Keeping Egypt Posted

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WaPo columnist Jackson Diehl noted this week that when Ayman Nour, the liberal Egyptian opposition politician, tried to launch his campaign for September's presidential election by knocking on doors, "Police stopped him, telling him he didn't have permission. He tried to stage a conference for 1,500 of his supporters. A fire set by pro-government thugs forced the temporary clearing of the hall. When that failed to stop the meeting, the electricity was cut off."

"It gets worse," wrote Diehl. "Nour says he has been served with a court order mandating demolition of a community center he has maintained in the Cairo neighborhood of Bab al Shariya, his political base. Pro-government newspapers have reported that his penthouse apartment also will be demolished. One weekly paper that recently began appearing alongside Nour's party organ at newsstands published an article detailing how the 40-year-old parliamentarian might be assassinated: A sniper, it predicted, would open fire on his car." Nour's court case isn't looking very promising, either.

There are two things worth noting here. The first is obvious: Mubarak is trying to destroy Nour's long-term challenge (Mubarak is already assured of victory this year), and if possible Nour himself. The second noteworthy item is that the Post's editorial page has adopted Egyptian reform as a cause (Diehl is the paper's deputy editorial editor).

Mubarak is reportedly sensitive to what the US press writes about him, and if that's true, then the Post's campaign may not be entirely quixotic. Certainly, the Post's attention appears to have had results in the past. The paper's editorial page deserves credit for its campaign.

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  1. Yup. After we send in the troops to avenge 9-11, you’re going to see those Arab dictatorships and theocracies blossom into democracies just like *that.*

    Yup… any day now.

  2. I seem to recall the hawks crowing victory a few months ago when Mubarak announced an allegedly free election.

    Will any of them eat crow? I think not.

  3. What are you talking about thoreau?

    Egyptian elections are free: people in Egypt are free to go vote, or free to stay at home.

  4. They will only eat crow if it’s been sauteed in a nice raspberry sauce…otherwise, crow tastes kinda greasy.

    Or something. 🙂

  5. trainwreck-

    But how free is the opposition?

  6. you know, it looks so fun to snipe at people from the anonymity of the internet, I thought I’d do it myself.

    Akira – yeah, because UN sanctions were going to work, any day now…

    and to thoreau – I don’t think anyone in their right mind would consider a kleptocrat announcing “free” elections as very credible, let alone a cause for “crowing victory”. But when you cherrypick your opposition’s quotes to make them look as idiotic as possible, I suppose you could justify just about anything. Why, everyone on the left is just a bunch of godless commies, after all. That’s whut all us yokels from flyover country think.

  7. armchair militant-

    I should have been more specific. I wasn’t referring to every supporter of the invasion of Iraq. I was referring to a handful of people on this forum who suggested that the Egyptian election is a result of the Iraqi election. And while that’s admittedly a rather small population to pick on, the point of this forum is that we use it to talk to each other.

  8. Well, thoreau, I don’t see any reason to think calling the Egyptian election a result of the Iraqi election is a stupid position to take. Calling the Egyptian election evidence that Mubarak is a genuine democrat would be, but I don’t remember anyone doing that.

  9. Josh-

    Would it be stupid to argue that the Egyptian election is a vindication of Democratic Domino Theory?

  10. “Will any of them eat crow? I think not.”

    We’re too busy cheering Syria’s retreat.

    According to the Times:
    “In Syria the soldiers were met by rice-throwing well-wishers apparently organized by the government. But the sense of humiliation was hard to hide. The Syrians generally dismissed the Lebanese as ungrateful, said Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst.

    “But the intellectual elite understands very well how Syria’s place in the world has changed,” Mr. Moubayed said. “The nationalists among them feel that everything Hafez al-Assad built is being squandered.””

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/27/international/middleeast/27lebanon.html?

  11. thoreau my understanding from stuff I read on the Internets is the opposition is free as well: they can use their freedom to choose to shut up, or they can choose to do their talking in a jail cell. Either way, they are free.

  12. According to the Times:

    “In America the soldiers were met by rice-throwing well-wishers apparently organized by the government. But the sense of humiliation was hard to hide. The Americans generally dismissed the Iraqis as ungrateful,” said Peter K., an American political analyst.

    “But the intellectual elite understands very well how America’s place in the world has changed,” Mr. K. said. “The nationalists among them feel that everything George Bush built is being squandered.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2025/04/27/international/middleeast/27iraq.html?

  13. As defenders of Social Security argue, there is no crisis.

    Besides after years of listening to how Japan was going to drive America into the ground without it panning out, I’m less susceptible to crisis-mongering.

    Profits for American companies are up, problem is that it’s not trickling down to the average Joe.

  14. I read thoreau’s comment as pointing out that there are those who point to any given event as vindication, and then when that same event goes wobbly, they act as if the event never happened.

    Likewise, there are those who are slow to recognize good news for what it is–some have charged me thusly, though I prefer to think of myself as tentatively pessimistic.

    I would add that I found this part of thoreau’s comment:

    “And while that’s admittedly a rather small population to pick on, the point of this forum is that we use it to talk to each other.”

    …quite funny!

  15. I would like to drag up the following comment from last month:

    &ltsnip>
    Egyptians certainly know we aren’t kidding, thoreau. Thanks to Condi, they are getting multi-party elections this year. You can just about hold your breath on Uzbekistan – they’re due. I forsee a game where, with every despotism that falls, you will have to drag out the atlas to find another to cry about!

    If I were a dissident, anywhere in the world, I would wish Bush “good hunting”…even if I got passed over on this round – every victory ANYWHERE improves MY chances, right? Talking up the dictatorships the US is entangled with, is a talking point for those who DON’T wish to see progress around this – it makes NO sense to those who actually suffer.
    In Pakistan or Uzbekstan, who would want to see democracy FAIL in Iraq, or Lebanon? Who wouldn’t rather see us push it SOMEWHERE, as opposed to NOWHERE? Anyone on the list of remaining despotisms has a better hand to play, when a dictator falls somewhere – and that is how you would feel about it thoreau, if it was your life, and your children’s.

    Comment by: Andrew at March 25, 2005 01:43 AM

    I would just observe that this is one example of a hawk on this forum who attributed Egypt’s elections to our foreign policy. Admittedly in this post he attributed the elections to Condi’s great diplomacy, not to the Iraqi election. I guess I have to ask how great her diplomacy is if the Egyptian election includes government death threats against opposition politicians.

    I suspect that if I did a little more digging I could find examples of hawks attributing the Egyptian elections to Iraq, but I’ve had enough amusement for today. My only point is that I wasn’t just setting up strawmen in my first post in this thread.

  16. I would just observe that this is one example of a hawk on this forum

    Yes, and it appears to be the *one* example. I googled past posts on the subject — here, here, and here, for starters — and I can’t find any other examples of what you’re talking about. The closest other example seems to be Todd Fletcher citing Iraq as *a* reason for the elections.

    Furthermore, what exactly is it that you think Andrew needs to apologize for? It would be one thing if he had claimed that the elections in Egypt would be fair and open, but neither he nor any other hawk seems to have made that claim. The claim that was made by hawks in this forum seems to have been that Mubarak agreed to hold multiparty elections either entirely or partially as a result of events in Iraq.

    Are you seriously arguing that it is a complete coincidence that Mubarak decided to hold multiparty elections — even rigged ones — just when Egyptian pro-democracy activists were being inspired by events in Iraq?

  17. Are you seriously arguing that it is a complete coincidence that Mubarak decided to hold multiparty elections — even rigged ones — just when Egyptian pro-democracy activists were being inspired by events in Iraq?

    I’m arguing that, at least in the context of Democratic Domino Theory, events in Iraq haven’t delivered all that much bang for the buck (or body count) if the best that Egypt gets is a seriously rigged election.

  18. Which is not to say that there might not have been other good reasons to invade Iraq, but Democratic Domino Theory seems rather dubious.

  19. “The claim that was made by hawks in this forum seems to have been that Mubarak agreed to hold multiparty elections either entirely or partially as a result of events in Iraq.”

    There’s been an overriding undertone to the effect that absent Iraqi biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and absent Iraqi/al Qaeda collaboration, the positive events in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere are further justification for the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    …Indeed, as thoreau’s quote shows, hawkish commenters have cited positive events in Egypt and elsewhere as evidence that we should use the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq as a template and repeat the process elsewhere.

  20. I’m arguing that, at least in the context of Democratic Domino Theory, events in Iraq haven’t delivered all that much bang for the buck (or body count) if the best that Egypt gets is a seriously rigged election.

    That seems like pretty good bang for the buck considering that only a few months have passed. It is a small step, certainly, but it is still more progress than was made in the several decades preceding the Iraqi elections. But anyway, if you want to argue whether Mubarak’s recent concessions to pro-democracy forces are significant, that’s one thing. But that wasn’t the argument you were making. What you said was:

    I seem to recall the hawks crowing victory a few months ago when Mubarak announced an allegedly free election.

    This “crowing” appears to never have happened. What did happen was that some hawks gave the United States credit (full or partial) for the fact that Mubarak was holding elections. They were correct to do so. That the elections are going to be rigged in Mubarak’s favor is a surprise to nobody and contradicts nothing any hawks seem to have said in the H&R forums. So, again, what are you asking the hawks to apologize for?

    It may be that you consider a rigged multiparty election to be no significant improvement over single-party dictatorship. You are, of course, entitled to hold that opinion. But it isn’t clear to me why you think I or any other hawk is obligated to share it. There is a difference between living in a society where opposition is forbidden and living in a society where the ruling party always steals the election, because in the latter case the government has essentially opened the door to the *idea* of democracy while simultaneously admitting that it cannot survive in one. It is an open admission of its own weakness. It is hard to find that in a single-party environment, because would-be members of the opposition can’t really be sure if they have the support of the people or not. But when there’s an election, and the ruling party needs to steal it in order to win — then, you know.

  21. Dan-

    Perhaps I did paint with too broad of a brush. I stand by my statement that a rigged multi-party election is nothing to cheer about, but I will concede that very few people made the claim that I attributed to the hawks.

  22. “Egyptian elections are free: people in Egypt are free to go vote, or free to stay at home.”

    By that criteria, Egyptian elections have been free since the 70s.

    Mission Accomplished.

  23. “but it is still more progress than was made in the several decades preceding the Iraqi elections.”

    Is it, really? Look at the linked story.

    Also, Dan, nobody, including the opposition, thinks there is a snowball’s chance in hell of Mubarak losing, even if the elections were flawless.

  24. Is it, really? Look at the linked story.

    I did. Why don’t you try looking at the post you’re responding to, wherein I described why I feel the elections represent progress towards democracy.

    Also, Dan, nobody, including the opposition, thinks there is a snowball’s chance in hell of Mubarak losing, even if the elections were flawless

    I already said, in the very post you are responding to, that Mubarak was going to steal the election. Are you blind or just stupid?

  25. “Are you blind or just stupid?”

    I was wondering if that was the same ol’ Dan. Apparently it was.

    …joe is neither blind nor stupid–you know that.

  26. …though I did skim Dan’s post a little too quicky.

    Still, take some Midol.

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