Jewish World Review Feb. 8, 2011 / 4 Adar I, 5771
Sphinx Without a Riddle
By Paul Greenberg
Like all modern revolutions since the fashion was introduced in
It's not a pattern confined to
In what revolutionary stage is
Sure enough, a superannuated little trouper, a veteran of the diplomatic boards bearing a meaningless Nobel Prize, the equivalent of a political Oscar, has donned a costume much too big for him and volunteered for the role of Mirabeau. His name is Mohammed ElBaradei, and he's suddenly walked onstage to ask where the mob is headed so he may lead it. The real terror is yet to come.
The hope is that the process can be stopped at any time, that somebody with sense will throw a shoe in the revolutionary works to slow it down. Or even turn all its energy to a better purpose than a bloody fight for a public square.
The only thing certain is that somewhere, in a dusty barracks outside
Meanwhile, the world watches as familiar scenarios are rolled out, like models proceeding down a Parisian runway. Which will the Egyptians choose, or be forced to choose? Their revolution is still in its earliest stages, like a prepared mix. Just add blood and gore and put on to boil until the desired, or undesired, effect is achieved.
Some of us must not only watch but pretend to act, for they are leaders, or at least nominal ones, and must speak out, tell the Egyptian people what they "must" do, and generally strut and fret their hour on the stage, or maybe just their 15 minutes. Much like play doctors called in after opening night has been a flop, they're trying to rewrite the first act, as if the actors would listen to far-away critics.
Our president, secretary of state, and their teams of ghostwriters must look like they know what they're doing. So they prate and preen and pirouette, shifting from day to day as the revolution itself shifts -- even while the lines they're looking for are right in front of them, in bold script, set down in
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....
If the president of
If our ever-wavering leader, endlessly caught between principle and politics, has to add a postscript of his own, he need only tell the Egyptian people to beware letting their cause be co-opted by the usual demagogues. And to keep their hand on the plow, and hold fast to their goal: a government of just powers derived from the consent of the governed.
But instead of being forthright, our president hems and haws and maneuvers as the fatal pageant in
One always picks the easy fight
One praises fools, one smothers light
One shifts from left to right --
Politics, the art of the possible....
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