Friday, January 28, 2011

Mideast Protest Scorecard

With the Mideast situation changing by the minute, as of Friday afternoon EST, here is roughly the scorecard.

Egypt. Along with everything else, Mubarak is now apparently turning to outright terrorism to maintain his rule, following the example of his good buddy Ahmadinahad with the Basij.

The White House spokesman has now stated that Washington will be reviewing U.S. aid policy toward Egypt, essentially the same as U.S. public policy toward Lebanon at this point. Obama is to be credited for creating some measure of principle underlining his policy toward these two very different situations.

The departure of Mubarak now seems likely; his credibility is destroyed. The question, beyond the behavior of the army, is whether or not the rest of the dictatorship can succeed in consolidating its oppression by sacrificing their boss. Questions: Will Egypt develop a fundamentally new policy toward democratic rights, will it devise a more effective economic policy, and will it change its policy of subservience to Israel?

Tunisia. Meanwhile behind the scenes in Tunisia, the astonishingly sophisticated Tunisian liberation movement continues incrementally and rather peacefully to make progress toward the essential goal of removing officials who supported the corrupt fired dictator. As anyone who has experienced “reform” of government undertaken by the officials whose mismanagement caused reform to be needed in the first place, old dogs cannot be taught new tricks. To have a clean house, you must…clean house.

With the crowd maintaining its poise and concentration, with the support of organized labor, with the slow retreat of the elite, Tunisia continues to give the world a lesson in how to oppose bad governance. Slow-motion revolution is a very hard thing to achieve. Tunisia should continue to inspire the societies of the rest of the Muslim world. Palestinians, Egyptians, and Iranians should be thinking deeply about the Tunisian model. As for the United States, well, that could be embarrassing; back to the Mideast.

Israel. One might ask, in the midst of all this democratic action in the Arab world, what is happening in Israel. Illegal settler terrorism continues.

Lebanon. Ignoring the ravings of various Israelis and the thinly veiled threats from Washington, Mikati focuses wisely on something he seems qualified to do: run a technocratic regime designed to build the economy. Washington should resist the inclination to isolate him, a move that would only serve to make him more dependent on Hezbollah.

Yemen may be the next focal point, and one can only wonder at the apparent lack of activity in Algeria.

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