So I went to sleep for 24 hours, waking up now and then to swallow sugared water.
Apparently my organism has recovered. My mind hasn’t fully recovered, however – I have a notebook stuffed with comments I was going to post, here, but an almost insurmountable sloth stands in the way of that ever happening.
So, as a form of light entertainment, here are some comments on the unconsciously hilarious NYT article about Egypt that appeared this morning, under Steve Erlanger’s by-line. One of my wilder predictions for this New Year is that Egypt, which resembles Iran under the Shah, without the oil money, will undergo a revolution. This is simply an intuition – as the Israelis slaughter more and more Gaza Palestinians on the principle, apparently, that nobody can stop them, my intuition tells me that Egypt, heavily dependent on handouts from Saudi Arabia and the U.S., will be on the receiving end of the real collateral damage. Erlanger’s clueless analysis, which could easily have been written by a man locked in the bowels of the Heritage Foundation instead of a man supposedly walking the streets of Cairo, has all the earmarks of a report from a protectorate that is going down.
“CAIRO — Egypt is the crucial, if reluctant, intermediary between Israel and Hamas, which is no great friend of this moderate secular state. Still, a sustained Israeli ground operation in neighboring Gaza would sharply increase public pressure on President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to do more to help the Palestinians there.
Few criticize Mr. Mubarak himself, and there are widespread feelings here that the radical group Hamas provoked the current crisis. Yet there is unhappiness with the government’s relative silence about Israel’s bombing campaign and its Palestinian victims, and with the apparent lack of diplomatic pressure from Cairo on Israel and the United States to stop the fighting.”
This is lovely reporting. The “widespread feeling”, the mushmouthed “unhappiness with the government’s relative silence…” – truly, this is the kind of reporting you get when your introductions all come from the American embassy. “Few criticize Mr. Mubarak himself” – what can one say? Perhaps Mr. Erlanger might have sought an intro to the jails, to find out what happens to those disaffected few who don’t share the ‘widespread’ feeling among Egypt’s cocktail set. This kind of reporting shares the willful blindness of CIA reports coming out of Iran in 1978 – a little bazaari discontent, nothing that a little sulfur and flint can’t take care of.
Since Egypt is an authoritarian society in which there is nothing like a ‘democracy’ – our favorite word, covering a multitude of American sins in the Middle East, the thing and cause we are always ardently supporting but somehow, through an evil voodoo, end up not supporting at all, and in fact crushing in any of its manifestations – the NYT has to reach around to find kindly, soothing words – an alka seltzer rhetoric shake. Thus the talk of a “moderate secular state”., which is another way of saying, apparently, “a dictatorship by an eighty year old man”.
Most enjoyable is the contrast Erlanger draws between the complicatedness of things and, uh, reality:
“Given the continuing Israeli occupation of much of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, deep divisions among Palestinians and a Gaza controlled by Hamas, the Egyptian government “must make difficult choices,” he said.
“Egypt is working for peace while trying to work realistically with the situation in Gaza, where a radical group took over the territories next to Sinai, a sensitive subject for Egypt,” Mr. Said continued. “So Egypt is trying to support Palestinian humanitarian needs, but not allow a radical group to control the situation, dominate the Palestinian issue or affect Egyptian internal politics.”
But such complications are not easy for most Egyptians to grasp, especially when they see the constant repetition of images of Israeli bombs and dead Palestinians on Al Jazeera.”
Erlanger’s article has to bridge so many complications that it finally lapses into incoherence, as ‘widespread support’ for Mubarak is reduced, in the last paragraph, into an impotent unpopularity:
Ms. Malky, the editor at Daily News Egypt, said that the government is making it clear it wants Hamas to fail. “They’re afraid of the internal situation,” she said. “They don’t want a successful Islamic or Muslim Brotherhood experiment on their own border.
But she warned that unpopularity should not be confused with weakness. “The perception of the government in the feelings of the masses is deteriorating,” she said. “But their power and ability to contain whatever dissent may come out has not been shaken in the least.”
Yes, this is a riskier prediction than those I pronounced at the beginning of last year – it was easy to see that the U.S. economy was going down, while what do I know about Egypt? Yet the combination here of a worldwide recession, the indifference of the Egyptian elite to the murder of Palestinians, and the contrast between the external impotence of the state and its internal omnipotence in crushing dissent are precisely the factors that lead to revolution. Countering which is the eternal inertia of things. Usually, it is better to bet on inertia – it almost always comes in first. But Gaza doesn’t seem to be ending…