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26 April 2011

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Michael Brenner

I have a woman student who came to the United States as a child with her family which originates in the Nile delta. She went back to Cairo for high school. At U.T, she double majors in International Relations & Business. She wears a tightly wrapped hijab and jeans. She is doing her seminar paper on the Egyptian Revolution. In her presentation this afternoon, she spoke of Egyptians' feelings toward the American role in the 'events.' She did so analytically, dispassionately. Her assessment is based on constant, close communication with her old school chums.

In summation: they despise the United States for preaching democracy while backing the Mubarak regime to the bitter end. Obama's honeyed words "We hear you" are seen as the cover for a betrayal. He is viewed as a two-faced charlatan, the United States as just another cynically self-interested power.

For Washington, the sole consolation is that her illiterate extended family in the delta are pretty much out of touch with everything happening. So there is an opportunity, I guess, for American public diplomacy to cultivate these poor souls in the hope of burnishing our image among at least some in the country. Perhaps in three or four years Mr. Obama could add their village to his tour of middle schools - except that they have no schools - middle or otherwise,

Of course, as regular followers of the MSM you surely knew all this already.

Fred

"One of the central promises of the Obama presidency was that it would...."

As I recall, 1. End the Bush tax cuts, 2. Close Gitmo, 3. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan; Need I go on? Egyptian's don't like the Obama Administration? Get in line, right behind the 48% of Americans who voted against him and a heck of allot who voted for him and that now feel betrayed by him.

Lysander

It is US policy to ensure Israel's military and political dominance in perpetuity. It is US policy to absorb the consequences of Israel's actions, from the settlements to the multiple invasions of Lebanon between 1982-2006 to the Mavi Marmara.

Perhaps it is by random chance and not US policy that every country in a position to become a challenge to Israel is sanctioned, invaded or both (Iraq, Iran)

Those are the reasons that Egyptians despise US policies. It is doubtful they would despise the US otherwise.

I'm well aware that Egyptians have numerous conspiracy theories about covert actions the US/Israel are alleged to have undertaken. Many are fantasies, a few may be closer to the mark. But assuming all of them are preposterous, I would submit that the reasons given above, about which there is no dispute, are enough reason to explain the anger.

Basilisk

Imagine my surprise.

It must have been so easy in the old days. A politician could say one thing to one audience, something completely different to another, and never the twain should meet.

Now the whole world is watching except--as Professor Brenner says--for those about whom we care nothing.

Too bad Al Gore had to invent the internet, huh?

William R. Cumming

Egypt has adopted the worst of modern systems of economics and government. An intelligent people the only real question is when their docile "masses" will arise. I doubt whether this Arab spring is that circumstance despite what happens to any of the Mubarak clan. And of course the ignorance of the US of MENA culture and languages and all viewed through the prism of oil may well prove tragic if it has not already.

Matthew

Mona Eltahawy spoke to our WAC last night. Bottom line: Egyptians can use the internet and trading Libya for Bahrain is hardly going to win esteem in the Arab world. They get the total cynicism.

We need an entirely new relationship with the Arab World. Color me skeptical on that happening. AIPAC won't allow it.

steve

Seems to me a bit too self-congratulatory and simplistic of the US media to showcase an individual who attributes the Egyptian revolution to a university course. I suppose they feel the need to put a western face on things.

Bob Bernard

Actually, Stewart first misunderstood the class she referred to as being taught in Cairo University. She corrected him and indicated it had been a private seminar.

Cato the Censor

Ah, well they will hang Mubarak if he does not die soon, or perhaps this gal could stab him in his bath.

Would her name then be Charlotte Al-Korday?

Medicine Man

For a good number of Americans, the feeling is mutual.

DanM

The girl in question is a member of the revolutionary socialists, a trotskyite group founded at the AUC in the late 80's that has had an outsized impact on opposition and protest organization since about 2005, were major players in and around Tahrir Square during the uprising, and i suspect will play no further political role at all.

Patrick Lang

BB

Not Cairo University, American University in Cairo. she was quite clear about that. pl

Patrick Lang

Danm

How did a trot group come to be founded at AUC? pl

DanM

Col.,

The right demographic (disaffected children of privilege), a sprinkling of very sharp lefty professors, and the fact that socialist chicks put out more.

In general, AUC kids always got less harassment and surveillance because of who there parents were (or at least some of their parents). And of course, even though there's no direct US role in AUC, there are tons of US professors with connections (to, say, intervene to prevent a bright young politically active kid from getting stomped on).

Not saying they didn't get messed with, but generally in late mubarak egypt, the AUC kids had more space than Cairo U, Helwan etc. etc. Language skills also helped them link up with groups abroad. This goes for more than the trots.

AUC, though it's a diploma mill, is a bit like the elite US U's in the 60s (I imagine). Hotbeds of radicalism while also turning out the investment wankers of tomorrow. Frequently the investment wanker of tomorrow was a radical the day before.

joseph Moroco

Goin' out on a limb here. Do ya think Libyans love us?

" Egyptians can use the internet and trading Libya for Bahrain is hardly going to win esteem in the Arab world. They get the total cynicism."

Like,duh.

DanM

If one feels the need to peer into the "arab mind" i urge you not to do it via mona eltahawy. She will lead you badly astray.

As for Libyans "loving us." The rebels love us, for now. Will they always? Well, once they've won they'll pursue their national interests as they seem them, love us or not.

Dan Gackle

DanM:

"If one feels the need to peer into the "arab mind" i urge you not to do it via mona eltahawy. She will lead you badly astray."

Can you suggest any more reliable sources? Most of what I run across is an echo chamber. This site, of course, is an exception.

joseph Moroco

DanM,
Don't know enough about Mona, but don't you think the statement that was made,
"trading Libya for Bahrain is hardly going to win esteem in the Arab world. They get the total cynicism." is a valid point.

I was listening to Mad Albright on Diane Rehm a few weks ago. and she was saying it was okay to push regime change in Libya, but we had to be reasonable in Bahrain.

I'm no fan of MG, but he has been fighting a war with significant collateral damage. The monarchy in Bahrain has been perpetrating massacres.

Maybe there is a good reason for the policy, but my cynic juices are really flowing.

DanM

Yes, the US has far more at stake in the established order in Bahrain than it does in Libya. So do the Saudis. This isn't surprising, or interesting.

We can argue about how the US should pursue/understand its interests, but Mona's point is about as banal as they come (when it isn't ignorant; there was no "trade" of Bahrain for Libya. Our Bahrain policy would be much the same if Libya didn't exist).

"Total cynicism?" The Arab people are surprised that the US continues to pursue its own interests as it sees them? Or that we haven't turned into a one-policy-fits-all friend of "freedom?" No. Is America's image better or worse with the vaunted Arab street due to its help in Libya? A little better.

But long term, Egypt's attitude towards the US will be shaped by our attitude towards them (and Israel). Bahrain's attitude towards the US will be shaped by our attitude towards them (and israel, though less than egypt) Libya's attitude will be shaped... etc.

One thing I know, no one is going to refuse to trade with us (or per inspired to fly a plane into a building) because we failed to personally topple the Bahraini monarchy in 2011.

@Dan Gackle Mona is a feminist, uncovered, AUC graduate who has lived in New York for a decade and hosts lines like "my vagina pleads for recognition" at her blog. http://www.monaeltahawy.com/blog/?p=238
A liberated woman. Good for her. But a voice for the Arab street? Clearly not.

She looks at Egyptian and "Arab" society and sees herself - far more of herself than is really there - even as she hobnobs with Bill Mayer and enjoys NYC.

If you're interested in occasionally brilliant commentary on Egypt and regional issues i recommend arabist.net.

omen

The girl in question is a member of the revolutionary socialists, a trotskyite group founded at the AUC in the late 80's

according to lawrence wright looming tower, the height of the marxist youth movement at universities in egypt was during the 60s. it was after israel won the six day war in 1967 and then the consequent conflict in 1973 when egypt and syria attacked israel - were events that radicalized students and turned them into islamists.

a passage:

within a mere four years, the islamic group completely dominated the campuses, and for the first time in the living memory of most egyptians, male students stopped trimming their beards and female students donned the veil.

omen

ah, here is gigi ibrahim's info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigi_Ibrahim

from a link describing the revolutionary socialists:

The group began in the late 1980s among small circles of students influenced by Trotskyism. Adopting the current name by April 1995, the RS grew from a few active members, when the Egyptian left was very much underground,[7] to a couple of hundred by the Second Palestinian Intifada.

joseph Moroco

Mona's point was the average Arab can smell BS. Yeah, it may be in our interest to support Bahrain (I disagree), but the propaganda is a cynical presentation. MG and Bahrain are oppressors and at this point, what's the diff. I would not know if the Arab mind is all that different from others, but regardless of nationality, it would be hard not to see things so blatant for what they are.

Of course she brings her baggage, but her point in this case is well made, if only because it is obvious.

mohsen-ryan

Medicine Man,

You outed yourself as a Canadian, so what's the deal talking for Americans. And don't sell me some "I meant North Americans" shite. People who don't like the usage "Americans" as US citizens don't use the word.

I think you're just spreading misinformation. Most Americans were happy to see Mubarak go and happy for the Egyptian people. There hasn't been a non-military foreign news event like it in this country in my lifetime. Maybe that's not quite true. I was 12 at the time of Camp David, and I don't entirely remember the impact, but it seemed very big, considering that it gave a huge bump to P. Carter overnight. The Kosovo war didn't dominate the headlines here the way the Egyptian uprising did.

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