I have not wanted to write directly political blogs, having no real confidence in the rightness or the usefulness of my opinion.  And the virtue of most blogs is that they expose an opinion to the give-and-take of discussion, but I duck and cover from that. I don’t have the energy, the will, or the conviction to take on a public argument about anything other than the Google Settlement. But I can’t keep silent about what’s been happening in Egypt without feeling that silence is a betrayal of something very great that I have honored all my life.

I am bitterly disappointed in President Obama’s withdrawal from his first, apparently spontaneous support of the uprising, his agreement that Mubarak must go and go now for there to be a real movement towards democracy.  Once again he vacillated and came down on the side of “compromise,” which in the circumstances means compromising America’s moral position.

The man who told us Yes, we can, now seems almost to have taken for his motto: WWWD?

The men who replaced the Commie Bogey with the Bogey of Islam huddle about him whimpering that the various corrupt Middle Eastern autocracies we fund are all that has stood between us and universal jihad for 30 years and we must go on propping them up with “moderate” policies, i.e. billions of dollars in aid and weapons and oil payments, or the tide of terrorism will descend upon us all.

That the crowds in Tahrir Square are not immoderate, that they are not religiously but politically motivated, that what they are demanding is not the rule of the imams and ayatollahs but democratic process, self-rule, freedom – this means nothing to the people who make their money and get their power out of the three American wars, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and against terrorism. Whatever would we do if we didn’t have all those wars? Take the billions spent on “defense” and spend it on schools and public works and health care and stupid stuff like that where nobody gets killed?  Well, the military and corporate war profiteers will see to it that that doesn’t happen, by letting just enough of the profits keep trickling down to their advocates in Congress.

If the American president had delivered a clear message of moral solidarity with the peaceful crowds in Tahrir Square and then stood by it, if he were talking now not just with old-crony-Suleiman but with Mr El Baradei and the leaders of the Egyptian Army and the Moslem Brotherhood, that would do more to defuse radical Muslim terrorists, and to weaken the half-demented regime in Iran, than anything else we could do.

If we want to see Israel survive, Egypt offers us a chance to try to force Mr Netanyahu and his party back from the brink to which, in a death-instinct as determined as that of any jihadist, they keep dragging their people closer and closer.

Old Egypt is offering us a new and great opportunity:  to break free from out-dated, noxious alignments and policies in the Middle East, to speak out for freedom from tyranny, to support a people reaching for democracy, to remember what being on the right side is like.  The opportunity won’t last long.  They never do.



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Egypt — 23 Comments

  1. I agree that it’s a great opportunity to break out of old patterns and maybe, just maybe, stand for something good in the world. I just wish there was a chance we’d take it.

  2. I agree completely about the chronic stance of the US government in these issues. Eisenhower sent a warning about the military-industrial complex. He would be considered a wild-eyed liberal today, which shows how far to the right this country has shifted.

    However, the Muslim Brotherhood is as progressive as their Iranian counterparts. If left to govern Egypt, it will institute sharia law. I fear Egypt will go the way of Iran. Another failed theocracy, to increase the instability, shrinking of civil rights and destruction of physical and intellectual infrastructure locally and globally.

  3. I had to roll my eyes as I read of Obama’s latest non-position via the HuffPost.
    But what brings out the ironic laugh in me the most is how the US (and probably any other country who has a financial stake in the region) thinks it should dictate the policies of another country in the throes of revolution and expect to be listened to. What a colossal ego. How the fear must be flowing.

  4. I’ve been riveted by the demonstrations in Egypt and I hope they will have a positive outcome. It seems to be a true grass roots rebellion, not the astroturf variety funded by wealthy wingnuts we’ve seen in the U.S. in recent years.

    But while I, too, would like to see our government stand with the demonstrators, and think that an honest support for democracy would go a long way toward making sure that Egypt does not follow in the steps of Iran, I don’t agree that Mr. Obama is following in the steps of his predecessor. Bush would have supported Mubarak all the way.

  5. As thrilled as I am that the Egyptian people are rising up against tyranny, I do feel compelled to point out that the self-rule they demand does not include voting rights for women. It is supposed to be the hallmark of conservatives that they see what they want to see; we liberals are supposed to be better than that. This is a step in the right direction, yes, but let us not confuse it with success.

    Consider the ramifications if Mr. Obama did throw in with the uprising – and it succeeded. In a short while Obama would be on record as supporting a country that rejected women’s rights or religious liberty. Worse, any attempt by the USA to soften these positions would be seen as proof that the USA had infiltrated and undermined the “true” native revolution.

    And of course if the protesters lose – Obama is now in the position of aiding and abetting violence in a foreign nation. Shades of Bush, anyone?

    Obama is doing what he always does – taking the middle course. And both the Left and the Right are doing what they always do – screaming for action. Let’s just consider Obama as Captain Picard – and give thanks that neither Deanna Troy nor Commander Ryker are in charge!

  6. I think the cautious incrementalist Obama is the wrong President for these radical times.

    To people interested in learning more about the background of the protests, which are being incredibly poorly covered in the US media, I suggest Juan Cole’s Virtually Speaking interview. Not rocket science, but he knows the region and its languages, and he talks sense. His blog is great, too.

    For current coverage of events in Egypt, al-Jazeera English is about the best source. There is even an internet video feed. There’s more on Twitter and Facebook, but much of it is in Arabic, and I don’t know a lot of the places to go anyway.

  7. Right on! This is so true. I don’t know what to do about it except voice my support as often and as widely as I can. Please let the US government do what’s right. It matters so much. If the protests in Egypt are a herald of anything, they’re predicting a time at hand when the power of ordinary people will trump the power of governments. The more poorly these governments (all of them, including our own) are able to hold to what’s right and just, the sooner the people will make them irrelevant. Please, please, please let us finally and forever do what’s right.

  8. Thank you Ursula K. Le Guin for your sensible and sensitive posting. Obama could easily influence Egypt, considering that we give them such a pile of support (arranged as payment for peace with Israel.) However, that money is used to buy American arms for their army, the 8th biggest in the world, which is at least one reason why Obama et al like the “stability” of a dictator. Israel likes the present regime because it is collaborating to strangle Gaza. The people, tho, keep on keepin’ on – and it’s incredibly moving.

    Yahzi, I’d be interested in knowing where you have this info that the demand for “self-rule they demand does not include voting rights for women.”. There are such diverse groups demonstrating and organizing (today there were wildcat industrial strikes) that there isn’t a set agenda, just the demand for a democratic process.

  9. Another fine example of Obama as a failed leader, the most unqualified man ever elected President.

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  12. Things certainly look more hopeful today. Mubarak is gone and Washington is making the right noises in support. I hope the real democracy we’ve seen in the Egyptian streets doesn’t get lost in the transition period.

    And WWWD translates as “What Would W (Bush the junior) Do.” I continue to think W would have pulled some machinations to prop up Mubarak.

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  14. I agree very much with UKL”s thoughts here, but Obama is right, I think, not to make this about the U.S. The beauty of this revolution is how democratic and spontaneous it is.

    Public cheerleading or posturing by the US would give reactionary forces an excuse to lash back, and would unfortunately keep us in the mindset that we are running the world. We aren’t, but the attempt to do so is bankrupting us. Who knows what is driving Obama behind the scenes, but I’m happy with the results.

  15. Another week, another dictator on the run. This evening we hear that Gaddafi is en route to Venezuela (good luck Cesar) and that the Libyan UN delegation have resigned as his representatives. Also that the Libyan desert tribes have come out in support of democracy. I just had to get “Eye of the Heron” off my bookshelf and re-read it. Not Ursula’s best, but by God, I bet she is feeling happy tonight.

  16. Ms. LeGuin.
    I just read one of your novels for the first time and loved it. Left Hand of Darkness. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    However, I disagree with you here. From your post, you’re obviously a person who thinks Communism was never a threat and neither are Islamic religious fundamentalists with political goals (although, from your language, its statistically probable that you, ironically, have a real problem with Christian fundamentalists here in the USA).

    Sure, overemphasizing threats can do more harm then good. But conspiracy theorizing about ‘corporate masters’ (or whoever is creating your ‘bogeys’) is not helpful either.

    Obama isn’t blogging, he’s making important policy decisions. So he can’t afford to be an ideologue. He’s has to weigh all possible threats and opportunities. I think he’s doing just fine.

    However, Obama

  17. As to Eisenhower, wasn’t he the one who used Radio Free Europe to broadcast that we would come to the aid of any Iron Curtain revolution…ask Hungarians how they feel about that. And ,yes , he did correctly warn of the dangers of a large “Military-Industrial Complex”.
    As to Egypt, or any Muslim country,Theocracy and Sharia Law are the goals of the extremists. We can not change that. Extremism and all of the inherent dangers are as real here as there. If we are smart,something I have seen little of,we will NOT follow the WWWB to use arms or an attempt to force our will upon any other people. IF we can manage to address our own failures at home , the worlds’ people will want to emulate….and will, despite religious differences. The power of extremists is held in the palm of poverty and lack of respect.Let us deal with the truth that those same problems exist here….and that we have lost control of our own government ,before considering how we will influence others. Create a true reality here and others will follow…otherwise it will always be reactionary and doomed

  18. Ursula I read your early SiFi you wrote about a world where some of the people move to a nearby planet to escape the tyranny of their world. I was very impressed by the way that world was run and hoped it would be a model for our world. I don’t remember the title.

    I have heard that the opposition party in Egypt is just as corrupt. They are the insurance policy to maintain control by Corporations and Central Banks. Money and corruption rule our world and only a worldwide work stop strike including a take over of all media can change it. Corruption is a monster that only the masses can defeat. And a US work stop strike might not be enough. I am off the subject because my heart goes out to this Egyptian cry for dignity and I want the masses to wake up now. Our world is sinking deeper and closer toward universal enslavement via corporate power and most of you don’t even realize how close it is. You votes don’t count because neither party represents the people. Nothing is being done to take back power from the Federal Reserve System and return power over goods and services and their distribution into the hands of the people. Jefferson was against political parties. I know why but most don’t. Franklin patented none of his inventions, he refused to use that power and I see why. Do you?
    The US Constitution could and would have protected us from what has transpired since if Jefferson and Madison and Franklin had their way. Corporations and Bankers control world leaders and CORRUPTION CONTROLS THEM ALL – power corrupts – this power was consolidated after 1750 and inspired the American Revolution which had already failed by the time Washington left office.

  19. Compassion over judgment – Jesus taught this and I like it even though I will never join a religion and he knew why. Do you?

    It is how we live not how we die that matters. Do you understand how important this is to your future?

    When you die those questionable particles called electrons will carry forward your existence into a yet to be determined future on this or some other world. 30% will be left behind 70% will go on. We are as indestructable as creation itself and as much a mystery. Things don’t happen by accident; they happen for a reason; this is logical reasonable and harmonious and makes sense to me.

    Ursula please write to me if you appreciate my words. I have been a hermit to long. I am also Henry Stein the other is alias