The Unbearable Lightness of Being Irrelevant

And so, just days after signalling that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must unconditionally go, and take his ruling apparatus with him, today… the position of the United States (as expressed by the much put-upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) is that Mr. Mubarak should resign immediately in favor of Vice President Suleiman, who in turn should supervise a transition to… something democratic, whatever that is. Fortunately for the stability of the world… the rest of the world seems to regard American pronouncements as… utterly irrelevant. One hopes that something is going on “behind the scenes”… but one doubts the institutional competence for that to really be happening. The showdown in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities goes on… and our government… is just watching, and occasionally mouthing off… but not much more.
James Zogby writing in HuffPo puts things in perspective: most of what comes out of the mouths of American politicians on Egypt (and everything else) is ill-informed nonsense. Which is perfectly fine… when your nation… is an irrelevance.
Thing is, we’re supposed to be the big kahuna in the Middle East. We’d like to think we were the big kahuna everywhere, of course. But… we haven’t been for some time. And our decisions not to tax our super-rich have left us a financial basket-case… but at least we could still kick ass. Ah… but the demonstration project that al-Qaeda third-stringers operating out of a single mini-van, and Iraqi irregulars, could tie up hundreds of thousands of our troops… has demonstrated that, short of nuclear war… we’re not even much of a threat anymore, at least in a ‘regime-change” kind of way. That wad has been shot.
And so… an amazing, potentially historically game-changing event (IF Egypt– home of half the Arab world’s population– ends up as something other than dictatorship)… is something that we, the World’s-only-superpower(TM)… is mostly sitting… and watching. And occasionally mentioning something about Israel, which I presume, is more engaged in the situation than we are.
Don’t get me wrong: I prefer the rest of the world to have a measure of self-determination. Unlike most of you, I work a block from the World Trade Center, as I did on 11 Sept. 2001… so I’d just as soon stop pissing off everyone (especially the Muslim world). But… it would have been nice had this been a conscious choice on our part, and not simply the collective result of years and years of ill-advised, if not insane, policy choices.
This has been… “the unbearable lightness of being irrelevant.”