Watching the tragically euphoric (yet inevitable) events unfold in Egypt, one is led to ponder how others are reacting. On the ground in Egypt, we, Egyptians and Arabs, know that the spark has reached the loaded barrel and the result is obvious. Europe, Asia, and the rest of Africa are calling for the inevitable to become reality --the sooner the better. No one is listening, of course.
That leaves the Superpower of the day: USA. It is the only nation that has enough influence in the Middle East and elsewhere to effect change. The problem is delicate, as everyone is saying: Tell the Egyptian what to do and sound imperial and arrogant; keep silent and risk the disaster in the making to become reality. Your Choice Mr. President.
And here lies the rub. This President, unlike any before him in the history of the USA is different. The ethnic background is obvious, but that is of little consequence. His problem comes from knowledge and not ignorance. Unlike those before him, his father lived and died a Kenyan, which makes the man a first generation American. For those of us who live outside the US, we saw in this fact the greatness of a people and a constitution. However, this means the young Obama was inevitably aware of the geography and politics beyond his new nation. All previous presidents had to be taught a bit of geopolitics before they could make decisions. And when they did (Carter and Iran's revolution for example) the results were disastrous.
This President knows the Third World and must be interested in his origins and the place where his father's family lives. For the record, Third World politics and revolutions are the same regardless of continent and ethnicity. They are bloody and violent and a dictator must be removed, be it Haiti, Uganda, or Egypt. He also lived for a while in Indonesia where at the time a most brutal dictator kept 150 million Indonesians under his boots. I wonder if Obama was bused from his school to go cheer in the streets for the dictator. A common practice in these countries.
American Presidents, however, rule through the establishment and the national interests of the USA. Torn between a strict line of political expediency and the deep understanding of the Egyptian people's demands, the man is left in a political and emotional conundrum. You can see it in his body language when addressing the Egyptian problem. He talks softly to Mubarak, and grows hotter when addressing the 'aspirations of the Egyptian people.' He understands those aspirations. America has a president who is intellectually and emotionally engaged with the world. And that could only lead to good things as far as America and the world are concerned. Not least of all, putting a roadblock, to use current terms, in the way of AL-Qaida and its like.
Yet the task is hard and vexing for Mr. Obama. What does he do? He challenges Mr. Mubarak to 'preserve his legacy' by stepping down. Now that is laughable, especially coming from a President of this caliber. Legacy belongs to those who make history, not those who steal it. Mr. Mubarak will not listen for a good reason. If he has any, Mr. Mubarak knows that his legacy is nothing to be proud of.
Mubarak became president when Egypt was just about able to feed itself. Today, Egypt is the number one importer of grain. That is not Saudi Arabia where there are no rivers, rather, it is the Nile country that used to be Rome's breadbasket for a thousand years.
His police force (internal security thugs) numbers over two million men. They outnumber teachers and medical doctors put together. He sold Egyptian state land on the western shores of the Nile to bogus investors for nothing. Nothing for Egypt that is, but plenty of Swiss held money in the name of his sons and his cronies.
An Israeli commentator was honest enough to say that the gas deal Mubarak signed with Israel for almost half the market price was an insult to the Egyptian people. When asked by the interviewer on Israeli television why Mubarak was doing it, he said that whatever money was paid was enough for Mubarak and his cronies to 'line their pockets.'
His motorcade once ran over two men in the streets of Cairo. The men died. Mubarak went on to complete his journey and deliver a speech full of stale jokes and condescending aphorisms.
The jails are full of innocent people. News reports today describe how 'foreign journalists' experienced this privilege first hand in the last few days. Multiply that by thirty years and see if you can blame the people for this uprising.
This could go on and on. My point is that Mr. Obama should know better than call upon this man's supposed dignity to leave and preserve 'his legacy.' Personally, I think President Obama should rise above such talk since those who are civilized, moral, and human could only understand it. Mr. Mubarak is none of the above.
What should Obama do? I will tell you. He should pick up the phone and tell Mr. Mubarak this:
If you do not leave within the next twenty four hours, we will make sure that no country, including Saudi Arabia, the refuge of Bin Ali and Idi Amin before him, will take you or your sons. We will also make sure that whatever money you and your cronies have stashed away will be frozen. You will not be able to access anything. Finally, if the new government of Egypt asks the International Court to try you a la other African leaders, we will support them.
This is the only 'legacy' Mubarak wants to preserve. If this man does not leave after that, call me an idiot.