Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why I Can't Blog About The Riots In Egypt

Lately, the news has been dominated by reports of the protests/riots in Egypt. Just about every serious blogger has published their take on these events. Typically, I’d be in there too, writing, “This should happen,” or, “America should back X.” I haven’t done so yet, for the simple fact that I just don’t know which side we should back, or if we should back anyone at all.

I do know a bit of background. In September of 1978, President Carter helped Egypt’s President Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Begin negotiate a treaty, which gave control of the Sinai back to Egypt. As a result, relations between Egypt and the U.S. were friendly for the next few years. When Sadat was killed in 1981, and Hosni Mubarak took power, the United States wanted to maintain friendly relations with Egypt. Thus, when Mubarak held single candidate elections, every six years, imprisoned and tortured political opposition, and curtailed his people’s freedom of speech, American officials gave a collective shrug, figuring, “Eh, there are worse dictators out there.”

Inspired by the Tunisian uprising, the Egyptian people took to the streets on January 25th of this year, with the intent of ousting Mubarak from power. Mubarak first responded by ordering the police and military to quell the riots. However, with so many young men who’ve been pressed into mandatory military service, the majority of the soldiers sided with the public.

Next, Mubarak named Omar Suleiman, his Intelligence Chief, as his new Vice President. He hoped the change in governmental hierarchy would be enough of a change to appease his people. Unfortunately for Mubarak, protesters saw the symbolic title change as a reshuffling of old blood rather an attempt at substantive reform. Since then, he’s offered to not run for office in September‘s election, but has waffled on whether or not his son will run or not. All this, we know.

Beyond this point, things become foggy. Many news organizations have implied that the protesters are doing the bidding of Islamic extremists looking to make Egypt a haven for the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, and Al Qaeda. On the flip side, former CBS Middle East correspondent Lawrence Pintak claims American news is skewing the truth, and what we’re seeing are Islamic moderates seeking legitimate independence from oppression.

Are we seeing the dawn of a revolution being fueled by people hungry for freedom? While it’s clear that Mubarak is a dictator and despot, is he the only thing standing in the way of a Islamic fundamentalist regime in Egypt? Would such a regime necessarily ally itself with extremist terrorist organizations? I’m not there, I don’t know. Not knowing, I can’t, and won’t, blog an opinion one way or the other.

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