Monday, 7 February 2011

Egypt and world peace

The latest trouble spot to hit the headlines is Egypt.  Various factions are demonstrating against the 29 year old Mubarak regime and against each other. From the BBC reports it does seem that the present government has been highly dictatorial, with ruthless killings and tortures of civilians as well as corruption in the police, possibly in a non-democratic attempt to keep non-democratic factions from winning power and abolishing even the semblance of democracy.

The main organised opposition is the Moslem Brotherhood.  Some western sources maintain this has moderated in recent years but it grew out of Islamic Jihad and was considered responsible for assassinating Mubarak’s predecessor, President Sadat, after he had negotiated a historic peace agreement with Israel, to which the Brotherhood is still ideologically opposed. If a Moslem converts to Christianity he or his family is likely to be victimised by the MB, even killed, although how common this is difficult to gauge on anecdotal evidence. Most worrying of all there is firm evidence of elements within the MB desiring an Islamic, non-democratic state and a world Caliphate, with all that this entails for the eclipsing of human rights.

The Brotherhood no doubt has some worthy people in it and has suffered injustices in the past; but we are in the present and at the very least there are serious doubts about the MB's overall objectives and the implications for world stability. If we value human rights and free speech we should be cautious. If any group tries to suppress these hard won attributes of western civilisation it can only mean violent conflict.

(It could be that the MB has indeed radically reformed itself. If so it would be wonderful news; but it's difficult to see how an MB-led government would negotiate flexibly with Israel and the West. However, as Nicholas Taleb argues in The Black Swan, history is full of the totally unexpected.)
The Middle East is held in unstable equilibrium by a delicate balance of diplomatic pressure from the USA, Europe and other parts of the world. It is on a constant knife edge with chaos never far away. E.g. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain, not just Israel, fears Iran and even suggested that the US should bomb it (Wikileaks divulged this) ; Egypt and the UAE have referred to Iran as 'evil' and an 'existential threat'.  Sunni and Shia Moslem factions within Iraq are in seemingly endless internecine conflict, regardless of  how many innocent civilians are killed, even those worshipping in a mosque; Islamic Jihad is using the Yemen as a base; various political and Islamic groups in Palestine are competing, often violently, for power; many Jewish settlers are ideologically opposed to  giving up territory despite international pressure; most countries around Israel refuse to recognise its right to exist; and on top of this Israel has a nuclear capability, with Iran bent on matching this.

Egypt is the largest country in the Middle East with a population of 80 million and, though poor, is fully armed by the USA. What happens there in the next few days, especially if followed by similar upheavals in other Arab states, risks upsetting this precarious equilibrium with unpredictable consequences for world peace. Malevolent minorities are no doubt waiting their moment. It has happened repeatedly throughout history that determined minorities under the direction of those who enjoy dominating others almost for the pleasure of power itself succeed in gaining control over a directionless majority.

[The Knights of Peace as invented in 2077 AD would have located the points of potential instability using sociodynamic modelling, destroyed all ordnance,  non-violently removed the dominophiles (those who love to dominate) responsible for stirring up evil, engaged them in voluntary, interactive 'Enlightenment' and released them back into society even if they did not reform. But we live in 2011, not 2077.]

It is often remarked that the oil in Saudi Arabia and Iraq is a motive for the West to keep the whole area stable. This is at least partly true; but perhaps the people there should be pleased that strings are being pulled behind closed doors to keep it on an even keel. It doesn’t look as though anyone else is willing or even able to do it, and those working for peace are hamstrung by endemic corruption and even hostility from some elements of the western intelligentsia.

So let’s be realistic and recognise that keeping the peace in today’s world is a messy, thankless job. The leaders, advisers and diplomats involved need to have a good grounding in  history,  a strong ethical base and not allow the devious paths they have to follow to distract them from keeping the world in balance. Our peace and freedom depend on them.

author, 2077 AD