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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jan25: Egypt's Date With History

Source: Guardian
 In the streets of Cairo, proof that Bush was right. Not me, this is what a former Bush adviser had to say in a Washington Post column. I found in this column many proofs- proof that GWB is not a rare case, even his security advisers suffer from the same syndrome and proof that Mubarak is wrong when he says that Obama doesn't understand Egyptian culture. I am sure that Bush had no clue on what he was talking about when he stated that the peoples of the West-Asia deserve freedom, dignity and the right to chose their own rulers. If it all the statement signified something, it was the fact that as of then the American establishment had believed that the Arab states were not ready for democratic culture which was essentially a Western doctrine. It was a mantra that his predecessors had repeated while propping up and supporting autocratic regimes in the West-Asia.

It is insulting and downright racist to presuppose that some people are less qualified and less deserving than others in the context of individual liberty and democracy. These are rights that every human is born with, the state doesn't grant it, it only lessens curtailment of  those rights for collective good. So the observation that if a single Arab state were to become democratic, it would quickly spread to neighboring states, is actually the concern Bush's predecessors  dealt with. Most likely, Bush  mixed up this falling dominoes theory with what his own advisers might have fed him, that a war on Iraq under the pretext of getting rid of a despot might be more salable to the global public. After all, he is notorious for making these kinds of misspeaks.  Democratic movements can never be bombed into existence, they should grow organically from within. The only effect of Bush's disastrous policy came in the form of the people in the region uniting in opposition to the US intervention and since most autocratic regimes are clients of the USA, anti-Americanism automatically translated to opposition against these regimes. 

The hawks in Washington were very wary about any mass movement in the Arab world but Obama comes across a much pragmatic and intelligent leader. According to a WikiLeaks release, the US was already backing protest leaders in Egypt since last few years. Most likely, he anticipated the current situation and wanted to have an ally in place in case of a sudden change of guard. Initially, his as well as the British response was unexpectedly in favor of the protesters and not in favor of the most important ally of the US in the West-Asia. It was Israel-Saudi alliance (with the possible backing of Jordan,UAE,Yemen) that came to Mubarak's rescue. Leading Israeli newspapers called Obama's support to protesters as back-stabbing Israel and Saudi monarch tried undermining the movement, saying it was being fermented by outsiders. 

The reason that those opposed to Mubarak's ouster state is that the Islamists would seize  power in the ensuing chaos that might accompany the transition from dictatorship to democracy. It is an opinion I held about Musharraf's Pakistan. After all Pakistan is the most radicalized society,its ruling elite was not only a key ally in the USA's war on terror,most of the human lives lost as collateral damage belonged to it too. With the anti-American sentiment so widespread in the state, there seemed a great probability that a free and fair election might provide the extremists with an opportunity to come to power. Yet, when the time came the people of Pakistan elected leaders who seem more (relatively) serious in combating extremism than Musharraf did.

Mubarak has been using the Muslim Brotherhood card to justify his lust for power over the Egyptian nation as do other autocrats in the West-Asia. Of course, it was the Anglo-American axis that first propped up these regimes and continues to support them on one pretext or the other. Ironically, many of the terrorist groups were founded by this axis as strategic assets during the Cold War, the Taliban and other foreign Mujahideen (including Osama Bin Laden) being the most popular and currently notorious ones.   Conspiracy theories such as those alleging that terrorist groups work for US to provide the latter with an excuse to take control of regions rich with natural resources, no longer appear as weird  though they still don't sound credible either.

The movements in Tunisia and Egypt have been remarkably peaceful, relentless and most importantly secular. In Egypt, when the pent up rage of a generation finally exploded into spontaneous protest across the nation, what the people demanded was their right to chose their rulers,and regain their dignity.  The much feared Muslim Brotherhood initially did not even support the movement. It is quite understandable too. With their adherence to political Islam, they would naturally want to lead a revolution, an Islamic revolution, one can understand their reluctance at joining a movement of a motley crowd of students, professionals,  traders; the poor, the middle class, the intellectuals. Ironically that comprised nearly the whole of the Egyptian population so the Brotherhood could not ignore it for long. But there are indications that in the process they themselves may have shed some of their extremism and also that there is a very little possibility of the Islamists can come to power in Egypt soon. Let us not forget that  mandating the non-Islamist Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei to negotiate on behalf of the opposition is a very clear indication of the secular nature of the revolution.  Of course, if the current regime with covert US support attempts to prop up the Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative to itself,things can change but the Egyptian people cannot be held responsible for it.

Whether the regime is overthrown immediately or not the movement has been successful and the flashpoint has been reached which will change the political dynamics of the entire West-Asia. The spark emanating from Tunisia has now transformed into a blazing fire that is all set to inter autocratic regimes in the Arab countries and North Africa. Yemen and Jordan are already facing unrest,demonstrations have also been planned in Morroco, all governments in the region have been quick to take steps towards reforms to preempt public uprisings. As of yet, the Western media has played a commendable role, supporting the protesters and apprising the world of the situation which definately has strengthened the movement. The leaders of the US and the West have been reasonable too in handling this situation  but lately they have been reticent in their support for a democratic polity in Egypt. As I have mentioned earlier in this post,US reluctance to continue supporting pro-democracy supporters seems to be influenced by Israel-Arab concern on regional stability.

There is some truth in the concern but the greater truth is that the Mubarak regime did absolutely nothing to placate the protesters, on the contrary,it dug its own grave by attempting every possible and ruthless trick to quell peaceful demonstrations. How can the freedom loving American people whom Obama represents, possibly side with such an oppressive and ruthless regime ? Egyptian protesters are demanding democratic rights,the same rights on the pretext of which the US has in this very decade invaded two sovereign states.   From a foreign policy perspective too, the US should avoid repeating the mistake it committed in Iran in 1959 by helping the Shah ruthlessly suppress people's movement. This only led to extremists capturing power in the revolution in 1979 and the nation has since remained perhaps the most vocal foe of the US.

The domino effect seems already to be in motion, Tunisia has already shown the Arab world that self-immolation is incomparably more effective than suicide-bombings, that random attack on innocents does immense damage to the cause while peaceful demonstrations with perseverance can bring down even the greatest of dictators.  Anti-Americanism has been a major factor leading to the current situation but ironically it is not Americanism that the people despise but the support that America has along provided to regimes that deny them the same dignity that an American enjoys in her/his land. After all, more than one protester in Tahrir Square has said, they want to make Egypt "like America".

So how the peoples of West-Asia feel about the US in the future would depend on the decisions Obama takes now. If he sides with the people, the post-revolution governments in Egypt and the Arab world are likely to remain as friendly with the USA, and as a bonus it is likely to enjoy the goodwill of the people of the region as well,something the US has been losing massively in the last few decades. It is as much Obama's date with history as it for Egypt.