The rock, or the hard place?

I have to confess I’m paying minimal attention to technology these last few days. I’ve been watching the goings-on in the Middle East. I saw the headlines that Intel’s newest chipset is buggy, but that won’t go down as the biggest news of 2011. A revolution in Egypt stands a chance. And it could have a domino effect.

My boss, who’s traveled abroad a whole lot more than I ever will, pointed out to me that the western lifestyle is contagious. It’s a virus. U.S. soldiers and/or tourists go abroad for whatever reason, and they have enough money to buy and sell anything they want while they’re there, no matter where they are, and eventually, whatever the citizens of that country think of our culture and our people being there, they want to be able to do that.

Israel would love to see Egypt and the rest of its neighbors become democracies, because, as they say, democracies don’t start wars. But Israel questions, albeit quietly, whether they’re ready. It’s very easy for a democracy just finding its legs to become a dictatorship. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected before he became a dictator. And in modern Russia, if Vladimir Putin wanted to be dictator, it would not be difficult for him to make it happen.

And if the Middle East were suddenly thrown into open elections, certainly the religious extremists would run, and there would be a risk of them winning. In which case it would just be a matter of trading a military dictatorship for a religious one. Military dictatorships are more willing, generally speaking, to work with Israel and the West than religious ones.

But of course, it’s highly hypocritical of us to forcefully install a democracy in Iraq and refuse to help Egypt build one. Especially when everything we’re hearing on CNN is that the citizens don’t want to change foreign policy, they just want free elections, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and free enterprise like we have.

I don’t know how any of this is going to play out. Right now, I’m just watching the revolution on CNN.

The iron curtain fell a generation ago. Enough time has passed that I don’t remember if it happened in a flash, or if it took forever. It seems like it happened quickly, but information traveled much more slowly then.

But I think the two movements are destined to be compared and contrasted for years to come, regardless of what happens tomorrow and the rest of the week.

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3 thoughts on “The rock, or the hard place?

  • January 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Unfortunately, the Egyptian revolution is not being driven by freedom loving people, but rather the Muslim Brotherhood, who support Hamas (hardly an indicator of democracy) and Al Qaeda (ditto). I suspect what will happen in Eqypt will be eerily similar to the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. The Shah, while a brutal dictator, was in reality far, far better for Iran, and the world, than the Ayatollah. Don’t forget that the Ayatollah was “elected” in a supposedly democratic election, blessed by Jimmy Carter. The truth was that democracy was tossed aside and an even more brutal regime was put into place.

    This does not bode well for Israel, which as screwed up as it is, is in fact the only true democratic government in the entire mid-East.

  • February 1, 2011 at 3:47 am

    To my sensibilities it seems a stretch to call Israel a Democracy when Ethnocracy would seem to be more accurate. And I would also question the talking heads of U.S. media awarding much status to the Muslim Brotherhood regarding Egypts current revolt and yes I know what Mubarak is saying as the U.S. debates policy and support moving forward. This is a widespread revolt from which the Brotherhood in reality, comprises a rather small component.

    Begin reading: Egypt’s Class Conflict | Informed Comment

    Also: Egypt forbids Protests a Day after it was Shaken by Thousands of Demonstrators, 3 Killed | Informed Comment – “The rallies protested the high unemployment rate, high price of food, and long years of ‘emergency rule’ by President Hosni Mubarak, under regulations that suspend most civil and human rights on grounds of national security.”

    Note that both links point to Juan Coles’ Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion, which is one of the better resources in my opinion.

  • February 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    It may be that the MB is comprising a small visible part, but as a political entity that has been banned since the Revolution in the 50’s, they are somewhere close to the source of the revolt. Hopefully, “regular” people will march in the streets, but history in the Middle East shows a depressing trend towards brutal dictatorship, rather than free elections.

    Perhaps Eqypt will prove me wrong, and that is my sincere hope. I’m just not very hopeful about it.

    One does not need to be Jewish to run for office in Israel, the Knesset has quite a number of Muslim members.

    Many countries can be called enthocracies, why even the US demands that in order to run for President, you must be a US born citizen. This is usual in the EU, as well.

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