What’s Happening in Egypt

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The New York Times is also live-blogging from Egypt, and columnist Nick Kristof is in Cairo as well.

Anonymous provides 20 ways to circumvent the Egyptian government’s internet block. A friend of mine said this about Anonymous, and I have to agree: “I love Anonymous. And I am frightened of it.”

Via Mother Jones, The Egyptian Foreign Ministry sounds like it’s making a list of countries it wants to have words with when this is over, assuming the government stays in power.

Sharif Kouddous is reporting for The Nation from Cairo. He describes a major divide between the Army and the police. The Army hasn’t taken the protesters’ side yet, but they’re not attacking them either. He also notes that when the Muslim Brotherhood started a chant of “Allah Akbar,” the crowd shouted them down with “Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptian.”

Fox News apparently doesn’t know where Egypt is on a map.

The US government is walking a fine line in Egypt, and this has a number of people dismayed, from Republican presidential hopefuls who want more support for Mubarak to some on the left who want more active support for the protesters. But it seems to me that the fine line is the only one the US government can walk at this point. Come out strongly for Mubarak–the dictator they know–and the US loses what little credibility it has in the region as a supporter of democratic principles. And that credibility is already tenuous at best.

But if the US government comes out strongly for the protesters, and then Mubarak’s government cracks down violently on them, the US doesn’t have any good options for response. It will feel like the 1991 Kurdish uprisings in Iraq all over again, because it’s incredibly unlikely that the US would act with military force to stop a Mubarak crackdown.

Even though I understand the arguments for the US to take more of a stand with one group or the other, I think the Obama administration realizes that this is something they can’t get too involved in. They can offer assistance once the situation settles down, but they can’t get directly involved yet, not without making the situation worse. This is something the Egyptian government and its citizens have to negotiate for themselves.


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →