The Egypt crisis; or, the Community Activist and foreign policy *UPDATED*

I was going to open this post with a snarky line about whether anybody with even marginal intelligence expected a 40-something community activist to have the necessary chops to deal with an international crisis of the type currently unfolding in Egypt.  Indeed, I think I still will:  Does anybody with an IQ over the single digits seriously believe that a former community activist and part-time legal lecturer has the skills and knowledge to handle the revolutionary disarray unfolding on Egypt’s streets right now?  No.  I didn’t think so.

Snark out of the way, I want to talk about something more profound than mere inexperience — and that’s Obama’s instinctive distrust of individual freedom.  His two years in office have shown us that, given the choice, Obama will invariably bow to whatever, or whomever, controls the government faction in a given country.

My sister suggested that this is because dictators tend to mean “peace,” albeit the peace of the grave.  Peace, no matter how ugly, means stability.  She’s got a point.  After all, the Soviet Union kept an iron grip on ethnic and tribal rivalries within its territory, all of which exploded once its grip loosened.

I think there’s something deeper going on here, though.  Barack Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that, for him, government is the only answer.  The bigger the government, the more admirable and answerable it must be.  And what could be bigger than a totalitarian dictatorship kind of government?

Obama has repeatedly demonstrated his (false) belief that, if he can just make nice to that government, and steer it to use its power for his Nanny-state version of good, rather than the government’s theocratic or Communist version of evil, all will be well.  It doesn’t seem to occur to him that a government that has ascended to the heights of totalitarian power, whether it’s the Norks, or Ahmadinejad, or Mubarak, or Chavez, is inherently evil.

Given that belief, it’s no wonder that Obama’s response to a revolutionary uprising by people under the thumb of a Big Government is to try to quell the uprising, and give his moral support to the Big Government.  Individual liberty baffles him.  Big Government — he thinks — is workable, if he can just turn on the Messiah charm.  Given his druthers, I suspect, he’d much rather deal with the Muslim Brotherhood (stable sharia big government), than the potential ugliness and fractiousness of a nation trying to feel its way towards individual freedom.

One of the things I remember reading in a Natan Sharansky book was the importance he attached to Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech.  What Sharansky said is that, when you live under totalitarianism, you are constantly being “gaslighted.”

For those of you too young to know what that phrase means, let me explain.  One of the great noire movies is Gaslight.  Ingrid Bergman plays a Victorian wife whose ostensibly benign husband is, in fact, trying to convince her that she’s insane.  He does that by constantly manipulating the reality around her — hiding things, denying events, etc. — so that she no longer trusts her own senses.

To “gaslight” someone, therefore, means to use lies and manipulation to convince him that his sense of reality is flawed and, quite possibly, that he is insane.  The psychiatric gulags in the former Soviet Union are a testament to how far the gaslighter will go to control his victim.

In the former Soviet Union, the citizens were constantly told that things were wonderful, that they were free, that housing and food were bountiful, and that their lives reflected the high quality one could expect in a true socialist nation.  This information wasn’t simply backed up by brutality, a force that tends to be a reality check.  Instead, it was the rah-rah propaganda backdrop of their lives:  school, movies, television, meetings, marches, etc. — all told them that the experience of their own five senses was a lie, contrary to the “true” Soviet reality.

Into this madhouse, came Ronald Reagan.  Reagan didn’t use polite language, he was uninterested in relativism, and didn’t pander.  Instead, he said “Evil Empire” — and millions of people under Communism’s boot said to themselves “Yes!  I’m NOT crazy.”  Knowing you’re not crazy feeds the soul.  You are energized and revitalized.  You can and will fight another day.

Obama refuses to speak of freedom.  He refuses to tell people they’re not crazy.  Instead, he leaves them in the funny house of Islamic dictatorships, struggling to mesh the knowledge their brain receives from its five senses with the nonsense touted in mosques, on televisions, in movies, etc.

Obama need not speak out against Mubarak, who has been something of an ally, and who certainly is no friend of the Muslim Brotherhood.  However, it would behoove him to speak in Democratic terms, no just about some gauzy “peace,” but about individual liberty.  He should encourage the government and the people to work together toward that goal.  Doing so will give Mubarak some wiggle room — that is, he can enact some face-saving policies — and it will enable the people on the streets to coalesce around a positive idea, as opposed to thrumming to raw rage.

Our elected community organizer, however, continues to trust that he can just organize those nasty little dictatorships into loving Big Governments.  He still dreams of the socialist paradise that no longer needs gaslighting to control its citizen’s lives.

Obama is the cause of these uprisings, because his weakness has created the cracks and fissures through which revolution explodes.  And Obama will be the cause of a significant decrease in world freedom, because that same weakness, coupled with his totalitarian inclinations, will ensure that the people or movement most committed to the restriction of individual liberty will invariably triumph.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  J.E. Dyer hones in on the enormous risks to America if America fails to act.

UPDATE II:  Welcome, Instapundit readers!  I happily castigated Obama in this post.  If you’d enjoy a snarky gear switch, so that you can learn why Al Gore is also to blame, here’s another post for you.

UPDATE IIIObama made his statement, and did reference certain freedoms we still take for granted in America.  I applaud him saying these things, but — picky me — think he still managed, for the most part, not to say as little as possible in democracy’s favor:

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.

The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.

Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region. But we’ve also been clear that there must be reform — political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time. When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.

Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people: a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people.

Now, ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. And I believe that the Egyptian people want the same things that we all want — a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair and just and responsive. Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.

The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future. And we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it.

Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That’s true here in the United States; that’s true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard.

When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.

Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.

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  • Gringo


    His two years in office have shown us that, given the choice, Obama will invariably bow to whatever, or whomever, controls the government faction in a given country.
     
    My one-liner interpretation of that is that for the US to condemn the acts of a government of a country, as Carter did with Argentina, or like Dubya did with the “axis of evil,” is to “interfere” in the domestic affairs of another country, and 21st century progs like Obama never want to “interfere,” never want to “dominate.” [And yes, the junta did consider Carter’s statements to be "interference."] To ratchet up US actions, such as in Iraq: better to keep a tyrant in office  who has already initiated two wars, who is also responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of his own people, and who has repeatedly violated a decade-long cease-fire while firing at US planes,  than to “interfere” or “dominate.”

    My sister suggested that this is because dictators tend to mean “peace,” albeit the peace of the grave.  Peace, no matter how ugly, means stability.
     
    Agreed. I am reminded of listening to George McGovern just before the onset of Iraq War I. He said that negotiating is always better than war, and that we got peace in Vietnam that way. I was a pacifist who had 1-O draft status during the Vietnam War. The genocide in Cambodia, years after we withdrew, changed my mind on pacifism. No one has clean hands, including pacifists. We stood on the sideline while a quarter of the Cambodian people were slaughtered. That may have been the practical thing to do. We have not sent troops to stop the war in the Congo, where some 5 million have lost their lives.  But practical does not mean clean hands.
     
    When George McGovern said we had gotten peace in Vietnam, my immediate reaction was, “Yes we got peace. The peace of the dead.”

  • Charles Martel

    I think you’ve nailed Obama’s deficiencies pretty well, Book. It is distressing to see a man so lacking in the essentials trying to act presidential.

    I see two problems: One, Obama’s enablers and lackeys (mainstream media) will airbrush his appeasements and haplessness, so it’s going to take a while to see just how Carter-like Obama’s disastrous handling of our foreign relations will turn out. (Of course his lack of courage and clumsiness could open the way for Reagan II.)

    The other problem is that as he leaves a godawful mess for the grown-up who will follow him, he is systematically sapping the wealth we will need to restore our global role as the guarantor of open sea lanes and protector of small countries (Taiwan, Israel, Poland, South Korea, Colombia) against the world’s bullies. It will take us years to restore our honor and credibility.

    This guy reminds me of Al Capp’s character, Joe Btfsplk, in “Li’l  Abner.” Wherever Btfsplk appears, bad luck befalls everyone in the vicinity. 

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  • Tonestaple

    A splendid analysis, Book – one of the best I’ve ever read here.  Perhaps this – support for and opposition (or indifference) to individual liberty – would make a good theme for your book.

    I read a book quite a long while ago called something like “Viet Cong Diary.”  It was one man’s story of his life as a Viet Cong during the war.  This man started out as a nationalist who simply wanted to get rid of the French.  That was their entire program:  France Out!  Unfortunately, nature abhors a vacuum and the Communists saw this as an opening.  They were able to take over the nationalist movement and turn it into a communist movement because the nationalists didn’t really know where they wanted to go. 

    I worry about Egypt because I don’t think they know where they want to go after.  Maybe they think El Baradei knows where to go, but if it’s just him, what’s stopping him from becoming another Mubarak?  The biggest danger is, the Muslim Brotherhood knows exactly where they want to go, and if no one else has a plan, they will succeed and there will be another Sharia state in place.

  • suek

    I’ve been trying to soak up information on the Egyptian situation.  I don’t know enough..!
     
    Apparently, Mubarek had intended for his son Gamal to follow him.  Supposedly the military feels he is not qualified.  Gamal left Egypt 2-3 days ago.  The Muslim Brotherhood is a substantive politically active organization with ambition and Iranian backing.  The Brotherhood wants an islamic government, the military wants a secular government.  Some are saying that the uprisings seem to be very organized.
     
    So.  Since I have no real knowledge, nothing inhibits me from speculation.
     
    What if…the military, knowing Mubarek is losing control, infiltrates the MB and incites them to the demonstrations.  Having done so, and caused massive uprising – primarily by those who either are or who support the MB – the military, in their “great fear of chaos” uses their force to quash the uprising, killing many of the MB leaders while doing so, and then takes control of the government to prevent further problems.  And of course, since Gamal is out of country, designates a new leader.
     
    Of course, if Mubarak still has power and strength, this might be foolhardy – but I haven’t heard anything in the way of “I have everything under control”, as you might expect from a leader.  Makes me wonder what his condition is…living, dead, or dying??
     
    Equally of course, Mubarak might show up on a balcony somewhere and give a powerful speech, complete with his military generals around him.  Any moment now.   Or not.
     
     
     
     
     

  • suek

    And I forgot to include…Mubarek is 83, I believe.  That’s a ripe old age.

  • jj

    I think your sister hits a good point.  There is a history in US diplomacy of our being willing to tolerate other people’s dictators in the interests of smooth sailing and stability for western interests.  On a governmental level, we – and the British Empire before us, and Rome before that, and anyone tasked with the idea of keeping what we might call the “larger goal” in sight – have always favored those who could keep it tamped down.  This inevitably leads to us being seen as being on the wrong side when the people have finally had enough.
     
    We supported a Shah that the people regarded as oppressive.  (That the people turned out to be fools and have since had the opportunity to learn something about what constitutes real oppression, is not relevant to the terms of this discussion.)  We ended up with the Iranian people mad at us for being on the wrong side, and duplicitous in our espousing of freedom and democracy for being his pal.  We supported Ferdie Marcos – same story: we lost the hearts and minds of the Philippine people because he was a dictator and the people hated him.  We were on the side of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba – whom the Cuban people despised and would not fight for, and despised us for supporting.     Ditto the assembly-line of dictator wannabes who ran South Vietnam, and for whom their own people would not fight.  We have been on the sides of a raft of dictators throughout South America and Africa, and aligned quite against the people they oppressed.  Mubarak is a dictator.  He is a little bit less of a shitweasel than Saddam Hussein was, but a dictator nonetheless – and we are on his side and, again, on the wrong side of history.
     
    (The very interesting one to come will be Saudi Arabia, which is also a dictatorship – a somewhat polite one, but “dictatorship: is the word – which is also supported by us.  And which is also widely disliked by the people, who will see us as having supported the dictators – again.  When that blows up and the oil stops, won’t life become interesting!)
     
    We are on Mubarak’s side for the same reasons we were on the side of the others I’ve mentioned: because they were capable of maintaining some form of stability.  We like stability – our marketers like stability for their markets – and we are a country of marketers.
     
    Obama does not know what to do – perfectly true.  Obama never knows what to do because he is a child, but I have to say this is a tough one.  I haven’t seen a president before him who handled the fall of a dictator/ally very well, and managed to keep the people he oppressed happy about us, or regarding America as their friend.
     
    I’ve been watching dictator/allies bite the bullet since the Eisenhower administration.  Eisenhower didn’t know how to uncouple us from having been allied to Farouk, or England in Kenya; Kennedy didn’t know how to uncouple us from having been allied to Batista – and made it worse by trying to invade, nor did he know how to uncouple us from Lumumba, or from France in ALgeria; Johnson and Nixon combined didn’t know how to uncouple us from having been allied to half a dozen South American and African dictators, not to mention US support for Salazr and Caetano (the Portuguese people hated us there for a while, but they got over it); Carter didn’t know what planet he was on – and so it goes.
     
    Obama is a uniquely terrible excuse for a chief executive – but which of them has ever been able to overcome having been an ally of a dictator when the people he oppresses have finally had enough?  I don’t know – but there are a lot of people around the globe who don’t like us because we supported their oppressors,and here we are again.  And if the Suez canal gets closed down, we don’t need to wait for Saudi problems – oil’s already gone up 4% just today.
     
    It’ll be an interesting ride.  It’ll be more interesting because Obama’s such a f***up, but it would have been interesting whoever was in charge.

  • SADIE

    suek
     
    Mubarak’s power is with  the military. The police force is anybody’s guess. It has been reported that some officers took off their uniforms and joined the protesters. The real control is with the military. In the other thread, I mentioned that one of the generals (can’t recall his name) is in the states now conferring, for lack of a better word with US officials. Mubarak may exit, but the military isn’t and that’s the open question as well as the seriousness of who will control the Suez Canal. Another note of interest is that Mo El-Baradei arrived Thursday in Egypt and on Friday the mosques were urging them to go out into the streets to demonstrate and escalation followed.
     
    John Bolton speaks to several of the very same issues that I have already raised.
     
    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/01/28/amb-john-bolton-democracy-coming-eygpt/
     

  • Owen

    As much as I’d love to blame Obama for just about anything, I not sure the breakdown can be blamed on his weakness and vaccilation. If he had acted like he should one could equally say that if support for greater freedoms had encouraged rioting and revolt.

    The problems — as have been very ably pointed out above — is not who or what caused this, but how we deal with the aftermath, and Obama’s wrongheadness can really hurt.

    The key thing that will probably govern how this turns out is who occupies the key positions is the military and security forces. If there are Islamists in those positions, the risk of a radical Islamist regime are high. If there are secular people occupy those positions, the risks is lower.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Ralph Peters: The Shah always falls.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Peters gets many things wrong. In this case, his sin is attempting to apply a superficially simple model to the Middle East.
     
     

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  • SADIE

    Owen
     
    Good point regarding key positions and who/what hold them. Of course, we both know that it only takes one or several well placed radicals under the tutelage of another Omar Abdul Rahman to assassinate and upset the apple cart.
     
    Cliff  Notes for anyone who doesn’t remember some of the players in 1981:
    Anwar Sadat (president before Mubarak)
    Omar Abdul Rahman ( who arranged the Sadat hit and the 1993 bombing of the WTC )
    Ayman al-Zawahari (al-Qaida) and the one who called Obama, “a house negro”.
     
    Thank goodness we have well informed and clever state department. Unfortunately, no one gave them a pencil to connect the dots and 30 years later … well, you know the history (snark off).

  • suek

    Well…it’s the NYTimes…but it’s all I’ve got…
     
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/29/world/middleeast/29unrest.html?_r=1

  • SADIE

    And this quote:
     
    Gibbs: the Egyptian people’s “legitimate grievances” need to be addressed “immediately.”
     
    Sadie (singing): Walk like an Egyptian ….
     
    Go figure, suek…if we could walk and talk like an Egyptian, our grievances would be addressed. Yalla (let’s go) see the man : )

  • Danny Lemieux

    With all this great commentary, I don’t know if I am coming to the party a bit late with my “deja-vue all over again” story, but here goes.
     
    I was attending graduate school at a university that was a mecca for Middle Easter students (Arab and Israeli), as well as Iranians, around the time the Shah fell. Because of my expat experiences with Middle Easterners, many of my friends were in this community. I had Iranian friends and acquaintances from all different factions: some pro-Shah, many Leftist and a few pretty-scary pro-Khomeini Jihadi types (who were definitely not among my “friends”). I was well aware of the bad sides of the Shah and his SAVAK secret police. I had one friend who had been smuggled out of the country after having hidden in a tree top while the SAVAK killed the other members of his Leftist unit below.
     
    However, whenever my friends would argue that the Shah was bad and had to go, my question was always, “compared to what?”. We didn’t know much about Khomeini and militant Islam, then. Once, two Iranian Leftist friends pigeonholed me on a stairwell to assure me that a Leftist-run Iran would be a secular, democratic and free society. At the end of their explanations, though, one allowed that “first, of course, we would have to eliminate all of the Shah supporters”. End of credibility!
     
    Of course, once the Shah fell, the Leftists and other Shah opponents were quickly rounded up and shot by the much better organized Jihadis. Carter, meanwhile, dithered,blathered and betrayed, in the grand Democrat tradition. Today, we all pay the price of his fecklessness.
     
    The problem with the revolutions currently underway is that all factions, internal and foreign, will be fighting to control the situation to their own interest. Russia and China are notorious for controlling factions that lead to fascist dictatorships that they can control. They certainly won’t give squat about human rights. The problem with many Americans, especially on the Left, is that we tend to hissy fit in pompous piety if another country’s standards are not perfect enough to meet our democratic expectations (but then, neither does Chicago). We don’t know how to ask and answer the question, “compared to what?”.
     
    Tunisia will probably be OK…France will see to that, despite neighboring Libya’s meddling interests. Algeria…maybe: France still has a lot of influence in Algeria but it is a very big and divided country. In their favor, the Algerians successfully destroyed the Jihadis before in a horrific war that killed well over 100,000 (during the 1990s).
     
    Egypt, though, I worry about. The Muslim Brotherhood represents the largest and best-organized opposition in Egypt. True, some things are different, including social networking and the internet, that could help other opponents coalesce. However, there are a lot of foreign influences at work in Egypt that could have huge consequences for us and the rest of the world. Hezbolla has already gone to the Jihadis. If Saudi Arabia and Jordan erupt, look out!
     
    One of the preeminent reasons (there were several – 12, I believe) that the Bush Administration initiated regime change in Iraq was to provide a working democracy as an alternative governing model to the failed and oppressive Middle East kleptocracies. The idea was that a successful model in Iraq would eventually be transformative to the rest of the Middle East. I believe that we are seeing the beginning of this.
     
    Today as in the Carter era, revolutionary democrat forces in the Middle East today will not be able to count on the U.S. at this critical moment. As we know all too well, Obama will dither, blather, betray and vote “present”. Besides, I don’t think the rest of the world takes him (or U.S.) seriously anymore. So, the bad guys will probably win.
     
    It’s a shame that the opportunity presented by the Bush era will likely end up having been squandered at the critical moments when they could have succeeded. What a waste!
     
    I certainly hope that I am wrong on these last points.
     
     
     
     

  • SADIE

    I don’t know if I am coming to the party a bit late



    The party can’t begin without music. Danny these three words did it…
     
    “compared to what?”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnAEjHiGN0A&feature=fvst

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    Somebody please help me out here, because as usual I don’t have the knowledge base I need.  As I understand it from the post and comments, Egypt can go in one of three directions — Mubarek & his son, the military independent of Mubarek, or the MB.  Is Mohamed ElBaradei a 4th alternative, and, if so, what are his political leanings? 

    Anyway, Obama’s response is to try to strong-arm Mubarek.  Is this an appropriate response?  Is it consistent with Bookworm’s analysis above?  It strikes me as improving the chances that MB will succeed, not a desireable outcome from America’s standpoint.  What am I missing?

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  • Oldflyer

    With only superficial knowledge to rely, on I fall back on gut hunches.  There appears to me to be a common theme in all of the upheavals in the Islamic world.  The best organized and most committed force invariably exploits the situation, crushes or pushes aside the fragmented opposition before they can get their bearings, and comes out on top in the long run.
    A few examples:
    Start with Israel.  The Israelis were ready,  committed and united when the British left, while the Arabs (Palestinians) were fragmented.  The Israelis pulled off a near miraculous coup; and they have fought for survival ever since.  Current events are trending to their distinct disadvantage.
    In Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, the War Lords got busy killing each other off.  The Taliban were content to let them go about their bloody work, and when the WL’s had weakened each other sufficiently, they were organized, they were committed and they were ready.
    In Iran after the fall of the Shah, the Mullahs were organized and went about consolidating their position, while the pro-democracy folks were still celebrating and organizing factions. I don’t think the pro-democracy folks ever understood what had happened to them until much too late.
    In Iraq the Baathists were organized and ready.  This time Sadr and his crowd seem to be the best organized.  I am a little nervous about the situation if the other elements do not unite soon.
    In Gaza, Hamas was more organized, more committed and better armed than the opposition.  They achieved democratic success in Gaza at the point of a gun.
    Lebanon illustrates the point time after time.  This time it is Hezbollah viz a disorganized and fragmented government.
    I wonder if the French have the stomach to impose sufficient influence in Algeria or Tunisia.  They have their own problems at home with the Muslim minorities.  The ultimate resolution in those two countries is not yet clear by a long shot.
    Now that the conflagration has begun elsewhere, Jordan will certainly be pressured.  I don’t know if the opposition to the Monarchy can unite with enough strength to threaten; but, I expec the attempt.
    So, in Egypt.  The Army was ready in ’52.  The Muslim Brotherhood made their play against Anwar Sadat.  Now they may have another shot, as this chaotic situation plays into their hands. The pro-democracy forces will do the heavy lifting; but once it is done, they will make a play.  I will bet on it.  This time there are external forces (Islamist/Al Qaeda) who will support them.  How will the “Timid West: respond?  Not clear.
    It may be that the majority of Muslims are not militant; but on the other hand it seems the Islamists are by far the best organized amongst them, and exert influence beyond their raw numbers.  I suspect that few will stand against them when and where they rise in force.
    I wish that our government was in stronger hands.  Most of these situations will present a confusing mosaic.  I expect that the early standard bearers in every case will be pro-democracy reformers.  Lurking behind them will be more sinister elements.  Can our buffoons, I mean Leaders, sort them out?  I am not betting on this roll of the dice.

  • Owen

    All is pretty much rampant speculation at this point. As usual, we are hearing the typical flood of disconnected and probablty mostly wrong beat-the-news-cycle reporting. Lot’s of posturing is happening. Obama is going to be directed to play as much or to the NYT than to the Egyptians — who may or may not give a damn when we think.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think history is a very good guide. This is not your fathers or grandfather’s Eqypt. I don’t think we can necessarily carve up Eqypt according to the way it was, or it was thought to be, in the 70s, or 50s, nor can we expect people to act as they would have then. It is not clear to me that you can still pull the stunts that Khomeni did after his revolution, that Yuan Shikai did after the Wuhan uprisings, and that mnay other have done in between. 

    If the MB is stuck in old-think mode I do not think they can control this situation — they will be reactive. Whoever gets ahead of the people will come out on top. The wildcards are the military and the people.

    Re: Mohamed ElBaradei. He got a Nobel prize — I think that says a lot. His statements regarding Iran’s nuke program do not reassure. He made overtures to the MB but it is not clear he actually supports them or they him. I gut tells me he’d make a mess of things, he seems like the kind of guy Obama would like (they strike me as being a bit similar). I suspect he’s a manager, not a leader. Personally, I think I’d happier with a home-grown leader in place of a Euro-ized technocrat.

    Once there was considerable nostlagia for Sadat — I wonder if there still is. If so, that would be a good thing.

  • Owen

    Regarding Obama and the State Dept: I doubt they can make this situation better but I’m sure they can make it worse. Given their level of competence, I think I’d rather they just blather foolishly instead of actually trying to meddle.

  • Owen

    “Obama will be the cause of a significant decrease in world freedom, because that same weakness, coupled with his totalitarian inclinations, will ensure that the people or movement most committed to the restriction of individual liberty will invariably triumph.”

    This may be wishful thinking, but I think this statement may give Obama too much credit. The converse of this statement — that if we had a decent President, individual liberty would invariably triumph is certainly not the case. So if we are ready to blame Obama from things going badly, are we going to give him credit if they happen to turn out OK?

    That said, I’m not convinced everyone just looks to the US and the good guys and bad guys are heartened or depressed according to what we say. One good indicator is to read the signs — if they are in English, this is an orchestrated play for US/World opinion. If they are in the local language, they are a legitimate expression of the people’s opinion.

  • Oldflyer

    I hope you are correct Owen, that the people would overwhelm the MB.  I know that history is not always an accurate guide, but chaos=opportunity; and as I tried to convey, those who are best prepared will usually benefit. There are some indications that there is at least a loosely organized pro-democracy movement.  I hope that is accurate.
    It will be interesting if the Army finally steps in and takes control. And I don’t think they will, at least not overtly,  except as a last resort. But,if it came to that… Interesting reports tonight that the Top Dogs in the Egyptian Army were in the U.S. all this week conferring with the Pentagon; just moseyed on back home tonight.  So, I think the Army would be “friendly to us”, but the big question would be whether our Regime would be friendly to the Egyptian Army if they took control of the country.

  • SADIE

    Am I the only wondering ‘if’ the Zero had spoken up in support of the ‘green revolution in Iran’ the ongoing crisis in Egypt could have been mitigated.
     
     

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    @Sadie:  Nope.  I was thinking the same thing.  He wouldn’t support those who wanted to get rid of the mullahcracy, even with his words!
     
    I suspect this is Carter II, and Egypt will end up like Iran.  I really HOPE that Suek’s scenario in #5 turns out to be what happens, but I wouldn’t bet that way.  If I were forced to bet, it would be on the Muslim Brotherhood, because they are organized and determined.  I wouldn’t want to be an Egyptian just now…especially a Copt!

  • SADIE

    Earl – Chefs think alike : )
     
    I have yet to hear any statements from the EU.  Of course, no shortage of opinions from the arab press. Feel free to read the link below. The ‘elements’ are seeing the riots as a two-fer (diminishing America and Israel). In case you’re questioning the word ‘elements’ it’s just my way of off setting Iran’s use of ‘Zionist entity’. I actually have another vocabulary I use in real life – an eclectic blend of  cursing in Arabic, English and Hebrew to get the message across hard and fast. My darling Nana (grandmother) spent some years in Alexandria during WWI (too long of a story to get into now). Bless her heart and memory, I never heard her curse in English, but her ability to come up with just the right phrase in Arabic was perfect.
     
    http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=50831
     

    p.s. from what I’ve been reading the MB draws about 20% from, as they say … the arab street.
     
     
     

  • Philip_Daniel

    “Arab world”
    Ah, here we have Obama the supporter of Pan-Arab Imperialism…who cares about the Copts, the Nubians, or the Siwas Berbers, it’s the Arab World! Ugh…
    The Ikhwan will take power and impose their theocratic madness in the land of the Nile, with the support of most of the population…it’s 1979 all over again…
    And, we all know what the Ikhwan wants here, in the US, so, of course, we shouldn’t be wary of its popularity in Egypt and the likelihood of its political hegemony there…

    “Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America:
    The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slackers and the Mujahedeen be equal.”
    http://sites.google.com/site/kitmantv/Home/memorandum.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

    Oh, but we shouldn’t be concerned about how this “revolt” will turn our, despite the fact that, as Andrew Bostom has shown, most of Egypt seems to desire the imposition of Shari’ah in contrast to “Taghout” (“man-made law”) — see this link here: http://www.andrewbostom.org/blog/2011/01/28/vox-populi-in-egypt%E2%80%94caliphate-dreams-and-strict-sharia/

  • Owen

    Oldflyer: I hope so too — I think. That’s why I called them a wildcard. I really don’t know what to think. Consider it this way: if one had to assess the popularity of Obamacare by reading the NYT and watching CNN, what would one think? The info we get about how public opinion breaks down over there and what people want and how badly is even more distorted than what we get from the MSM about Obamacare or Palin.

    For example: We hear the MB has 20% support — what does that mean? After all, I’ve seen surveys that claim 25-30% of Americans think the USG was behind 9/11. One way to look at that is that if conspiracy nuts can convince 25-30% of Americans they are right but the MB can only convince 20% of Egyptians they are right, then Egyptians are smarter and better informed than us and the MB’s support is so low as to be meaningless.

    The other way to look at it is that people are fibbing in surveys and/or the question was badly phrased or both. (Of course, surveys are a very western habit – the whole idea of conducting a survey in Moslem country is downright idiotic unless you are very shrewd about it.)

    There are ways to figure out what people really think, who’s doing what, and who controls whom, etc. But a Pew survey or Al Jazeera reports  are not among them.

  • Owen

    Michael Ledeen is someone I’d like to have to dinner when he’s not annoying me with his “faster, please” schtick. So I don’t always agree with him, but he has some good things to say here: http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2011/01/28/revolution-by-whom-for-what/?singlepage=true

    “Everyone’s in a big hurry, and lots of mistakes will be made.

    And what about us?  We are supposed to be the revolutionaries, and we must support democratic revolution against tyranny.  But we must not support phony democrats, and for the president to say “Egypt’s destiny will be determined by the Egyptian people,” or “everyone wants to be free” is silly and dangerous.  Egypt’s destiny will be determined by a fight among Egyptian people, some of whom wish to be free and others who wish to install a tyranny worse than Mubarak’s.  …

    It is possible to move peacefully from dictatorship to democracy (think Taiwan.  Think Chile.  Think South Africa).  But we didn’t, in part because of the racist stereotype that goes under the label “the Arab street,” according to which the Arab masses are motivated above all by an unrelenting rage at Israel for its oppression of the beloved Palestinians.  That myth went along with another:  the belief that the culture of the Arab world (sometimes expanded to “the culture of the Muslim world”) was totally resistant to democracy.  The tumult has nothing to do with Palestine/Israel and even a blind bat can see hundreds of thousands of Arabs fighting for democracy, as have their fellow Muslims in Iran.”

    Read the whole thing!

  • jj

    Disconnects all over the place.
     
    The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues including working together to advance a more peaceful region. Kind of a problem,because we don’t in fact have a close relationship with “Egypt” – we have a close relationship with Mubarak.  Regrettably it turns out he is someone that “Egypt” does not like very much.  And “Egypt” will probably see us as being on the side of and supporting yet another dictator.  Which – in the interest of regional stability – is exactly what we’ve been doing.
     
    Around the world governments have a responsibility to respond to their citizens. Unless of course you’re a government determined to shove your health care plan up the people’s nose when 60%+ of them don’t want it.  In which case you don’t respond at all, you shut one political party completely out of the process, and you sneak it in on Christmas Eve when you think nobody’s looking.
     
    Sadly, to most of the world these disconnects are perfectly plain.
     
     
     
     

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    So if we are ready to blame Obama from things going badly, are we going to give him credit if they happen to turn out OK?

    The situation is special due to American sacrifices of blood and treasure under Bush’s guidance. All that stuff was intended, indirectly, to influence liberty movements in the Middle East. Obama, by not capitalizing on it, by in fact supporting Iranian mullocracy against the protesters, is wasting all the gains resulting from Bush’s policies.

    So this isn’t just some average President that was put in a bad situation and couldn’t do much about it. This is someone given a national treasure and he spent it on black jack money.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    A lot of people will give Obama credit if he does the “right” things hoping Obama’s inflated ego will motivate him to keep doing “the right” things. But I don’t think it actually works with that guy in power.

  • SADIE

    Suggested reading material from Daniel Greenfield. Has he nailed it? There’s no sand inside Washington, DC, so I have my doubts as to whether or not they know how to draw a line in it.

    -snip-

    The Islamists may not take over in Tunisia this time, but they will take over sooner or later. There and all across the Muslim world. (If it happened in militantly secularist Turkey with its army, then it really can happen anywhere.) Dictators will come and go, and eventually the local Islamists with funding from Saudi Arabia or Iran will put together a proper show and take over.

    http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2011/01/fall-of-strongmen.html

  • http://cowenjohnson.blogspot.com/ Owen

    Ymarsakar: Personally, I agree with you. My question was rhetorical. My point was tha it is a good to resist a rush to judgment. Rushing to judgment creates a narritive and if that narrative turns out to be false, one is placed in the position for either having to defend a false narrative or a having to walk back from it, which damages credibility.

    Rushing to judgment can also create unfounded expectations: it we take a more-or-less extreme position on this too early, we’ve set the goal posts and that can be used for political cover if we set them wrong. If we try to correct our mistake we are open to being accused of moving the goal posts.

    We also run the risk of seeming to create a non-falsifiable judgment: if things get awful, we say it is Obama’s fault — if things don’t, we say he deserves no credit. Even if we are right in this, a premature judgment makes us look like AWG zealots [world is warmer = AWG; world is colder = AWG; no discernable pattern = climate chaos = AWG].

    It would be much better in my view to hold off until a sober and reasoned assessment is possible: what happened, why it happened and what Obama’s role actually was. If things don’t turn out as bad as we fear, the Obama legions will exclaim what a savior, genius, etc he is, even if the actions that led to the less-than-horrble result were things he fought tooth-and-nail against.

    If that happens, it would be good to be able to explain that cogently when the time comes, without having squandered credibilty by leaping to conclusions.

    I have little doubt about Obama’s aims, ideals, and capabilities. Since I doubt he will be guided by this blog (and he could do much worse) I should bide my time and do about the only thing that can be done in this situation — gather up all the rope he hands us so as to limit what he do in the future.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I don’t like Obama.
     
    However, especially given the stakes at play here, I do hope he/they do the right thing.

  • suek

    From the financier’s point of view.
     
    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=178733
     
    My question has been… What do they want?  The rioters, I mean.  Suppose Mubarek got on a plane and flew off to anywhere tomorrow – what would change?  In Iraq, for example, there was a tremendous relief when Saddam was gone.  The US sort of ran things, got the electricity on line, and the water going again.  So if Mubarek leaves, who does those things?  Will it matter to the rioters?  who _are_ the rioters?  just your average put-upon citizen, or political activists?  _Supposedly_ the MB is sort of sitting on the sidelines…again, supposedly because they don’t want the military coming after them.  If they’re active, it’s very under cover…which doesn’t mean they aren’t, of course.
     
    Anyway…the linked article puts it in terms of hunger – and points the finger back at us.  Us being the use of inflation as a tool, in combination with sucking up all the corn to use as ethanol, and crop failures due to weather conditions.
     
    So…maybe whether Mubarek stays or goes is irrelevant – though that probably wouldn’t matter to the rioters if they just want an end to their misery and see Mubarek as the cause.

  • SADIE

     
    The snip below from the INSS suggests the same thing.
     
    The standard of living of the lower class in Egypt is particularly low, at the level of basic existence, because the average income is much lower than the international average and because the country lacks advanced mechanisms of social welfare available in developed nations. As a result of urbanization, more than two-thirds of the Egyptian population work in services, trade, and industry, and unlike in the past, have no access to sources of food in the rural areas.
     
    http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=50886
     
     

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I take your point, Owen. I don’t think the current Republican leadership is able to tolerate the Sarah Palins or Bachmans of the Tea Party controlling the message however.  Meaning, I think the Tea Party reps would have a higher chance of making the correct strategic judgments in terms of information control than their Old Guard competitors.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    If that happens, it would be good to be able to explain that cogently when the time comes, without having squandered credibilty by leaping to conclusions.

    Also, I think that’s exactly what many conservatives did in 2009, January. They were “waiting” for Obama to show himself. Some suspected it was bad. Not many suspected how bad. But they were willing to give him a “chance”, as the Japanese say. (More like, the Japanese using an English word in katakana to say it in the Japanese style)

    Of course, it helps to “prime” people’s suspicions ahead of time. It might not be wont to declare flat out that Obama was a disaster in January, but there should have been some hints spread around that he wasn’t what he sold himself as. Thus preparing the field for further operations down the road based upon new conditions.

  • http://cowenjohnson.blogspot.com/ Owen

    Ymarsakar: I am no great fan of the Old Guard Republican leadership. I suspect their motives and they tend to mumble.

    Regarding your next comment: yes, it is very well to set out the parameters of the debate (or the problem) and to highlight the likely indicators in same — in fact, it is necesary to avoid being reactive.

    Where my comfort is, is that I think this thing will begin to settle out in about 12 to 15 months, when the next campaign is being defined. So I expect the sober judgments to take shape just when most needed.

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