So, the big question Americans are asking themselves about violent protests and riots in Cairo, Egypt (and Tunisia and Yemen) is: why is America, the Land of Democracy, supporting monarchs, dictators, and presidents-for-life (Mubarak took office in 1981 when Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated)?
One answer to that question would be: Somalia. Another would be that we’re a federated republic, not a strict democracy.
Let’s take a look at Somalia first. Somalia, originally Somaliland, was formed by Britain and Italy in the 19th Century. Britain ruled the north, Italy, the south. After World War II, Italy lost its claim to South Somaliland, and the British took over.
Somaliland gained its independence on June 26, 1960 and merged on July 1 with the U.N. Trust Territory of Somalia to create the Somali Republic. Nine years later, Somalia’s first president, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated and six days later Maj. Gen. Muhammed Siad Barre seized control of the government in a military coup. Barre declared Somalia a socialist state in 1970 – the Somali Democratic Republic.
Somalia laid claim to a huge chunk of the eastern region of Ethiopia, which was mostly populated by Somalis. In 1978, 11,000 Cuban troops armed with Soviet weapons drove out the Somali army and ethnic Somali rebels. Fighting continued for another ten years in Ogaden (eastern Ethiopia) until the two sides reached a peace agreement.
Barre in his turn was ousted by the forces of the United Somali Congress in 1991. The result of the fighting was 40,000 casualties. By mid-1992, the war, drought, and general crime produced a famine that threatened 1.5 million people.
In Dec. 1992, the U.N. accepted the United States’ offer of troops to safeguard food delivery. The mission helped alleviate the famine. America’s reward was significant casualties, including the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in which dead American soldiers were dragged, beaten, and defamed through the lawless streets of Mogadishu.
The last U.N. troops retreated in March 1995. Behind them, they left a country with no functioning central government, with various factions controlling different regions governed by warlords. They signed a peace accord in Jan. 1994, with a provisional parliament. For the first time in 13 years, Somalia had a legislature. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was sworn in on Oct. 14, 1994. Only Yusuf had to make his capital in another city, Jowhar, because his political rivals held Mogadishu. On June 5, 2006, an Islamic militia took over Mogadishu from the warlords.
The transitional government was able to recapture Mogadishu in December 2006, with the help of Ethiopian troops. The U.N. authorized an African Peacekeeping mission but was defeated by insurgents. Hundreds were killed and 350,000 flee the capital. Bombings and kidnappings between 2007 and 2008 caused humanitarian workers to flee the country.
Pres. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned Dec. 29, 2008 and the transitional parliament elected a moderate Islamist, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to the position. On June 22, 2009, a state of emergency was declared after Islamist insurgents increased their attacks on officials of the UN-backed government. By this time, Ethiopia had completely withdrawn its troops. Piracy, Islamic insurgency, and political disputes furthered weakened Somalia’s prospects for “democracy” and on Sept. 21, 2010, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke resigned.
Somalia is probably one of the poorest nations on the earth. With few industries and some agriculture (it is the desert, after all), they’re dependent on their natural resources, the chief of which is uranium. Currently, piracy is the career of choice for the young men of Somalia.
Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations on the face of the earth, along with China and India. Somalia controls the all-important Horn of Africa and Egypt, the Suez Canal. As long we depend on Mid-East Oil, what happens in these political furnaces is going to concern us, will us nill us.
Mohammed Atta was reportedly upset by the lack of opportunities for educated young Egyptian men (he held two advanced engineering degrees). He considered Western tourism and its effect on architecture and culture an incursion and a curse. So he emigrated to Germany, and then flew a jet plane at full speed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th.
These are essentially tribal cultures in the Middle East. They may have the latest technology – computers, cellphones, and the internet. But they’re essentially citizens of about the 7th Century. Their notion of freedom is very different from the Western notion of civilization, as more learned pundits have pointed out in the last few days since these riots began.
America was not only a completely new concept, but it was carried out on a completely new and unknown continent, except of course to the tribes that lived here. Make no mistake about the American Indians; they fought fiercely among themselves, much as their Middle East counterparts continue to do to this very day: this land is YOUR land, this land is MY land.
To these tribes, compromise is not an option. For them, it’s a fight to the death, against each other and against the Western nations that are trying to civilize them. For one tribe to trespass on another’s territory is certain death. Even in the West, we see this sort of barbarism in the form of inner city gangs, fighting over their drug trading territory.
We’re a little more civilized here in America. But still, you can’t just go trespassing on someone else’s property and certainly not steal anything from that property. My property is NOT your property, although the socialist/communist would like to remedy that. Some states do allow property owners to shoot trespassers. If they did not, and if we did not have a strong police force and justice system (which has been much weakened of late) to enforce those property rights, we would become Somalia ourselves.
What Egypt is on the verge of is not a revolution or government reformation, but anarchy, the same kind of anarchy strangling Somalia and endangering the shipping trade in that part of the world.
The Egyptians want freedom, but what is it exactly they want to do with that freedom? I saw looting going on in their streets and beatings. The police raised the white flag and the military is joining the insurgents. Are they really concerned about reforms for the poor, or they just using the poor as a shield for something else?
Saudi Arabia’s monarchy is said to be trembling in it sandals over this situation. Israel is extremely disquieted to say the least. Now Yemen is in turmoil and other countries, like Jordan, are said to be on the verge of such revolutions themselves. Meanwhile, Iran sits back on its nuclear stockpile, probably rubbing their hands in anticipation.
The United States has not condemned the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as it ought to have. You can depend upon the fact that the MB is sitting back, allowing anonymous actors to prepare the stage for their takeover. The U.S. made the mistake of not backing the Shah of Iran in 1979; it’s being more cautious this time.
No one would blame a civilized country for resenting a 30-year fiat rule of its “president”. However, Egypt didn’t look like much of a civilized country on television on Friday. It looked like any other Third-World, backwards, stability-challenged country relying on violence to carry the day.