Hosni Mubarak has been on the world stage for nearly 30 years, but it’s safe to say he’s never been in the spotlight more than during this week.
After several days of demonstrations against his government, culminating in widespread riots or near-riots in several major urban centers in Egypt, Mubarak finally addressed his nation and the world. He promised to reform his government and he pledged his support for freedom of speech. But he also said he ain’t leaving.
You can be sure that American officials are relieved that he hasn’t responded with the kind of brute force we’ve seen in Iran, Iraq or China when mass protests break out.
So far, the protests in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria have not met with a Tiananmen Square-style tanks-and-guns massacre.
Apparently Mubarak’s promises have not placated the angry mobs on the streets.
Which is worrisome.
If things don’t kick down a notch or two, Mubarak may yet respond with an iron fist. Let’s hope not. Too much is at stake.
A violent revolution in Egypt could destabilize one of the few relatively steady allies for the United States (and sane people everywhere) in a notoriously unstable and dangerous part of the world.
The last thing we need is another Iran. And don’t think that’s not possible.
Twenty-five years ago, we had another friend in nearby Iraq. The name should sound familiar: Saddam Hussein. As you probably know, things didn’t work out with Saddam.
Mubarak has not been as problematic as Saddam Hussein proved to be, and he doesn’t sound like he will be. But the photo above looks hauntingly similar to photos from the 1980s with Saddam and former Iraqi big shot Tariq Aziz making happy faces in photo ops at the White House.
OMG moment — Al Jazeera just mocked Mubarak as “presenting himself as the sharing, caring reformer” in his address. Gotta Tweet that …
Getting back on topic.
Folks who think Egypt doesn’t really matter, or who think Twitter and social media in general don’t matter, are sadly mistaken.
This revolution (might be a little premature with that term), along with Tunisia and a few other hot spots that seem to be mostly in northern Africa at the moment, has very much been driven by communication technology — and when the Internet access was shut down, old technology filled in.
The most strident critics don’t want Mubarak to reform his government. They want him gone.
But again, who will replace Mubarak?
And that is why Egypt matters to us dumb and insular Americans. If the wrong leader replaces Mubarak, we could have another Iraq. Or another Iran. Neither choice is particularly attractive.
A funny side note. Aman Ali, a stand-up comic Muslim (I know, right? He coined the phrase “journalistic woody”) who was an intern at the Akron Beacon Journal five years ago, noticed how stylish many of the young protesters looked. And it’s true. I saw one angry dude sporting a stylish sweater.