Inside Opinion

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Tag: Egypt


Worst of America meets worst of Islam on the Web

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The slaughter of Americans in Libya on Tuesday follows a familiar plot. It goes like this:

One of the world’s more than 300 million Americans does something to insult Islam. The act of desecration goes viral on the Internet and other media. Muslim militants assign guilt to the entire United States. Mobs rampage; people die.

Fill in the blank: Irreverent cartoons. Quran-burning by a jackleg preacher. Quran-burning by clueless soldiers. This time, a foul “movie trailer” that ridicules Muhammad in almost every possible way in a few minutes.

And now a U.S. ambassador and four other Americans are dead, killed in Benghazi in a riot that appears to have been exploited by al-Qaida-style jihadists. Another riot in Cairo targeted the American embassy there, though there were no deaths.

The supposed trailer for something called “Innocence of Muslims” couldn’t have been better designed to incite anti-American rage in Islamic countries. Conspiracy-minded people might conclude that it was produced by al-Qaida itself.

So far, there’s little evidence of an actual movie. The short, amateurish video – obviously made on the cheap – depicts Muhammad as a lecherous, murderous buffoon.

Someone who calls himself Sam Bacile – who presents himself as both an Israeli Jew and an American – uploaded it to YouTube. The Israeli government says it has no record of such a person.

To compound the outrage, Terry Jones – the Florida preacher who staged a Quran-burning last year – has jumped in front of the cameras to endorse the video. Jones’ desecration of the Quran in 2011 triggered riots in Afghanistan that left a dozen people died.

Worst of America, meet the worst of Islam.
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The wrong announcement from Hosni Mubarak

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

For a while there Thursday – amid spreading rumors that Hosni Mubarak was about to step down – it almost looked as if Egypt were headed for a soft landing.

It was the worst possible set-up for yet another declaration by the Egyptian president that, no, he still intended to take his own sweet time before leaving office.

The popular uprising against Mubarak’s authoritarian regime has always held the potential of turning into something truly nasty – for Egypt, the Middle East and the rest of the world. That potential escalated when a vast crowd of deliriously excited Egyptian got their hopes raised, then dashed abruptly, within a single day.

Even a strongman needs people skills, and the 82-year-old Mubarak seems to have run out of his. All the more reason Barack Obama must do whatever he can to politely, diplomatically and gratefully nudge this old American ally toward the door.

This could still end well in a couple of ways.

One good way would be a responsible military intervention that shifts power from Mubarak’s cronies to a new, democratic, secular government. Another would be his ouster by those very cronies, assuming they are realists enough to know that their day is over, too.

In the Middle East, though, the smart money generally favors the worst outcomes. Those are pretty obvious here.
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Who, exactly, will replace Mubarak in Egypt?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The United States supports democracy and detests autocracy. Except when it doesn’t.

What’s been happening in Egypt may be one of the excepts. Huge angry crowds have taken to the streets, threatening to overturn the dictatorship that’s been misgoverning and mismanaging the country for as long as most people can remember.

Since President Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981, he has systematically crushed any opposition groups that posed a serious threat to his rule, rigging elections and sometimes brutalizing his opponents.

The complication is, he’s also been a crucial American ally in the Middle East. He kept his country out of the Soviet orbit during the cold war, kept violent Islamists at bay and maintained the friendly ties his much more impressive predecessor – Anwar Sadat – established with Israel.

Those policies served his interests, and it so happens they served American interests as well. As Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have once said about a Nicaraguan dictator, “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.”

So far, the Obama administration is following that line with Egypt. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared Mubarak’s government to be “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

In other words, we’ve got your back, Hosni.
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