Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The treasure that is Egypt
The Canadian government statement was notable for its understatement, “[W]e continue to call on the Egyptian government to state its commitment to strengthening democracy, consultation, dialogue and cooperation. We urge the Egyptian government to accelerate the pace of democratic and economic reforms, and to listen to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
In the US capital, the Americans have been slightly more forthcoming – appearing to unceremoniously dump Mubarak after 30-years of billions of dollars of support through aid, but being very careful that they don’t open the door to the Muslim Brotherhood and a potential victory as Hamas won democratic legitimacy in Gaza and Hezbollah holds sway in Lebanon. Muslim extremism is rarely in the west’s best interests. Not since the Shah of Iran was dumped in 1979 have the Americans abandoned an ally so quickly.
For the Israelis, having another Muslim extremist government in the neighbourhood and especially in their backyard is worrisome news. The Israeli government is apparently holding non-stop meetings trying to figure out what will happen if the leader of its closest ally in the Arab world is suddenly thrown out of power. Especially if its replaced by a government that cares little about American money.
There seems a certain inevitability to that now, as there was in Tunisia. Michael Bell, a former Canadian ambassador to Egypt says Mubarak’s years in power may be his worst enemy, “The seemingly insoluble problem of poverty and unemployment, coupled with an increasing awareness among the middle class that pluralism in politics should be a basic right, has left him isolated from the people he rules. They are fatigued by his predictability, manipulation and ties to a corrupt business elite created by his policies.”
As we see more and more scenes of violence erupting in Egypt, we are reminded that breaking into democracy is seldom a neat and tidy process. My only hope is that everyone involved realizes the treasure that is Egypt and the treasures it holds.