Posts Tagged Egypt

Egypt’s Struggle

The earlier post on Egypt and a Peaceful Revolution ended as a question, well, for obvious reasons. The crackdown on the anti-government protesters demonstrates it was just too much to hope that Egypt’s uprising and burgeoning revolution would succeed peacefully. The emergence of violence brought to mind a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

When I despair, I remember that all throughout history the way of truth and love always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always.

Also inspiring is Nicholas Kristof’s reporting on Amal and Minna, two Egyptian women who faced the crackdown armed only with faith, hope and the power of ideas.

May Egypt find peace, free from the causes of suffering.

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The Prime Directive & Egypt

It’s the sci-fi geek in me. I couldn’t help notice the similarity between President Obama’s statements in the last few days regarding non-interference in the internal decisions of Egypt and Starfleet’s Prime Directive, from Star Trek. Now, I don’t think the President is out in space on this whole thing especially when the Prime Directive has foundations in our own planetary system of international relations.

The Prime Directive, a central principle in the fictional Star Trek universe, forbids intervention in matters that are the domestic jurisdiction of any social system or the normal and healthy internal development of a culture (in the fictional universe, namely any planetary system or alien race).

President Obama’s statement of February 1st, best reflects this: “[I]t is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders.  Only the Egyptian people can do that.“

Cool, huh!

Anyway, the Directive’s philosophical basis is rooted in the concepts of Westphalian sovereignty (and here). The key elements include:
        •        The principle of state sovereignty
        •        The fundamental right of political self-determination
        •        The (legal) equality between states
        •        The principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state.

Not too surprising a fictional theory of inter-planetary relations might draw inspiration from a non-fiction theory of inter-national relations. Art imitates life imitates art.

Although the White House and U.S. response might have been nearly overcome by events in Egypt, I find their return to a canon of international relations somewhat refreshing. Perhaps it’s not that noteworthy, or it’s only noteworthy to my sci-fi addled mind, but here’s why:

American exceptionalism under Bush 43 asserted that the U.S. could interfere, notably in Iraq in 2003, whenever the U.S. decided our interests were at stake and implied that it was okay if that intervention was based on fabrication of evidence – like Hussein’s possession of nuclear weapons or links to al-Qaeda.

So, the Administration’s slow uptake, whether intentionally measured or not, was pleasant. I’m glad they weren’t ready to run in at the first sign of revolution. Perhaps this reticence was only motivated by the delicate diplomacy with other leaders in the region with close ties to the U.S. (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan) but in a region where we are known just as much for throwing our weight around it’s okay to delay a bit. Play a little hard to get. Let the clamor for our opinion and presence build up a little. Perhaps then we’ll be greeted with more gratitude. Better to base our engagement on the arguably legitimate justification of humanitarian aid or in other words, interference based on the other society’s interest and desire for basic human rights, freedoms of association, speech, assembly and the right to petition their government for redress of grievance. Maybe we were a few hours or days late in catching on, but then again, we love warping in at the last minute to save the day and share the celebration.

To borrow a phrase ~ live long and prosper.

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Pew Report ~ Egypt, Democracy and Islam

The Pew Global Attitudes Project provides some interesting survey data on attitudes in Egypt.

Egypt, Democracy and Islam
by Richard Auxier, Researcher/Editorial Assistant, Pew Research Center
January 31, 2011
With massive protests threatening to upend the three-decades-long reign of President Hosni Mubarak, the world has been captivated by the events in Egypt. In a survey conducted April 12 to May 7, 2010, the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project examined the views of Egypt and six other Muslim publics about politics and the role Islam should play in it.
A 59%-majority of Muslims in Egypt believed that democracy was preferable to any other kind of government. About one-in-five (22%), however, said that in some circumstances, a non-democratic government could be preferable, and another 16% said it did not matter what kind of government is in place for a person in their situation.
Read full article here.

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Perspective: Egypt’s Struggle for Freedom

Perspective from someone with expertise on Egypt and diplomatic issues: Egypt’s Struggle for Freedom, by Yasser El-Shimy – lecturer at the Catholic University of America and a former diplomatic attaché at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also posted here.

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Egypt and a Peaceful Revolution?

I’ll admit – I don’t really know the first thing about international affairs. I’m not a diplomat or national security expert. So, I hesitated at first to say anything about the protests in Egypt. My closest connection is through friends who have family there.

But, like many I suspect, I’ve been praying for a peaceful revolution. A revolution completed by peaceful means. I’ve been praying that the military won’t escalate the conflict and begin shooting. Because if they did, it would no longer be a peaceful revolution but civil war, at best; or brutal, tyrannical oppression at worst. In seconds, the dead and wounded from the events of the last week would multiply exponentially. Now, the Egyptian military is stating they will not fire on the protests. I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief, as the largest protest yet, planned for millions is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 1st.

Can you imagine it? Peaceful Revolution. They are rare, nearly unheard of. My impression is that South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy was peaceful. Then, a few weeks ago – Tunisia – where popular protests unseated an authoritarian ruler. In any case, it’s breathtaking – people take to the streets with nothing but slogans and banners speaking truth to power, chants for freedom to associate and speak; demanding better jobs and economic opportunities. It’s an act of faith to march in solidarity with fellow citizens, armed only with truth and hope. Faith that the humanity of the oppressor or government or military will outshine their addiction to power, fear of change, or greed for riches. In the end, however, it’s more powerful because it unites both the tyrant and the subject in their real human need for stability, worthwhile work, and common purpose.

The peaceful ones are rare. Usually revolutions are violent – remember the 2007 uprising in Myanmar(Burma), put down violently by the ruling military regime? Sudan and Congo, just a couple of other examples, have been at war for most of their post-colonial history. And Tibet, well, that’s altogether another case entirely. Suffice it to say, the peaceful ones are rare, and I find myself yearning for it to succeed. I don’t know what’s right or appropriate, what should happen in Egypt, I simply want the human desire for a better life to be rewarded.

Of course, I recognize that the protests and government response in Egypt really cannot be described as peaceful. Reports estimate that at least 100 have died and many more have been injured. In Tunisia, 78 protesters died and 94 were injured. My guess is that these estimates are probably conservative. Tear gas, looting, vigilantes, people (especially women) disappearing, convicts released from prison, gunfire, thrown rocks, destroyed antiquities. It’s hardly peaceful in the strictest sense. It’s messy and violent. Still, it’s not war. We were birthed of a war that last eight years and maintained through another that lasted five. As nation-building goes – this is fairly civil. If it takes a week or even weeks of protest and marches to bring about a change in the Egyptian government and an end to the thirty year rule of Hosni Mubarak, it will have been downright calm and civilized.

It’s all I can do ~ pray and hope, hope and pray. May Egypt (and all humanity) live in peace, free from the causes of suffering.

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