There is a wonderful scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris, played perfectly by Matthew Broderick, tells us that he’s missing his class on European Socialism by taking a day off. But what does that matter? (as he asks). “I’m not a socialist. I’m not European. I don’t plan to be European.” (Paraphrasing here.)
I am reminded of John Hughes’ deathless lines as I watch the breathless, endless coverage of the recent turmoil in Egypt on TV. I don’t doubt that it’s terribly important. I just don’t see the story the way it’s being played on TV and here’s why.
Let’s take it point by point. No matter how this turns out, it’s not going to be good for America. The people in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez demonstrating against Mubarak are not Jefferson, Madison, and Washington. They are not liberal democrats and believers in universal human rights. In the final analysis, they are not going to be pals of the United States or our only reliable friend in the area, Israel.
Dwight Eisenhower, a genuinely great President, stood up boldly against Israeli, French, and British seizure of the Suez Canal in an effort to befriend Egypt. Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Egyptians responded by kicking us in the teeth every chance they could. If there has been a fundamental change in the Egyptians’ attitudes towards the U.S., it has been subtle indeed. Maybe too subtle to be detected.
Yes, indeed, all of these demonstrations are a sign of a new dawn in the Mideast. But it’s a lot like the old dawn, except for a thick haze of Iranian smoke. Has no one noticed that in all of the recent political changes in the Arab states, power going to persons largely sympathetic to Iran is a constant? Has anyone noticed how Mohamed ElBaradei endlessly carried water for Iran about nuclear arms when he was at the UN supposedly trying to stop nuke proliferation? This is not going to end well for the U.S. and the air of breathless (that word again, sorry!) expectation from the newscasters that Egypt and the whole Mideast will turn out to be like Minnesota simply has no precedent in history.
Next, how is it that hardly anyone is pointing out except in conservative talk radio that when there was a real democratic outpouring in the streets of Iran, an attempted revolution against the dictatorship of the Holocaust-denying, America-hating, nuclear weapons–seeking Ahmadinejad in Iran, and Iran suppressed it with gunfire, Barack Obama said not a word. He totally ignored the young people trying to make Iran into a democracy. (Iran is the one place in the Mideast besides Israel where there are a lot of pro-American young people.) He tried to kiss up to Ahmadinejad with the blood of pro-democracy youth.
But when our (sort of) pal in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, is under siege, Obama treats him like a whipping boy. This is the classic liberal ploy of appeasing our enemies and snubbing our friends. It is foolish and does not look nice. It says very bad things about us as a people and nation. It is just plain craven.
Third, Egypt has about 80 million people. Let’s say that at a maximum, there have been 800,000 or even 1,800,000 demonstrators against Mubarak (whom I totally believe is not a nice guy). That means we have the views of one or two per cent that Mubarak should go. How do the other 98 or 99 per cent feel? We don’t know. But why should a large group of demonstrators be able to control the electoral process when they are a tiny fraction of the population?
The Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 with a tiny sliver of the urban population. The results were catastrophic. The same thing happened in France in its Revolution. Again, disastrous results. I would love to see an example of when an urban mass demonstration led to a better government (especially in the Mideast, but anywhere, for that matter). Should a mass gathering of the Tea Party be allowed to oust Mr. Obama? No, there have to be procedures for the people to choose for the government to have legitimacy, and what we are seeing in Cairo looks more like a coup than an orderly process for getting the people’s will about power. (We’re not going to like it when we do get it, by the way.)
By the way, I keep seeing that there is fantastic unemployment in Egypt and that’s what the crowds want to change. How are they going to do that? How will a new government get work for these people? Why are they not already sought out as low wage workers for manufacturing or textiles in our global economy? Something is going on in Egypt and the whole Arab world mind set relative to work and that something is not succeeding. Will kicking out Mubarak change that? If so, how?
Good luck to Egypt. Good luck to the people who cover Egypt for CNN and everyone else. As for me, it just looks like a sad story I have seen before, and I have work to do to feed my family. My ancestors left Egypt long ago, and I’m not going back. Not in any way.
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