There is an old parable which goes as follows: A scorpion is at the edge of a river and wishes to cross but cannot swim. The scorpion sees a fox drinking from the river, and says, "Mr. Fox, I want to cross this river - are you going across?" The fox confirms that it intends to cross, and the scorpion asks if it can ride along on the back of the Fox. The fox asks, "But what if you sting me?" The scorpion replies, "But then we would both drown!" The fox thinks this over, and it seems to make sense, so the fox invites the scorpion onto its back. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the fox and they both start to go down. With its last breath, the fox asks, "Now, why on earth would you do that, when now we will both die?" There are two endings: in one, the scorpion responds, "Because I'm a scorpion and this is my nature." But the ending which makes more sense to me has the scropion saying, "Well, what the Hell, it's the Middle East."
And so it is, with the worldwide focus now on the major riots in Egypt. To understand the broader implications of all the serious Egyptian unrest, go back to General Dwight David Eisenhower who espoused the Domino Theory in 1945. That theory states that certain nations are so interdependent that, when one government falls, it will lead rapidly to the fall of other governments, like a row of dominoes knocking the next one over until most or all have fallen. In his day, Eisenhower was referring mainly to the Eastern European nations which were starting to fall into the Soviet orbit.
Today, it is the Arab and other nations in the Middle East whose governments began to fall decades ago with Iran, recently with Tunisia, and now with Egypt. Moslem fundamentalists and students played a key role in the demise of the Shah of Iran's government in the late 1970s, and the same forces are leading the charge against the Mubarak government in Egypt. The Tunisian government's demise has been due more to its corruption and drastic economic problems, and may be more of a spontaneous grassroots movement. But the handwriting is now clearly on the wall.
It is unlikely that Murbark's decades-long regime will survive, and even more unlikely that this will be the last domino to fall. The Lebanese government is on the brink, and our so-called ally Saudi Arabia has only headed off the incipient takeover by fundamentalist Islamic forces through liberal injections of funds into such groups' coffers. Of course, those same funds are used in part to destabilize the present Saudi monarchy, but, hey, the money delays the coming Saudi revolution a bit. Undoubtedly, the smart Saudis are moving their immense wealth to Switzerland or the Grand Cayman Islands just in case they have to flee suddenly. And it is not unlikely that Pakistan's weak government will fall in the not-too-distant future, from much the same fundamentalist forces, which want to impose Islamic law on the entire world. That might well include forced marriages of teen-age girls, the complete covering of women's faces, the imposition of such penalties as stoning and beheading for minor infractions, and similar barbaric measures.
Yes, we may all get a taste of what things were like in the Medieval Moslem world. And we may all learn that the era of the Crusades has returned, and we "infidels" (read: non-Moslems) are on the way out in controlling many nations, just as we were evicted from the Holy Land some eight hundred years ago. There are some good features of Islamic law -- it emphasizes compassion, mercy, and fairness for Moslems -- but democracy is not one of those features.
The entire Western World, led by a reinvigorated United Nations, needs to take the strongest possible steps to work out the problems in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and other Middle East nations at risk, even if we do not necessarily love their present governments. We must encourage constructive and democratic policies and eventual regime change. If the Western World, led by the United States and the UN, does not hang together in dealing with the present Middle East crisis, we sill surely hang separately.