Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Nothing good likely to come out of Egyptian turmoil (Zvi)

From Zvi:

I don't see much possibility of a constructive outcome from any of this.

At home, Mubarak's regime is a nasty, brutish and repressive "mediocracy". The people on the streets do have a right to be heard and they do have a right to replace a government that is much more interested in power than in working for the betterment of Egyptians as a whole. There are many decent Egyptian people who really do want to build a better Egypt and who have no broader agenda - though many have beliefs about their Jewish neighbors to the east that have been twisted through propaganda into something paranoid and nasty.

Mubarak's regime is also responsible for officially supporting and encouraging anti-Semitism and has made no attempt to present a realistic picture of Egypt's Jewish neighbors. Mubarak's regime is directly responsible for a major portion of the virulent anti-Semitism that infests Egyptian public arena today. It could have taken a very different path.

But the other side of things is that the regime's systematic repression - and, to be fair, the tepid irrelevance and ineptitude of various opposition forces - has left no strong power center outside of the regime, the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. The fall of Mubarak's regime in favor of some junta drawn from the armed forces would mean the exchange of one thuggish regime for another - with the new regime much less stable and experienced than the current one. The fall of Mubarak's regime in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood would mean discarding a sane despot in exchange for lunatics who care more about destroying Israel and the west than they care about the lives of Egyptians - a disastrous result indeed.

The fact that the Arab League's Chief Thug (Amr Moussa) and the Atomic Wuss (El Baradei) are being presented as realistic alternatives to Mubarak by the western media shows just how ignorant the western media really is, and I'm quite afraid that western leaders will actually buy into this crazy alternative and compel Egyptian leaders to make insane choices based on such delusions. There is no better way for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over than for a complete idiot like El Baradei - a person with no constituency in Egypt and a weak or misguided idiot who coddled Egypt's Iranian enemies when he was in a position of authority in the IAEA - to end up in charge.

I suppose that somehow, by walking some tortuous, mine-strewn path that is not clear to me today, the Egyptian people could pull off a miracle and upgrade their increasingly unstable state from its current shabby authoritarian model to a free and open democracy, or at least something that tends in that direction - and they could double the miracle at the same time by managing not to be led into an insane war against Israel. But this would take more miracles than anyone has the right to expect.

Even with the best will in the world, with the wisest heads in the world leading, Egypt is in a very dangerous place now. Aside from the anger of the street, which can easily capsize the boat of wisdom, Egypt sits astride vital geopolitical fault lines, and there many countries will meddle, perceiving their interests threatened and believing, in their inexperience or cold calculations, that they know better than the locals how to stabilize Egypt.

The fault lines are many. For example, Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a key trade route of the modern era. Egypt has a basically pro-western Sunni government, which makes it a target of those who would damage the west. Egypt has kept the peace for over three decades, which has imposed a ceiling on the violence of Israel-Arab conflicts and ensured that every few years, thousands of Arab and Israeli kids don't have to march off to war and be killed; those who would fight Israel to the last drop of someone else's blood have every reason to target Egypt.

I really do wish the Egyptian people the best. I just don't expect it. I would love to see them surprise me in a good way. But it would have to be one heck of a surprise.