by Rhodri C. Williams
I’d like to say I’ve been a little distracted by what is going on in Egypt over the last few days but its probably fairer to say I’ve been transfixed. Its just another one of those moments when the veneer of the conventionally possible buckles and the great loose cannon of everything-else-that-could-happen comes thundering in. My generation has been provided with more than our share of these moments and we should be old enough now to appreciate them, but not so jaded as to take them for granted.
One of the things that has struck me most about this uprising is the sheer physical courage of the protesters, who are enduring hardships that are unimaginable to me in order to attain a semblance of the life I take utterly for granted. Complain as I might about my occasional run-ins with the humorless Swedish bureaucratic state, I have lived in high trust societies where the great circulation of rights, obligations, taxes, and services flows free and untrammeled. I was neither born into a permanent state of emergency nor remotely considered the prospect of doing hard time for having the temerity to blog.
Another insight from the week’s events is the fragility upon which our security architecture rests. Can it really be, for instance, that Israel’s regional security policy consisted of hoping that Mr. Mubarak would hang on for a few more years? Were they planning to clone him perhaps? The flipside of this realization is also fairly haunting. Should Mr. Mubarak contrive to engineer a kinder, gentler Tiananmen Square event or otherwise hang on, the US, Israel and many other Arab regimes would still *need* him in the same way and in the same magnitude as they needed him one week ago. While the Egyptian regime’s response to the protests would change this calculus, it would only be a change of degree rather than one of kind. We all knew that systematic torture, rigged elections and rampant cronyism were part of the picture before, after all.
Last night as I went to bed, we had just found out that Bert Sundstrom, a decent Swedish TV correspondent (who had never quite lost that “Gee, I really am a reporter!” gleam in his eye) had ended up severely injured in a hospital in Cairo after a run-in with pro-Mubarak thugs. After a day of watching the protesters absorb shocking levels of violence, it felt like the regime was plucking out the eyes of the world in preparation for a final massacre. It was only once I got the news this morning that the protesters were still there that it felt like a new day had dawned.