Sakset/Fra hofta

Medienes instant nyhetsfeed skaper en følelse av samtidighet og autentisistet. Men det er på tide å stille spørsmål om ikke det ligger en skjult påvirkning i denne «loopen», hvor det som synes opplagt slett ikke er opplagt.

Medienes massive dekning gir en følelse av hva som må skje: Mubarak må gå. Men da lukker man øynene for konsekvensene og omstendighetene.

Obama-administrasjonen befolkes av liberalere, og de er lettpåvirkelige når det gjelder folks ønske om frihet og demokrati. Valget synes opplagt.

Men Obama-administrasjonens krav om at Mubarak må gå av umiddelbart risikerer å styrte Egypt ut i kaos eller islamistisk styre, advarer Edward N. Luttwak.

Journalister og akademikere som snakker den egyptiske varianten av arabisk, kan fortelle at blant de lavere sjikt av samfunnet er det liten begeistring å spore for demonstrasjonene. De fattige frykter for fremtiden, alle som lever av turisme, og det er mange, ser inntektene forsvinne. De fattige lever av brød bakt av USA-importert hvete. Brødene er subsidiert. De har ikke mye å gå på.

Det står ingen strukturerer klare til å kunne ta et valg umiddelbart. Egypt trenger de åtte månedene til det etter planen skulle holdes valg.

Luttwak bemerker noe annet, som passer godt på norske medier: oppfatningen av hendelsene er drevet av mediedekningen: ikke rasjonelle analyser, men spontanitet og følelser styrer politikken.

Det har egypterne forstått. Det var derfor de gikk løs på journalistene. Det var selvsagt meget uklokt.

Quick Mubarak Exit Is Too Risky

It is not often recalled that Hamas is the Gaza branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

By EDWARD N. LUTTWAK

The Obama administration, like much of the world, is not reacting to the situation in Egypt—a mostly rural country populated mainly by poor peasants. It is reacting to the media spectacle in the center of Cairo, in which huge but largely middle-class crowds have gathered to demand President Hosni Mubarak’s removal.

Interestingly, the few journalists who speak colloquial Egyptian Arabic report that among the poor majority of the population—those who wear the traditional robe (djellaba) and depend on bread subsidized by the state—many still support Mr. Mubarak. They know that Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, and that part of it is paid for by U.S. aid. While market prices have increased by 17% since last October, the rationed bread of the poor remains very cheap.

Perhaps the impoverished—a quarter of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day—fear that a government more modern than Mr. Mubarak’s paternalistic dictatorship will stop the current bread subsidy, or that a more Islamist government will not receive U.S. aid. Either way, many Egyptians have the prudence of the very poor. They cannot afford to take risks with the unknown—including a post-Mubarak government.

The Obama administration and the governments of Europe would be wise to follow their lead, but of course they cannot. Elite opinion in the West is almost unanimous in its certitudes: Mubarak must go now! Fears of an Islamist takeover are overblown, they argue. The opposition in the streets is «moderate,» as is the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win at least a third of an immediate vote. It is not often recalled that Hamas is simply the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won power by election—and now refuses to hold more elections.

The Obama administration has, like the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, rejected Mr. Mubarak’s promise to step down in eight months after nationwide elections in September. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, President Obama phoned the Egyptian leader Tuesday evening and said, «The time for a transition has come, and that time is now.»

That the crowd refuses to wait is emotionally understandable, but the U.S. and other well-meaning governments should be more patient. It takes at least eight months to organize a meaningful election. Waiting until September would allow parties other than the Muslim Brotherhood time to organize.

If Mr. Mubarak leaves now, the result is likely to be an anarchical or Islamist Egypt, or some of both until another dictatorship emerges. It is not by accident that from Morocco to India there is no democracy except for the one built by the U.S. in Iraq: Mainstream Islam, not just Islamism, rejects the legitimacy of democratic legislation that could contradict Shariah law.

The U.S. is widely seen as the chief interested power because until the current crisis it had taken the lead in supporting the Mubarak regime and before that the regime of Anwar Sadat.

But it is Europe that will suffer the greater consequences if the Mubarak regime is toppled and followed by the Muslim Brotherhood or anarchy. Aside from lost exports to Egypt, there will be lost domestic investments, not least in tourism (no more bikinis in Sharm El Sheikh with the Muslim Brotherhood in power), and more illegal immigrants trying to enter Europe.

As for Israel, it is likely to lose an ally in Egypt but unlikely to face a military threat any time soon: The U.S.-equipped Egyptian armed forces could not fight a war without U.S. supplies—and it would take at least $20 billion and 10 years to re-equip them with non-U.S. weapons.

In any event, Egyptian democrats should not be denied eight months to build viable opposition parties before the next election.

Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of «Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace» (Belknap, 2002).

Op-ed i Wall Street Journal 4. februar 2011