Correspondence Regarding Egypt

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:


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