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Versailles

Brooke is studying the French Revolution this month.  I told her that Charlotte Corday and the death of Marat would make a pretty good essay topic.  Then I realized that the guy was essentially a blogger who was murdered in his bathtub.  Ok, he was a nasty blogger who let things get out of control. He was more like Glenn Beck. Then I get all philosophical about the ethics of committing crimes to prevent even bigger ones, like Dietrich Bonhofer did during WWII, and she gets that “Ok, I’m bored now” look on her face.   Uh, nevermind.  Start at the beginning, go all the way to the end and, then, stop.

The French were pissed off over bread.  The Romans at least got that right.  Never keep the rabble hungry for bread.  But I digress.  Anyway, the roots of the French Revolution had something to do with a really bad financial collapse.  The tax system was a mess with the lower classes bearing the burden and the aristocracy getting away with murder.  There were some bad harvests.  The king was inept.  Not necessarily a bad man.  He just felt entitled.  Oh, sure, there had to be reform but it couldn’t go too far.  He was the king after all and he had the last word.

The Bastille fell in July 1789.  There was rioting on and off throughout the summer.  But the rabble definitely wasn’t going away.  It wasn’t until one night in October 1789 that a mob of women got to Versailles and the royals scrambled from bedroom to bedroom in a panic.  The monarchs left the palace and after a couple of years of factional fighting, The Terror began in earnest.

The Terror.  What a waste.  Thousands of lives lost, rivers red with blood.  Fear, chaos, instability.  It makes you wonder why any king would let that kind of pressure build up over 4 months to result in the country essentially eating its own for several years afterwards.

I saw Mubarek’s face on the frontpage of the NYTimes site, a face only a mother could love and a poster child for Grecian Formula and wondered, what the hell is he thinking?  He’s 82 years old for god’s sakes.  As one commenter said, it’s the ego of a man pampered by 30 years of power who thinks that only he can stabilize Egypt and the middle east.  In fact, he’s doing quite the opposite.  The people of Egypt want him gone.  A week ago, Mubarek stepping down might have been enough to turn the boiling pot down to a simmer, buying the region enough time to put together an interim government.  Now, it looks like all Hell is about to break loose.

But Mubarek must have the last word and he’s not going.

I’ve read that the protestors are starting to move on the presidential palace.

Those kinds of things never end well.

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Hillary vs Obama on Egypt: Will the left ever get it??

Hillary calls unrest a "perfect storm"

So, apparently, Obama has backtracked on urging Mubarek to leave.

At the same Munich meeting on Saturday, Frank G. Wisner, the former ambassadorPresident Obama sent to Cairo to negotiate with Mr. Mubarak, suggested that the United States should not rush to push Mr. Mubarak out the door. He said Mr. Mubarak had a “critical” role to play through the end of his presidential term in September.

“You need to get a national consensus around the preconditions of the next step forward, and the president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through,” Mr. Wisner said of Mr. Mubarak. “I therefore believe that President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical — it’s his opportunity to write his own legacy.”

A senior administration official quickly sought to distance the White House from Mr. Wisner’s comments. American officials have said that they are seeking privately to nudge Mr. Mubarak out of his executive role ahead of September elections, though they have also said that they do not view his departure as an essential first step toward a transition to a new democratic system in the country.

Why am I not surprised?

So, the Egyptians are disrupting their country and economy and destabilizing the region because they really REALLY don’t like the Supreme Dictator and (apparently) President for Life and his brutally, repressive goons and they are willing to die and risk torture to get rid of him and what does Obama do?  He says Mubarek should stay.  Is that how I’m supposed to interpret this?  Or should I conclude that there is disagreement in the administration over how to handle Egypt and it is sending mixed messages to the world and to the Egyptians themselves, who it may be leaving high and dry?

This is stupid.

It’s not only stupid but it’s not very strategic.  Yes, we can expect some instability if Mubarek leaves but the alternative is probably worse.  If he stays, that will only energize the more radical elements in Egyptian society meaning that the next time the Egyptians try to revolt, they may very well have a charismatic religious figure to lead them and voile!  Son of Iran.   Short term thinking is at work here and Obama is nothing if not an exceptional short term thinker.

Contrast with Hillary Clinton, who is busy in Munich trying to convince Angela Merkel that helping Egypt make a swift transition is the best option for stabilizing the country and improving its economic condition, which is in part driving the explosion of unrest in the middle east.

“The region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends,” Clinton said.

“This is what has driven demonstrators into the streets of Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the region.”

Clinton said that Washington was backing Egypt’s drive to craft orderly reforms to allow democratic elections.

“It is important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government actually headed by now-vice president Omar Suleiman,” she said.

“The principles are very clear, the operational details are very challenging.”

The secretary of state urged leaders across the Middle East to embrace democratic reforms in response to the growing unrest in the region, despite the risk of short-term instability in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

She said change is a “strategic necessity” that will make Arab nations stronger and their people more prosperous and less susceptible to extremist ideologies.

Addressing events in Egypt, Merkel said: “Early elections at the beginning of the democratisation process is probably the wrong approach.”

However, Cameron said a delay would produce an unstable country that the West would not welcome.

“There is no stability in Egypt. We need change, reform and transition to get stability,” he said at the conference

For completeness, it’s important that we read the transcript of Hillary’s remarks but this seems very consistent with what she has said before all hell broke loose in Tunisia.  It also seems to be the interpretation of several other news orgs like the Indian Times and Euronews.

Once again, it looks like Hillary is doing the heavy lifting, lobbying for a principled democratization of Egypt and other countries in the middle east while Barry can’t make up his mind.  (That blockquote is from an Al Jazeera link of all places.  Go figure.  Check out the picture of Merkel and Clinton.  I’m guessing they’re using the same stylist.)

This is yet another of the many reasons why you star struck lefties should have gone with the girl.

He’s not the messiah.  He doesn’t know how to play chess, let alone the 11 dimensional kind and he’s not going to become the boyfriend you hoped he would be when you jumped into bed with him.

It’s not too late to dump the dude for 2012.

 

Time is on whose side in Egypt?

Pro-Mubarek protestors and secret security forces are attacking anti-government protestors in Egypt.  Al Jazeera is reporting that Mubarek’s speech yesterday took some of the fire out of the public who were demanding his ouster.

The Art of War probably has a whole subsection on time.  I can almost hear Sun Tsu telling his students that making your enemies hesitate is crucial to undermining their momentum.  It sounds like Mubarek appealed to the public’s sense of fairness to him, a national hero whose patriotism is unquestioned.  He promised to not run again, isn’t that enough?  It sounds so reasonable.  The public is probably wondering why to bother protesting anymore.  It’s too much chaos, too dangerous.  Too messy.

Yes, democracy is messy.  And there will always be speechwriters who know how to appeal to our weakest instincts, who will sneak into our subconscious and whisper to us of our powerlessness and will play up fear.  Sort of like what David Brooks does weekly in the New York Times.

If the Egyptians can resist the messaging and stick it out and redouble their numbers, who knows what they can accomplish?

Of course, it’s easy for us to say, sitting in our warm houses, minding our own business, not making trouble.  This year, economic conditions and corruption are enflaming the middle east.  In twenty years from now?  Who knows?  It may be us.

Is time on our side?

Lambert is live blogging the situation in Egypt on Corrente.  Check it out.