Army, Inc.
February 7, 2011 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Egypt is about to enter its third consecutive week of mass protests. Why hasn’t Tahrir Square turned into Tiananmen? Why isn’t this man this man? Why do the Egyptian public and the army appear so close, and why hasn’t the military turned its arms on the protestors, nor pushed Mubarak out? One possible reason has been largely ignored by the media: it is bad business to kill your own customers. An inside report from NPR’s Planet Money, aided by this Wikileak diplomatic cable and an insightful piece by Robert Springborg.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (42 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tahrir isn't Tiananmen because the army knows damn well without Western money they'd all be out of jobs, and although the West hasn't been that forceful in calling for Mubarak to step down, they've made it quite clear to the army that if shit goes down, all of the army's money will suddenly dry up and fast.

That's really the only reason.
posted by mightygodking at 4:49 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Egypt population: 79,089,650, and a fragile central government constantly dealing with fractional internal terrorism.

China population: 1,338,612,968, and a strong central government, single-party rule with a well-earned reputation for brutal repression.

Easier to hide when you're on the "strong" side in a big, totalitarian country. If you're in a small country where it's more likely for some one's brother to come looking for you, you're less inclined to make some easy martyrs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:49 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree it's a point worth making, but under the same line of reasoning McDonalds would be making healthier food instead of the garbage that creates early death as a result of hyptertension, ISPs wouldn't be turning over private user info because it would tick off their monthly subscribers, and Bank of America would be working towards creating affordable mortgages to maintain a steady return on their loan over 15-30 years.

Can we just pretend it's done out of a personal duty to serve and protect the safety of those they promised to protect: the citizens?

Let's also not forget that they're probably looking at it this way... they make a moderate income and the people protesting are making that or much less (most likely, the latter). Why would they open fire on brothers, fathers, sisters, friends, family members to protect some asshats sitting on a throne sipping fine scotch?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 4:50 PM on February 7, 2011


I'll give you another contrarian reason. Egypt's top military officers have been trained by the U.S. and selected for their ability to play nice with the U.S. They're not interested in being painted as international bad guys. And that mindset filters down the ranks.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:51 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Chinese military is also deeply ingrained in the economy and was more so in 1989. There are lots of theories as to the motivations behind the army's actions and the police collapse. Right now we have very limited info as to the motivations of the participants. Documents hbe also come to light iirc how divided the Chinese leadership was in 1989. It isn't quite so easy to turn guns on thousands of people.
posted by humanfont at 4:52 PM on February 7, 2011


[The West has] made it quite clear to the army that if shit goes down, all of the army's money will suddenly dry up and fast.

We have different definitions of "clear".

Friday, Jan. 28 * The White House, in the strongest U.S. reaction so far, says the United States will review $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt. "We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days," Gibbs says. *

Officials later say no such review is currently planned.

posted by Joe Beese at 4:54 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


The change in the way information is transmitted is far more significant IMO - the soldiers initially deployed in Beijing were from local garrisons and aware of the true facts about the situation during the social movement. They similarly fraternised with protesters and the wider Beijing public. Senior retired generals (revolutionary war veterans with enormous political clout) wrote an open letter to the Politburo warning that any use of force would lose whatever legitimacy the Party had left. The troops that opened fire and committed the massacre had to be transferred in from elsewhere and lied to about what was going on - possible in the tightly-controlled news environment of the time.
posted by Abiezer at 4:59 PM on February 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Springborn's piece doesn't show much awareness the founding role of the Egyptian army in the modern Egyptian state. If anyone read the protest manual circulating last week, the protests were always friendly towards the regular army.

Just because the military Old Guard is still clinging to power doesn't mean the the divisions within the Egyptian military have gone away. The reason why Tahrir isn't Tianamen is that the Security police couldn't stop the protests and the Old Guard fears that turning the regular army on protestors would break the army.

IMHO, the bottom-line is that for left nationalist egyptians i.e. Nasserites, who seem to be the kernel of the current protests, the military is the guarantor of the republic.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:01 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


If there were as many cameras in Tiananmen as there are in Tahrir...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:01 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bathtub Bobsled: I agree it's a point worth making, but under the same line of reasoning McDonalds would be making healthier food instead of the garbage that creates early death as a result of hyptertension, ISPs wouldn't be turning over private user info because it would tick off their monthly subscribers, and Bank of America would be working towards creating affordable mortgages to maintain a steady return on their loan over 15-30 years.

Except the Egyptian army makes a little of everything, from food to cars, and they are even involved in luxury beach-side resorts, at least as the NPR story tells it.

Another reason: "they do not get paid jack shit"
Khalid Ibrahim Al-Laisi has been a soldier in the Egyptian army for 20 years. Today, far from shooting protesters, he says the time has come "to revolt against oppression."

"My monthly wage is 1,100 Egyptian pounds (188 dollars). It’s not enough, and I have to do another job in the evenings."
I was intrigued by the NPR story, but it sounds like it may have evolved into a situation where there are two very good reasons to not attach the protesters: it's bad for all the diverse businesses, and because the men with guns don't get paid enough to start street wars against their neighbors.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:04 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The situation is still very much fluid in Egypt, and while looking for recent historical parallels is always a bit of a mug's game, I wouldn't yet rule out a Tiananmen-style backlash or something like it on behalf of the Egyptian military. It all depends on what happens in the coming months.

The man currently tapped to replace Mubarak, at least for the interim, may have the blessings of Jerusalem and D.C., but this is at best only a temporary solution, and as I noted in one of the other Egypt threads, Suleiman is hardly much an improvement, so far as most Egyptians are concerned, over Mubarak.

There are powerful interests who fear the potential for instability inherent in the current situation, but as the the truth about Mubarak continues to come out, the West may increasingly find itself unable to influence the situation the way it wants.

We shall see.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 5:43 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese why would we review our aid, when they are doing what we want? We issued the threat, and they responded. The diplomatic language has been very clear, but it is still diplomatic language.
posted by humanfont at 5:53 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


7. (S) Reform: In the cabinet, where he still wields significant influence, Tantawi has opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceives as eroding central government power. He is supremely concerned with national unity, and has opposed policy initiatives he views as encouraging political or religious cleavages within Egyptian society.

-cable 3-16-08.

yeahyeahyeah/Mini-Moff T is coming to D.C., hide the brochures.
DH-"heh"

posted by clavdivs at 5:59 PM on February 7, 2011


Joe Beese why would we review our aid, when they are doing what we want? We issued the threat, and they responded. The diplomatic language has been very clear, but it is still diplomatic language.

Yeah, exactly. The diplo speak really couldn't have been much more obvious. If the Army doesn't shoot up or allow others to shoot up (on a big scale) the protesters the aid won't be pulled. If the Army goes all Kent State on them they can kiss the money goodbye.

Seems pretty straightforward and reasonable to me. We can't get involved directly without screwing things up beyond all recognition so this carrot and stick approach makes a lot of sense.
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"And now to you Tony "Slugworth" Cordesman..."

“carefully structured calls can do a great deal.”
posted by clavdivs at 6:12 PM on February 7, 2011


come on folks, how does the Field Marshal tie-in
posted by clavdivs at 6:22 PM on February 7, 2011


I see no useful purpose in comparing China and Egypt. The army in Egypt is loved by the people. The army has not gone against the people nor against the govt. The govt, cleverly, has given raises to those working for it to win their loyalty. The army is not likely to want to go to war with Israel, another way of saying they will support the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel if only because they are not in great shape and know that they are the nation that takes the major hit in war with Israel (in the past, anyway).

We could though seize the moment by saying this:
No more American aid money if no reforms and if peace treaty broken. Then turn to Israel and say No more aid money if any settlement building goes on. That will possibly get Israel to sit with Pals and other Arab states to stay calm and let peace process take place. Israel stands to gain by getting peace accord kept and status quo preserved; Palestinians gain by having settlements building stopped. Egypt gains by getting reforms and American aid, badly needed, now more than every.
posted by Postroad at 6:25 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Tahrir isn't Tiananmen because the army knows damn well without Western money they'd all be out of jobs
Of course western money in China exploded after Tienanmen. But Egypt isn't China in terms of its ability to operate independently in the world, as well as the fact that Egyptians will blame the U.S. and the "west" for Mubarak if the stays in power, which would have been unlikely in China. I think if there had been no attempted cultural revolution, great leap forwoard, hundred flowers, etc, under Mao the army would have been less concerned about political upheaval (Not to mention the taiping rebellion). China had a history of massive internal wars recently as well as during dynastic changes.

Another HUGE difference is that the Egyptian army is staffed by conscripts, so in this case The Egyptians could potentially be firing against their neighbors or friends, whereas in China you could have army fighters from far away from Beijing (I guess that's somewhat possible in Egypt, though. But I doubt they've deployed across the country, rather then just sending out local brigades)

Another thing is that Egypt has been very stable for a long time. In 1989 China was just a few decades past the cultural revolution and all the turmoil caused by that. So lots of living Chinese people had memories of the devastation that could be caused by political turmoil, Egyptians are probably less concerned about that
Egypt population: 79,089,650, and a fragile central government constantly dealing with fractional internal terrorism.
I wouldn't say that Egypt had a major terrorism problem, and if you considered the Army part of the government, it was pretty strong. The only problem for them is that once the protests got rolling different factions of the government that had been working together split apart.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 PM on February 7, 2011


"The [Luxor] massacre, however, marked a decisive drop in Islamist terrorists' fortunes in Egypt by turning Egyptian public opinion overwhelmingly against them."

Islamist terrorism is about as popular in Egypt as Timothy McVeigh is in the US. That is to say, there are trace amounts of support, but a vast majority is against.

Be wary of normalizing your view of the Egyptian Army, particularly if your experience is with a "voluntary" military as opposed to compulsory universal service. One thing for Americans to bear in mind is that universal military service or a high-participation draft has an influence on military relations within a society.

A military that is highly integrated into markets and has a role as a producer is very different from a military that is solely a consumer.

One model for a military dictatorship evolving into a democracy is the Portuguese "Carnation Revolution."

The Egyptian Army is divided into six independent military districts, each with a separate chain of command. This is an anti-coup feature and also a means of increasing stability.
posted by warbaby at 9:08 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd like to contrast the military's involvement in the market for kitchen accessories and running beachfront resorts to the fact that the guy who organized the Jan 25 protests, Wael Ghonim, is the head of marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa. The former is the kind of low-margin high volume business that holds no future for anyone in Egypt except Walmart, the latter is where everyone under 30 sees their individual and collective future.

As delmoi pointed out, the fact that there hasn't been any shooting by the military against the demonstrators is most likely because the people who would be doing the shooting probably identify more with the protestors than with the Army brass lining their pockets with what amount to bribes. The fact that the rank and file are conscripts or kids who enlisted because there was no other work suggests that but for their orders, they themselves would be in the streets.

The state and the higher ups in the military can't reasonably expect that situation to persist in a world of nearly full and free information flow. With each passing day the line between the soldiers and the protestors blurs as ad hoc relationships between them are formed there in the street.

I am a big fan of follow-the-money type analyses, but the in this case, these articles have picked up the wrong trail. The money to be followed isn't crony corporatism in the form of military-run businesses. The money to be followed is globalism. The money to be followed is the money that everyone under 30 in Egypt sees flowing in and out of the Googles and the Facebooks of the world, but which is blocked from flowing into Egypt in an amount commensurate with it's size and educated population.

It is blocked precisely because the military's influence in the state depends on them being the biggest business, not some foreign entity like Google. You remove the obstacles, and the country will revert to the equilibrium condition mandated by globalism. It's Ford, Lenovo, and Samsung who need to preserve the consumer base, not the military. The military's control of the pots and pans industry won't mean anything to the post-revolution national discourse, which instead will be dominated by all the out-of-work grad students finding employments and the local offices of any number of foreign corporations that will descend on the country in a flurry of global capitalism.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:26 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was so happy this weekend to hear from a dear Egyptian friend down in Cairo. He is clean cut, extremely gentle and friendly. I told him I was worried when I heard about the riots, but then reminded myself that of course he wouldn't be involved in the protests himself, I assumed. Turns out I assumed wrongly. "I was outside", he told me. "We burned down the police station." Later on, when Mubarak released a bunch of hardened criminals from prison (that is, a bunch of prisoners suddenly managed to escape) and there were rumors going around that they were going to attack people (this was all intended to get people to stay in their homes) he says he and everyone else were outside instead, to protect their homes and families. What was his weapon? "A big stick."

I am so, so proud of the Egyptians and their stand for freedom. Up until now the Egyptian people have never protested. Every time a protest was supposed to happen, a group of thugs would just happen to show up and beat up anyone who stuck around. Not policemen, of course.

Now, however, even if Mubarak does not leave right away, Egyptians have tasted what it is like to have a voice. They will never be silent again. Whenever they are angry, they will protest.

I'm kind of dismayed by the recent focus on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in all of this. If you ask my friend (who is not a fan at all of Islamic fundamentalism) he will tell you: "This is a secular revolution". Now, I'm starting to hear reports and read articles that are dredging up the same tired story: if we allow democracy in Egypt, it will be sharia law. There was a special feature on expat Copts who support Mubarak because of their fear that otherwise the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. And yet this is not the feeling inside of Egypt -- there are plenty of protesters who are Copts.

As I joked with my friend, "Copts and Muslims are finally united -- in their hatred of Mubarak." He laughed and then said ruefully, "It is true."
posted by Deathalicious at 9:40 PM on February 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Another view, excerpted on Andrew Sullivan's blog:
Since January 28, the Mubarak regime has sought to encircle the protesters. Egypt's governing elites have used different parts of the regime to serve as arsonist and firefighter. Due to the regime's role in both lighting the fire and extinguishing it, protesters were effectively forced to flee from one wing of the regime to another. ... By politically encircling the protesters, the regime prevented the conflict from extending beyond its grasp. With the protesters caught between regime-engineered violence and regime-manufactured safety, the cabinet generals remained firmly in control of the situation.
Under this theory the regime and military are not so at odds, but rather playing the protesters off one another, rather then letting the situation get totally out of control. For example, the protesters are now happy about the barricades around the square, since that makes them 'safe', but it also makes them easier to control. Hmm...
posted by delmoi at 9:41 PM on February 7, 2011


Er, also Meant to include a link
posted by delmoi at 9:43 PM on February 7, 2011


I'm kind of dismayed by the recent focus on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in all of this.

Well it's due in part to vocal right-wing fear-mongering bigots like O'Reilly and Beck, who, obsessed with jihadism and the "Islamist threat," are convinced every brown person from the mideast is a terrorist. Unlike you, they have no Egyptian friends, and are quick to project their racist fears whenever there is unrest in the region.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 10:52 PM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


All the fear-mongering over the Muslim Brotherhood has been stupid at best, becausev1.they are not numerous,2. They are light years less extreme than they have been portrayed. They are hardly an Egyptian equivalent to say, the Tea Party.
Basically Egypt has been secular a long time.
I notice with Wael Ghonim a very interesting thing, a willingness to recognise the humanity of his opponents. We could learn something from this guy.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:10 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh. Military-industrial complex indeed.

Instead of China, I've been thinking more about the role that Haiti's army has played in their revolutions and coups, where the army is also pathetically paid, but they're brutal toward the regular citizens because it's one of the few ways that any young guy can have power over his peers.

But there, the army was generally opposed to the president. Other countries to look to would be Pakistan and Venezuala, where the young turks (so to speak) emerged as the victorious faction — progressive and reforming, but illiberal none-the-less.
posted by klangklangston at 12:37 AM on February 8, 2011


"why hasn’t the military turned its arms on the protestors, nor pushed Mubarak out?"

Why has Obama talked in length to Mubarak, and yet he hasn't stepped down? Why hasn't the army pushed Mubarak out.

Occam's Razor. They're all on the same side. They were before. They still are.

I don't think that Obama is pro-Mubarak. He does appear to be supportive of the existing structure, however, which essentially means supporting the same people who currently play the system.
posted by markkraft at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2011


it is bad business to kill your own customers

Joe Camel and Marlboro Man beg to disagree.
posted by Skeptic at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2011


Markkraft, I'll tell you who's supportive of the existing structure: most of Washington. Secretary of State Clinton has said she considers Mubarak a personal friend; Vice President Biden has made it plain he doesn't view Mubarak as a dictator. Qorvis Communications, "a powerful player in the DC media world" has close business ties to Mubarak. The pursuit of wealth has bound all our leaders together into a kind of unholy alliance that views the preservation of economic stability as the primary and only proper function of government. Turns out the same social and political forces that led to the development of feudal systems, monarchies and oligarchies in other times and places throughout human history do apply in the US, too. We just refuse to face it.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:44 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a special feature on expat Copts who support Mubarak because of their fear that otherwise the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. And yet this is not the feeling inside of Egypt -- there are plenty of protesters who are Copts.

As I joked with my friend, "Copts and Muslims are finally united -- in their hatred of Mubarak." He laughed and then said ruefully, "It is true."


For Christmas Mass, there was a movement to block bombings of Egyptian Copts: Muslims attended as "human shields."
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:56 AM on February 8, 2011


the preservation of economic stability as the primary and only proper function of government.

This is a very astute summation of where we are in the current global system, with one caveat: it's really "preservation of economic stability for the ruling class, and economic instability or uncertainty for the vast majority of the populace." It's the self-preservation of the existing power structure writ large, and sweep American support brute suppression under the rug. When pressed even most of the pretense of supporting democracy gives way to this equation. Whether it's Lloyd Blankfein or Hosni Mubarak, it's clear who the real oligarchs are.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 9:04 AM on February 8, 2011


U.S. Backs Off Call For Immediate Change in Egypt

Looks like Obama's 2009 Cairo speech was so much hot air.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 9:11 AM on February 8, 2011


I think it's more they don't where this situation is going. I'd love U.S.A. to swoop down in some manifestation and help the protestors -- I think most of us would -- but if they don't know what is happening on the ground, with Mubarak, then -- I get why the U.S. is floundering on this.

Not that I'm happy about it, but I think I get why it is like it is.
posted by angrycat at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2011


I get why the U.S. is floundering on this.

The US is not floundering; it is revealing its reflexive support for autocracy over the uncertainty of democracy.

I'd love U.S.A. to swoop down in some manifestation and help the protestors

I'm not asking the US to intervene, just pointing the blatant hypocrisy of our support for Mubarak. The only difference between Hosni Mubarak and Saddam Hussein is the former was deemed friendly to our interests and the latter unfriendly.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 12:11 PM on February 8, 2011


I'd love U.S.A. to swoop down in some manifestation

alrighty then. Would the new robot plane be "cool", maybe drop some leaflets, chicklets and instruction manuals on democracy.

The situation is this: new paradigm: peaceful protest enmasse works everywhere. For Americans: Study the 1967 riots in Detriot for a glimpse into military occupation of parts of the United States.
(Occupation means troops shoot back)

-contrary, 'Floundering' is Policy if one calls it that. This is a political/ media perception technique and I see it is working.
posted by clavdivs at 12:14 PM on February 8, 2011


"The only difference between Hosni Mubarak and Saddam Hussein is the former was deemed friendly to our interests and the latter unfriendly."

That's as simplistic as saying that the only difference between Iraq and Egypt is oil.

Mubarak comes from a pretty substantially different background, Egypt has a pretty different history from Iraq, they've had notably different roles in global politics…

I mean, is it just the inversion of the right's inability to tell Muslims from terrorists?
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on February 8, 2011


I can't shake the idea that there seems to exist a group of people who have decided the big takeaway from the United States' wonderful foreign policy over the last 20 years is that we simply haven't intervened enough in the affairs of other nations. Hey, practice makes perfect and seventh times the charm and all that.
posted by Justinian at 6:01 PM on February 8, 2011


is it just the inversion of the right's inability to tell Muslims from terrorists?

No. Most of the billion Muslims on planet Earth are innocent of any crimes. By contrast, as specific individuals, Mubarak and Hussein were both responsible for thousands of criminal acts, wrongful deaths, unlawful imprisonments, etc. The comparison between them is not made out of a desire to score cheap ideological points; rather it is made b/c it seems, their respective histories notwithstanding, quite accurate. Of course they're not the same people, but 200 Egyptians just died to protest Mubarak's rule. That we predicated our invasion of Iraq in part on the liberation of its people from Saddam's tyranny, yet actively support Mubarak, is a clear and nontrivial reflection of politically expedient hypocrisy.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 6:07 PM on February 8, 2011


there seems to exist a group of people who have decided the big takeaway from the United States' wonderful foreign policy over the last 20 years is that we simply haven't intervened enough in the affairs of other nations.

I'm not sure who these people are; I know I'm not among them. Pointing out the way in which America picks and chooses which dictators it deems worthy of support is not, after all, the same as calling for more intervention.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 6:11 PM on February 8, 2011


The slow smothering of the protest dynamic (after an initial outburst of state mayhem, kidnapping, torture, crime and orchestrated terror) looks like the regime is learning from it's American mentors.

In 2002 and 2003, somewhere between 20 and 30% of the American populace participated or agreed with anti-war protests. Lacking any representation in Congress, the near-unanimous war vote revealed their effective disenfranchisement. Ignored long enough and lacking any elite faction that could increase power by opposing the war, the protests fizzled. This may be emerging strategy of Mubarak's gangster regime.

The catalyst that fractures the stasis is hard to imagine, plan for, or actualize. Who would have thought a Facebook page would be the trigger? It steam engines when it's steam engine time.

The inevitability of historical forces is sometimes called path dependence. An associated phenomenon is where all your [conventional] choices are bad ones.

Neal Stephenson offers a cautionary tale about how a madman with a penchant for weapons of mass destruction and the one weapon he didn't possess turned the space race into a cul de sac. Now we are seeing Western support for gangster regime "stability" turned into a cul de sac. All their choices are bad ones.
posted by warbaby at 9:30 PM on February 8, 2011


I'm not sure who these people are; I know I'm not among them. Pointing out the way in which America picks and chooses which dictators it deems worthy of support is not, after all, the same as calling for more intervention.

So you don't think the US policy in Egypt should be changed, you just want to wag your finger about it?
posted by Justinian at 3:17 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"No. Most of the billion Muslims on planet Earth are innocent of any crimes. By contrast, as specific individuals, Mubarak and Hussein were both responsible for thousands of criminal acts, wrongful deaths, unlawful imprisonments, etc. The comparison between them is not made out of a desire to score cheap ideological points; rather it is made b/c it seems, their respective histories notwithstanding, quite accurate. Of course they're not the same people, but 200 Egyptians just died to protest Mubarak's rule. That we predicated our invasion of Iraq in part on the liberation of its people from Saddam's tyranny, yet actively support Mubarak, is a clear and nontrivial reflection of politically expedient hypocrisy."

Mubarak isn't Suharto, Mubarak isn't Milosevic, Mubarak isn't Qaddafi, Mubarak isn't Chun Du-Hwan, Mubarak isn't Samazo Debayle. He isn't King Hussein, or al-Assad.

Mubarak also isn't Gorbachev, Yeltsin or Putin.

All of those were heads of state responsible for thousands of wrongful deaths, unlawful imprisonments, etc. But drawing meaningful comparisons means actually looking at the context that each of them was in. In terms of American military adventurism, Mubarak's never invaded another country, Mubarak's never gassed his own people, Mubarak's never threatened the US. Mubarak has been working toward reform — parallels can be seen to Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika, which also led to the USSR's collapse.

And, though I don't know if you've gotten the word yet where you are, the president who invaded Iraq was a bit of an imperialist warmonger, but we got a new guy in now who takes a more measured approach. That we haven't invaded over this is pretty much a good thing. It's not really hypocrisy unless you see the US as a single, coherent entity with its own persona, which is a little too much anthropomorphism for my tastes.

That doesn't mean that I don't think Mubarak should go, or that the US shouldn't be pushing for broader human rights across the globe (both at home and abroad), or that I'd have philosophical problems with invading Burma or Sudan or any number of other asshole states. Practical reservations, sure — I don't think it would be a good idea to invade anywhere right now, given our reputation and resources. But I was perfectly fine with the idea (not the execution) of deposing Saddam Hussein. It sounds like you are too, if you're arguing for the US to intervene more actively in Egypt.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2011


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