Tom Friedman, a superb columnist for the New York Times, asked a rhetorical question while being interviewed a few days ago by Charlie Rose: “Why hasn’t Egypt developed in the last 20 years like Taiwan or Singapore or India?” He could have added Israel or even Islamic Malaysia.
Egypt has mineral wealth, tourism, water and millions of educated English speakers. It has the ingredients for success as a nation, yet it has floundered abysmally with enormous unemployment, corruption and lack of political freedom.
We should be surprised that the revolt by its citizens has not happened sooner. The sparks of anger over the secret police and persecution occur every day, but until January there was no ignition.
The missing ingredient for the revolt until now was probably that critical organizing tool, the Internet. Today’s wide-spread cell phone Web access and social networking outlets enabled the younger generation of Egyptians to mobilize. The entrenched leaders in a country like Egypt are old guys who still think they can control information. Americans worry that Egypt could turn into Iran, but in Iran I’m sure the rulers are petrified that Tehran could become a Cairo. I’m hoping that the next time Iranians try to revolt, America supports the revolution rather than waffling to appease the despots.
Are you happy about the turmoil in Egypt?