Sunday, February 06, 2011

Shut up and listen

The overwhelming TV live from Cairo with its confrontation and sometimes-frightening violence hides a more negotiation process going on.  That process has a lesson for us that some of the parties are ignoring and that may doom the anti-Mubarak side, or lead to an Islamist state in Egypt.

The lesson is simple.  Instead of trumpeting your own demands incessantly, stop talking and listed to what the other side is saying, and even proposing.  Mubarak said he wants to stay on until the September election, but in passing he made clear why.  He wants to die on Egyptian soil. 

While for many the past 15 or 20 years have been of awful deprivation, at least in his own mind he was after the assassination of Anwar Sadat a great savior, one who prevented chaos, somewhat as LBJ prevented chaos when JFK was killed in 1963.  But LBJ’s one elected term brought him great hatred from some, and he decided not to stand for re-election in 1968.  He retired then to Texas.  Surely that is where he wanted to live out his days.

The anti-Mubarak forces demand he leave the country.  No chance he is going to do that.  He would rather die in a presidential palace, stoned to death.  But Egypt is large.  There must be some nice seaside town to which he could be allowed to retire with dignity, go swim in the Med and write a memoir.  They should listen to this and begin a dialog starting with that as an outcome both side should bargain to while they bargain the transition details.

Still, they are mostly screaming too loudly to hear that.  Except the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which is organized enough to suggest a sit-down.  They are a minority, but sitting down to talk could give them an upper hand in the government that follows.  Listen.