Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Events in Egypt still bode uncertain for the West. The fluidity of the situation, now partially determined, has the scent of a youthful, computer-generated revolution, its forces young, vigorous and dynamic, the scenes in the streets of Cairo evoking tableaux of freedom-loving birds learning to fly.
The tired, corrupt government ministers who tried to blame “external influences” for their increasingly precarious grip had averred anarchy and chaos, the classically demagogic response to the change that threatened their grip on puissance.
This, of course, was the manipulative tool of corrupted political forces and is not a new phenomenon from a historical perspective. Every dictator has, to a greater or lesser extent, utilized this fear to perpetuate their own power. The difference is that this time, it failed. Fear and terror lost to a burgeoning aroma of freedom.
We do not now know how this situation will play out. Will the revolution in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East wind up in the hands of Islamic extremists? Will western-influenced youth attain power through some leader who will not become an autocrat? Will a military strongman or fundamentalist Islamists stifle the democratic instincts of the people? Will the reigns of power corrupt whomever it embraces? Will Israel be threatened or find itself at war with the newer forces which might dominate the Arab world? Many other questions still remain unanswered.
In the 1960s, the United Arab Republic was a brief, ill-fated union between Egypt and Syria, which only lasted 2½ years, a paradigm of Arab disunity, almost like the scene in the tent from Lawrence of Arabia when Anthony Quinn entered and demonstrated how the feuding tribes could not hook up, even under British rule. Western attempts to amalgamate Arab countries into one monolith have always been a huge mistake. Too many tribes and nationalities, many of which cannot even agree on who is the scion of Mohammed, offer very little unifying potential. The Egyptians do not now, it seems, wish to reject the 30-year peace treaty with Israel. Nor do they seem to be flying to an Iranian smoke signal, Shia-Sunni Arab-Persian discrepancies momentously militating against that frightful result.
Interestingly and to his credit, John Boehner, on “Meet the Press,” stated that the President had handled the crisis about as well as he could have. A very risky statement, indeed, from the man who must pacify his tea party minions. Governing is far more difficult and complicated than simply leading the opposition.
The lessons taught by attempting governance will face the naifs in the freedom-seeking throngs in Egypt and in whatever other country is next to join them in a quest for democracy. Without a constitutional heritage and institutional foundations of democracy, it will be arduous. Have Facebook and Twitter replaced Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine and John Adams in Founding Fatherdom?
We are living in exciting, exhilarating times.