Violence increased in Cairo today, and the Egyptian government responded by imposing a curfew, cutting off all internet service and disabling cell phone and text communications.
These videos show some of the rioting and violent encounters between demonstrators and police. As usual in these situations, most of the violence seems surprisingly ineffective; yet people do get hurt. Reports indicate that at least five people have been killed:
Is this the beginning of the explosion of the Arab world that many have been predicting for decades? It’s only a guess, but I think it is–which is not to say that the climax will come overnight. So far, the Obama administration has been unable to respond in any effective way and can only play the role of spectator. That isn’t surprising, of course; the time to get out front and position the U.S. as the ally of oppressed Arab peoples was long ago. Our only meaningful effort to do that–the Iraq war–had, to put it mildly, a mixed reception and mixed results.
Glenn Reynolds writes:
[W]e lost our pro-democracy mojo in 2005 after the Cedar Revolution, for reasons that are still not entirely clear. That means the risk that power will coalesce around the only organized groups on the ground — the Islamists — is much greater now than it would have been then, and we are likely to be less favorably perceived. It’s possible, of course, that things will still go well — don’t write off people’s enthusiasm for freedom — but circumstances aren’t as congenial as they might have been.
I assume that the loss of our “pro-democracy mojo” was related to events in Iraq. It may be that there never was much we could do to align ourselves with pro-democracy movements (to the extent they existed) in the Arab world, while still maintaining necessary relationships with regimes, all of which are more or less corrupt and oppressive.