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 III: Obama 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.