Eccentric Flower:201101/Egypt

From Eccentric Flower

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I've suppressed entries several times in the past couple of days on the basis of 1) you don't care or 2) they'd be more pain than they're worth.

This is an example of #2, so I'm really not sure why I'm posting it. Even an example of #1 would be safer. Apparently I have an urge to vent spleen and damn the torpedoes. Insert comment about angels fearing to tread here.

OK, here is the deal. While I, too, am pretty ignorant about what's going on in Egypt, I do read The Economist, which makes me a superior human gives me perhaps a wee bit more background than you may have.

Specifically, the next time I see a general-summary article about this for the white people that does not contain the words "Muslim" and "Brotherhood" next to one another, I'm going to throw something. And ideally, I will hit a Mother Jones editor and fracture their spine.

(I really can't stand Mother Jones, an example of a publication or organization that exists to tell you Everything You Do Is Wrong, along with the Center for Science in the Public Interest and pretty much the entire American medical establishment. But I digress.)

The Muslim Brotherhood is the primary antagonist to the odious Mubarak government. Their influence is probably not nearly as strong as Mubarak likes to make out (it's a hobby in his government to blame the Muslim Brotherhood for everything from the weather to power outages), but they're the closest thing to a real opponent the regime has. They've been trying to get some of their people into power for years; Mubarak has responded by making their political party illegal, so they have to try to sneak people onto the ballot in other ways.

Now, Mubarak's government (it's unclear how much Mubarak himself influences their actions since he is in his eighties and reportedly not well) is evil. I'm not going to bother listing the ways they are evil; go research that for yourself. They need to be shown the door, posthaste. And frankly, the Muslim Brotherhood, as far as I can tell, is not that bad. Of course it's nearly impossible to tell what a party will do once they get in office, but they seem to want to genuinely improve conditions in Egypt, which has crushing poverty, among other problems.

However, if the United States has any say in the matter, the Mubarak government will not be overthrown. There are several reasons why.

1. He gets along with the US pretty well. That is, he doesn't like us any more than any other world leaders in that section of the universe, and he spits at us when our backs are turned, but he'll let us sell him weapons and exploit his country, and will occasionally agree to do what we'd like him to do, and besides, he's better than some other folks in those parts, who don't wait until our backs are turned to spit.

2. He is about as pro-Israel as one can hope for in an Egyptian leader. This, of course, is apparently the Secret Touchstone of US politics and it makes me utterly insane, as I am not particularly pro-Israel.

[I consider this such a dangerous point of view that I hesitate even to write that sentence. In fact, that sentence is the sentence that throws this entry into category #2, and that makes me insane too. Because one cannot be not-pro-Israel in this country without having a big ol' fight about it. I don't want to have that fight, so I refuse to engage with you if you try to start trouble on this. Suffice to say that, no matter what my position on Israel, I find it repulsive that it apparently taints aspects of all other American foreign relations and even a lot of its domestic politics. There's nothing worse than trying to figure out a good position on, say, Saudi Arabia and having someone pipe up, "Well, how does that affect the Israel situation?" at which point I throw something. It is not all about Israel all the time, and if it were up to me, it would be very little about Israel very little of the time.]

[For the record, I am no fan of the other guys either. I think Israel behaves very badly and doesn't deserve any encouragement or support, I think the Palestinian terrorist organizations behave very badly and don't deserve any encouragement or support, and I'd be in favor of the whole area disappearing in a ball of fire, if it weren't for the fact that there are a lot of gentle, normal Israelis and a lot of gentle, normal Palestinians just trying to, you know, live their lives, and they've already gotten screwed badly enough already without wishing flaming collateral death upon them.]

3. The US fears the Muslim Brotherhood, because it sees them as allowing a foothold of radical Islamism in Egypt ... which may have some truth to it, but you know, it's funny how many people in this country are willing to countenance starvation and disease and massive poverty and so forth, so long as it means the country doesn't have sharia. Perish forbid.

Basically, Mubarak needs to be cut into pieces and fed to the camels, but it's not going to happen because he is, to many minds in power in this country, the Dictator We Know versus the Jihadists We Don't.

Obama's policy in the Middle East once struck me as basically sane; he was not overly infatuated with Israel Above All Else doctrine, and he was not overly scared of Islam. But these days Obama is running so hard into I-want-everybody-to-love-me territory that he will play along with the unreasonable fears and hates of his congress. So I expect that, no matter how many people are rioting in the streets in Cairo right now, very little of actual value will happen.

Now, there's an extremely slim chance that Mubarak and his people will decide the writing is on the wall and will step down. That would be really interesting, if it did happen. Don't hold your breath, but if it does happen, watch the US government very carefully as its entire body of accumulated knowledge of how to interact with Egypt goes down the tubes and its Egypt policy goes into a tailspin. Should be quite entertaining.

Addendum: Medley, among others, has pointed out to me that Robert Gibbs has been ever-so-slowly lowering expectations in terms of US support for Mubarak. This is a good sign. It's possible I've either figured the odds incorrectly or underestimated Obama or both. If so, I will be extremely happy to be proved wrong.

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I'm not an expert, and indeed may have been brainwashed by what little I've been exposed to, but in my mind, the MB was on par with Hamas; that is, fundamentalist terrorists first, and everything else second. I had the impression that the mass murders at Luxor were carried out by affiliates of the MB. I'm very open to education and correction if I'm wrong.

What happens in Egypt is whatever the army decides is going to happen. The commanders may decide Mubarek has outlived his usefulness and try to back some new, feel-good dictator who can promise the illusion of reform. Or they may take the Iranian approach and just start slaughtering people (and that's with or without Mubarek). I feel for the folks over there. Egypt is a spectacularly beautiful country and the people are really very nice -- even the hucksters at the souks aren't malicious.

I respect your desire not to engage on the Israel issue, but I would point out that being "pro-Israel" is a highly ambiguous phrase. One can be "pro-Israel" -- that is, supporting its right to exist -- and not be "pro-everything-Israeli-governments-do." Another problem is that if the issue is framed that way, then "not being pro-Israel" could create the impression that one is "anti-Israel," which is a very different position than "I am anti-Israeli government policy."

-- 21:26, 28 January 2011 (GMT)


I have not gotten that impression from Economist coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood, but I admit that has been almost my only source. US periodicals are like "huh, what's an Egypt?" and I don't have any good overseas sources in a language I can read. At any rate they certainly seem like the slight lesser of two evils at the moment, but I might be wrong too!

The problem with your analysis - which I think is probably correct - is that no one is really sure who is in charge of the army anymore. Sure, okay, it does what it wants, but who is really driving the bus?

-- 21:40, 28 January 2011 (GMT)


You are so correct about the Obama administration's pandering to Mubarak. Biden said on Public Radio the other day that he shouldn't be referred to as a dictator at all. Not to say that others haven't supported him, over the years, but Biden's comments were pretty overt.

I heard another radio source today commenting that the Egyptian people were actually greeting the army in the streets, slapping them on the back and welcoming them. Just preferring the devil you know doesn't seem like enough justification to back him, if his own people want him out. Smacks of Imperialism, doesn't it.

-- 22:11, 28 January 2011 (GMT)


Off topic, but as you do not follow me on Twitter, so you would not see if I asked by tweeting in answer to your tweet (not to get lost in sound of all this twittering ...)

By mentioning the Google logo in honor of Jules Verne you do open door to the natural follow up: "And what is your favorite work by Jules Verne? Is it different from the one you liked better as a child?"

I would not ask the next question from anyone who would not introduce their short attention span like a favorite cousin to everyone, but did you have any trouble with getting into Verne when preteen?

... you can go on! Who would not have MANY things to say about Verne!

-- 14:18, 8 February 2011 (GMT)


I hate to admit this, but while I respect Verne as an important early SF influence and all that, I found his stuff very hard to read as a kid, have never re-read any of them (I probably should now), and don't retain a strong impression of any of them. Sorry that's disappointing.

-- 15:34, 8 February 2011 (GMT)


Hm, so even if you like languages and puzzles, the attempts to figure out the letter in bottle in castaways has left no trail, moved ńo curiosity?

Then again - as for me Verne is before all nostalgia, anything I could say would be more about me and less about Verne.

And I am not at all sure that you SHOULD reread any Verne. Just like I question the wisdom of local literature teachers, who have made Verne mandatory reading in schools here.

That reminds me - whom would you think should schoolchildren local to you read instead of Verne (as an example of someone having similar place in the particular genre for American readers).

-- 17:25, 8 February 2011 (GMT)


I loved "20,000 Leagues" as a child and I was grown up before I learned I had been reading a severely abridged version in my childhood. Tried to read the unabridged version and got bored. Can't get interested in the movie either, for whatever reason (I think it's because I find Kirk Douglas irritating).

But I do love today's Google logo.

-- 17:46, 8 February 2011 (GMT)


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