The Egyptian effect is reverberating across the Mideast and into the "Maghreb" along the north Mediterranean coast of Africa. Essentially one revolution ended over the past weekend; and another may soon begin in Egypt as elsewhere: Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, the Emirates, Iran...the circulating list seems just about endless.
With the case of Egypt: In our western world it's uncharted territory and a moment that may prove as decisive to the Middle-East as the Suez conflict in the mid-fifties; the 1967 Arab-Israeli war; or the war between Israel and Egypt in 1979. Little wonder then that the President of the United-States has dispatched the American Joint-Chief Chairman, America's senior military advisor Admiral Michael Mullen, to reassure crucial allies, Jordan and Israel. Mullen is scheduled to meet this week with Israeli President Simon Perez, and later with Jordan's new Prime-Minister Marouf Bakhit. Mr. Bakhit himself is being forced to implement political reforms demanded by protesters who forced King Abdullah to shuffle his ruling cabinet.
In addition to the democratic movement which seems to be sweeping the Middle-East, Admiral Mullen's mission is said to be prompted by a blistering private phone call from the Saudi King last week to President Obama accusing the American administration (in no uncertain terms) of literally abandoning its ally of 30 years, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's ouster; like America's attitude towards the fall of the Shah of Iran (Reza Pahlavi) on February 11, 1979; is a bitter painful reminder in the "holy land" of the unforgotten and far reaching political, economic and social impacts of the "Great Crusades" of the middle-ages. Impacts which have lasted into contemporary times. As with Germany in the two World Wars, and Japan after 1945; It may be the clear nature of "our" western culture to decide; act; move-on; forget about it and forge new relationships. This is not always (perhaps never) the case in the deeply rooted historic relationships within the Middle-Eastern culture.
Of course there is some delicious irony in our North American rejoicing and hoopla on the triumph of democracy over the autocratic rule of the Egyptian President and whichever ones may follow over the coming weeks. As the thousands celebrate in Cairo one can't help but wonder about the state of our own North American democracies which pundits and critics (far better qualified than I) are wondering out loud are in real and serious danger of becoming democracies in name only.
In my home and native land; Canada's ruling Conservative government is accused of giving tax cuts to fat cat corporations and wasting billions on toys for the military and prisons that turn scared kids into hardened criminals. All the while keeping Parliament and the rest of Canadians in the dark about their true plans. South of the 49th parallel, millions of U.S. citizens struggle with unemployment and the declining North American standards of living, while the true levers of power have been but all completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. North Americans (we) may be celebrating the triumphs of democracy in Egypt and the Middle-East; but back here: The wealthy and well connected call the tune - And; the politicians dance.
The four great crusades of the "Middle Ages" from 1095 to 1204 may be ancient history. In the past century, as I was reminded a few days ago - From the Great War at Vimy Ridge, through the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 and frequently in between during some of the planet's darkest moments and perhaps a few times thereafter, Canada developed and nurtured a stellar respected engagement for the promotion of peace, and our willingness to engage constructively (including in the Mideast) with peoples who aspire to keep the planet a place without conflict.
Alas! Now relegated to watch from the very back row as the history of the modern world unfolds: My (our) country has been abandoned to play a marginal role without any say, or any more imminent prospects of influencing the events which shape the destiny of human kind.