Wed, March 09, 2011 | The Rubin Report | By Barry Rubin
Egypt and the Middle East: Romanticism Meets Reality
The projected million-women march turned out just 400 and they were harassed and in some cases attacked. Meanwhile, thousands of Muslims and Christians demonstrated and clashed in part due to the burning of a Christian church by Muslims. Eleven people were killed. The new governmental team has been outspokenly anti-Israel — and that doesn’t mean criticism but real hostility.
Crime has reportedly zoomed upward. including armed robberies, arson and street battles between rival criminal gangs over territory. One innovation has been for gangs to stop cars, partly by throwing eggs on the windshield so the driver can’t see, then demand that the driver sign a bill of sale to them for the automobile and hand it over, or else.
All revolutions produce some anarchy. But the divisions between Christians and Muslims, (massive numbers of) Islamists and (tiny numbers of) secularist, treatment of women, and other issues have a structural component that just isn’t going to go away easily. The same applies to the underlying hostility toward Israel, the United States, and the West in general.
Meanwhile, the military junta gave a warm welcome to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been credibly accused of mass murder. In Tunisia, protest demonstrations have been broken up by the military government there. Muammar al-Qadhafi may well fall in Libya but he’s still holding out. In Pakistan, the government’s only Christian cabinet minister was assassinated rather obviously because of his religion and none of his colleagues would dare defend him publicly.
The idea that everything has changed in the Middle East from the winter of dictatorship and extremism into a springtime for democracy is — unfortunately — likely to turn out to be wrong.
Some of those many people with a limited sense of history has compared the events in the Middle East to 1848 in Europe. Basically, all of the revolutions of that year failed. In France, where the uprising succeeded, within three years Napoleon III had become dictator, ruled the country for 23 years, and led it into a disastrous military defeat.
The journalistic romanticizers of the Arab transformation — ignoring that meanwhile Lebanon was being transformed inthe exact opposite direction — will no doubt soon be scratching their heads wondering how things that seemed so terrific (to their superficial view) quickly turned tragic.