Friday, February 04, 2011

The Battle Of Cairo Goes Medieval

I don't know if history records any society going from camel-charging and stone throwing to liberal democracy. Actually, the last group of stone-throwing Arabs to gain self-governance were the Palestinians of Gaza. Enough said.

So a look at the "Battle of Cairo" does not lend us much hope for a glorious Egyptian renaissance, at least in the short run:

Pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters fought pitched battles like medieval armies -- with makeshift catapults to launch rocket attacks from behind improvised barricades -- as they struggled for control of central Cairo yesterday in a run-up to a potentially bloodier showdown today.

Gangs of pro-Mubarak thugs beat journalists, foreigners and human-rights workers with fists and clubs...

Wednesday's onslaught, which left at least five people dead and hundreds injured, produced surreal scenes, most notably a horse-and-camel charge by the attackers. The two sides battled for hours with crude weapons - sticks, stones, bottles, cudgels- fighting that escalated after dark into gunfire and firebombs aimed at the square's defenders.

Cudgel fighting. Sigh. I suppose less folks get killed this way than in the random spray of AK-47 fire, but revolutions are not usually won by cudgel.

Here's the best the Egyptians can do in protective gear (more at the link):

I'm not mocking. I am simply having my doubts that a population can transition from medieval to post-modern overnight. In a sense Mubarak is right; he has to go, but leaving a crew of cudgel-swinging camel-jockeys to fill the power vacuum will not end well, for us or the Egyptian people.

Let's hope we can figure out a way to work out a transition to at least some democratic institutions in Egypt before Mubarak flees the coop. After all, isn't this the very reason we elected a man with a Muslim-sounding name and a supergenius-level intellect to the White House in the first place?

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