The violence and government overthrow in Tunisia and Egypt raise a few question for Americans. 

In particular, Egypt is one of our strongest Muslim allies.   For all practical purposes, they are in the middle of a full blown revolution.  To some, Mubarak is a a dictator.  To others, he is a trusted ally.  Are those Egyptians who are rioting and protesting good patriots, watering the tree of Egyptian liberty or are they thugs and terrorists?  Are they cleaning their own country?  (We often hear that hurled at those here illegally from Latin American countries.)  

As Americans, do we stay out of the Egyptian business?  We did that when there were Iranian revolts a year or so ago and President Obama is still being criticized for not ‘supporting’ the revolting Iranians.  The Islamic  Brotherhood with its Al Quada ties might be behind some of this.  They are on our terrorist list, aren’t they?  How about the Suez Canal?  That waterway is critical to our strategic movement in the area.  Then there is the oil issue. 

What set all this off?  Muarak has been in office for 30 years.  Weren’t people happy with him, even though he is technically a dictator?  Is it their economy?  Have prices sailed through the roof?  Have food prices gone sky high? 

I don’t think I would want to be President Obama or Hillary Clinton this week.  These are the times that try men’s souls and there are no easy answers.

30 Thoughts to “The Mid-Eastern World, It is Exploding….”

  1. marinm

    +1 for how this topic is presented for what it’s worth.

    I really want to see how this plays out and what side we take (in public and in private). This situation is very interesting to me.

  2. e

    airdropping millions of playboy magazines and shot size bottles of absolut and johnnie walker over the middle east would do wonders to relieve tensions in the region

  3. @e

    Maybe you are on to something. ON the other hand, you might just have a bunch of drunks.

    Some fool on TV keeps comparing Egypt to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not even close! Who allows these people on the air!!!

  4. punchak

    Freedom of speech, my dear Moonhowler. Gotta live with it, you know.

  5. George S. Harris

    Our concerns should be, as you suggested, is the Islamic Brotherhood behind this? What we are seeing MAY just be what this nation has talked about all along–people want to be free from oppression.

  6. Censored bybvbl

    I remember fellow students who participated in the late 70s in protests ( in DC) against the Shah. None of them expected the Iranian revolution to end up as it did – with clerics as the winners. I can see a similar situation happening in Egypt.

  7. Morris Davis

    Seeing people out in the streets demanding an end to dictatorial rule is positive, but we need to avoid the over-optimism that led some to believe we were going to be greeted as liberators by the Iraqis and claiming that Iraq was going to become a model of democracy in the Arab region. We got all excited when free elections were held in Gaza and Lebanon, but we were stunned when the people voted and Hamas won and Hezbollah made a strong showing. If Mubarak falls the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will try to strengthen their influence in Egypt, influence Mubarak had tamped down using methods that until the last administration came along we generally didn’t condone. Some of the Gitmo detainees came up through the Muslim Brotherhood before moving on to al Qaeda and for them to gain greater influence would be bad for U.S. interests, bad for women, bad for Egypt, and bad for the region. That’s not to be overly pessimistic, but we should avoid viewing the situation from our perspective and expecting the outcome to be the one we would have chosen.

  8. juturna

    Reduction in foreign aid spending gets my vote as #1 toward reducing our deficit. Absolutely ahead of social security – which is clearly a threat anyway.

  9. It sounds like the message might be: Be careful what you wish for.

    Those rascals get about 3 billion a year from us. Mr. Howler says we are basically paying them not to fight with Israel. Not sure he hasn’t oversimplified the situation.

  10. Rachid Ghanouchi and about 70 other exiled members of Ennahdha, or Renaissance, flew home from Britain two weeks after autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced from power by violent protests.

    Just what we wanted to see. I would expect some similar move by Islamist or pro-Islamist groups should President Mubarak be booted out of Egypt. As Moon has noted–“Be careful what you wish for” or said another way, “The devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t know.”

  11. And look who showed up in Haiti 2 weeks ago.

    I am still amused, in a sick way, about Palestine voting in Hamas and how shocked the Bush administration was. All of a sudden there were ‘urgings’ to discredit that government. Well, it was a duly elected government. [throwing hands up]

  12. Steve Thomas

    My concerns are thus: If this is a people exercising their right to self-determination, fine. However, there appears to be a lot of influence by the Muslim Brotherhood, and this should be of concern to the West, especially if what we are seeing throughout the mid-East is part of some sort of coordinated plan. Who’s next? Jordan? Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? I know these governments are very concerned about what is happening. The potential for the US to wake up and find the leadership of the entire region flipped upside down, and not a pro-US government among them.

  13. DB

    I just watched some interviews on the street in Alexandria on CNN. The Egyptian people obviously don’t like the US, not only do they blame Mubarak for their poor living situation, but the US by proxy. Blame was also cast about for the govts of Britain, France and Germany as well. Some also refer to Mubarak as the “eyes here for Israel” and were yelling for the annihalation of Israel. Oh boy. But others said the demonstrations have nothing to do with the US but are all about a better life in Egypt. There doesn’t seem to be one uniform cause among the people. It’s going to be messy.

  14. Cato the Elder

    There isn’t much evidence we can point at right now to say this is the work of the Muslim Brotherhood. I think we have to view what’s going on through a military lens. In Egypt, the military is very strong and very secular. They’re involved throughout the economy and Egyptian society (fun fact: they even make toasters and refrigerators) and are deeply respected by the people. I’ve talked to someone on the ground there recently (the investment community makes for some strange bedfellows) who said that there is no radical element to this uprising, that it’s entirely secular and driven by the fact that half the population lives on less than $2 per day and that the unemployment rate for people under the age of 30 is close to 50%.

    Now, if we were to make the same mistake that we made with the Shah (which is to get behind sort of a dirty S.O.B) then that would provide the Brotherhood a foothold to draw a straight line between the U.S. and Mubarak and leverage the sentiment to manufacture an anti-western world element to the uprising, but thus far that hasn’t happened.

    The parallels between the Iranian Revolution and the Egyptian situation are staggering, from the standpoint of both societal and economic conditions.

  15. Very troubling and the US always seems to get the blame. Very little introspection.

    Egypt is also a young population. I think average age is 24. Ours is mid 30’s. I have heard all sorts of different per capita amounts. Generally speaking, I think it is about $7000 a year. Geez. It is also the most populated of the middle eastern countries.

    We give them almost 3 billion. This really doesn’t look good. And it isn’t isolated.

  16. Starryflights

    Egypt is one of the few Muslim countries that recognizes Israel, and that’s why many neo-conservatives anxious.

  17. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Starryflights :
    Egypt is one of the few Muslim countries that recognizes Israel, and that’s why many neo-conservatives anxious.

    Fanapt keeping you up at night?

  18. Slow, keep your jabs at the content of what people say, not at people.

    He makes a good point. And the fact that they get a couple of billion from us not to fight with them should be making lots of people nervous.`Rumsfield would probably want to send in troops and ouir tanks.

  19. marinm

    Some good points from elsewhere that I figured I’d share over here.

    * It’s serious – with >100 dead, the army basically ignoring the president, and foreign govs fleeing, it’s a real uprising. People can’t feed their families… that’s bad, because it’s not just
    political, it’s existential.
    * Instability might drive up the price of crude, but inflation is doing that already as the Fed prints money. I think the revolt would have to spread more broadly to really effect crude (ie, to Saudi or Kuwait). I bet it would hit Yemen (or Libya) first, which is more like North Africa (high unemployment, lack of food, lack of opportunity). Relative to Egypt, Saudi and Kuwait are rich, and rich people don’t revolt (look at the US) – even if they’re just bribed not to do so.
    * I don’t know if democracy can work in the ME. It tends to work in places with strong egalitarian traditions coupled with rule of law and lack of corruption (ie, the West). Egypt is very stratified, rule of law is OK for the ME but still weak, and it’s corrupt as hell. It’s
    socialism plus tribalism. Pretty sure Israel, Saudi, and the US officially don’t want Egypt democratizing right now.
    * Not sure about Hamas. Egypt as a nation has never liked them (they “rule” Gaza and do a piss-poor job of it plus they are not much above gangsters who get love from liberals because they kill Israelis). There are Islamist fundamentalists among the uprising factions in Egypt, but they’re generally NOT the Hamas-style d-bags. The Egyptian army (who seem to be in a strong position) won’t tolerate Hamas.

    Truth be told, I’m not sure what the Administration should do overtly. Mubarrak is toast (I think most agree on that) but there are better and worse ways for him to go, and better or worse replacements. We have a lot to lose, and a lot of influence which we should leverage to make sure a more moderate, secular regime emerges (but I’d take a pro-military pseudo-democracy over an Islam-heavy regime). Behind the scenes, we should be working our military and diplomatic contacts like crazy, coordinating with Israel, and curtailing outside influence that’s not ours. I think the real contenders are Gamal (Mubarrak’s son) and the head of Egyptian intelligence, Suleilman (sp?).

    Politically, BHO comes off looking the like the Intern in Chief he truly is. His public comments make him sound like a scold or a wet nurse, and his administration was clearly (a) caught flat-footed again by events in the Muslim world he supposedly loves and understands and
    (b) really have no idea what they want or how to play it. HRC can spin gibberish, but it’s all inconsistent, because you can’t hold a policy that frees you from the responsibility of making a decision (look at the leaks to the NYT, all whining about how they’re caught between two ugly options…. welcome to governing, assholes). Of all the commentators, our DefSec has been the most impressive, and the real players (Egyptian army, Israel) are going through him. BHO’s sound bites sound like they come from a sophomore political science text book. He’s embarrassing. Then throw Biden into the mix (supposedly a
    foreign policy hand, LMAO).

    1. @marin,

      Apparently the speaker of the house doesn’t agree with you about the president. Just what do you recommend that he does?
      You have already admitted you don’t know what he should do but you are very quick to dismiss the efforts of the president who might just know more than the average person what is going on.

      This just adds to the witch hunt. I prefer to stand behind the elected administration of this country rather than partisan second guessing.

  20. marinm

    Not sure where that came from as my original post (another thread) said that I feel for Obama and the choice he may make. The above in #19 was taken from another source simply to share it. It’s not my thoughts but there are bits and pieces that I agree with.

    For example, I agree with #19 where behind the scenes we need to play it smartly and make sure that if a new govt is estalished that it’s not anti-US. We don’t want that to be “known” as it’ll add fuel to the fire of nations that think the US meddles in other countries.

    I personally think that Mr. Obama is caught in a bad position and has to make the choice between two bad choices. In that respect, I feel for the guy. Outside of that I take no position on if this situation and what lead up to it reflect poorly or not on Mr. Obama. That’s in the past and what’s important is the future…what happens in Egypt and for us…How this effects the US and her interests.

    1. @marin, thanks for clarifying. Do you feel we should play any role in creating a new govt, behind the scenes or otherwise?

      Has that gotten us into trouble in the past?

  21. marinm

    This is messy. Sort of like Iran (part 3 – we bailed on part 2). What the administration and State may do is cling to the Zelaya playbook of trying to “encourage” the nation to accept a leader that was tossed out. Either way we do this (or don’t) the US is going to get panned. I’m interested to know if we’ve been telling Israel NOT to attack Egypt while vulnerable and planting a flag. 😉

    I heard that looters/protestors are destroying cultural items (mummies) as they’re not protected. Very sad and short sighted. Theft of those cultural items and arts saddens me.

    It also shows you that no matter how bad our discourse can be here (town halls come to mind) and availability of arsenals in our homes… We have the fortitude to work out our differences with elections and debate. THat part makes me very happy (and proud to be an American)

  22. marinm

    FWIW, this is a good example of why giving the POTUS an “internet kill switch” is a very BAD idea. Maybe for our upcoming conference I should explore this as a topic.. Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 meets the 3rd Amendment.


  23. @marin,

    The destruction of antiquity sickens me. I think back to various places where Americans have rioted and pillaged and wonder if that would happen in this country. I feel anyone touching that stuff should be shot on sight. It should be life-threatening to be a thug.

  24. marinm

    And now Jordan is facing being sacked…. The US could go in and claim a lot of property right now. 😉

  25. I’m interested to see if this chaos infects Iraq, being that Iraq is the only other true democracy besides Israel, in the Arabic region. I’m not counting Turkey as they are not in the region.

  26. I’m also waiting for the shoe to drop about WHY we give Egypt so much “aid.”

    No one has mentioned that it was part of the the peace agreement with Israel so that they would be on par with Israel. It’s a bribe. Money talks. If the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds in starting a war with Israel, they lose BILLIONS in free money. I wonder if that will influence the next government, even if it is the Brotherhood. And on our side, if it is the Brotherhood running things, do we want to give them billions and finance a terror network?

    I predict that the President and Congress are going to vote “present” for the foreseeable future.

  27. marinm

    +1 on the present vote. I just see it playing out that well. Any opinions on what may happen in Jordan?

    I still say this rings of having a TEA party influence.. 😉

  28. Well, we ARE the party of TEAhad!

    I have no clue what might happen in Jordan. I thought that the King there was respected. We’ll see.

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