Thursday, February 3, 2011

Semi-Random Thoughts on Egypt

I believe individual freedom is a God-given right and an entitlement owed to all people in the world. As a practical matter, I also know freedom doesn't endure unless people are willing to fight and sacrifice everything to win it. The pursuit of freedom can't be merely a mood and expect to succeed; it has to be a passion. We Americans can't want it for others more than they want it for themselves; it just won't hold unless the people are thoroughly invested in the idea. I'd like to see the people of Egypt live in freedom, but in my view, the freedom movement there is vastly undercooked right now.

Here are some semi-random thoughts relating to events in Egypt:

1. Once President Obama succeeds in pressuring President Mubarak out of office, maybe he can turn his energies to President Ahmedinejad in Iran, President Assad in Syria, and President Hu in China. Mubarak has never been as bad as either of those three guys. How's he been different? Egypt under his leadership has been an important ally to the United States for the past 30 years. Thank you. No, really...

2. Speaking of President Hu... Two weeks ago, that dictator was the toast of Washington, treated to a luxurious state dinner. This week another dictator, this one an ally in Egypt is being told by our government to leave office NOW. By the way, he was told that in front of an international audience after he had already announced he was going to leave office by September. Why did we have to thump him on the forehead like that?

3. Egypt gave birth to the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, an organization that has assassinated two Egyptian presidents in the past 90 years. Egypt was the catalyst for 40 years of warfare waged against Israel in the 1900s until Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed a historic peace agreement with Israel that persists still today. Sadat was assassinated for his efforts. Mubarak emerged to take his place and kept Egypt from reversing course. If the next government in Egypt turns its back on peace with Israel, what will we do? What can we do?

4. I'm hearing the U. S. government is reevaluating its position regarding the Muslim Brotherhood in light of the potential realities in Egypt. As the line goes, we know they're an unsavory bunch, but we need to prepare to embrace the possible new future. Don't we all just love people who are tougher on their friends than they are on their adversaries? Here's a prediction: regardless of who is in power in Egypt when this is all over, we're going to have a heck of a time being called "friend" by people there who mean it.

5. When did 100,000 protesters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and setting fire to things that don't belong to them necessarily become a freedom movement? How do you count that vote? I think of the large protests we have in our country and rhetorically ask if those are also freedom movements.

6. The Shah of Iran was a bad guy, but he was an ally. When we left him hanging during the anti-government protests in 1979 because he was a despot, what did we get in his place? We got the Ayatollah Khomeini. After returning to Iran after the fall of the Shah, the Ayatollah won something like 98% of the "popular vote" in that country. How's that been going for us?

7. Speaking of Iran, wasn't it a year ago when hordes of no-kidding freedom protestors took to the streets in Iran protesting a massively corrupt election? The internet was shut down, journalists were shut out, and the government fired on non-violent protestors. Do you remember the words, "an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now" coming from the White House directed at President Ahmedinejad last year? I don't either. I do remember hearing them directed to President Mubarak this week though.

8. We need a better compass.