Doesn’t Mubarek have enough problems? Does he really want to piss off the entire US blogosphere? Sandmonkey is a well known, self-described, “Micro-celebrity, Blogger, activist, New Media douchebag, Pain in the ass!” He was arrested en route to Tahrir square with medical supplies, friends and family report: “I just called @SandMonkey ’s phone and a man answered and he asked me who I am, I said where is monkey, he said your c*nt friend is arrested.”
We’ve forgotten that extremist ideology mainly emerges from forced “stability,” not from free societies. As Elliott Abrams wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Sunday, “regimes that make moderate politics impossible make extremism far more likely. Rule by emergency decree long enough, and you end up creating a genuine emergency.”
That is not untrue, but that’s not the reason “stability” has become a thing of the past.
The reason is that technology has caught up with repressive regimes. Daniel Henninger, in his article Stability’s End, encapsulates in a sentence this fact,
Technologies with goofy names like Twitter and Facebook are replacing political stability with a state of permanent instability.
This new, exponentially expanding world of information technologies is now creating permanent instability inside formerly stable political arrangements.
This stuff disrupts everything it touches. It overturned the entire music industry, and now it is doing the same to established political systems.
Adding to the instability is the increasing food inflation. Larry Kudlow points out that
In addition to Egypt, the people have taken to the streets to varying degrees in Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Yemen. Local food riots have even broken out in rural China and other Asian locales.
The CRB food index is up an incredible 36 percent over the past year, including 8 percent year-to-date. Raw materials are up 23 percent in the past year. Inflation breakouts have occurred in China, among various Asian Tigers, and in India, Brazil, and other Latin American countries. Even Britain and Germany are registering higher inflation readings.
In dollar terms, the price of wheat has soared 114 percent over the past year. Corn has surged 88 percent. These are incredible numbers.
And let’s not forget that the world’s poor are the hardest hit by food-price inflation. They literally can’t afford to buy bread. It brings to mind the French Revolution in the 18th century. When you see this kind of mass protest in the streets, spreading from country to country, you see a pattern that cannot be explained by local conditions alone.
In our hemisphere, Venezuela has the highest inflation – 28%, as the economy contracts while the government takes over private property and food production and distribution. Chavez is ruling by emergency decree: if “Rule by emergency decree long enough, and you end up creating a genuine emergency” is the case, for how long will Hugo Chavez’s regime stand, considering these numbers?
“Instability is the new status quo”, states Henninger, and I agree.
The question remains, how will political systems and societies adapt to it? How will the US, when its own administration is passing thousands of pages-long laws that haven’t even been read?
President Obama’s calls for a rapid transition to a new order in Egypt seemed eclipsed on Wednesday as a choreographed surge of thousands of people chanting support for the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, fought running battles with a larger number of antigovernment protesters in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The mayhem and chaos — with riders on horses and camels thundering through the central square — offered a complete contrast to the scenes only 24 hours earlier when hundreds of thousands of antigovernment protesters turned it into a place of jubilant celebration, believing that they were close to overthrowing a leader who has survived longer than any other in modern Egypt.
Bernard Lewis granted Jay Nordlinger an extremely rare telephone interview (I have spoken with Mr Lewis in the past and he usually does not grant interviews)
Lewis says, first of all, that “it’s too early to say anything definitive” — anything definitive about Egypt. He is too smart, too experienced to make many pronouncements while events are in flux. He says, “Things look a little better than they did” a couple of days ago. “But they could go badly wrong.”
“The immediate alternatives are not attractive.” What are those? “Continuation, in some modified form, of the present regime, or a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. Obviously, the former is better.”
Are we witnessing a democratic revolt? “I don’t know what ‘democratic’ would mean in this context. It is certainly a popular revolt.” Egyptians are suffering from both unfreedom and material want. (They usually go hand in hand.) “The economic situation in Egypt is very, very bad. A large percentage live below the poverty line.”
Here is something to bear in mind: “The fact that this regime,” the Mubarak regime, “has good relations with the United States and Israel only seems to discredit the idea of good relations with the United States and Israel.”
And here is a question of the hour: Is Egypt 2011 like Iran 1979? Lewis: “Yes, there are certain similarities. I hope we don’t repeat the same mistakes.” The Carter administration handled events in Iran “poorly.”
The Obama administration should ponder something, as should we all: “At the moment, the general perception, in much of the Middle East, is that the United States is an unreliable friend and a harmless enemy. I think we want to give the exact opposite impression”: one of being a reliable friend and a dangerous enemy. “That is the way to be perceived.”
For when President Obama visited what he called “the timeless city of Cairo” to give his famous speech of June 4, 2009, and went through all the diplomatic pleasantries and greetings with Mubarak, exchanging presents and so on, it turns out that his administration was actively undermining his host and ally. WikiLeaks has revealed that only three weeks before Obama’s inauguration, on December 30, 2008, Margaret Scobey, the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, warned the State Department that opposition groups had drawn up secret plans for “regime change” before the September 2010 elections. The embassy’s source was an anti-Mubarak campaigner whom the State Department had helped to attend an activists’ summit in New York. This secret support for anti-Mubarak campaigners continued after the change of administrations, and up to the outbreak of the present attempted revolution.
Should Mubarak survive, he will understandably abhor American double-dealing in this matter, and the alliance between Egypt and the United States will hereafter be characterized by suspicion and deep distrust.
Should he fall, and his place be taken at any stage by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Republican narrative for the next presidential election will be obvious. Truman lost us China; Johnson lost us Vietnam; Carter lost us Iran, and now Obama has lost us Egypt. You can’t trust the Democrats in foreign policy. Argue over the historical minutiae if you like—was LBJ more or less to blame than JFK or Nixon, for example—but if Cairo goes Islamist the overall narrative will be compelling.
History shows how small, extremist, determined, and, above all, well-organized revolutionary cadres tend to succeed out of all proportion to their numbers against amorphous, well-meaning, middle-class liberals.
Lenin usurped the Russian revolution only eight months after Alexander Kerensky toppled the Czar. ElBaradei might well be fated to play the role in Egypt that was played by Shapour Bakhtiar in Iran or Bishop Abel Muzorewa in Zimbabwe, of the stopgap figure who is acceptable to the West but soon swept away by the far more extreme Khomeini and Mugabe, respectively. Timeless Cairo itself provides the example of Mohammed Naguib, who lasted only 17 months as president of Egypt after the revolution that toppled King Farouk, before being ousted and placed under house arrest for 18 years by Nasser. Those who unleash the tiger very rarely ride it for long.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II dismissed his government and named a new prime minister tasked with introducing “true political reforms,” following weeks of street protests calling for economic and political change.
Cairo’s international airport was a scene of chaos and confusion Monday as thousands of foreigners sought to flee the unrest in Egypt and countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to fly their citizens out.
Nerves frayed, shouting matches erupted and some passengers even had a fistfight as thousands crammed into Cairo airport’s new Terminal 3 seeking a flight home. The airport’s departures board stopped announcing flight times in an attempt to reduce tensions – but the move backfired, fueling anger over canceled or delayed flights.
Making matters worse, check-in counters were poorly staffed because many EgyptAir employees had been unable to get to work due to a 3 p.m.-to-8 a.m. curfew and traffic breakdowns across the Egyptian capital.
The US is using chartered flights for evacuation,
A U.S. military plane landed at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus on Monday afternoon ferrying 42 U.S. Embassy officials and their dependents from Egypt. The U.S. Embassy in Nicosia said at least one more plane was expected Monday with about 180 people – most of them U.S. citizens. U.S. officials have said it will take several flights over the coming days to fly out the thousands of Americans who want to leave Egypt.
As the Mubarak regime goes into the last stages of existence, the race is on for the real treasures of a great state. Not the relics of antiquity, valuable as these may be, but the intelligence assets of a government which for decades traded them in exchange for Western financial and political support. With the ultimate fate of the Egypt uncertain, and the final extent of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence uncertain, the disposition of those assets will assume the utmost importance.
No one has ever been able to offer a convincing explanation for what role the anti-Zionist struggle, emotionally stirring though it may be, might play when it comes to, say, the price of bread in Tunis, the unemployment rate in Cairo or the prospects for economic growth in Yemen.
It has never made any sense to argue that, unique among the people of the world, Arabs are more concerned on a day-to-day basis about the treatment of people they don’t know than they are about how they’re going to put food on their own tables, or whether their sons will ever find a job.
“The information minister [Anas al-Fikki] ordered … suspension of operations of Al Jazeera, cancelling of its licences and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today,” a statement on the official Mena news agency said on Sunday.
every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air.
Answering questions during an online “town hall” with YouTube viewers, Mr. Obama spoke of Egypt’s longtime president, Hosni Mubarak. “I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform – political reform, economic reform – is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt,”
CNN’s Ben Wedeman and Mary Rogers were under an overpass and behind a column as police tried to hold back protesters. Plainclothes police arrived, surrounded the CNN team and wanted “to haul us off,” Wedeman said. In a struggle, police grabbed Rogers’s camera, cracked its viewfinder, and confiscated it. Wedeman said the police threatened to beat them.
In spite of everything the whole region is in a race, but in the general direction of democracy. Things are up for grabs and the administration is trying to play catchup after running for two years in the opposite direction. That is, if it knows how.