The Other McCain

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Massive New Protests in Egypt

Posted on | February 1, 2011 | 15 Comments

Photo: Khalil Hamra/AP via Toronto Globe & Mail

An estimated one million people have gathered in Tahrir Square . . .  fulfilling the hopes of opponents of Hosni Mubarak’s regime who wanted to make this the biggest protest since demonstrations began a week ago. Protesters believe this could be the last few hours of Mubarak’s rule, but it remains unclear whether they will march on the presidential palace as planned.”

The Guardian‘s resident Middle East expert says:

Not sure how much effect today’s protest will have on the US. The US is demanding reforms from the regime – and quickly. Mubarak can’t deliver that, even if he wanted to, because opposition figures are refusing to talk to the regime until he is gone. So for that reason the US attitude is likely to harden against Mubarak over the coming days.

The Egyptian opposition’s demand for Mubarak’s immediate ouster as a pre-condition of any discussion with the government is a familiar tactic of radicalism.

UPDATE: The Associated Press:

More than a quarter-million people flooded into the heart of Cairo Tuesday, filling the city’s main square in by far the largest demonstration in a week of unceasing demands for President Hosni Mubarak to leave after nearly 30 years in power.
Protesters streamed into Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, among them people defying a government transportation shutdown to make their way from rural provinces in the Nile Delta. . . .
Organizers said the aim was to intensify marches to get the president out of power by Friday . . .
While demonstrators initially planned to march to the presidential palace – which was surrounded by some 60 tanks – they remained instead at Tahrir Square. Some began to drift away after the curfew began at 3 p.m. local time.

UPDATE II: Whether it’s a million protesters or merely “more than a quarter-million,” the weeklong protests are not helping the Egyptian economy:

Egypt’s economy approached paralysis on Monday as foreign commerce, tourism and banking all but halted . . . .
International companies closed plants and sent workers home or out of the country; food staples went undelivered to stores; and banks remained closed during a week when many Egyptians, who are routinely paid monthly, would receive their paychecks.
A major ratings agency cut the country’s bond rating, while shortages led to rising prices.

Via Hot Air Headlines. Meanwhile, as Egypt teeters on the brink, the Obama administration is concentrating on its P.R. image:

Days of mounting unrest in Egypt have turned into a delicate public relations challenge for the White House as a number of new players in the West Wing try to craft messages for President Obama that will resonate well overseas and at home.
The president’s advisers on Monday struggled to maintain a carefully calibrated position regarding the future of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, in the face of intense pressure from protesters in Egypt and tough questions from the American press corps.

Wonderful: In a situation requiring statesmanship, instead the White House is focused on spin.

UPDATE III: Da Tech Guy points out that this is one of those rare occasions when Richard Cohen is right:

The next Egyptian government – or the one after – might well be composed of Islamists. In that case, the peace with Israel will be abrogated and the mob currently in the streets will roar its approval.

Meanwhile, John Kerry maintains his record of being 100% wrong.

UPDATE IV: What is remarkable is how so many bien pensant liberals who relentlessly warn about the dangerous influences of “extremists” in American politics are, despite all evidence of hateful extremism in the Cairo mob, sanguine about the prospects of “democracy” in Egypt.

There seems to be an idea that, while the U.S. is unable to enforce its will via the continuation of the Mubarak regime, nevertheless we can enforce our will by “managing” the Egyptian revolution. Unfortunately, history illustrates the folly of such ambitions, as Drew M. warns at AOSHQ:

Remember, it isn’t always the ones who topple the government who wind up in control after the original government is gone. There’s usually a pretty nasty group waiting in the wings to knock off the happy talking reformers and re-institute tyranny, just with another name.

This goes back to the Cold War. One reason the U.S. so often supported authoritarian anti-Communist “strong man” regimes in the Third World for more than four decades — from the end of WWII to the fall of the Soviet Union — was that such a policy had the virtue of simplicity.

We didn’t have to address the multitudinous grievances of a mob of foreigners. We didn’t have to try to understand their culture or decipher their language or try to make sense of a kaleidoscopic whirl of shifting factions. No, all we had to do was to keep sending guns and money to the anti-communist strong man and let him keep a lid on it, to prevent the outbreak of one of those “brushfire” guerrilla wars that the Soviets were always trying to foment.

That was the realpolitik calculus of our Cold War foreign policy: So long as the U.S.-allied strong man stayed in power, his country was not part of the Soviet-led anti-American communist coalition, and to hell with everything else.

Of course, that policy never had any shortage of critics who accused the U.S. of “imperialism” and a cynical disregard for “human rights,” but as we now look back at the Cold War — approaching the Reagan centennial – isn’t it time to admit that it worked? And if, as we are told, Islamic jihad is an existential menace comparable to Soviet communism, shouldn’t we consider the lessons of the Cold War as applicable to contemporary foreign policy?

You can answer such questions in the negative — many of my libertarian and paleoconservative friends do — but the problem remains of how to prevent a post-Mubarak Egypt (and other Islamic countries that may be swept up in a series of “democratic” revolutions) from becoming part of a radicalized international caliphate with outposts among Muslim immigrant communities here. This potential development is what the ravings of the Cairo street mobs portend, and we ignore these omens at our peril.

UPDATE V: “The Euphoria Is Fading.”

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