Archive for January, 2011

Egypt, Revolution, Democracy, The Arab Street and America’s Friends

The situation in Egypt is very fluid. No one knows what the outcome will be. Yet there are things that we do know now…

 1)      Wikileaks mattered: despite the efforts of some pundits to downplay the impact of the leaked diplomatic cables, it helped lead to the fall of Tunisia’s government. Perhaps soon Egypt, and then next….who knows? Julian Assange changed the world –for better or for worse we may not know for years.

 2)      The Arab Street cares more about the price of cooking fuel than American interventions. While the invasion of Iraq was supposed to blow up the Arab Street it did not. Rising prices, unemployment and unresponsive governments are the root causes sited by the protestors on the street. Sounds like the Arab Street has more in common with Greek protestors than with Al Qaeda or radical clerics.

3)      Arab nations do yearn for Democracy. In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, some very clever pundits opined that the Arab and/or Muslim world did really want democracy, as an argument against President George W. Bush’s policies. Score one for Bush, Pundits zero.

4)      This CAN be like Iran in 1979. The lesson from previous revolutions is that it is often an authoritarian counter-revolution that takes control. Examples: French revolution (the world does not need an Arab/Egyptian Napoleon), Russian Revolution, Iranian Revolution. Mubarak may not be good news, but the alternative could be worse.

Then there are the things we don’t know:

What about the price of oil if the protests spread to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states? What would that do to the fragile world economic recovery?

Will Hamas take advantage of the now unguarded Egypt/Gaza border to bring in weapons and terrorists to renew hostilities with Israel?

President Obama has taken the Sun Tzu approach of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer. Poland and the Czech Republic got this treatment for missile defense versus US accommodation with Russia. Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan is getting similar treatment. Obama even did this domestically when he placed Hillary Clinton in his Cabinet and praised John Boehner during the State of the Union speech.  

If Mubarak does not survive in Egypt will the world note that it is better to be America’s enemy than America’s friend at this time? A dangerous lesson when there is a cash rich China willing to make new friendships in the Middle East – especially oil rich countries.

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Some Thoughts on Together We Thrive Memorial in Tucson

Memorial Services are always difficult – because of the emotions involved. Tuesday night, President Obama hit just the right tone with his speech at the Together We Thrive memorial service for the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona.

As an Arizonan it was good to see how the Arizonans at the memorial fared. Governor Jan Brewer and former Governor and current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano did well. They were respectful and pointed out that this one event does not reflect the character or nature of Arizona. University of Arizona President Robert Shelton was a gracious host and MC, and his brief words on his friendship with wounded Rep. Giffords rang sincere and heartfelt.

The Native American blessing by the University of Arizona professor was awkward. As an Arizonan who has attended many events in the state which featured a Native American blessing; that was the first one I ever saw where the person making the blessing spent more than half the time introducing himself. It seemed out of place.

The whooping and cheering of the crowd at mentions of certain groups or the University was jarring as well. This was a memorial not a pep rally. Sometimes I wonder at the upcoming generations’ appreciation of time and place. The whooping and hollering reminded me of the news story a few years back about a lacrosse team that wore flip flops to a White House event: not understanding time and place.

But this young generation was done proud by David Hernandez, the young intern who helped nurse Rep. Giffords’ wounds and quite possibly saved her life. He insisted he was not a hero – and gave credit to others. While obviously moved, he held it together in front of the large and intimidating crowd, just as he did while in the line of fire last Saturday.

He reminded me of the U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta the Congressional Medal of Honor winner who recently was at the New York City New Year’s Eve Ball Drop ceremony. He too was humble in his heroism yet has been an articulate presenter when called upon to speak.

Appropriately President Obama called upon us all to live out the vision of our democracy that nine year old victim of the Tucson shooting Christina Taylor Green held.

As someone who has had the privilege to be backstage at a Presidential Candidate debates I can envision a few decades from now a Presidential debate where David Hernandez faces off against Salvatore Giunta. That would surely be living out that dream of our democracy.

Let us all pray that our nation be that fortunate and blessed.

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