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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Some Observations on the Political Scene


It is curious how much Presidents play off each other policywise. The thing that stands out most to me of Obama's Egypt approach is how much it differs from the one used by Bush the Younger. Obama's foreign policy -- decidedly Realist -- is entirely corrective of Younger's starry eyed idealistic neoconservatism in the Middle East. And it is corrective and mature: Obama knows that every Arab regime and ally -- Saudi Arabia immediately comes to mind -- is watching how the United States treats Mubarak in his Hour of the Wolf. How Obama treats Mubarak is how Obama will probably treat them at tyranny's end.


32 years Mubarak has been in power. Five Presidents have come and gone in the meanwhile. The prime sin of tyrants -- and they have many -- is that they cannot distinguish when their body begins and the body politic ends. "L'etat, c'est moi!" cried the Sun King, another era's Mubarak. First Tunisia, now Cairo -- I am beginning to wonder if we are not experiencing the end of African Dictator Chic.

One of my favorite stories is Oedipus Tyrannus, which Aristotle regarded as the ultimate tragedy of the classical era (Hamlet, one might argue, is its modern equivalent). Both deal with political succession, with tyranny. It is an idea that has been with human beings since the dawn of civilization. All serious people regard it as an unnatural, evil institution. And yet it persists.

But if Mubarak falls -- and it appears as if he might -- will more tyrants fall? Is this a indeed twilight of the Tyrants?

Al Jazeera

This is an Al Jazeera moment, not unlike what CNN experienced during the First Persian Gulf War. This time, however, CNN International -- my favorite station top watch international crises -- was hampered by Mubarak's crackdown on technology (you know you are at the outer limits of fucking political theater when a tyrant goes to war against technology itself).

Al Jazeera, of course, also a part of the story. And, yes, they have their prejudices -- Al Jazeera is decidedly on the side of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and of Hamas in the West Bank. So you should watch with a critical eye.

But I've been watching it -- and you should too.

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