Thursday, February 3, 2011


In case you haven't noticed, Egypt is in something of a kerfuffle. People have gotten tired of Hosni Mubarak and the corruption and oppression that seem to follow him about like excessively-friendly cousins. They've gone out into the streets. It was a bit raucous but thoroughly civilized for the first few days, and then supporters of the President "spontaneously" invaded Tahrir Square and just happened to have knives, guns, Molotov cocktails and to be riding horses and camels. Things got nasty quickly and don't show any sign of getting better anytime soon.

A few random observations. As always, I should emphasize that my opinions are of no importance whatsoever, but hey, I've got some free time.

1. "As a matter of fact, it is all about me . . ."

Mubarak could have announced he was stepping down and then let the citizens of the country go about the very tricky task of selecting a leader who believes in things like free elections, women's rights, and doesn't regard it as a virtuous obligation to wage Holy War of some sort.
Instead he announced that he would leave in six months (the better to find a puppet to take his place) and when that didn't seem to impress the protesters, sent in the thugs and apparently sat back, quite willing to see the country go down in flames if he can't have things his way. Or assumes he can out-wait the protesters and assumes that everything will go back to normal. Mind you, Normal was what caused the problems in the first place . . .

If this were President Obama, or the leaders of France, Italy, Japan, etc., such behavior would be shocking. But Mubarak is a dictator, not a leader. Dictators couldn't care less about the stability or welfare of "their" country, except as it relates to their own power and the goodies that go with it. When the tide turned against Germany during WWII, Hitler drew up plans to completely destroy the country's infrastructure as "punishment" for having failed him. (Fortunately, he entrusted those plans to his lackey Albert Speer, who had no intention of swallowing poison or sticking a gun in his mouth, and so the country, though left in battered ruins, was at least spared the lunar-landscape option.)

2. "Actually, it's all about us."

In one of his "Observer" columns for the New York Times, Russel Baker wrote about internecine warfare at the New York Review of Books; Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone duel for the love of Olivia deHavilland, who precedes to row back to her boat and write a devastating 30-page evisceration of both of them, citing previous contradictory statements and evidence of bad faith-- extensively footnoted. (at least I think that's how it went; it's been a long time since I've read it).

The pundits have been inspired by events in Egypt; in The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier has used the events to launch yet another of his Obama-is-a-mushy-gutless-glib-liberal screeds, which then inspired Jim Sleeper, who used to write for The New Republic until the inevitable fall-ut with either Wieseltier or Peretz, uses the occasion to launch a screed of his own, at Talking Points Memo, denouncing Wieseltier for denouncing Obama and for being a hypocrite. Sleeper might be right, but the piece is more about his feud with Wieseltier than about the matter at hand. And what is notable about both articles is the underlying assumption that somehow this feud is as important as the events on the ground. It isn't.

3. "Wow! Ordinary People!"

Could television reporters seem less amazed that people who don't live in America are normal human beings?

4. Piers Morgan

Could he be fired almost immediately? Rachel Maddow was talking with reporters on the ground in Cairo last night. Morgan was talking to Barbara Walters. Even Barbara Walters found this silly. Rudy Guiliani didn't, but Guiliani is barely human at times.

Will the Egyptian protesters prevail? It's quite possible that they won't; history is littered with stories of the Powers That Be crushing the hopes and aspirations of people who got in the way of their being the Powers That Be. Relatives of my mother arrived in the States in 1848 after being part of a failed attempt to free several European countries from the grip of absolute monarchies. Attempts by Hungary and Czechoslovakia to get out from under the Soviet yoke both failed. The thing is, the failures didn't finally crush those aspirations; the absolute monarchies went away, eventually the Soviet Union dissolved. Someday, maybe sooner than we think, the network of military dictatorships, kings, etc. that current run the Middle East will give way to something better. We can, at least, hope so.

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