On Egypt: Let’s be silent and keep the fleet ready…

February 3, 2011

Why should you care what goes on in Egypt? Think of $5-gasoline.

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It’s all very fascinating what is going on in Egypt, people in open revolt against an oppressive regime, and an at first largely peaceful rebellion and now one turned violent, but not as bad as it certainly could or will be. There have been deaths and injury, but solid numbers we do not have. But the bottom line for the USA is that we need the oil from the region and an open trade route through the Suez Canal.

So far, I would say the Obama administration is doing the right thing. While some may criticize it for all but abandoning, okay abandoning, Hosni Mubarak, who has carried our water, being paid off with military and other support (most or all of which the average Egyptian citizen never sees) for lo these past three decades, in the face of such a massive uprising of the people and with the fact that Mubarak apparently failed to enact reforms, preferring to keep rebellion and take over by Islamic extremists always imminent as a reason to keep him in power, what other choice was there?

Now the question seems to be is this a secular (non-religious) uprising or an Islamic fundamentalist inspired one? No clear answer, but it may well be a little of both. But there are signs that the usual suspects, Al Qaeda et al., don’t know quite how to handle themselves in this. Sure it’s their dream come true if the people rise up and overthrow what they would call a puppet or stooge of the west, Mubarak, but what if the people actually force the installation of a Western European-style parliamentary democracy? That would be the Islamic fundamentalists’ worst nightmare.

(Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has an active role and it seems to masquerade at least as a softer-gentler form of Al Qaeda — compassionate conservative? — but if you believe that…)

(A New York Times article made reference to the quandary the Islamic revolutionaries face: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/world/middleeast/03jihad.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp)

I still maintain the USA should basically lie low, but keep the fleet and the airborne ready for a real emergency. We get into trouble when we go beyond taking care of necessary business, such as keeping the canal open, and go into nation building. Nation building is for those in the nation or prospective nation in question.

If we were not so bogged down in the Middle East already, we could be a lot more nimble. But we are there, so at least we should know the territory by now.

I believe U.S. President Barack Obama has done the right thing so far by not saying a lot, but by calling Mubarak in private (well kind of private) and telling him his time has run out.

As Teddy Roosevelt said: “Speak softly and carry a big stick”.

We should only act militarily to take care of our immediate interests, though, such as keeping the canal open, not meddling with internal struggles or politics.

P.s.

Meanwhile we still have the possibility, an unacceptable one at that, of a nuclear-armed Iran. That is another place where we need to let them know in private we are willing to use that big stick.

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CLARIFICATION:

Over the past two days or so I have used the expression “lay low” and “lie low” interchangeably, because I like to say lay low, but maybe grammatically it is supposed to be lie low, and my dictionary (a real book) indicates it can go either way, being an idiomatic expression, but anyway, I try to use correct grammar when I can.

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Is the people’s uprising in Egypt all a radical Islamist plot???

February 2, 2011

Blogger’s note:I have a real job and even a real life (to an extent), so I cannot blog constantly, but at the same time I like to keep current, both in my own mind and in my blog, so today I am kind of posting a running blog as I get time to add things.

ADD 2:

One (who is not a Middle East expert) has to wonder if the forces of radical, western-hating Islam will hijack this Egyptian uprising that on its surface has the appearance of a populist, pro-democracy movement, or whether it was the radical Islamist (woman stoners) plan all along.

Overnight USA time (day is night and night is day in all of this — I mean they did their Wednesday already) heavy violence broke out on the streets in Cairo as anti- and pro-government citizens clashed, in one instance with government backers reportedly riding in on horses and camels, only to be dragged off their mounts and beaten. I have not seen any comprehensive or reliable figures on casualties in all of this that has taken place over the past week or so. At last report I read the Army is still taking a more or less neutral stance on this, but is calling on everyone to go home and back to life as usual.

And on the snippet I just read on Yahoo News, the Republicans in the USA are all over the board on this one trying to figure out whose side to be on and figuring out whether they can blame it all on Obama or whether they should not speak too soon (as usual, they probably really do not have a clue). I personally stick to my guns (so to speak) and say the U.S. should lay low and let things play out, and I would add, keeping our eye on our real interests, such as keeping the Suez Canal open and making sure the oil keeps on coming, to the extent we can.

ADD 1:

Things are moving rapidly in Egypt. I’m not sure now whether the people have control of this uprising or not. AP is now reporting that the Egyptian Army is calling for a halt to the demonstrations, but at the same time is calling for Mubarak to step down immediately.

I was also listening to a Middle East expert on KGO Radio (San Francisco) on the John Rothman Show and he was saying that the Islamic Brotherhood is likely to have a major role in a new government in Egypt. He seemed to be saying that they have been orchestrating this revolt, that it has been their long-term plan all along. Admittedly, this “expert” has an Israeli slant or bias on things, but he seemed to know what he was talking about (If I could only recall his name — I’ll get that later — okay, I found it. He is an Israeli and his name is Mordechai Kedar, see Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Kedar).

ADD 3:

And while I am on the subject of the afore-mentioned Middle East expert, something he said, something I have heard and read before, struck out at me. Many (most?) states such as Pakistan, and Iraq, for that matter (and others) in the Middle East were artificially created by the British when they ran things there. But warring tribes have been thrown together and they still just do not get along. The situation seems almost hopeless.

And I say, for the most part, if there was no Suez Canal and no oil in the region we in the USA would scarcely give a hang, but there is and we do.

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What part of we don’t want you here anymore does Egyptian president and dictator Hosni Mubarak not understand? A million people or more (update: or less, no real accurate count here, maybe a quarter of a million) crowd a square in Cairo and other cities and he still does not get it. But U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly phoned him and said as much as you’ve got to go. It’s not that the U.S. really has business running Egyptian affairs, but since we have been propping him up with military and other aid and since he has been a strong ally for us in the region and made nice, nice with Israel, we do have influence.

(Point of reference: Egypt is the most populous nation in the Middle East; estimated population: 83 million.)

The foregoing is the new lead for a blog I started earlier today before my real job’s requirements got in the way. I was saying:

What if there was an uprising of a million or more people protesting against a dictator and demanding he step down and in fact leave the country, with many of the protestors appearing on video to be quite intelligent and articulate and not narrow-minded anti-western religious zealots?

That’s what seems to be taking place right now in Egypt.

Mubarak has now announced that he will not seek re-election in September (he always wins when he runs; I guess it’s set up that way), but he refused to step down and said he plans to die in his homeland (he did not say how).

It’s a ticklish situation in international relations and the balance of power game for the USA who has backed Mubarak for his 30- year reign over Egypt and who has seen him as an ally who has made peace with Israel and is not with the Islamic extremists.

In my previous blog I opined that the U.S. should lay low and let the people in Egypt do what they will do. Maybe asking  or suggesting to Mubarak that he do the right thing, that is leave, is not so bad. We just don’t know what we will or the Egyptians will get in his place.

My own real job has kept me away from reading as much as I would like to, but I have monitored the news, primarily on AM radio, over the past few days since posting my previous blog and from what I gather many think that an eventual new government in Egypt will not be an Islamic extremist one. The Army may play a major role in a new government, and the Army seems to have at least partially allied itself with the protestors.

I am also impressed with the web coverage made available by the Arab news service called Al Jazeera, and apparently so are many others. It previously had been dismissed by most westerners as an Islamic propaganda machine, kind of like the Islamic equivalent of Fox News. But it has found what may be its biggest story so far in the Egyptian uprising and seems to be rising to the occasion.

This all started in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, and has had effects in other parts of the Arab world. The king of Jordan has dismissed his government ministers. And I understand the Royals in Saudi Arabia are nervous as heck about what their oppressed people might do.

Strangely, at the moment the Arab world seems to be showing what power to the people is all about.

Meanwhile Americans can only get excited about the Super Bowl (I guess some people are, anyway).

I plan to blog about all this in more depth soon.