Revolution on the Nile: Rebellious Cops, Lethal Aid, and Off Switch Envy

The most hopeful news to come out of Egypt today are the reports of officers fraternizing with protesters, removing their uniforms, refusing to fire their weapons. That's when a popular revolt succeeds: when the storm troopers won't follow orders. The question is how widespread that is -- how many cops and soldiers will break ranks and how many will continue to crack down. One odd wrinkle in Egypt is that the protesters think the army is more likely than the police to come over to their side.

The Obama administration says it will "review" U.S. aid to Egypt. Good -- the one constructive thing Washington could do right now is to cut off its support for the Mubarak regime. Egypt is presently the fourth biggest recipient of American foreign aid, after Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel.

Meanwhile, Sean Bonner reminds readers that Joe Lieberman wants Washington to have an Internet off switch like Hosni Mubarak's.

Egypt is center stage today, but while you're watching events there don't neglect the rebellions bubbling in Jordan, Yemen, and Algeria. The Middle East may be in a transnational revolutionary moment.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • BenDU99||

    It sure seems at the moment like the Obama administration is bungling this whole thing. I wouldn't expect anything less from them.

  • I have an idea||

    Maybe he should send in troops. You know, nation-building.

  • ||

    I sense a second Nobel Peace Prize.

  • Hillary||

    Ahem.

  • Obama||

    Sorry, I'll get that out of your throat...

  • Mr Obama||

    To whom do I bow next?

  • ||

    "It sure seems at the moment like the Obama administration is bungling this whole thing. I wouldn't expect anything less from them."

    Jim Lehrer: "Has the time come for President Mubarak of Egypt to go? ...to stand aside?"

    Joe Biden: "No..."

  • Fluffy||

    Apparently new Wikileaks documents just released show that the US diplomatic mission in Egypt worked with anti-Mubarak activists in 2008 and 2009 to set up a coordinating system for mass protests to facilitate regime change.

    So we may not have been as asleep at the switch as I thought.

  • ||

    Don't Joe Biden's initial comments run counter to that?

    I mean, I'd never discount the possibility that he may have just said something stupid true to form, but...

  • Spiny Norman||

    Stupid like a fox!

  • ||

    Biden and Hilary's State department disagree?!?!

    I can't imagine.

  • ||

    Joe Biden was a senator in 2008 and part of 2009.

  • Maybe||

    The administration was out of the loop.

  • Skip||

    Joe Biden wasn't VP in 2008. Not that he is much of one now.

  • BenDU99||

    And one other thing. Imagine the uproar from the left and MSM if Bush had wanted an "internet off switch."

  • Lefty4Life||

    Leftists are a bunch of statists who think the only problem with government is when the other team is in charge.

    Even if you said to one right now, "Imagine if Sarah Palin had this power" they wouldn't bat an eye at giving it to The Obama.

  • ||

    Statists are people who can't comprehend current events without breaking them down into "left" and "right".

  • Epi||

    And TEAMS.

  • hmm||

    Excellent work...

    The internet switch thing seems to not matter. The news is getting out and people are gathering. So either there's a workaround or the intertubes isn't just that important. (this also displays how far ahead of the curve most that have knowledge of the internet compared to government and their ability to stop its use)

  • Jesse Walker||

    I've heard reports of ham radio being used. Not sure how widespread that is, but definitely interesting.

    At any rate, the Internet tends to be useful to protesters to the extent that their networks grow organically out of civil society. And civil society invariably has more than one way to get the word out.

  • hmm||

    Use of Ham would be interesting. I wouldn't argue the interent helps with movements that grow organically. It just seems like the view that the internet is the backbone of such organic growth in social movements today may be wrong or at least questionable.

    Or they really just pissed them off so bad it was happening no matter what.

    Either way it's an interesting series of variables and outcomes.

  • ||

    Ham radio is not Halal.

  • ||

    Damn your speedy typing!!!

  • ||

    Ha. Took me a half hour to read it and post. You just suck by 3 more minutes.

  • ||

    Use of Ham would be interesting.

    Specially since they're Muslim. Hachacha!

  • hmm||

    Someone got my pathetic pun!!!

  • db||

    Do you mean internet connections over ham radio (packet radio)? or voice? There are a number of ham radio satellite repeaters that folks could be using to set up routes to the internet to get around Egypt's or regional blockages.

    There needs to be a working group of folks thinking about how to restore internet in events like these. Once could also envision setting up private roving cell networks if SMS and cell voice services were interrupted.

  • hmm||

    There needs to be a working group of folks thinking about how to restore internet in events like these.

    They are called WoW gamers or just gamers.

  • Meh||

    One odd wrinkle in Egypt is that the protesters think the army is more likely than the police to come over to their side.

    I don't find this odd at all.

  • Robert||

    Nor would anyone who's played Junta.

  • Jesse Walker||

    It's odd in the sense that we're used to seeing governments bring in troops from elsewhere in the country to quell local uprisings when they think the cops from the region might be too sympathetic to the rebels.

  • Meh||

    Ah, gotcha.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If they really want to quash this uprising, they should bring in American cops. They don't let little things like sympathy or common decency get in the way of crackin' a few skulls.

  • The SWAT Pot-House Raiders||

  • JD the elder||

    From what I've read about various places, it seems like the army is often a bunch of draftees (ie, just regular guys who didn't particularly want to be there) while the cops are more of a select bunch...selected for being loyal head-breakers for the regime. Dunno whether that's particularly the case for Egypt, though.

  • hmm||

    Isn't there a huge socioeconomic gap between the motorbike cops and regular cops and the Army. Isn't the army all poorer conscripts while the police are well paid thugs. (kind of like the US)

  • -||

    They're calling it the Lotus Revolution. Twitter is jilted again.

  • dave b.||

    Mubarak is a US puppet, just like Ben Ali. All of the phony, pro-US "democracies" are finally crashing down.

  • ||

    I'm hoping that 1989 has finally arrived in the Arab world.

  • ChrisO||

    They might want to try 1889 on for size, first.

  • Pip||

    June 3rd, 1989 Students protest on Tienanmen Square, Beijing, China - the army intervenes; 3000-7000 killed?

  • ||

    If it's anything like I was positing in an other thread, it's not.

    I forgot that was in '89. Mixed bag that year was.

  • ||

    Newsbreak:

    In 1989, a few students got lost in Tienanmen Square. Their english skills were bad and they tried to construct signs to help with directions home. Their signs were confusing due to their lack of language skills.

    Imperialist news agencies across the world misunderstood when one of those students stopped a military exercise to ask for directions to the local bus stop. The tank driver graciously stopped and with the assistance of soldiers there to help the workers party proceeded to help the out-of-towner get back to the safety of his state-built home which had running water and electricity over three days per week.

    According to their local party leaders, those involved in the incident are currently unavailable for comment.

    And now, back to "CSI: Beijing."

  • ||

    Caption: "Please, Mom, not in front of all the guys."

  • Yeah||

    Alt alt: Where the white women at?

  • ||

    LOL

  • ||

    "Please, Mom, not in front of all the protesters."

  • Pip||

    OMG! It's John Travolta! Just one little kiss?! Pleeeeeeeese?!!!

  • ChrisO||

    One hopes for the best, but let's not start automatically romanticizing whatever comes next in Egypt.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    "Mubarak Has Left Egypt": http://www.afrol.com/articles/37164

    "Internet Reportedly Down in Syria": http://mashable.com/2011/01/28.....own-syria/

  • Yeah||

    Israel is backing Mubarak. Discuss.

  • ||

    That should be a no brainer for them.

    What's to discuss?

  • Paul||

    Israel has normalized relations with Egypt. That's why the U.S. is being cagey with their condemnations of Mubarak and support of the protest. That's why Egypt gets the amount of aid they get from the U.S. Israel's relationship with Egypt is basically the linchpin of our relationship with Egypt.

  • Pip||

    That you, Helen?

  • Paul||

    Please. Nothing in my statement could be construed as anti-Jew, or even anti Israel. It's a mere cold fact: We give aid to Egypt to "help" maintain normalized relations with Israel.

    If you're anti-Israel, it's called a bribe (words used this morning on Democracy Now!'s news broadcast), if you're pro-Israel, I supposed you'd call it a reward.

  • Pip||

    It was a joke.

  • Paul||

    And a decent one at that. I even smiled. I'm used to being called "Ms. Thomas"

  • ||

    Exactly. Plus I'm pretty sure the Israelis don't want to see the Muslim Brotherhood in power...

  • ||

    Yeah, that's your no-brainer right there.

    If you like Hamas? You're gonna love the Muslim Brotherhood!

    If you're not so wild about Hamas?

    It's a no-brainer.

  • dave b.||

    And 'normalized relations' means that the US installs a puppet dictator whose job is to follow orders from DC, and make nice to Israel while suppressing any Islam-oriented opposition party. In return, the dictator gets a sham election every so often where they "win" with 95% of the vote. Mubarak is the modern day version of the Shah of Iran.

  • Paul||

    Right, so that's why Israel's support of Mubarak requires no discussion.

  • ||

    You're absolutely right, Paul.

    I can't imagine how there would be anything mysterious about Israel's position on this.

    No sarcasm. This is almost certainly bad news for them.

  • Paul||

    No sarcasm. This is almost certainly bad news for them.

    Is there any evidence that if Mubarak is driven from power, that it will be replaced with a decidedly anti-Israel government? Serious question.

  • dave b.||

    The problem is that the US will not allow free elections. If they were somehow allowed to happen in Egypt, then there is a chance that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over.

  • ||

    This is all our fault? Again?

    I can understand preferring some measure of stability over there, but I'm pretty sure we'd love to see a free, liberal state in that region with a name other than Israel, too.

  • Paul||

    I haven't seen any numbers or serious commentary on how powerful/influential this Muslim Brotherhood is. According to DB on the previous Egypt thread this morning, the MB has only been involved in these protests around the edges. Is there anything in these protests which are decidedly anti-western?

  • ||

    I think there's some concern that a more radical group could take power once the government falls, but it's hardly a given.

  • ||

    "I think there's some concern that a more radical group could take power once the government falls, but it's hardly a given."

    I think the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood losing an election are pretty slim.

    I'll put it this way--if the Muslim Brotherhood lost an election? I think there might be a civil war.

  • ||

    "The problem is that the US will not allow free elections. If they were somehow allowed to happen in Egypt, then there is a chance that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over."

    There's no reason to think the new Egyptian revolutionaries will only hold elections after they ask for our permission.

    The Muslim Brotherhood wants free elections. Why wouldn't they?

  • ||

    "Is there any evidence that if Mubarak is driven from power, that it will be replaced with a decidedly anti-Israel government?"

    If you assume the new government* will reflect the will of its people, I think it's hard to imagine a new Egyptian government that's friendly with Israel.

    I imagine the people of Egypt think of Israel worse than the way we think of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

    Whether that's a fair comparison is another question entirely, of course, but my sense is that Israel is not well liked by the people of Egypt, generally speaking, and if a government that reflects the will of its people is installed in Egypt, then there's reason to think Egypt's new government won't be friendly toward Israel.

    *No sense in counting our chickens before they've hatched--but they are hatching!

  • ||

    "Meanwhile, Sean Bonner reminds readers that Joe Lieberman wants Washington to have an Internet off switch like Hosni Mubarak's."

    Then I think that should bring Joe Liberman's loyalty into question.

    ...not whether he's loyal to the United States but whether he's loyal to the people of the United States or the government.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Lieberman is a naked authoritarian. He doesn't see the distinction between the people and the state.

  • ||

    Exactly!

  • Chris||

    Not sure why its an "odd wrinkle" that the army rather than the police are siding with the protestors.

    In a (hypothetical) American revolution, I would be way more wary to approach a cop on the streets than a US Marine or Army.

  • ||

    He explained that up top.

    Makes sense to me.

  • Paul||

    One of the pro-net neutrality arguments I recently read is that Net Neutrality would never get abused here because our government would never act like China's.

    Internet Kill Switch FTW! The Right People Are In Charge!

  • Tim||

    Strongman's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments that do not represent the views of Egypt.com or the Mubarak Foundation may result in a beating. We reserve the right to delete any citizen for any reason at any time.

  • ||

    [clears throat]
    SHEEP FUCKING DESPOTS!!!

  • hmm||

    Not very civil...

  • -||

    It's all he has.

  • George W. Bush||

    The Middle East may be in a transnational revolutionary moment.

    See? I was right all along!

  • ||

    Yeah, this all about how the rest of the region wants to emulate George W. Bush's Iraq.

    /sarcasm

  • Tim||

    Operation Restore Pharoah!

  • Spur||

    Beck just got pushed aside today - this Egypt thing must be a Soros plot...

  • Tim||

    Why hasn't the Left blamed Palin for all this violence?

  • Spur||

    Palin hasn't surveyed a map of Egypt and marked it appropriately.

  • hurly buehrle||

    I'm really happy any time a people throws off an oppressive government for a chance at freedom. At the same time, I can't help wondering how gleeful American neoconservatives are at the prospects for military action this is creating.

  • Tim||

    Wikileaks: Hillary sent urgent, secret communique to Mubarak:

    "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

  • Hosni Mubarak||

    Son of a bitch!

  • ||

    Hahahahahahahahaha

    [sigh]

  • hurly buerhle||

    Mubarak live right now. So, is his message, basically, "bring 'em on"? Christ.

  • Joe Lieberman||

    For being America's worst American, I can only say that I'm sowry. Now, let me apologize.

  • ||

    He's like Elmer Fudd if the character had turned to the Dark Side of the Force.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    I nominate the above for Most Creative Personal Slur of the week.

    But in a civil and on-topic way.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'm a little wary of anti-western forces getting into power, but if those types were very popular we'd be hearing a lot of anti-Jew demagoguery in the protests. We're not and that's very good.

  • ||

    How about this for a radical idea: let the Egyptian people decide who has power in their government. If they want an anti-western government then that's what they should have.

  • cynical||

    Yep. If the Egyptian people, having gotten power, want to tangle, then we may have to tangle. But it should be their decision.

  • TallDave||

    Democracy is a process, not an event --and a learning process for the electorate.

  • ||

    Israel is backing Mubarak. Discuss.

    Gaza blockade.

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  • TallDave||

    Maybe they noticed all those elections in Iraq.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    If anything like this happened here, Obama wouldn't be so keen on siding with the protesters.

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