Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt thought

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian non-violent protestors calling for freedom and democracy have driven their dictator of 30 years, Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, from power. A few months ago, nobody thought anything like this could happen.

The Egyptian protests have succeeded, so far, because the army refused to mow them down. Whenever a repressive government loses the will to butcher large numbers of its citizens, that government's days are numbered. The interesting question is "Why?" In part, of course, the military just didn't want to. In part, the officers weren't sure the conscripts who actually carry the guns would follow orders to kill thousands of their compatriots. Also, to our credit, America may have played a role.

About one third of the Egyptian military budget comes from the U.S. treasury. In addition, the Egyptian military uses American hardware. American weapons are very good, but their functioning depends on supplies and spare parts from America. If that supply chain is cut, the weapons quickly become useless. This is what happened to Iran after 1979. When Iraq invaded Iran the U.S. sided with Iraq, cut the supply lines to Iranian American-made weapons, and major Iranian weapon systems quickly became useless.

Fast forward to Egypt the last few weeks. Obama and Clinton, in public, made it crystal clear that America expected the parties involved, including the Egyptian army, to remain non-violent. I don't know, but wouldn't be surprised, if there was also some private communication with the Egyptian government and military. I think the Egyptian military was probably told, in no uncertain terms, that if the started shooting protestors the flow of American dollars and spare parts would stop.

Today is the Egyptian's day. They toppled Mubarak. I think we helped a bit. It was the right thing to do.