Friday, February 11, 2011

Every One That Doeth Evil Hateth the Light

It's great news that Hosni Mubarak has resigned, after balking yesterday. The courage of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who kept up the pressure on him, in the face of attacks by his thugs, should be celebrated now and for years to come. We Americans should heap shame on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for supporting Mubarak as long as they did. They'll try to take credit for his resignation, but they should be jeered at when they do. It wasn't their doing. If it had been up to them, Mubarak would still be in power.

The US right has been tying itself into knots on this matter for the past couple of weeks. On the one hand, the fall of Ben Ali and now of Mubarak echoed the "Arab spring" that flowered briefly in 2005 under Dubya, and some on the Right attacked Obama for not putting more on pressure on Mubarak, even though Bush abandoned his support for democracy in the Arab/Muslim world almost immediately. The 2006 victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections may have been one factor, but Bush had no serious interest in Middle Eastern democracy anyway. Will the US Right give Obama the credit for Mubarak's resignation? Of course not. On the other and dominant hand, the US Right warned that Obama wasn't supporting Mubarak enough, that Mubarak would be replaced by a jihadist Sharia Muslim Brotherhood tyranny. (The wrong kind of tyranny, of course: a stable pro-Western, pro-Israel tyranny, a destination for American extraordinary renditions, torturing on demand, is just fine.)

That being said upfront, I'm wary of getting too excited. The Egyptians should be proud, but for me there are memories of (among other things) the exultation that followed the election of Obama in the US. Bush was gone! Democracy would flow down from above like a river from the mountain springs! The People had spoken! The downfall of Mubarak is great news, but by itself it means little, especially since Mubarak designated his successor, a blood-soaked torturer with no more interest in democracy than Mubarak has. Omar Suleiman has announced that the Supreme Military Council will be in charge now, and that's not a hopeful sign, especially since the Egyptian military is a prime beneficiary of American "aid."

It's a safe bet that (among others) the US, Israel, and entrenched interests in the upper strata of Egyptian society will be doing their best to ensure that change in Egypt is limited, hobbled, and strangled in the cradle. And these elements have an important advantage over those who want democracy: anti-democratic forces can work in private, in secret, because while of course the People are the court of last resort, they just don't understand the necessary compromises that need to be made in a free society to make things go forward. The demonstrators in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt who brought Mubarak down worked in the open, before the eyes of the world. Those who aim to undo what they achieved not only prefer secrecy, they need it to do their dirty work. I'm sure most Egyptians understand this; I hope they can find ways to frustrate it.

P.S. Ashraf Khalil's summing-up here says it better than I can.