A profound difference between the Iranian protests and the current Egyptian uprising

When I was faced with troubling decisions in my life, I used to give myself a pep talk.  I’d tell myself that there were three things that could happen as a result of my decision:  things could get better, they could get worse, or they could remain the same.  So, I’d tell myself, there’s only a one third chance that my decision could have a bad outcome.  This simplistic way of looking at things ignored, of course, whether mine was a smart decision, that hewed in the direction of better-ness, or a dumb decision, that pretty much predicted the worst possible outcome.  The fact remained that there were indeed three possible outcomes.

That simplistic thinking is slightly useful right now.  Think back to the Iran protests.  I watched those protests with fascination, because I knew that, from my situation in America, things couldn’t get worse; they could only remain the same or get better.  (That is not true, of course, for the protesters, who could, and did, suffer terribly if/when the protest failed.)  I was cheering at a football game, comfortably aware that a bad outcome would disappointment me, but not hurt me; and very hopeful that things would get much better.

The same cannot be said about events in Egypt.  The situation there was bad for the Egyptians but (mostly) stable for the rest of the world, including Israel.  The greatest likelihood is that something very bad will happen there, probably involving the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah.  I therefore find the news reports, not fascinating, but very unnerving, veering into frightening.  The possibility of a good outcome — a democratic revolution — is extraordinarily small, especially with Jimmy Carter . . . uh, Barack Obama at the helm.  Yup, this is a time warp moment.  It’s 1979 all over again.

Family calls, but feel free to comment here about your take on the revolt and its potential outcomes.

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  • Owen

    My advice would not be to despair before the fact — plenty of things will go bad in the future offering lots of opportunity to despair — why rush out to meet them?

    And no, this is not 1979 all over again. It may be better than 1979 or it may be worse, but it is not the same. Analysing this — which cannot be done now anyway because noise cannot be analysed — thru the distorting lens of 1979 will only do two things: make one feel bad and probably cause one to jump to the wrong conclusions (which might make one feel bad). So why embrace the double whammy?

    If things are going to get ugly, that’s bad enough without imposing a narrative on them from the start.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm


    I’m ready to be consoled by your optimism.  :)

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Then again, when Barry Rubin worries, I worry too.

  • Owen

    Book: Sorry — I’m not terribly optomistic. If I’ve learned anything it’s that when things blow up, they usually do so on their own terms. What consolation I can get, I take from trying to comprehend those terms.

    And by making donuts. I’m thinking this is a donut moment. :-)

  • Owen

    RE: Barry Rubin, a decent cautionary article but I get this feeling he’s stuck in “old-think”. He’s right about Obama sounding like Carter — where’s the rabbit when we need him? — but that article is sort of an “OMG off-the-cuff” piece.

    Here’s the deal: pundits and “experts” who write about this sort of thing have a model in mind (so do politicians): it’s made of actors with capabilities who interact with other actors according to certain rules. Pundits form these models based on their data and experience and when excrement encounters the turbines, they take whatever observables they can get and fuss with the model until they see something like the what they are seeing, then they check the model’s state and try to infer something.

    Of course they do a lot of this unconsciously by analogy — it would better if they actually did it explicity but that occurs to very few and it would not meet press deadlines anyway.

    What they overlook is that they formed their basic model at Point A. Now it is Point F. They “evolve” their model from A to F by tweaking the coefficients and they see that as keeping the model current.

    What they generally do not understand — and I say generally because in 20 years I only encountered a maybe 4 people who did — is that there are meta-rules that govern the changing of the rules. The difference between old and new thinking is a meta-rule question, not a rules and coefficients question.

    I don’t know much about Eqypt — it never made it onto the watch list — so I can’t propound my own theories, I can just comment on what I infer about the analytic bases employed by others.

    Rubin writes a good cautionary article, but that is all it is. To me, all possibilities are open and I cannot assign weights to them yet. People will weight things according to the inner conflict between their hopes and their fears. But reality gives not a damn about that.

    Back to the donuts…

  • Duchess of Austin

    I said exactly the same thing, Book.  This is going to be a Jimmy Carter moment for Obama.  Carter backed the wrong horse in 1979 and 30 years later we’re still suffering the fallout from his decision not to prop up the Shah.  Turns out, of course, that the Shah was eaten up with cancer and his western educated, very pro western son would have ascended the Peacock Throne (in less than 2 years) but Carter was short sighted and so is Mr. Obama.  If Carter had done the right thing in 1979, Iran would probably still be on track to have nukes, but we wouldn’t be worried about them testing the first one on Israel.
    I don’t see how Obama can steer any other course right now, though.  Since he has rolled over and shown the world our bellies, nobody will take him seriously if he suddenly rattles a saber.
    Just sayin…


    A few random thoughts…
    Murphy’s Law and Arab countries is always applicable.
    The EU has mirrored the same refrain as the US. They meet on Monday – stay tuned.
    Robert Ford (Ambassador to Syria) was a mistake and sent the wrong signal…in a word ‘approval’ of Syria’s influence in Lebanon.
    On the almost positive side as of this moment…
    The silence of the PA/Abbas – they’re not sure if events in Egypt are a plus or minus yet for them.
    The UN has yet to call a meeting, once again, they’re not sure if events ….(see above).

  • Danny Lemieux

    Just got back from a short road trip and heard Larry Kudlow discussing that the riots breaking out in the Middle East and Africa have much to do with huge food price inflation.
    According to Kudlow, world food commodity prices were up 36% last year. Those people are going hungry.
    No word about this on the MSM (figures!).

  • Owen

    I think it might be worth pointing out that history to the revolt in Iran is not was many think it is. The regime in Iran took the wrong path ay the begining and when things fell apart it was probably too late — the Shah’s son ws in that sense a generation too late.

    Also keep in mind the Carter’s huge mistake was the way he handled the hostage crisis. What we’ve been paying for for the last 30 years is not the overthrow of the Shah, or the installation of the Khomeni’s regime, but Carter’s utterly disasterous bungling of the hostage crisis.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The issue with Savak is that it wasn’t ruthless enough. They had Khomeini captured, alive, and stuck with the rest of the “political prisoners”. Instead of purging them, as Saddam or Castro would have done in the same situation, they let em go. So Khomeini ended up in exile in France, the Shah ended up dying outside Iran after abdicating, and Khomeini returned to Iran and took power after a long as hell exile. To him, at least.
    Like most countries in that region of the world, they were trying to balance security with liberty. It wasn’t working well, but at least the Shah of Iran was making an attempt. The Left and their goon buddies the Iranian Revolutionary Shia wing lead by Khomeini, weren’t even trying.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The same thing happened with Hitler.
    The issue is, if it was really true what they were saying about the evil Jews or the evil Shah, they might have a point. But the thing, if they were facing such evil, they would be DEAD on arrival. But they’re still alive and kicking, and that’s how they took power.
    Inherent inconsistency in the rhetoric. Then again, the Left uses the same attack against Bush. He’s a fascist but he’s so un-fascist he can’t do anything about people bad mouthing him. Wow.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    @Danny:  One of the factors in the rise of food prices is that we’re BURNING corn!  To satisfy the watermelons and the Algores of this world, we’re making corn into ethanol instead of selling it on the world market.  Thus the shortages and the rising prices.  Of course, to the left humanity is a mass to be manipulated and practiced upon, not individuals with ultimate worth.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Yeah, Earl I know. Another factor is that there have been huge crop failures, tied to a world that is growing colder, not warmer.

  • Owen

    The issue with Savak is that it wasn’t ruthless enough. They had Khomeini captured, alive, and stuck with the rest of the “political prisoners”. Instead of purging them, as Saddam or Castro would have done in the same situation, they let em go.

    Fundamentally, I think it goes back farther than that. The useful comparison to me is Reza Khan and Attaturk.

    Attaturk was ruthless in imposing a type of westernization he saw as internally consistent. Reza Khan, while personally ruthless in dealing with rivals, temporized in his approach: instead of establishing a republic, he deposed the Shah and declared himself Shah; and instead of secularizing the state, he maintained the primacy of Islam. In effect, Reza Khan created an Islamic-Western hybrid that unfortunately combined Islamic autocracy with western education, modes, and ties, and that ultimately could not survive.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Danny, which means Global Warming is a good thing, regardless of what it is. Their attempts to stop it is equivalent to a crime against humanity. Then again, when has the Left ever not been committing crimes against humanity.

  • stanley

    The biggest US bureaucracy is the USDA (US Dept of Ag). Other than to say there have been crop failures they have said nothing, offer no solutions. This is another part of government that should be dismantled immediately. Their main purpose is to support Big Ag and the international grain traders.


    The leader of a long-outlawed Tunisian Islamist party returned home Sunday after two decades in exile (in the UK).
    p.s. This will not turn out well for Tunisia sooner or later. Europe been a notorious holding cell for the ‘exiled’ only to return them to country of origin and the results are not good.