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Text Like an Egyptian

January 28th, 2011 - 11:00 am

According to published reports, Egypt has shut down all ISPs in the country.

According to James Cowie, Renesys’ CTO, “In an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air.”

It couldn’t happen here [the United States] says the AP. Of course it couldn’t happen here, but supposing it did.

I still have two or three POTS modems in my cabinet and four computers at home, in addition to some cell phone accounts. Suppose for a moment — not for that it would ever happen — that all our ISPs went dark, but the POTS and the cell phone network was still up, what would you do to alert the world that the Martians had landed in your backyard with that slender amount of equipment to best effect?

Open thread. And while you’re figuring out how to connect to others without an ISP, you might want to watch Michael Sandel’s lecture on the subject of whether we are Free to Choose. Bonus problem: does the State have the right to — ha ha, as if it would ever happen — shut down all ISPs? Such as in the case of insurrection such as is people were rioting against President Mubarak? Do watch Sandel’s lecture, which is too long to embed.  You won’t regret it.

Far less edifying, but much more entertaining is Hillary Clinton impression of an Xtranormal video while explaining US policy towards Egypt.

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Hillary’s dynamic warning is likely to have as much effect as a cat peeing on a four-alarm fire. Michael Totten is not very hopeful of a good outcome, which I suppose means an end state where neither the Mubarak dictatorship nor the Muslim Brotherhood prevail:

Police officers are using live ammunition on protestors, and, unlike in Tunisia, the military is backing them up and has even sent tanks into the streets.

Nobel Laureate Mohammed ElBaradei has been placed under house arrest.

Lee Smith, who lived in Cairo for a couple of years, doesn’t expect this to end well. I don’t either. I wish I did, but I don’t.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden says Mubarak is not a dictator. Egypt has never been ruled by anyone but a dictator. Let’s not pretend he’s something else just because he’s an “ally.”

As readers know from the preceding posts, I’m none too optimistic either. Josh Shahryar who is following events in Egypt, says that behind the Internet blackout curtain, Cairo is a battlefield.

The National Democratic Party’s headquarters in Cairo has been destroyed by fire after being looted by protesters. … In the meantime, tanks have entered Alexandria and the army is exerting control over Suez. Downtown Cairo is in chaos right now, with fires in many different buildings. …

protesters vowed to show up in large numbers after Friday prayers today. Their call gained momentum when the Muslim Brotherhood — the largest opposition party in Egypt and an Islamic fundamentalist organization with links to terrorist organizations — gave backing to the protests, and opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed El Baradei returned to Cairo and promised to join the protesters.

The government last night arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members, including their spokesperson Issam al -ryan. In an unprecedented move the government shut off almost all ISPs in the country, restricted cell phone service and landlines, and blocked SMS services to try and hamper the mobilization of protesters.

That effort seems to have failed.

The Internet curtain may prove more effective at sparing the Obama administration the gruesome sight of watching their policy fail than in protecting Mubarak.  Rarely, if ever, has such an epic policy failure occurred since Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich proclaiming “peace in our time”.  At least the President’s backers won’t have to see their calculations proved utterly, completely and comprehensively wrong.

My guess is that even if Mubarak wins it will be a Pyrrhic victory.  Even if he remains standing, his personal rule is over, history — together with the Obama administration’s diplomatic policy in which Egypt and the Sunni dictatorships were a cornerstone. The bottom has fallen right out of the whole edifice.

Worse, the Muslim Brotherhood will have won for itself the leadership of the rebellion. If it does not triumph outright, the MB will be a very strong ember glowing in the aftermath of the firestorm. It is unlikely that Hillary’s articulated, rather than articulate defense of “democracy” will have much impact on events, which are moving at warp speed. She should have led her target back when the Cedar Revolution was in full bloom and the Iranians were demonstrating against their regime. Aiming at it now is like trying to hit a rocket with a popgun. The entire catastrophe has unfolded in the brief time since the President’s State of the Union Speech, which was obsolescent even as the words left his mouth. Reality is inside the administration’s OODA loop and neither the MSM nor even their “activists” can slow down the clock.


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