Friday, February 04, 2011

The Friends of Mr. Cairo

I haven't commented on the so-called revolution in Egypt yet because the reports are confusing in all the chaos.  Foreign policy and diplomacy are very delicate matters and decisions and taking points should be taken wisely.

The facts from what I've read are that Egyptian President Mubarek has been in power for a very long time, if not one of the longest standing leaders in the world.  Similar in a way to Saddam Hussein's, his regime is not an Islamic fundamentalist one where hoping to instill shiara law is the goal.  That said, human rights abuses and brutality aren't gone either.  Shutting down the Internet is pure dictator-type governance.  He has forged good relations with many nations, including the U.S.  Can't blame him when the U.S. pours billions into 'program's there.

But it's not a democracy... "The worst form of government next to all the others." 

Throughout recent history we've seen governments toppled in a day, leaders overthrown in an instant, only to be taken over by even more brutal dictators backed by their 'people revolution'.  Mao, Castro, Lenin, Hitler, Il Duce, Pol Pot, Hussein, the list goes on and on.  And in many of these cases, chaos is intentionally created, only to have a single leader rise out of the ashes touting "freedom", "order", "unity", and "progress", but backed by a military contingent to enforce the rise to power.  These are not revolutions but well executed coups.  They remind me of Star Wars I, II, and III and the complex plot orchestrated by Darth Sidious in his rise to Emperor of the Galactic Empire.

Anyway, the most difficult part in nation building is the transition to a democracy.  It's never easy.  In general, those countries that do rise out of it become strong and prosperous.  The process is fragile indeed and always will be, but for what's right in the long run for a people, it's by far the best path.

For right now, democratic nations like Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. who have a vested interest in the Middle East, we watch how the players react to events, including our own leaders. 

So what do I know?  The history of building Middle Eastern and North African countries in the first half of the 20th century was shoddy at best.  A lack of understanding of the various Islamic culture groups, the British created the strangest borders.  Democracy was not the result but dictatorships to control the fractious citizenry and maintain order and control.  So much so, that the leadership of many of these nations were in ally with Nazi Germany during WWII.

Today, I know that there are moderate citizens in Muslim nations who see democracy in Israel and now in Iraq and Afghanistan. They see democracy at work in the Western world.  They see revolutions in Tunisia, and a referendum in Sudan creating a new country dividing the former nation by religion.  They want a say in governance, in their lives and not be dictated to.  They are educated. They are religious. They are not extremists but detest Western political influence that has interfered with their self-determination and brought and supported dictators. They are the very silent majority.

That said, underneath the media reports and general public belief of a 'democratic revolution' in Egypt, (and it appears that way because they have a dictatorship so what else is there?) there lurks other forces nipping at the bit to take power... the loud minority.

The Muslim Brotherhood is one of those forces no doubt.  It's a mysterious group with ties to Middle East history dating back to 1926.  It has factions. It has extremists. It has moderates.  It's also banned in Egypt.  It claims to restore the teachings of the Qu'ran in nations through non-violent means, thus not revered by Al-Qaeda.  It has members in Hamas.

In a way, President Mubarek is right.  By stepping down now, chaos WILL ensue.  A slow, peaceful transition to a democracy and a well executed and internationally supervised election process is the only way to ensure stability and especially to prevent extremist factions from quickly rising to power amidst the dust while the people remain in fear and uncertainty. 

Like the rich landscape of Egypt's mightiest and glorious structures, and the symbols and ancient mythology that have stood the test of time, from the chaos, let the sand and dust settle. And hopefully, similar to how the 19th century world was enamoured with its greatness, out of that, Egypt will find itself again, and be revered as a shining democratic and prosperous nation and the envy of the Muslim world.

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