Mubarak, the shah and the 30-year itch

The Shah of Iran
The Shah of Iran (Upi)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 8:14 PM

There's a sense of deja vu about Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak and his crumbling 30-year dictatorship. Mubarak, who has been a staunch American ally, propped up with billions in taxpayer dollars, called a key to U.S. policy in the region and a human rights abuser, and now twisting slowly in the wind, is pledging to hold on - at least through the end of the week.

Reminds us of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi - a staunch American ally, propped up with U.S. support, called a key to U.S. policy in the region (installed by the CIA, after all, as a bulwark against the Soviets) and toppled in 1979 after nearly 38 years in power.

In Southeast Asia we had dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, another staunch ally, human rights violator, key to policy in the region, propped up by billions in taxpayer dollars, ousted in the People Power Revolution after a 20-year reign.

Closer to home there was Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, another ally and anti-communist, a major human rights abuser who ran the Chilean army for some 25 years and was president for 17 years.

Dictators past have taken a couple years or so to overthrow but, as Ken Pollak of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center observed, "the pace of change" has accelerated in recent years. In the past it's been something like a 30-year itch before the people finally begin revolt (Libya's wacky Moammar Gaddafi, on top for more than 40 years, for the moment being the exception). In the Internet age, that may no longer apply.

But, like "True Grit," seems we've seen this show before, even if we don't know the precise ending.

The author you have . . .

Finally! It's here. The book you've been waiting for - former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's new memoir, "Known and Unknown" (we would have preferred "Stuff Happens"), is on sale next week, and he's taking his show on the road.

The "first stop on his highly anticipated national book tour" will be next Wednesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a center news release tells us. The book "chronicles his long career in public service," from his time in Congress - he was elected 48 years ago - to his work in the Nixon, Ford and Bush II administrations.

"Long career" is a euphemism for very, very long book, and this one weighs in at a hefty 2.6 pounds and 832 exciting pages, all for just $36. The Wednesday launch includes a "conversation" to be "facilitated by presidential historian Michael Beschloss," where Rumsfeld "will discuss previously undisclosed details and insight into the Bush administration." Tickets for that are only $15, and books will be available for purchase (and signing) right there.

The title echoes Rumsfeld's famous observations about "known knowns" and "unknown unknowns" and so on. Unclear whether there will be questions from the audience, but you should have some ready. For example, you might ask what caused the Army chief of staff at the time, Gen. Eric Shinseki - now secretary of veterans affairs - to be so completely wrong when he said the United States would need a few hundred thousand troops in Iraq.

Rumsfeld might also explain how the prediction that the war would pay for itself was pretty much on target, or perhaps how the post-invasion Iraqi turmoil was just like Germany in 1945-47, or how those weapons of mass destruction may yet be found - okay, maybe in Iran, but that's not all that far away and, after all, they are spelled similarly.

Washington memoirs are famous for settling scores, so if you're lucky enough to get a seat, buy the book , go immediately to the index and look for Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice . . .

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