Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt: The loss of Suez and the West's pet dictator to 'democracy'. What comes next?


No sooner had the virtual ink dried on my post concerning Tunisia last week and here we are a week later with all hell breaking loose in Egypt. Grab the popcorn and crack open a beer my friends. Shit's about to get real interesting in the Middle East. If Western interests lose their pocket dictator Mubarak to 'democracy' that could leave Suez in "the peoples" hands and that's what will have the major elites shitting their collective pants in boardrooms all across the world.  Democracy is always liable to land you with unpredictable results. And none more so than in Egypt.

   Oil jumped 4% on Friday on fears that the one million barrels that pass through Suez every day might get disrupted. Oil could go way higher if this revolt puts the Islamic Brotherhood in power and they decide to leverage the canal to mess with the US and Europe. Seven percent of all the world's goods pass through there every day too. Right now it's only costing the US and other foreign donors two billionish a year to help Mubarak subjugate the populace, keep Suez open and have Egypt not mess with Israel. That's bargain basement prices really for what they're getting in return. The fear now is that that bill is going to rise exponentially.

   The corporate oligarchy that runs the US pushed Obama in front of the cameras on Friday and made him say he 'hopes the protests remain peaceful'. I sprayed beer all over my keyboard. When did peaceful protest ever change anything in human history? Sure, there are isolated aberrations. But let's face it, human history is a history of war, a history of who killed who to take their shit, not who asked nicely for some one's shit and was told politely to fuck off. History says that if the other guy has something you want the only way to have it yourself is by taking it; with rocks, arrows, bullets or stealth bombers. That's just how things happen to work on this planet. From a hypothetical alien's point of view, we're scary and primitive upright apes that enlightened intergalactic travellers would be well advised to steer clear of. Sad really, but true.

   The Egyptian situation is difficult for the Western media to package.

   You can see that confusion on the American cable news networks. It's hard to craft a message the plebs will understand without sounding contradictory. Or making the West look bad. Mubarak is America's paid dictator, a point subtly glossed over, yet they insist on referring to Egypt as a 'democracy' in the Arab world. That's prime doublethink right there. But as you watch those brave Egyptians taking on the security forces the average western person on his couch is rooting for them. At the same time, the corporate oligarchy providing the video feed is dying a little on the inside. The fear for them is that a new Egyptian 'democracy' is going to land us with Iran part II. The Muslim Brotherhood is democratically elected, just like Hamas in Gaza and Ahmajinidad in Iran (LOL). Either way, the thought of Suez in the hands of right wing fanatical Islamists is frightening to the elites. The canal is fundamental to rapid deployment of US naval strategy in the Gulf.

If Islamists control Suez, the USN will shit brix.

   I heard some Fox News blond report earlier that officials at the Pentagon were watching events closely on the cable channels and especially on Al Jazeera. I sprayed more beer on my keyboard. Did America's premiere corporate agenda network just admit that its generals have to go outside American cable news (which is basically a "feeding interference to the proles" operation) to know what's going on in the world? As I'm typing, I just heard Sean Hannity say that after events in Egypt on Friday, he believes the only democracy left in the Arab world right now is in Iraq. OK, that's it!

   Now I need a whole new keyboard!

   So who is this Hosni Mubarak that the West seems to tolerate so much?

   He became el presidente after some Egyptian generals gunned down Sadat for making peace with Israel in 1981. That's a twenty nine year stretch, the longest of any Egyptian leader if you leave out the pharaohs. He's a sleazy character fitting the profile of the groomed dictator. In Gulf War I, the West needed a few Arab nations to join the party to make it look like an 'international' effort on paper. Mubarak was happy to oblige in return for $20 billion in forgiven debt. The math of that worked out at half a million per Egyptian soldier deployed. That's a serious dick waving deal if you can get it.

   Mubarak is corrupt. But not more so than any guy Western governments install or payoff to hold onto power in vassal states with strategic interests. It's hard to believe but Egypt has been operating under "Emergency Law" since 1967. This allows the cops to basically do anything they want without warrant. Censorship is everywhere and all Egyptian TV channels and newspapers are under Mubarak's central control. The government can chuck you in prison if they don't like the cut of your jib and leave you there without trial for years. There are at least 30,000 people locked up for no reason other than Mubarak doesn't like them. A lot of them are Islamic Brotherhood members and potential opposition leaders. When the token criticism comes from the West (hey dude, you're making us look bad), Mubarak just shrugs his shoulders and reminds them if he didn't do the West's dirty work for them, they'd end up with the Muslim Brotherhood running the canal. How would they like them apples?

   He basically uses the Muslim Brotherhood as a bogeyman against his own populace and against the US. "It's me, and I know I'm bad but those guys over there, they are far worse. You choose." This line of reasoning is what has kept Mubarak in power for 29 years. What he didn't account for was the explosive growth of Arab satellite news networks and the ease at which they can be received. Every ramshackle mud hut in the Middle East has a satellite dish poking out of it somewhere. But the biggest elephant in the room is the Internet. It truly is coming into its own today as a paradigm shifting force. In fact, if you're a member of the ruling elite, it's becoming downright dangerous. The fact that Mubarak shut it down speaks volumes and is probably his 'bridge too far' moment. Just like the Allies trying to seize that final bridge at Arnhem in Market Garden. Mubarak has gone too far and I'm sure the engines are warming up on his private jet. His family have already fled. I wonder how much gold bullion they managed to fit into their suitcases?

Wow! A good old M113 APC. I wonder who sold Mubarak that baby?

   So what's next?

   Who knows.

   At best, the Egyptians have a rational transition to some kind of representative government made up of secular and religious political parties. That's kind of a long shot. Polls there show 60% or more support for the banned Muslim Brotherhood. With 30% + unemployment and Egyptian pride bruised for thirty years under a Western supported dictator, you can see why they might vote in the West's worst nightmare as a form of cathartic vengeance.

   That's the thing you've got to realize about the Egyptians. They regard themselves as the heart of the Arab world. The cultural center of Arab history, art, music and the rightful inheritors of the golden age of Arab history when the streets of Córdoba had public lighting and 500,000 inhabitants while the rest of Europe was in a Dark Age. These people have been kept down and they are not going to take it anymore.

   Another concerned party in all this is Israel.

A flag seen at the protests, doesn't bode well for future Egypt-Israel relations.

   Egypt is the only Arab country to sign a peace deal with them. Public sentiment is not behind this deal. If Egyptian 'democracy' delivers the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel has got a new hostile neighbor on her southern border. You can expect Hamas to have a far easier time smuggling weapons and goods into Gaza and an emasculation of the Israeli blockade. I can't see the new Egyptian 'democracy' enforcing much border security with Gaza. Your move Israel.

   Wow, it's been a whirlwind two weeks. What's next, Libya? Syria? Jordan?

   One thing is for sure, I'm making another run to the store for more beer and popcorn.


  1. Well that was awesome. Again.

  2. Well, that was a surprisingly well-written and well-thought-out article. It gives a much-needed insight into the current dynamics in the region, and what the long-term effects of a regime change could be.

    This is why we need to get involved (as in, people that care about freedoms and such, not the USA itself) in the region ASAP; the level of sophistication of the protestors and their quick reactions to the usual "dirty tricks" of a government under siege have been suspicous...

    Now, it looks like there has been a destabilization campaign afoot, likely funded by anti-US interests. I'm not saying that they don't have a point, mind you. They've got reason to be pissed... But we don't exactly want a mini-Iran or Saudi Arabia forming there; that's not good for anyone, either.

    Say what you will, Mubarak was a bit of a necessary evil - I think the USA's worst sin was not finding a way to transition him out of power earlier before this shit happened. Oh well; now it's time to pay the piper, I suppose. I just hope the Egyptians end up better off than before - I've seen plenty of regime changes (Africa has countless ones in recent history) for good reason that ended up in an even worse deal for the people of that nation. Heck, an old roommate was a remote member of the Liberian ruling family and had to bail out to the US when a revolution occurred. Within a couple years, everyone was poorer and less safe and free, and the new dictator was far worse than the old (but also corrupt and abusive) dictator.

    That's the problem; anyone can bring down a ruling party - very few can replace it with a functioning government that really improves things. Look how many smart, rich, talented and well-educated people in a very special situation (and help from other nations) it took to get the US squared away after revolution. That stuff doesn't happen by accident.

  3. Mind you... Ol' Hosni hasn't thrown the towel. Yet.

    When he leaves, most of what you say would be important. But one of the perks of being a ruthless dictator is... well, being ruthless, and nobody making too many waves about dozens of Egyptian sans-culottes, massacred. Specially Brotherhood sans-culottes.

    I'm just wandering right now if using the US made M-113 and M-60s seen in all the press photos to quell the revolts instead of the Soviet left-overs is some kind of subtle PR message to his patrons in the west, or it was just that the battalions near Cairo were the ones US equipped.

  4. Is the Muslim Brotherhood really to be feared as much as you imply? I'm led to believe that they are a voice of moderate anti-extremist Islam, in contrast to the stances they held in decades past, when first founded.

  5. Here's a good one from Mr. Mubarek, from Time last Friday:

    "I'm not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process"

  6. What if Mubarak does fall? What if Egypt's collective 'fuck you' to the West is war with Israel? I'm not sure there's enough beer and popcorn in the world for that one. The US has been supplying both states with military hardware, and for the first time in history Israel would be pitted against a technologically equal opponent. We'd see M1A1s and F16s square off against each other. For the first time in a long while the fight would be decided by skill of arms instead of technological superiority (familiar with Pharsalus? How is that not your favorite historical battle, by the way?). My money's on Israel here, just because the IDF is so badass and I think the Israelis have been getting the creme of US equipment, although I'm not familiar with the training and requisition regimens of the Egyptian armed forces; it's really up in the air on this one. Who knows? Maybe the old Russian/European tech that Egypt has around would turn the tide by weight of numbers. Whatever the case, it'd be like a modern, desert Kursk between two sides both fielding the T-34 and the Stuka. Finally some symmetrical warfare. Heavy infantry would once again sit on the bench while the armored cav and the air force slug it out. Any thoughts, Wartard?

  7. Errrr... nop

    Not "technologically equal oponents". Not even close. Egypt has got M1s, but their
    serviceabity rate is low, at best. Lot's of trouble getting the Soviet minded conscripts in the manteinance echelon to properly service a M-1. Also, there are very few armies around in shape to cope with the gas bill of a jetfuel powered tank. I once heard a good joke from an Egyptian tanker: "We should have purchased the M1 from the Americans and then a good diesel engine from the Germans".

    Main MBT in Egypt right now is the M60Asomething.

    Then there is that funny small cap notation in stickers bellow almost all US military hardware sold through Defense Security Cooperation Agency agreements. The one that reads something like this: "Ask before use. Not following this advice may involve severe logistical troubles".

    So, you start pissing the Israeli lobby in DC, next you're not getting more spares for your M1s, F-16s, etc... No, it would not be a very long symmetrical war... And the last one wasn't either, when both sides were quite more of a close match in tech terms.

    Egyptians had been trying to be a military power since Ismail brought a complete canon foundry back in the 1860s (it was an US foundry IIRC), they haven't got any measurable success up until now.

  8. This is slowly developing into the go-to blog for me when geo-political shitstorms occur.

  9. A fresh country would have enough on it's hands besides going to war with Israel. What for? Resources? no.... fun? no.... Palastine? pfffff. I have never heard more cruel things said about the actual Palastinian people then what I've heard out of an Arab's mouth. That's not to say that they don't care, it's just that they both care and don't care. Nothing to war over, just something to game over.

    I hope Egypt does leverage it's new found position to make Israel be less of a fuck up to the Palastinians... that culture is so destroyed from what it once was I worry that it is lost forever. To hear the old Palastinians in my city (Los Angeles) speak of their virtues and what they were taught way back when(all of them speak about the importance of education among other things) and to see what has become of the peoples that stayed... sigh

    I just can't see Egypt becoming a theocracy. Not now, not as the board is set, no way. More power within the system for the Muslim Brotherhood? Yes. Them having to deal with religious nutbags within their democracy like we do in America? Yes. Super Islamic Islamsisamsisms? Not so much.

    They will have so god dam much work to do. They have millions of people that just want something useful to do with their lives. And their cultural heritage is so god dam gigantic they must have enough pride in themselves to not go batshit. It will be fine. It will be better.

  10. Thats bad news. I am putting my head in the sand and hoping for a god damn happy day scenario from now on.

  11. I once read an article on the reasons for the usual sub par performance of Arab armies, written by an US officer who spend a lot of time as a military consultant in Arab countries and was one of the guys who trained the Egyptians on their newly acquired M1 tanks.

    He told stories about Arab officers collecting all the instruction manuals the US instructors had handed out to the tank crews and hiding them in their quarters. Apparently they wanted to be the only ones who had those information and wanted everybody else to have to come to them and beg for it, because that made them important and gave them power.
    Apparently stuff like that is normal in Arab culture.

    No wonder they suck at modern warfare.

  12. I appreciate your boldness sire. but, I do keep asking myself while I am reading your article is that whether or not you have lost your journalistic impartiality. this article while very thorough in its many points seems antagonistic and full of personal feelings.

  13. Don't worry, Saudi Arabia will never fall. There are more Saudi Princes in the CIA than any other royal family. Saudi Arabia is a CIA state through and through. Saudi Arabia has always been a CIA-owed state after the 70's oil embargoes. Never again.........