Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2011 28 Shevat, 5771
Can Egypt Handle Its Own Future?
By Roger Simon
We would "prop up" somebody here or "destabilize" somebody there. And if someone turned out just too dumb to live, well, sometimes he didn't live.
Ask Ngo Dinh Diem of Vietnam. Better yet, don't try. Although he was a particularly unpleasant little despot, he was our particularly unpleasant little despot, until we "green-lighted" his overthrow in November 1963. He ended up shot to death in an armored personnel carrier. (His assassination was followed three weeks later by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an unrelated event, except to conspiracy buffs who believe there are no unrelated events.)
In South America, it was sometimes hard to tell who was coming or going without secret U.S. intervention.
Some autocrats and dictators have always been too big for us to mess around with. China does not provide its people with the freedoms of speech or assembly or other human rights that we would like to see. But China keeps the United States going by buying our bonds, and so we tread pretty lightly when it comes to criticizing China.
And cures can sometimes be worse than the disease. Some still argue whether Iraq was better off with or without Saddam Hussein. And in the Palestinian parliament elections in January 2006, the "wrong" side was elected, which is to say the radical Islamist movement Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, beat the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah.
Which many are now keeping in mind as they watch hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people demonstrate in the streets of Cairo for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak, 82, has been around for a long time and continues to rule Egypt through rigged elections and the Emergency Law, which suspends constitutional rights. The Muslim Brotherhood, a fierce opponent of Mubarak, is banned in Egypt, but could come to power if Mubarak is toppled.
According to a 2005 article in the Council on Foreign Relations, "it's unclear" whether the Muslim Brotherhood has ties to terrorism.
Which is why the U.S. government has been walking a tightrope regarding whether to support Mubarak or let him fall. Our official position is that Egyptians should determine the government of Egypt, which makes a lot of sense.
But Egypt is a large and powerful country — its armed forces are considered to be among the world's 10 largest — and the Egyptian peace accords with Israel that have lasted since 1978 have been beneficial to both countries as well as to the United States.
The United States would not want to see those peace accords overturned by the next government of Egypt. Gone are the days when we get to pick and choose such things, although our financial power — whether to give or withhold aid to foreign governments — is still considerable.
"The people of the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently. "Leaders need to respond to these aspirations. And to help build that better future for all, they need to view civil society as their partner, not as a threat."
From the beginning, President Obama has stressed the rights of the demonstrators to peacefully protest, but he has also refused to call for the resignation of Mubarak, maintaining the position that this is up to the Egyptians.
As I write this, the situation in Cairo remains very fluid. Mubarak has addressed his nation and offered to step down after his term in office is over in order to defuse the current situation.
Few think it will work.
"Ultimately, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people," Obama said a few days ago, after speaking on the phone to Mubarak for 30 minutes. "Going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise."
Which would be nice. Unfortunately, however, history often teaches us that moments of volatility often lead to greater volatility.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate