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Uprisings versus a despotic ruler.

Judging from the streets of Egypt, capitulation is the only thing that will stop it.

Either the government of Mubarak capitulates, or it establishes control with violence.

China was faced with the same in 1989.
Iran faced it last summer.
Tunisia faced it in December.

There is no other solution. It is a matter of will. Does Mubarak have the will to kill his own people? Mow them down like rattlesnakes?

If he doesn’t… he must leave… Does Mubarak have the will to abdicate his position, to being a pariah the rest of his days, watching his back for a sniper paid to clip him?

If he doesn’t, he must regain control by killing innocent people irregardless of the consequences.

In the first case, that of abdicating, …. he can’t win. The second case, killing off all protesters no matter how many, is an option where he can win. It was done in China. It was done in Iran. The world yelled loudly, but that really doesn’t matter much in Egypt, just as it didn’t matter inside China, just as it didn’t matter in Iran. And… after being ruthless, there were no more riots in either country.

He has no choice. Expect the bloodbath soon.

First Algeria, then Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, and Albania. And I just heard Kyrgyzstan had riots too?

And no one is blaming Israel or the Great Satan? These are truly incredulous times…

So then, who is blame? A better question,…. once facts are on the table, is WHAT… is to blame?

The heart of the problem is in the dysfunctional nature of conservative, traditionalist Arab society. They fail to function economically, because of their values prohibit them from doing so.

Here is a case in point. Nine out of ten Egyptian women suffer genitalia mutilation. This act is not sanctioned by the government of Egypt, but is actually, officially opposed. Mubarak’s wife, actively campaigns against it. Yet nine out of ten women continue to have this done:

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi – the president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars – explains:

The most moderate opinion and the most likely one to be correct is in favor of practicing circumcision in the moderate Islamic way indicated in some of the Prophet’s hadiths – even though such hadiths are not confirmed to be authentic. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a midwife: “Reduce the size of the clitoris but do not exceed the limit, for that is better for her health and is preferred by husbands.”

That is not a Muslim view (the practice is rare in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan), but an Egyptian Muslim view. In the most fundamental of matters, President and Mrs Mubarak are incomparably more enlightened than the Egyptian public. Three-quarters of acts of genital mutilation in Egypt are executed by physicians, meaning they are not being performed at religious ceremonies, but are instead being quietly paid by the very parents of the girls themselves.

Fact is, Egypt is wallowing in backwardness, not because the Mubarak regime has suppressed the creative energies of the people, but because the people themselves cling to the most oppressive practices of traditional society. And countries can only languish in backwardness so long before some event makes their position untenable.

So what broke the back of those toiling in Egypt? The price of wheat?

Wheat prices have almost doubled in the past year.

Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, beholden to foreign providers for nearly half its total food consumption. Half of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day. Food comprises almost half the country’s consumer price index, and much more than half of spending for the poorer half of the country.

Egyptians love their bread. The nation is the world’s biggest consumer of bread with around 400 grams of bread consumption a day, easily eclipsing France at just 130 grams daily.

So, why can’t the Egyptians buy wheat?

The prosperous Asians are buying it up first. The wheat flows to the area having the most money.

Earlier this year, after drought prompted Russia to ban wheat exports, Egypt’s agriculture minister pledged to raise food production over the next ten years to 75% of consumption, against only 56% in 2009. Local yields are only 18 bushels per acre, compared to 30 to 60 for non-irrigated wheat in the United States, and up 100 bushels for irrigated land.

Prosperous Asians want their protein. And we all know it takes seven times as much wheat to make an equal amount of protein. The Asians have priced wheat out of the Arabs budget.

The trouble isn’t long-term food price inflation: wheat has long been one of the world’s bargains. The International Monetary Fund’s global consumer price index quadrupled in between 1980 and 2010, while the price of wheat, even after the price spike of 2010, only doubled in price. What hurts the poorest countries, though, isn’t the long-term price trend, though, but the volatility.

It turns out that China, not the United States or Israel, presents an existential threat to the Arab world, and through no fault of its own: rising incomes have gentrified the Asian diet, and – more importantly – insulated Asian budgets from food price fluctuations. Economists call this “price elasticity.” Americans, for example, will buy the same amount of milk even if the price doubles, although they will stop buying fast food if hamburger prices double. Asians now are wealthy enough to buy all the grain they want.

If wheat output falls, for example, due to drought in Russia and Argentina, prices rise until demand falls. The difference today is that Asian demand for grain will not fall, because Asians are richer than they used to be. Someone has to consume less, and it will be the people at the bottom of the economic ladder, in this case the poorer Arabs.

Wheat supply dropped by only 2.4% between 2009 and 2010 – and the wheat price doubled. That’s because affluent Asians don’t care what they pay for grain. Prices depend on what the last (or “marginal”) purchaser is willing to pay for an item….

It wasn’t the financial crisis that undermined dysfunctional Arab states, but Asian prosperity. The Arab poor have been priced out of world markets. There is no solution to Egypt’s problems within the horizon of popular expectations. Whether this regime survives or a new one replaces it, the outcome will continue to be a disaster.

So in each of these conservative Muslim states, no matter who remains or takes over, the conditions will not become better until they understand that… it is their conservatism, that is literally the thing killing them.