Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011



It really sucks to be Hosni Mubarak these days. The head-spinning pace of recent events in Egypt has stunned the world. The once tranquil 'Jewel of the Nile' has been turned upside-down. We've witnessed a sudden eruption of horrific battles between riot police and angry protesters with no end in sight. Normally when a nation undergoes regime change it takes a little longer. In Thailand, it took years to oust President Thaksin. First the Yellow T-shirts took over the Royal Plaza. Months later, they occupied the international airport. Finally, after a boycotted election, the army stepped in, and Thaksin fled into exile. My point is: While no one is surprised that a tyrannical dictator like Mubarak is being overthrown, everyone is amazed how quickly he's being run out.

It's not just the columnists, writers and bloggers that were caught off-guard. In the last ten days, presidents, prime ministers and fellow dictators from around the globe are also struggling to make sense of the fast-paced events in Egypt. World leaders like Obama, Putin and Hu Jintao have suddenly found themselves scrambling to distance their nations from the current Egyptian regime. It's not easy to do. Within the last three years, President Mubarak has received lavish state receptions at the the White House, the Kremlin and Peking's Great Hall of the People. He was photographed hugging Barack, shaking hands with Putin and kissing Hu Jintao. (Okay, I made that last one up!) So the question is: If he is loved around the world why do the people in Egypt hate him so much?

Let's review how he came to power. The 1981 assassination of Anwar el-Sadat was a sudden, savage event that sent shock waves throughout the Middle East. Mr. Mubarak was the vice president at the time. Still recovering from a bullet wound on his hand, he was hastily inaugurated as the new president. He inherited sole leadership of a nation on the brink of Civil War. Confusion reigned as dozens of armed Islamic splinter groups roamed the streets. One city, Asyut, actually seceded. But Hosni was a smart leader and turned to his two best friends: The army and the media. Looking handsome, stately and definitely in charge, Mubarak was broadcast nationally on every TV channel and radio station in Egypt. He declared a state of emergency and told all Egyptians to remain calm and to stay indoors. Then, he had the world's tenth largest army patrol the streets of Cairo and Alexandria with tanks and heavily armed soldiers. Problem solved!

While the events of 1981 in Egypt are by no means rare in World Politics, what happened in the thirty years following certainly is: Hosni Mubarak never lifted the State of Emergency. It's been THIRTY YEARS! Imagine how stressful it must be to live in a continual state of panic for three decades! Well, that's what life is like for the 50 million people who have been born in Egypt under Mubarak's reign. The streets have always been controlled by armed tanks and garrisons of Uzi-totting soldiers. Citing Federal Law #162, Egyptian police can imprison any one for any reason and then jail them for any amount of time. Also legal under this law, the government can censor and control all press, radio, TV and films. For three decades, this classic system of lies and oppression has been in effect. It worked as long as the government was able to monitor what folks saw, read and heard. The constant army presence reminded people to stay in line.

And, everything would have gone fine for Mr. Mubarak and his fiendish plans if it weren't for those darn, meddling technological advances. Recently, the all mighty INTERNET, stealthy CELL PHONES and sneaky SATELLITE TV have been slowly appearing on Saharan sands, to the disdain of many an Arab dictator. Just like in Tunisia, people are now able to talk with each other, learn about the rest of the world, and begin to demand better lives. The only problem with FREEDOM OF SPEECH (as former president George W. Bush knew) is that many in the Arab World loathe the US and the West. If we actually give them the power to vote, we're likely to have new leaders from parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Fatah...and worse of all...Al-Qaida. It looks like the $2 billion dollars we gave to Egypt every year to behave like a good nation wasn't money well spent.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad Dunersblog is taking some time off the royal wedding and reporting on the crisis in Egypt. I gotta say though, the penultimate sentences leave me scratching my head.

    Freedom of speech is the problem? Giving the Arab World the power to vote would be bad?

    I would represent that the problem is the total lack of legitimacy of the ruling regimes throughout the Arab world. The Brotherhood, Hamas, Fatah, & Al-Qaida thrive, not because of the West, but because they are the only outlet for frustrated societies. The strongmen in charge in the Arab world allow those outlets because they direct anger at the West and Israel rather than the oppressive regimes under which they survive.

    The transition will not likely be easy, but the only way forward for the Middle East is for current set of despots to move (be moved) aside and for legitimate governments of and for the people to take hold.