January 31, 2011
. . . it would be a fabulous form of edutainment.
Read Bret Stephen’s take:
I had an inkling of this thought when the protests turned into looting, but, let’s face it. I said Mubarak is toast. So, this would be a 180 degree reversal.
The longer Mubarak takes to move and the longer the tourists stay away and the more the people think through ElBaradei’s deal with the Brotherhood, the more Mubarak looks good in camparison.
Bret Stephens casts Mubarak as a Taoist genious. Do nothing and yet nothing is undone. Stronly repress and protests prop up somewhere else and you may run out of people willing to do it. Step down and you wind up in some people’s court some where or under virtual house arrest in Saudi Arabia.
But do nothing, let the protesters wear on the shopkeepers; Let the people contemplate life under the Brotherhood. Then they’ll come back to daddy willingly, and they won’t be in this mood again for a long, loing time.
Maybe, it plays out. Maybe it doesn’t, but I really feel like I’m getting the benefit of an entire government course every day.
The one thing I don’t get is that every correspondent I read says how respected and powerful (relative to the rest of Egyptian society) the Egyptian Army is. And yet some I speak with who have been to the country tell a different story.
January 30, 2011
Iran sees big opportunity in these revolts.
There are some things you never forget. In this case I recall the Ayatollah Khomeini ambling down the tarmac on his triumphant return to Iran. Everyone was saying what it mistake it was to have installed and supported the Shah all those years. Western guilt hung in the air.
The Western press treated it like the astronauts returning from the mooon. Carter was optimistic because Khomeini was a “man of God.” William Sullivan, the US Ambassador, had reported earlier the Ayatollah could play a “Gandhi-like” role in the country.
This just reinforces my point that no one in the West really knows what’s going on. The trick is to look like you do.
So, right now the reports are we’re publically supporting Mubarak, but behind the scenes supporting the revolt. The evidence? A communication with a single activist. Really? So, I suppose they’re thinking no matter what happens we knew it all along.
January 29, 2011
Read from Bottom. . .
I think it all comes down to the fact I don’t have a very pragmatic view of the Middle East. I swing from the heights of optimism that Democratic, non-theocratic regimes will spontaneously emerge, solving our problems for us to the lows of pessimism as expressed yesterday.
As far as I can tell the pragmatists just support the people currently in power. Carter was an idealist, which is why he let the Shah fall, and, in fact, tried to capture him to return him to Iran at the behest of the “revolution.” I’m not sure what to call that action.
No one saw the theocratic regime in Iran coming. I remember watching Khomenei amble back into Iran after the fall of the Shah, while the US press told us all what a wonderful event this was. Yes, really.
The US Ambassador William Sullivan compared him to Gandhi.
This was before “Gandhi” sent ‘students’ to occupy our embassy and generally sponsor all sorts of theocratic militants around the world. Didn’t anyone actually read his stuff? We’re so used to American politicians who say one thing and mean another that when foreign leaders speak their minds we collectively wonder what they really mean.
So, there we have it, idealism, pragmatism, or I don’t even know what to call it. None of them very satisfying.
Should we just figure out who likes (or hates us the least) in each country and support them?
Should we support Democracy in all cases or just when we don’t think Islamists will win (like Algeria)?
Should we just try to hold out until the oil runs out?
Should we not worry about it as long as they can’t project serious power beyond their borders?
Should we just party until the sun comes up and face whatever reality awaits us?
I am not trying to be humorous when I say our current course seems to be somewhere between the fourth and fifth option.
It’s hard to find a single strategy that applies in all cases, given the different situation from country to country, tribe to tribe. Which is why I think the US Government and everyone else just punts and tries to make themselves look like they’re doing something; with the notable exception of George W. Bush.
If the Tunisian and Egyptian societies do manage to work through this and set up stable democracies, then they will owe more to George Bush than any other American President. He’s the only one of them who thought they could do it, said it repeatedly, and acted on it.
Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Obama had his chance in Iran, but he channeled his inner Jean Luc Picard and said the Federation had no business interfering in the internal affairs of other planets. He pretty much did the same thing in Tunisia. When this whole thing started Hillary told us the Egyptian regime is stable. Biden said Mubarak is not a dictator. Obama said. . .
Maybe we need more of a Captain Kirk.
Ancient Chinese saying: “there’s no such thing as brutal honesty”. In other words, the honesty excludes the brutality. I think it’s along the lines of truthfulness being a valid legal defense against defamation in tort law.
In any case, I didn’t take any offense in the first place, so apology not accepted. I will be offended if your temp is still that high and you haven’t been in to see a doctor, though.
Me: (Disclaimer: I had a fever of 104 when I wrote this);
I don’t think the $2 billion figures into anyone’s calculation. If anything, it probably angers them that we’re propping up the regime. If you don’t know who your friends are, it makes it hard to conduct a coherent foreign policy (or life for that matter). All you can do is what we do, reinforce the status quo. During times like this, the danger of that course of action becomes apparent.
This was Reagan’s power with the Soviets. Not universally, mind you (I don’t think he did any better in the Middle East than anyone else), but viewing the Soviets as adversaries, not partners, appears to have been the right call.
Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, China, etc.. Who are our real friends in those countries? The enemy of our enemy? That can work, as long as you’re willing to quickly switch sides. Remember Churchill bombed the French fleet after France fell. We thought nothing of taking out the infrastructure of former, but occupied, allies. And it appeared to have one result we haven’t seen in a while. It actually worked.
On a positive note, if you can call it that, this may mark a protracted armed struggle within and between these nations. Like Europe, the only way this region is going to see peace in our lifetime is if you take the fight out of them. In Japan and Germany that only resulted from a lot of civilians dying, coupled with our promoting and their feeling genuine shame in their ideology.
This is a harsh view. I understand that, and I don’t love it, but I believe the facts available support me. Perhaps, this is the beginning of that process. We don’t have the collective will to do it, but they just might.
Also, no one’s going to mind if we take out Iran’s nuclear capability if they are in active combat with other nations. Think of the problems that solves
So I presume the “preference” in this case is that of the Egyptians who had been believing that “it’s worth going along with our corrupt dictator since he’s bringing home $2 billion a year from the U.S.” But now that they’ve heard that the U.S. runs a $1.5 trillion deficit each year, maybe $2B doesn’t sound like sufficient compensation after all?
Hmmm… I wonder if the people in Nevada are feeling the same way about Harry Reid.
This is what we call a Preference Cascade:
January 28, 2011
“Examine the president’s words, and you see nothing new or specific. It hardly constitutes bravery to call for a bipartisan Social Security fix that doesn’t slash benefits. At that level of generality, who would disagree?
The health care law — if implemented as planned — is merely a down payment on cost containment. But the president’s only specific was to repeat his offer to join with Republicans on medical malpractice reform. This is attacking a mountain with a teaspoon.
Corporate tax reform is a great idea but not a solution to the fiscal problem. The president’s opening bid was to fix the corporate tax code without adding to the deficit.”
January 28, 2011
More on the intransigent ideologue point.
Michael Gerson, whom, as near as I can tell is a moderate Republican (Calls Sarah Palin a problem; Obama was right on the NY mosque thing) wrote a column recently called “no-bend Obama,” noting that his SOTU speech was the same old stuff using prettier words.
I love this part:
” Any focus group facilitator will tell you that the dials go up with words such as “investment” and “competitiveness” – or “daffodils” and “lollipops” – and down with words such as “debt,” “crisis” and “bankruptcy.”
So, my evolving point of view is that he’s a politically savvy ideologue. All the signs were there in terms of his Presidential campaign, but I think my own preconceptions got in the way of identifying the truth.
Oddly, Gerson thinks it matters who is right rather than who earns political advantage. So, you may wish to discount his point-of-view.
January 28, 2011
I have less admiration for Janet Napolitano than I had before. I would say something else, but I’m trying to minimize the probability of having the inside of my right leg touched on the next flight. I much preferred the “system” she referred to where airline passengers took security into their own hands. (pun unintended, but appropriate). In Stephan’s world we would also allow those passengers to try and pass sentence on the accused before they deplane.
I will say something positive. The agent told me he was going to touch the inside of my front leg, but he just brushed the outside. It’s going to take the TSA some time to find the sort of deviants and power-seekers who will follow these sort of orders without question or, perhaps, enjoy them.
You think unmarried priests are a problem? Just wait.
On a positive note, for a few weeks, I was afraid the President was actually pivoting, pulling a Clinton. After hearing the SOTU speech where he apparently discovered we have a problem with education in this country (Thank you, Mr. President! as Noonan wrote today, “Who knew?”) and hearing about all the benefits of solar panels and high-speed rail I realize he’s just as much an ideologue as I thought he was.
Egypt is in flames (or so the reports say). Perhaps, they exaggerate. Perhaps, not.
But the same people who scoffed Democracy could be brought to Iraq now seem to believe it can spontaneously arise in Tunisia and Egypt. I’m betting on the Extremists. They’re the ones with the underground organization.
After WWII the Communists in Greece who (60,000 of them) had done a great deal of the resisting against the Nazis figured they should inherit the nation. They had a pretty good case, and they were the ones who were organized. It took massive help from the British and US Governments for the Nationalists to prevail.
I suspect in the case of collapse of these two governments, there will be no clear entity to which to give support and no Will (thank you, Friedrich) to do so even if one could be identified.
I haven’t seen this written anywhere, but the parallels to Iran are 1979 are stark. Julian Assange may go down as the most effective Useful Idiot in history. Or, perhaps, non-Islamist Democracy will spontaneously arise (which might make him a hero), but it’s hard to see that happening.
January 21, 2011
. . . I believe what the Islamists can’t stand about us is not our military or our support of Israel. It’s our culture. It’s abhorent to them, and no matter where you live on earth you can’t get away from it. Bin Laden’s releases say as much. After 9/11 he called us the worst culture to have ever existed. I don’t recall his wording precisely.
From time to time I see their point.
I think, perhaps, one percent of the US population understands this or maybe I’m the one who doesn’t understand, but I have been surprised there has been absolutely zero discussion of it in the public sphere.
January 19, 2011
While the West prattles on about democratizing Tunisia, it appears to be in willful denial the toppling of Ben Ali opens a door for the Islamists. The revolution apparently didn’t start from these folks, but absent any progress (and there won’t be any) in terms of solving Tunisia’s unemployment problem, the Islamist offering may appear attractive.
After all had it not been for the Battle of Tours in 732 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tours and the Battle of Vienna in 1683 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vienna Europe may already have been Islamized. Here’s their chance to correct this historical wrong (from their perspective).
I see a lot of parallels with the Islamist rise and that of Germany in the 30’s. The ideology is quite similar. The inherent superiority of themselves; The systematic elimination of unwanted people from their populations (Christians are being slowly squeezed out of Muslim nations) and the Koran itself has guidelines for how to treat Jews and Christians (pagans can just be killed outright “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them.”
Yes, I know there are all sorts of interpretations possible from this book. What matters is the interpretation our adversaries are taking. We consistently underestimate the power of the ideology and collective will (acknowledgement to Nietzsche-yet another parallel). The Islamists have their own version of brown shirts to intimidate the population, and they are succeeding in this in a number of places.
I do not believe the majority of people in Germany were evil. But so long as Hitler was winning, drawing on their nationalist impulses, they were quite content to go along. This is about what we should expect from the moderate elements of Islamic society unless we give them a reason to think otherwise.