Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Crystal

If I were a serious thinker, I'd have somethink to say about Egypt. As it is, all I can do is conundrum my fingers on the keys.

On one hand, it could be seen as validation of the Bush view: by invading Iraq we spread democracy through the region. But it's not a confirmation of one of the RWS™ view of liberals. And most of the RWS™ are seeing dire doings (hard to know what Glenn Beck is saying, but one infers from the tone of the babble that it's nothing good) and -- because it's what they do -- blaming the whole thing on Obama; even before we really know what the whole thing is.

It would seem we can conclude, at least, that the ability of people to rise up against their government is not dependent on another country invading them first, and calling the shots. Nor, it seems, does it require a citizenry armed with assault weapons. Handguns, even. Could seeds have been sewn, instead, when Obama spoke there? If so, was is a bad seed? I'd say neither Bush nor Obama can take much credit (although who knows what's gone on behind the scenes?) It's hard to imagine neighboring countries looking at Iraq, post-invasion, and seeing something to which they'd aspire. And it's hard to imagine a single speech catalyzing decades of foment.

I can't dismiss those who worry who's behind it all, and what sort of government will result. A majority of Egyptians, I've read, favor making Sharia the law of the land. Were that to happen, it wouldn't be good news for the West, nor for Israel. Anwar Sadat was one of my heroes. Though he died for his courage, improbably his legacy of peace lives on. Which, no doubt, is why we've shared a subsequent bed with Mubarak. What price to pay for peace -- or the Mideast version of it? Will his replacement eliminate cooperation with Israel?

I'd place Egypt somewhere between Iraq and the US, in terms of -- for lack of a term -- readiness for democracy. Clearly, Iraq was as unready as Sarah Palin is for grad school, and it collapsed into murderous chaos, over which there is but the thinnest of blankets today; and it frays more every day. On the other hand, in the US, which has a couple of centuries' experience with the process, the election of Barack Obama set off such a storm of hatred and propagandizing and imagined terrors that one (this one, anyway) wonders if democracy has a future here. So by that comparison, we might guess that Egypt will fall somewhere in between: insanity, episodes of mob rule, inability to find common ground, but with fewer guns.

Yet we might hope that what we like to believe about people (with less and less evidence, if the teabaggers are an example) is true: given a greater level of participation in their government and less poverty and income inequality (by some measures, the inequality is greater in the US than in Egypt), maybe even education (remnants are still to be found here), better natures will prevail and they'd opt to get along with their fellow citizens and neighbors than to kill them.

It would be a first, but I guess it could happen.


  1. Democracy is a process, not a panacea.

    I have little doubt that if democracy broke out in the Middle East, the majority of countries there would establish themselves as "constitutional" Islamic theocracies.

    When a number of opponents of the Iraq invasion questioned the readiness of Iraq for democracy, many on the right played the race card, accusing us of thinking brown folk couldn't govern themselves responsibly. The recent election in the USA makes me wonder if white folk are capable of it.

  2. Well, it's amusing, at least, to observe the Rs as some of them triumphantly declare Egypt to be vindication of GWB's invasion, and the others see it as a sign of the coming caliphate, organized by dark forces in cahoots with Obama.


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