Friday, January 28, 2011

Roll over Ben Ali and tell Mubarak the News

What a month, what a week in the Arab world. It seems like every pot of water that has been simmering for the last 20, 30 years will finally reach boiling point, blowing the lid off the pot. People from Algeria to Yemen are in the streets, protesting against their oppressive regimes, asking for a chance in life and a small piece of the big bread that fat dictators like Tunisia's Ben Ali, Egypt's Mubarak and Yemen's Saleh are eating every day.

Are the powers that be, notably the United States, happy with what they see? They are certainly not, but need to show a somewhat concerned but neutral face opposite events over which they have no more control. Every US president in the last 20 years knew that Egypt was about to explode any minute but was hoping that this would happen under another president's watch. 

The situation in Egypt is no longer tenable. For years Mubarak has told the West, has told us, it's either me, yours truly dictator Hosni, or these loony islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. I give you stability, they will give you terror. And, as an additional asset, I, Hosni, will honor the peace treaty that my predecessor, Anwar "the traitor" as-Sadat, has signed with Israel, so this country you guys in Washington and Berlin all love so much can live in peace, at least in peace with Egypt.

The US and Europe were delighted to take that deal. It was a deal signed on the back of the Egyptian people. The oppression the Egyptians have endured for years and years was meant to be an oppression for our best. The stability Mubarak was delivering was stability for us, not for the people of Egypt. Entire generations were born and raised under a "no future" banner. There were schools ok. There were universities allright. But after that? It was either becoming a street vendor or a cab driver, leaving the country or unemployment. It's no surprise, as Marc Sageman argues in his excellent book "Leaderless Jihad", that the ranks of al Qaeda are or were filled with (Egyptian) engineers and doctors, such as Mohammed Atta or Ayman al-Zawahiri. These people were well educated but didn't see any possibility to excel, to make a career in the house that Hosni had built.

The US are in a dilemma now. They preach democracy but ask for stability. Democracy in itself is an unstable concept. Majorities change, parties are in power or are voted into opposition. It's a win and lose, it's a come and go at the helm of the state. The only common denominator is that everyone recognizes the rules of democracy and respects the constitution. For decades, the Egyptian people were denied their self-determination, were excluded from their right to a democratic experiment. How can people politically evolve if not through a constant development of their political system? It's a trial and error, and we must accept the potential instability of the trials and must embrace the idea that errors can happen but can be corrected, after four years, in the next election round. Let's give the people in the Arab world the right to try, the right to err, and let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they will do it well.

Jeddah: dictators resort?

The US are a shame now. Just recently Hillary Clinton called for free speech and free access to internet everywhere, but now her buddy Hosni Mubarak shut down the internet in Egypt completely, unprecedented in the history of the world wide web. Clinton aimed her demand at China, basically an enemy of the United States. Mubarak on the other hand is an US ally, so he is nicely left off the virtual hook. Or maybe not? Clinton spoke in quite a length about the situation in Egypt on Friday evening, asking for this and requiring that, without once mentioning Mubarak's name. Did he already fell from grace with his mentors, quicker than he might have thought? The US love, the love of Americans is fickle and light: you are a friend in five but forgotten in two (minutes).

You want to hear more about US failures that came to light this week? I gladly provide. In Syria Human Rights Watch deplores a deterioration of the human rights situation despite (or because of) an increased dialogue between Syria and the US, culminating with the posting of a new US ambassador in Damascus. And the WikiLeaks-style Palestine papers, disclosed by al Jazeera, show (besides the Israeli domination of the "peace process" and the sell-out attitude of the Palestinian "negotiators") how much of a lightweight mediator the US is. To quote Ramy G. Khoury in the Lebanese Daily Star: "Washington often seems a messenger of Israel's government and the pro-Israel lobby in the US, rather than an impartial mediator."

Speaking of Lebanon: What's the big fuss about Hezbollah forcing Hariri to step down as Prime Minister? Sure, I hate to see their weapons aimed at Beirut (as in May of 2008) instead of at Israel. Sure, I hate their intimidation tactics and I am aware that a Hezbollah dominated government won't do anything to solve the mystery of the political assassinations that have plagued Lebanon for so long. But their leaving the government and thus toppling Hariri was playing democracy and constitution in its most normal form. It happens in Germany, it happens in Sweden, so why not in Lebanon? It's democracy folks, it's playing political games and when the consequences are that the United Stated reconsider their financial aid to Lebanon, the Lebanese should be happy with that. Besides and again: Lebanon is different than anything. The problem in Lebanon is not the government, but the absence of government!

So roll over Ben Ali and tell Mubarak the news: The Arab dictators are finished; change has finally come to the Arabs world and we must support Tunisia and Egypt in their process towards political culture and maturity. Meanwhile in Jeddah, they can prepare the beds in King Abdullah's dictators resort for more guests soon to check in. 

on a lighter note: this post's title inspired by Chuck Berry.

1 comment:

  1. Don't worry about the US. It is time for the people to speak. We have been silent for too many years, but enough is enough. The US will do what is right for the US, even if that means it will contradict what it preaches. The real question is who is next. I wonder if this will ever happen in either Syria or Saudi.