Those of us writers who are not experts on foreign policy have done more reading than writing this week about the tense situation between the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people after the recent Egyptian uprising, even though most of us have no problem grasping the rudimentary aspects of America’s foreign policy stance as we watch the agonizing rituals that usually come with the fall of a nation’s leader. As my brother so simply and eloquently put it earlier today, “every revolution happens because somebody else wants to be in charge.”
Our own Barack Obama, from where I sit, seems to be following a doctrine of controlled political ambivalence in attempt to straddle the wishes of the Egyptian people and the needs of the government of Egypt, and by extension, the government of the United States. His counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, appears to be trying very, very hard to ignore the fact that the fat lady is now singing the final arias of his political career. As long as the standoff in Egypt continues, I will continue to try to read as many blogs and newspapers as possible, both foreign and domestic, in order to get a more complete understanding of the dynamics behind these events.
Below are some memorable excerpts from some places I’ve visited this week on the web, items you are very, very unlikely to see quoted on your nightly news broadcast anytime soon:
There are a number of basic features that are associated with this magnificent event that are key, I think, to understanding not just the Egyptian Revolution but also the emerging Arab uprisings of 2011. Those features include the power of marginal forces; spontaneity as an art of moving; civic character as a conscious ethical contrast to state’s barbarism; the priority assigned to political over all other kinds of demands, including economics; and lastly autocratic deafness, meaning the ill-preparedness of ruling elites to hear the early reverberations as anything but undifferentiated public noise that could be easily made inaudible again with the usual means.
Ibrahim spent three years in jail under Mubarak’s reign, despite having been the faculty adviser for Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, when she was pursuing a master’s degree in sociology at the American University, in Cairo. “She was studying poverty in the Egyptian slums,” Ibrahim said, laughing. “But power isolates you from reality. I think that, like her husband, she became cut off, she forgot what she saw in her field work among the people of Egypt.”
Judgment Days The New Yorker
Noteworthy here is that Egypt is not so determined to export its gas to Israel because of some profit incentive: ditching highly subsidized local sales for foreign currency market prices. To the contrary, Egypt loses a lot of money on its gas sales to Israel. Initially the 2005 gas treaty between Egypt and Israel required Egypt to supply Israel with 200 million feet of gas daily for the following15 years at a price that “ranges between 70 cents and $1.5 per BTU (British thermal unit),” to be fixed throughout the treaty’s lifetime. So we’re selling this gas at a tiny fraction of its market price, which ranges between $8-$12 per BTU. To be exact, the government refuses to declare its selling prices to date. We know about them from leaked documents and the famous court case that former ambassador Ibrahim Yusri filed to cancel this capitulation treaty, which exposed much of its dirty linen.
Egypt’s Power Cuts (Part 2) Jadaliyya
“Having long since opted in favor of political stability over the risks and uncertainties of democracy, having told ourselves that the people of the region are not ready to shoulder the burdens of freedom, having stressed that the necessary underpinnings of self-government go well beyond mere elections, suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective destiny.”
Robert Grenier, ex-CIA Counter Terrorism Director excerpted from The Nation
“You either do government and legal reform in one massive fell swoop, which none of the parties will agree to, or you basically say that the current system is so broken, you must give super powers to an anointed group of rivals and co-task them with the responsibility of getting from here to there,” Clemons said.
But it will be a Herculean task untangling the Egyptian constitution and legal framework, seeing as so much is weighted toward the regime. For example, Article 5 would need to be amended to allow religiously based political parties to participate. Article 76 must be amended if independent candidates are to be allowed. Law No. 40 for 1977 needs to be changed to ensure that the committee that vets political parties is independent and not filled with government ministers. Law No. 174 for 2005 would have to be amended to allow monitors at election stations.
Egyptians are on the cusp of changing the very premise of what is possible. That’s intoxicating. It is light and fresh air in a teeming, dark basement. This isn’t regime change from the turret of an American tank; rather it could be a renaissance of Egyptians’ own creation.
But it is a fine line between dreams and nightmares. Together, Egyptian demonstrators are safe. Alone, they will suffer. If the plain-clothes thugs who are beating protestors at this very moment succeed in clearing Liberation Square without a formal political transition in place, then it will all end. There will be no promise of that better tomorrow. Instead, there will be the lurking fear of the knock on the door. Bloggers, Facebook posters, and photographed protestors – they’ll all be vulnerable without the strength of numbers.
The Mubarak Moment II: An American Duty Obsidian Wings