Beloved irony

Isn’t life a bitch? Just when you have good use for a few tens of billions of dollars to support a bit of old-fashioned modernisation in north Africa, it turns out you spent your whole budget for the next decade on a pointless war in Iraq. Dang, America’s Mr. Obama be kickin’ himself under the table.

It is the fifteenth day of protests in Egypt and the Arabs — despite much media conjecture to the contrary — show no sign of going home and being quiet. Cash-strapped Washington doesn’t know what to do. Hilary Clinton has said she would like the (ex-intelligence service boss) vice-president to run the country until scheduled elections in September. Obama’s special advisor on Egypt says that Mubarak must stay until the election. The crowd appears to be backing outlandish demands for a representative transitional government.

Cripes. ‘Representative’ in the country that is the intellectual birth-place of Islamic fundamentalism and al-Quaeda? ‘Transitional’ in the country that has ‘Remember Algeria’ written all over it in CIA spray paint? No wonder we backed a dictator and encouraged economic policies that consign Egyptians to poverty and to an 80 percent youth unemployment rate. Why can’t we just have the same deal again?

It is really very tedious how unprincipled foreign policy comes back to bite you in the arse, like some whacked out dog you once threw a bone to. Much more of this and the Arabs will start to resemble the Persians, who are still hung up on us getting rid of their silly Mr Mossadegh, who thought he could nationalise our oil companies.

I am not terribly well read on Arab history, particularly the modern stuff, but if I were to recommend a single, highly readable and well researched tome to put contemporary Egypt in perspective it would be The Looming Tower. The Guardian contains a brief history of the main Islamic opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood; it isn’t great and contains a very taciturn interview with a current MB leader, but it is readily available.

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