to go to Hell for killing my own brother.” As he stepped down, people from the crowd hugged him, and told him how proud they were.”

    If the military refuses to massacre civilians, then maybe this revolution will end relatively well after all.

  77. unqualified sentence with one subject and one verb that makes Israel responsible for its actions at Qana, or for its massacre of 1400 civilians in operation cast lead,

    When have I ever denied Israeli culpability for Qana, here or ever? I would thank you to NOT put words in my mouth before I speak them, as I give you similar consideration. I’m pretty sure it was a stupid and rather horrible mistake, but people should take responsibility for their mistakes too. So yes, I hold my government responsible for Qana and for whatever civilian casualties there were in Cast Lead(I’ve heard varying numbers).

    This is not the UN where all criticism of Israel is silenced by a well-lobbied, well-paid bunch of US politicians.

    Please check number of condemnations vs. number of condemnations of other states, like, say, China and then return to me about that. according to several sources I read a disproportionate amount of UN resolutions are directed against Israel, by far more then any other country on the globe.

    In addition you seem to be operating under the misapprehension I’m either some kind of government representative or at least support the views of the people sitting around the government table. I promise you that I am not, as a matter of fact I despise the people currently sitting around that specific table enough that if all of them decided to retire from their office and end their political career I may even hold a small celebration.

  78. Using Iran as a model for Egypt because they are Middle East Muslim countries is a bit like using Mexico as a model for the US because they’re both North American Christian countries.

    Every country in the Middle East is very, very different.

  79. Antongarou: Atta had other choices then massacring civilians,

    Antongarou: I hold my government responsible for Qana and for whatever civilian casualties there were in Cast Lead

    Notice any different in the language you use there? Any difference at all? Where does the word “massacre” appear? Where does it not?

    according to several sources I read a disproportionate amount of UN resolutions are directed against Israel

    My American tax dollars end up sending billions of dollars a year in foreign aid to Israel. American politicians and diplomats repeatedly defend Israel’s actions in the UN and on the global stage. Then when Israel goes and massacres a thousand civilians in a couple months using weapons bought with US foreign aid, that ends up getting the surviving friends and relatives of those massacred civilians pissed at Americans like me. And I would say, rightly so.

    And maybe you want to argue that these surviving friends and family members of people massacred by Israel are being unfair for being mad at Israel and America without being equally mad at the UN for picking on israel without picking on, say, China, but I think thats going to be a hard sell.

  80. Where does the word “massacre” appea

    I do not use “massacre” specifically because it requires knowing intent to kill the people who died. AFAIK there was no intent to hit that village and kill civilians. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

    As to said relatives…anger is part of human nature, and very understandable. I don’t expect those relatives not to be angry, even the relatives of the guys who were shooting at Israel: someone kills your family, you will be angry. But that has nothing to do with the price of tea in China.

    What I was doing is correcting an apparent misapprehension on your part, to wit, that any and all criticism against Israel in the UN is being silenced, by pointing out that an opposite pattern is evident. If you wish to argue that please bring evidence to the contrary.

  81. Antongarou : [Israel had] no intent to hit that village and kill civilians. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

    In post 81, directed at you specifically, it lists off a number of ways, in a number of different places, throughout many different military actions, over many years, in which Israel targets civilians. It ends with a mention of the Israeli military’s Dahiya Doctrine. An official strategy of the Israeli Defense Force to target civilians, to inflict disproportionate damage on civilians, to treat civilians as if they were military personel, to treat civilian towns and cities as if they were military bases. Post 81 ends with a footnote about teh Dahiya Doctrine, quoting an IDF commander who admits exactly that.

    (*) IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot said “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. […] This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”

    This is in direct violation of Geneva Conventions, of international law on warfare. i.e. it is admitting a war crime. And every time, in every place, in every military strike, where Israel applies this doctrine, it is by all rights, a massacre.

    You, from 89: you seem to be operating under the misapprehension I’m either some kind of government representative or at least support the views of the people sitting around the government table

    Apparently you do on some level. When Atta murders civilians, you easily use the word “massacre” civilians. When Israel does it, your first descrption was to revert to passive voice and downplay it as a mistake rather than official policy (you@89: “I’m pretty sure it was a stupid and rather horrible mistake,”) I point out your totally different sets of language (one for Israel, one for its enemies) and your next attempt is to profess ignorance (you@92: “AFAIK there was no intent to hit that village and kill civilians. Do you have evidence to the contrary?”). As if the last few decades of Israeli military operations doesn’t speak volumes all by itself? I have to point it out to you? As if a public admission by an Israeli commander doesn’t pretty much remove all doubt? You need more evidence?

    someone kills your family, you will be angry. But that has nothing to do with the price of tea in China

    Actually, that was my point. American supportted the Shah, the Shah killed Iranians, Iranians are pissed at America. America supports Israel, Israel repeatedly and purposefully and even admits to massacreing Palestinian civillians as part of its official military strategy, and Palestinians get pissed at America. Israel’s massacre at Qana gave us Mohamed Atta.

    And the point is if America continues its blind support of Mubarak, or tries to get a puppet of a different color in there (Suleiman, who was the CIA’s point man for torturing prisoners in the US rendition program), then Egyptians are goign to get pissed at America and radicalize against America. Israel’s tone deaf idiocy of coming out and supporting Mubarak during the revolt showed the Egyptian people that Israel doesn’t give a flying fuck about their suffereing and only cares about itself.

    an apparent misapprehension on your part, to wit, that any and all criticism against Israel in the UN is being silenced, by pointing out that an opposite pattern is evident

    So… Israel is the victim in all this? Is that my misapprehension? Is that the thing you are trying to explain to me here? Israel targets civilians, continually steals Palestinian land over years, has enforced a seige to the point of starvation on the Palestinians, and just came out to support a brutal dictator for its own selfish interests, but the thing you want to make your message about is that the UN is so unfair to Israel?

  82. Frank @76: I doubt the “Arab street” thinks with a single hive mind. Assuming the “Arab street” is composed of people like any other, they probably want a better life for their children, good jobs, safe streets and the ability to complain about the garbage not being picked up on time without being ‘disappeared’ by the secret police.

    I’m not aware that ‘neo-cons’ had a monopoly on hating Mubarak or wanting Egypt to be a free, democratic society, but then I don’t treat politics as a PvP server. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  83. Just a few days ago, Obama told Mubarak “no violence“. Mubarak has called Obama’s bluff and sent agent provacateurs into the areas where protesters have gathered to try and instigate violence and present the protestors as dangerous. likely a thousand people were hurt.

    At this point, the only thing that will force Mubarak down will be if someone puts a bullet in his head, or Obama gets off his fucking ass and makes it clear he will not survive if he tries to hold power, that the US will no longer support him after resorting to violence.

    Course, maybe Obama doesn’t really care if Mubarak gets violent. There is a slew of middle eastern dictators who are allies of America and are watching Egypt and watching how America treats one of its allies. And so far, by all outward appearances, it would seem that Obama is more worried about them than worried that Cairo turning into another Tienemann square.

  84. cnn is reporting that Mubarak will step down immediately. sulieman will head the new government along with a wide group of opposition members including muslim brotherhood.

    I trust Sulieman about as much as I can throw him (and with my bad back that isnt very far.) bit better than a government massacre.

  85. Greg, or does it say that any american, no matter his respect for the culture will be ignored by the gov’t in charge?
    they just threw a good “fuck you” in the face of any american peace process they have always reached towards for at least 30 years.
    I hate to use the pronoun “they” but the olive branch hasn’t worked at all.

  86. I’m kinda libertarian so I hate to bring this up. I’d rather we ignore our differences than talk about them.
    I’m a big fan, so ignoring sounds good to me.

  87. Frank, President Carter correctly identified Israel’s functional form of government: Aparthied. Not much freedom if you’re living in the lands occupied by Israel’s miltary, lands where Israel prevents and disallows a fully independent palestinian state. Which your map also indicates. The occupied territories are listed as “not free”. And that is ultimately a reflection on Israel’s lack of freedom in those lands.

    Aristigon: any american, no matter his respect for the culture will be ignored by the gov’t in charge? they just threw a good “fuck you” in the face of any american peace process they have always reached towards for at least 30 years.

    Aristigon, sorry, but you’ll need to put more context around your questions. i.e. who is ignoring whom? What is beign ignored? Who is “they”? Which “peace process” are you talking about?

  88. Greg

    Israel prevents and disallows a fully independent palestinian state.

    Amusing.

    Are not the Palestinian Authority and Hamas responsible for the political life of their respective areas?

    Clearly whatever impacts Israel may or may not have, the PA and Hamas can bestow and safeguard Civil Liberties within their purview.

    But they do not.

  89. Frank: Israel prevents and disallows a fully independent palestinian state. Amusing.

    Amusing? What? Are you saying that Israel has been long lobbying for a fully independent state but those pesky Palestinians would rather just belly up to the trough of great Israeli handouts?

    What bizarro world do you live in where Israel does NOT prevent and disallow a fully independent palestinian state? Israel has done nothing but expand Israeli selttlements for decades. Israel has done nothign but prevent a fully independent Palestinian state while their “settlers” slowly but unstoppably, invade and steal Palestinian land and claim it for Israel.

    That you find such an obvious and undeniable fact as “amusing” reveals more about your blind bias to favor Israel no matter what than it informs anyone about what’s going on in the middle east.

    As for PA and Hamas being “responsible” under the five year long blockade that starves the occupied territories into a seige state, I imagine hearing some 1600’s european explaining how the native americans were “responsible” for not vaccinating their children when they were given blankets infected with small pox.

  90. Just as an aside: Freedom House, according to wikipedia, gets 80% of its money from the US Government. I’m certain that doesn’t affect their results in any way whatsoever.

    Just as an alternative, you might consider getting the opinion of Israel from some less biased organization. Amnesty International gets funding from a more democratic base. “No money is sought or received from governments. The hundreds of thousands of donations that sustain the organization’s work come from the pockets of its members and the public.” AI has a less gushing review of Israel’s behavior than your Freedom House group does.I’m sure it’s just coincidence.

    Next up, you’ll be linking to some report about how great Israel is and how horrible those mean nasty Palestinians are that was published by AIPAC.

  91. Glenn Greenwald has a post about Suleiman here:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/08/suleiman/index.html

    Apparently Sulieman has a personal taste for torture, and was not only the CIA contact for Egyptz role in rendition, but Sulieman actually took part in the act of torturing prisoners himself.

    Also, Obamas push to put Sulieman in power and drag his feet on real reform in Egypt has not been lost on the people of Egypt. Egyptians are starting to get that Obamas priority is to maintain control of the Egyptian government and the plight of the people is worthy of quaint sound bites that mean nothing.

    We are repeating the worst parts of our own history.

  92. Holy shit. Mubarak has resigned.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/201121125158705862.html

    Power has been handed over to the military, rather than to Sulieman. The military has generally shown restraint and has generally remained neutral to the pro-democracy protests (as opposed to Tienanmen Square type approaches where the military wipes out the civilian population). So this is likely the best chance the Egyptian people have for getting reforms and hopefully getting some form of true democracy going.

    Certainly, some asshole could step into the vacuum and fuck things up. But clearly, the immediate crisis of “will the military roll on civilians and crush the protests” has been averted. So that’s a good thing.

  93. Dear Greg,

    Maybe it turns out that that Obama guy and the folks who work for him actually know more than you do about international policy. Surprise!

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