Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sandy pessimism

It is good to see that many are showing cautious pessimism about what is going on in Egypt, Tunisia, and perhaps even Yemen.

While there is reason for hope in the Iranian "Green Revolution" (if it ever really takes off) - there is little to no reason to be enthusiastic about what is going on elsewhere. It isn't that I support the present rulers, it is just that I understand that once one power structure falls, another must take its place. If you are like me a staunch republican (small r) and democratic (small d) fundamentalist, you quickly see that those who have a power structure waiting in the wings in these countries share nothing with you.

Tunisia is different in many ways compared to Egypt and Yemen. Like Carthage of old, it is closer to being Western than not. From the relative freedom its women have to demographics and education - Tunisia is a muslim country, but of a distinctively Mediterranean variety. More Italian that Omani. Even there though, there is no strong democratic movement to step out of the tear-gas fog to take power. It is also a small nation of little consequence in the large scheme of things.

In Egypt, you have just the opposite problem. There is but one power structure waiting in the wings - the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has a few million educated and western minded citizens, buy literally by an order of magnitude, they are outnumbered by a swelling, ignorant, Islamists mass yearning not to be free.

Yemen, an economic and demographic time bomb is set up to just go from misery to woe. No Jefferson or Washington to be seen. If he does exist, he took a plane long ago to London or Deerborn and is an associate professor somewhere worried that his daughter is a Justin Bieber fan.

In our age, there is a pattern to revolt in Muslim countries I am afraid. In Iran, they have lived under Islamist government for over 30 years. They have a very educated younger generation. Being that they have lived under the Islamist, they have no desire to make that mistake again. They have yet to stage a real, sustained rebellion - but the trend lines are clear. Once the new generation of Iranians take power, they will be more of a force for good than evil. It may take awhile, but the trend lines are good.

Persians are not Arabs, Sunni are not Shia - but the difference between Iran and what we are seeing in Egypt and other places differs mostly because of the fact that the people of those nations do not know what it is like to live under Islamist rule. While there is an Islamist power structure in the waiting, there is no western, freedom focused power structure in waiting to counter them. As a result, when the present power structure falls, there is only one direction for those nations to go. Islamist. They will have to learn the hard way.

The implications will be bloody and stark. Will they lash out internally or externally ... or a bit of both? We won't know until things take their course. Fair to say though, Egypt's Copts and Israel will have a very tough(er) decade to come.

The pessimist's view.
UPDATE: Michael J. Totten is on about the same sheet of music with a first hand report from Cairo ... from 2005. A must read.

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