Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Age of Stupid?

The Middle East has enough problems without inter-state war adding to them, but war can disguise who is responsible for the problems. Stupid might depend on one's perspective.

Chaos threatens in Egypt:

Islamists fought protesters outside the Egyptian president's palace on Wednesday, while inside the building his deputy proposed a way to end a crisis over a draft constitution that has split the most populous Arab nation.

So Islamists and anti-Islamists are skirmishing while the army stays out of the way. The old Mubarak elites that survived the change in the front office don't want the Islamists to consolidate power. But true rule of law and democracy might not be kind to their privilege. Navigating multiple paths of change with their wealth and influence intact is no small task.

And the balance of power in the region hinges on how this works out. No anti-Israel coalition has a shot at really confronting Israel without Egypt in its ranks.

Yet with a military too corrupt to fight effectively against anything but a much smaller power (Libya or Sudan) and based on US weapons, flipping away from alliance with America (and at least nominal peace with Israel) will cripple Egypt's military.

Who will rearm Egypt if Egypt stiffs America? The Soviet Union is gone. And China seems to require more in the way of cash. I'm not sure what option Egypt has to make good on any hostile intent to Israel other than opening the land spigot to Gaza.

Even if Egypt has the intent to confront Israel and the ability to survive a cut off of American aid and tourism revenue, how do they do it without provoking an Israeli reaction that leaves Israeli tanks at banks of the Suez Canal?

But stupidity shouldn't be ruled out in this region in this age. It might look like God's will, no?

UPDATE: The army, according to this analysis, isn't staying out of the way, as it appeared to me:

Egypt's military played a decisive role in the 2011 uprising that ended the rule of dictator Hosni Mubarak in the face of a popular uprising. The generals are likely to stand aside this time, however, as Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, consolidates his hold on power, and demonstrators clog Cairo's Tahrir Square in protest, Egypt watchers say.

Hmm. But will the army shoot demonstrators to defend Morsi?