Better a thousand years of authoritarianism and not one year of anarchy
Michael Widlanski summarizes the disaster that is Egypt
The Arabs have a saying: Alf sanna istibdaad, wa la-sanna fawda. "Better a thousand years of authoritarianism and not one year of anarchy." What we now see in Egypt is the result of one year of anarchy, helped by President Barack Obama. Read the whole thing
Obama made a dramatic speech in Cairo in 2009 in which he courted the Muslim Brotherhood, thus undermining Egypt's Husni Mubarak. Mubarak might have been a less-than-perfect ally, but he was far better than the Brotherhood that Obama and his aides mistakenly consider "moderates." He who asks terrorists to dinner should expect terror and anarchy for dessert.
Obama's anti-Mubarak stance was not a new position. After 9-11, he spoke to a Chicago newspaper about the need for the U.S. not to fight in Iraq, but instead to fight against government corruption in the Middle East, citing Egypt as an example. He strongly suggested that corruption in Egypt fed poverty and helped cause 9-11.
But Obama was wrong. Corruption is not the main cause of Egyptian poverty, and poverty was not the main cause of 9-11 or terror anywhere. Fighting corruption is fine, everywhere from the Mid-East to the Mid-West -- and even in Chicago. But corruption is not the driver of terror, and fighting it does not require casting off a nearly irreplaceable ally.
Mubarak, for all his faults, worked like President Anwar Sadat to lead Egypt to Infitaah -- opening Egypt to the West, much like Mikhail Gorbachev did with glasnost. Sadat and Mubarak felt that a Western orbit could put a bit more money in the average person's pocket. Egypt pulled away from Russian political/economic models. Tourism and foreign investment grew.
Both Mubarak and Sadat did not make miracles overnight, but their move toward the West and peace with Israel showed slow but steady gains for average Egyptians.
Yet Egypt is a place where a million babies are born every nine months, where 97% of the people live on two percent of the land, a thin strip on the Nile. For Egyptians, it often feels like Egypt is running up a down escalator, fighting just to stay in the same spot. Now even that is gone, as tourism and foreign currency reserves have both plummeted.
Years from now we may not recall Obama's well-parsed words in Cairo, but we will definitely be seeing the way they helped destroy the Sadat-Mubarak heritage of peace and stability in the region.
Labels: Egypt, Egyptian elections, Hosni Mubarak