The Great Debate UK

from Chrystia Freeland:

When the hacker ethos meets capitalism

The uprising in Egypt has provoked the familiar “realism-versus-idealism” foreign policy debate in many Western capitals, as diplomats and politicians struggle to balance their ideological sympathy for the protesters against fears of chaos and the threat of a future anti-Western and anti-Israel policy from Cairo if the people do win.

What we have paid less attention to is that the demonstrations have forced some of the world’s hottest technology companies to engage in a very similar debate. The conclusions these technorati end up drawing may be as significant as the verdicts of Western governments. This new intellectual battleground is a further sign that in the age of the Internet and the global economy, foreign policy doesn’t belong just to professionals or to states any more.

The quandary Egypt poses for technology companies – particularly the power troika of Google, Facebook and Twitter – goes far beyond the classic corporate social responsibility concerns that have become standard operating practice at big multinationals.

On one hand, the Egyptian revolt and the ways in which it has been facilitated by the Internet is the apotheosis of hacker culture and its worldview. That is the powerful conviction of the digerati: that they are on the side of freedom, small-d democracy and of doing good in the world. This self-image is easy to mock – that Google pledge to “do no evil” makes a pretty juicy target for satirists – but it is also deeply felt.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Egypt and Pakistan; something borrowed, something new

candelightThe Egyptian uprising contains much that is familiar to Pakistan - the dark warnings of a coup, in Egypt's case delivered by Vice President Omar Suleiman, the role of political Islam, and a relationship with the United States distorted by U.S. aid and American strategic interests which do not match those of the people.

President Hosni Mubarak cited Pakistan as an example of what happened when a ruler like President Pervez Musharraf - like himself from the military - was forced to make way for democracy. "He fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he puts some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf," a 2009 U.S. embassy cable published by WikiLeaks said.

from The Great Debate:

Resetting Egypt’s economy

EGYPT/

By Mohamed A. El-Erian
El-Erian is the CEO of PIMCO. He spent part of his childhood in Egypt where his father was a professor of international law at Cairo University and then served as an Egyptian diplomat and was elected to the International Court of Justice in 1978. The opinions expressed are his own.

While Egyptians are yet to specify the final destination for their revolution -- and only they can, and should do so -- there is little doubt in my mind that the country is now on a new, bold and uncertain road toward greater democracy and individual freedoms. The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining the journey for a country that is central to the stability of the Middle East.

from FaithWorld:

Concern about Islamists masks wide differences among them

holding up korans

(Hamas supporters hold up copies of the Koran at a protest in Gaza City December 26, 2010/Mohammed Salem)

Part of the problem trying to figure out what Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood or Tunisia's Ennahda party would do if they got into any future power structure in their countries is knowing what kind of Islamists they are. The label "Islamist" pops up frequently these days, in comments and warnings and (yes) news reports, but the term is so broad that it even covers groups that oppose each other. Just as the Muslim world is not a bloc, the Islamist world is not a bloc.

from Chrystia Freeland:

The Authoritarian International goes on the defensive

It has been a bad couple of weeks for what Vitali Silitski, a political scientist, calls the Authoritarian International.

Mr. Silitski is from Belarus — a good background for studying authoritarian rulers — and he is a student of the troubling way in which the world’s autocrats responded to the “color” revolutions in some former Soviet republics a few years ago by increasing repression at home and forming a loose international support group.

from Breakingviews:

Egypt’s financial system faces a moment of truth

Egypt's financial system faces a moment of truth. The country didn't have an economic crisis before the past ten days of protests began. But its banks and stock exchange have been closed for a week. When they reopen, starting on Sunday, the fear is that the political turmoil could prompt a financial meltdown.

The central bank is due to reopen on Sunday, while stock market trading will resume the next day – though that could be delayed if violent clashes continue. So far, markets across the Mid-East region have largely ignored the unrest. Yet before the Egyptian market closed, there were signs that investors were fleeing.

from FaithWorld:

Can Arabs learn from Turkish model of Islam and democracy?

erdogan

(Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, December 2, 2008/Umit Bektas)

If President Hosni Mubarak bows to the clamor of the street and goes, Egyptians and other Arabs seeking to turn a page on autocratic government may look at Turkey for some clues on marrying Islam and democracy.

Could the Middle Eastern unrest start to unsettle financial markets?

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-”Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.”-

The peoples of the Middle East are rising up and letting their political views be known. In Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen protestors have taken to the streets to demand political change, and in the case of Tunisia they have succeeded. These tensions between the people and their governments have caught the global media’s attention. It has also set off something of a domino effect with other autocratic regimes in the region worrying that the same could happen to them.

from The Great Debate:

Egypt’s turmoil leaves Israel silent and worried

EGYPT/

By Alan Elsner, who is the communications director for The Israel Project. The opinions expressed are his own.

The uprising in Egypt that looks like it may sweep away President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old regime threatens to deprive Israel of its most important strategic ally in the region.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Army, Allah and America: on Pakistani pitfalls and the future of Egypt

egyptAll countries are unique and comparing two of the world's most populous Muslim countries, Egypt and Pakistan, is as risky as comparing Britain to France at the time of the French Revolution. But many of the challenges likely to confront Egypt as it emerges from the mass protests against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak are similar to those Pakistan has faced in the past, and provide at least a guide on what questions need to be addressed.  In Pakistan, they are often summarised as the three A's -- Army, Allah and America.

Both have powerful armies which are seen as the backbone of the country; both have to work out how to accommodate political Islam with democracy, both are allies of America, yet with people who resent American power in propping up unpopular elites.

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