Monday, February 07, 2011

Bearing the Cross

Color me quite a bit less sanguine about the prospects of the United States pushing for democratic change in Egypt than the Nihilist in Golf Pants is. While he's optimistically whistling the opening bars of "Wind of Change", I'm highly skeptical about the ability of the US to positively influence the outcome of events in Egypt and the wisdom of us even attempting to do so. Appropriate clich├ęs to describe the situation the US finds itself in are "no good choices" and "hope for the best, plan for the worst." The two critical virtues we should practice in our diplomatic efforts vis a vis Egypt are patience and prudence.

But we should also not lapse in our duty to help protect the one minority group who always seems to get forgotten when we talk of oppression, discrimination, and persecution. In a piece at USA Joseph Bottum asks Who will defend Mideast Christians?:

Perhaps the situation in Egypt will resolve itself peacefully. Or perhaps we'll see a long stretch of public unrest before the nation finally stumbles its way into a new form of stable government. But there's one easy prediction to make: Whatever happens, Egypt's Coptic Christians are going to be hurt, unless the United States makes a major diplomatic effort to help them.

About 10% of the Egyptian population (and declining, down more than half over the past century ), these people have suffered discrimination under 30 years of rule by the now-embattled president, Hosni Mubarak. And they've seen that discrimination ratcheted up into open persecution during the current unrest, which began with a car bomb in Alexandria killing 21 at a Coptic church on Jan. 1 and continued through the massacre of 11 Christians in the village of Sharona on Jan. 30.

So why should they expect improvement from a new government? Particularly one in which the radical Muslim Brotherhood is certain to play a major role? The Copts are under the screw, and somehow, every time modern Egyptian history makes a turn, it ends up biting down harder on the nation's religious minorities.