Sinai

Sinai I returned to Cairo Tuesday night, after a few days rest on the beach in Sinai. I won't even pretend to have the background necessary to comment usefully on the recent attacks along the Israeli border. One observation though: during my brief visit, I was struck by both how heavily militarized the region is, and by how completely ineffective that militarization appeared to me to be.

Taking the bus from Cairo to the Red Sea and back, one passes through numerous military checkpoints. However, the only object of these checkpoints, at least that I could discern, was to single out all non-Arab passengers for a passport check. (Which, in my case, consisted of thumbing ineptly through my documents for a minute or two, finding an Egyptian visa from three years ago, and then tossing them back.) I was tempted to ask what they were actually looking for: Dangerous visa-overstayers? Israeli operatives too unsophisticated to travel on false documents?

Like so many things (the US's TSA, for example, or the fake metal detectors in my Jakarta office), this strikes me as typical security-state mentality—A big show of weaponry and personnel, a flexing of muscles, but no discernible strategy.