Cairo, Egypt—On Fridays, Tahrir Square has become a patriotic carnival. It is packed with thousands of Egyptians, who stroll around decked out in nationalistic paraphernalia, picking at popcorn. They are mostly focused on their own country’s situation, where the toppling of Hosni Mubarak has given way to an uncertain political future, but they are also deeply concerned about the events unfolding in neighboring Libya. This past Friday, a man impersonating embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi—fully robed, with an umbrella in tow—set up a mocking sideshow.
It was not easy for me to watch the drama of Tahrir Square; and I cannot imagine that it was easy for any of my fellow Venezuelan exiles to watch, either. To the millions of us who marched our hearts out in the anti-Chávez protests of 2002 and 2003, the sight of those huge, hopeful crowds in Egypt set off an instant shock of recognition. In late 2002, a steady build-up of massive marches—usually numbering in the hundreds of thousands—brought Caracas to a standstill for days on end.
The current wave of democratic uprisings in the Middle East is a welcome development. But it will almost certainly empower long-suppressed political parties inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. That movement—whose slogan reads, in part, “Koran is our law; Jihad is our way”—presents several urgent challenges for American policymakers: How can political parties that seek Islamic law through holy struggle be cajoled and pressured to respect the rules of democratic politics? Is political Islam even compatible with open, civil societies?
As the dictators fall, the clichés fall, too. Cairo and Tunis and Tripoli are littered with the shards of platitudes about what is possible and what is impossible in Arab societies, in closed societies. Civilizational analysis lies in ruins. Idealism, always cheaply mocked, turns out to be a powerful form of historical causation, as disruptive of the established order as any economic or technological change, and even more beneficent.
The fact is that almost everyone has dirty hands. Everyone: politicians (even “statesmen”), banks, governments, international organizations, newspapers, universities, scholars—they are now mortified to (have to) admit that they made common cause with Muammar Qaddafi and his favored son Saif. Thursday’s Financial Times carries a half-page article by Michael Peel on some of Qaddafi’s intimates: Tony Blair, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science, the Carlyle Group (America’s most politically wired investment ensemble), the great revolutionary democrat Hugo Chavez, etc.
Herzliya, Israel—For years, American neoconservatives have been accused of being lackeys for Israel, namely the Likud party. In 2008, Time’s Joe Klein wrote, “The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives—people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary—plumped for [the Iraq] war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S.
The month of February gave observers of African politics a curious case study in political geography. At one end of the Nile, protesters in Egypt were breaking the chains of autocracy through the revolution in Tahrir Square. At the other end of the Nile, voters in Uganda were preparing for an election that ultimately gave the country’s quasi-autocratic ruler, Yoweri Museveni, another five years in power.
Not since Saddam Hussein’s regime was demolished in 2003 has an Arab head of state run a more ruthlessly repressive terror state than Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were small-government libertarians by comparison.
The labor fight in Wisconsin may appear divisive, but fortunately, both sides can agree on the metaphor and who represents which side: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the budget committee in the House, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days.” ... Former Representative David Obey of Wisconsin on Thursday accused Mr.
Beyond the euphoria and uncertainties of the moment, the revolt in Egypt has sparked a debate about how much technology and information matter in a revolutionary context. Some commentators, particularly in TV coverage, have claimed that Twitter, Facebook, and blogs largely drove events in Egypt.