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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 01/28/2011

Obama blowing it again in the Middle East

By Jennifer Rubin

Jackson Diehl traces the serial missteps of the Obama administration in wrapping its arms around Hosni Mubarak. Diehl urges Obama to correct course: "In fact, U.S. support for a peaceful transition from Mubarak's government to a new democracy could be decisive -- and it is not too late to take the right side."

The signs are not positive that he will do so. Obama proclaimed his desire for Mubarak to allow that "people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances." But is that a democratic government? Obama is unclear.

Even worse, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs proclaimed: "This isn't a choice between the government and the people of Egypt. This is not about taking sides." Are we indifferent to the outcome?

To top it all off, Joe Biden had this exchange on PBS's News Hour yesterday:

JIM LEHRER: Has the time come for President Mubarak of Egypt to go, to stand aside?

JOE BIDEN: No, I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that -- to be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there. These are -- a lot of the people out there protesting are middle-class folks who are looking for a little more access and a little more opportunity. And the two things we have been saying here, Jim, is that violence isn't appropriate and people have a right to protest. And so -- and we think that -- I hope Mubarak, President Mubarak, will -- is going to respond to some of the legitimate concerns that are being raised.

JIM LEHRER: You know President Mubarak.

JOE BIDEN: I know him fairly well.

JIM LEHRER: Have you talked to him about this?

JOE BIDEN: I haven't talked to him in the last three days. I -- last time I -- actually, I haven't talked to him in about a month. But I speak to him fairly regularly. And I think that, you know, there's a lot going on across that part of the continent, from Tunisia into -- all the way to Pakistan, actually. And there's -- a lot of these countries are beginning to sort of take stock of where they are and what they have to do.

JIM LEHRER: Some people are suggesting that we may be seeing the beginning of a kind of domino effect, similar to what happened after the Cold War in Eastern Europe. Poland came first, then Hungary, East Germany. We have got Tunisia, as you say, maybe Egypt, who knows. Do you smell the same thing coming?

JOE BIDEN: No, I don't.

It's hard to conceive of a worse message to convey to the Egyptian people. It seems that the administration certainly is taking sides: Mubarak's.

In case you thought it not possible, Biden went further:

JIM LEHRER: The word -- the word to describe the leadership of Mubarak and Egypt and also in Tunisia before was dictator. Should Mubarak be seen as a dictator?

JOE BIDEN: Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel. And I think that it would be -- I would not refer to him as a dictator.

A disgusted Capitol Hill staffer tells me: "You don't need to have an advance degree from Harvard's Kennedy School or, for that matter, even a Webster's to know when a leader suppresses dissent and disallows free elections he may qualify as a dictator." What else would we call a leader who rigs elections, suppresses opposition, denies freedom of speech and freedom of assembly? Our own State Department's human rights report released last March contained this on Egypt:

The government's respect for human rights remained poor, and serious abuses continued in many areas. The government limited citizens' right to change their government and continued a state of emergency that has been in place almost continuously since 1967. Security forces used unwarranted lethal force and tortured and abused prisoners and detainees, in most cases with impunity. Prison and detention center conditions were poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, in some cases for political purposes, and kept them in prolonged pretrial detention. The executive branch exercised control over and pressured the judiciary. The government's respect for freedoms of association and religion remained poor during the year, and the government continued to restrict nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The government partially restricted freedom of expression.

This is another in a series of debacles in the making in the Middle East by the Obama administration. Once more, we are placing the United States on the wrong side of history. Egyptians have amassed for several days in numbers surpassing all expectations. The opportunist Mohamed ElBaradei is rushing back to get ahead of the parade. The New York Times reports:

Mr. ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who has sought to refashion himself as pro-democracy campaigner in his homeland, is viewed by some supporters as capable of uniting the country's fractious opposition and offering an alternative to Mr. Mubarak's authoritarian rule. Critics view him as an opportunist who has spent too little time in the country to take control of a movement which began without his leadership.

But at least he understands the momentous events taking place, which is vastly more than one can say for the entirely inept Obama team.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 28, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

For the last 30 years or so, Hosni Mubarak has been the Arab leader most closely associated with Israel, for better or worse.

The people of Egypt, apparently hate Mubarak and are trying to overturn his regime.

You advocate bringing power in Egypt to those who hate the Arab leader closest to Isaral.

You no doubt remember that at one time the Shah of Iran was the Middle East leader most closely associated with the US. The people hated the Shah and transferred their hatred to the US when he fell in a popular revolt.

This time, in Egypt, it will be different.

Got it!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 28, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I've been looking in vain for a single congressional Republican that has any thoughts whatsoever on Egypt. Normally the GOP is not shy about criticizing Obama on foreign policy.

So presumably the GOP supports Obama, Biden and Mubarak.

Posted by: mukome | January 28, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How about we make a deal. All the blowhards that say things like "Oh, the US is really blowing it in the Middle East again!" as if the US has any ability to wave a wand and fix things there can just shut up. I don't care if you are Democrat or Republican. You are all morons. Go away.

Posted by: baldinho | January 28, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Someone said to the effect; "injustice anywhere endangers justice everywhere". In the case of the United States not only was it not against injustice it was supporting it to the tune of 1.3 billion dollars. Most of which went to subsidize the Egyptian police state.
My country is directly responsible for Mubarak's murdering torturing regime.
Why has my government done such a stupid thing? Simple; Israel controls the US government.

Posted by: deadcolonywalking | January 28, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

deadcolonywalking:

My guess is that when you graduate from high school and enter the workforce, your view of life will begin to change a bit.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 28, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

You must not have gotten the memo. Israel opposes the people who might take over in Egypt. The idiot statements of Clinton and Biden were done because that is what pleases the Israelis.

In your rush to bash Obama, who is clearly wrong, you forgot that he is wrong because he is following the orders of the people who give you your orders too. You forgot, Israel first, bash Obama second.

Posted by: MarkThomason | January 28, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse


This time, in Egypt, it will be different.
Got it!
Posted by: johnmarshall5446

John,to expand on your point, The US empire is falling apart in a similiar,but much slower manner,to the fall of the USSR We are witnessing the long line of military enforced ‘alliances’ with Muslim dictators falling like dominos. Just as the US was no longer there in SE Asia due to the failure of the Vietnam War, the US influence over a billion Muslims is collapsing due to the US bankruptcy/hatred of the authoritarian governments we support/and hatred of the US-Israel alliance.The failure in SE Asia led directly to high inflation and the loss of the gold standard and the failure of the Muslim dictatorships will mean increasing inflation at home and the threat of the loss of oil resources.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 28, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't think we have as much influence in Egypt as some believe, but what small influence we do have should be exercised cautiously. Grand calls for democracy may be naive, as that may not be one of the options. The realistic options may be only two: continued military rule or the Muslim Brotherhood.

If the Muslim Brotherhood gains power, there will be no democracy. There will be Sharia law, persecution of the Coptic Christians who make up 10% of the Egyptian population, deep hostility toward the US and Israel, and support of Islamic terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood has close ties to Hamas and other Sunni terrorists. It spawned AQ.

So we might end up with a Shiite terrorist government to the north of Israel in Lebanon and a Sunni terrorist government to the south in Egypt. Egypt's enormous influence in the Arab world could make this a geopolitical disaster for America and for all our allies in the Middle East.

IMO the best outcome would be for the military to dump the unpopular Mubarak and to establish a broader government that excludes the Muslim Brotherhood. If they have the agility and time to take advantage of this "Ceaucescu moment" to open up the political process a bit to restore legitimacy, but without losing control to the anti-democratic Muslim Brotherhood, then maybe this can turn out OK. But it looks like Iran II.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Aren't johnmarshall5446 and deadcolonywalking arguing from the same position?

Tap that patella.

Got it!

Posted by: aardunza | January 28, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

And I never got to The Anatomy Lesson, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Posted by: aardunza | January 28, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

RC:

Not sure that we agree on this. I think we seldom have as much influence over foreign events as columnists and bloggers on both sides believe we do, going back all the way to the days of "who lost China".

My point was trying to look at things strictly from Jennifer's pro-Israel point of view, without calling it good or bad.

It would seem the least likely of outcomes that any post-Mubarak government in Egypt would be MORE friendly toward Israel, but a good deal likely that it would be less.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 28, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

RC:

I blew it by the way. I was waiting for gold to drop to $1275 to buy back in, but world events dropped me like a linebacker from the blind side. We'll see what happens over the weekend.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 28, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I agree that US alliances with the "friendly" dictatorships are falling apart, and to the extent that that was an "American empire," that is falling apart as well. I also think there's no point urging this administration to do one thing or another, because they are totally unprepared for it--their cliches, nostrums and experts don't cover it. So, we are just going to see what happens. If a jihadist regime is established in Egypt, two things follow, I think--what now becomes important in the Muslim world is all those people living under jihadist regimes who don't want to. In other words, our relation to at least a large part of the Muslim world becomes very similar to our relation to the USSR, where the question becomes whether and how to align ourselves with dissidents. And Israel had better make sure it can win a war quickly and decisively against any of these states or any combination of them. Certainly, the old rules will no longer apply with a jihadist regime that would presumably jettison the treaty with Israel--this time, if Israel defeats Egypt in a war, they take the Sinai and keep it--for starters. And it's better if they know this in advance. If, that is, the Israelis, and, soon,, us, have the stomach to drop all the peace process drivel and simply start dividing the world up into friends and enemies, with diminishing numbers of neutrals.

On the other hand, maybe we're underestimating the Egyptians--who knows what really goes on underneath the surface in a regime like that?

Posted by: adam62 | January 28, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. Rubin,

Rarely do I use swear words on the internet, so it is with great restraint that I post this. How dare you so arrogantly refer to Mr. Elbaradei as "the opportunist"? You would do well to shut up and acknowledge that your rote attack dog talking points are not shared by many of the people of Egypt. Indeed, as you point out, there is a fundamental choice to be made- NOT BY YOU (get it?).

You object to comments being made that suggest support of Mr. Mubarak, yet you cannot help but show your own arrogant, anti-democratic desire to impose upon the Egyptian people your own American right-wing viewpoint to undermine AN EGYPTIAN. You are not Egyptian. You should not comment on the motivations or viewpoint of Mr. Elbaradei as if you know squat- you do not. Sad that your otherwise vaild point must be undermined by your glaring inability for self-reflection.

So, tell me. Who would the "American right" like to anoint as the leader of Egypt as you casually belittle an Egyptian who over 200,000 Egyptian people have pleaded to lead their cause for freedom? Arrogant hypocrite- you. No better than what you critcize- you.

Posted by: rosenbergerin | January 28, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, Jennifer, President Obama is blowing it while your hero, President Bush, did a great job. Let's see, how many wars did he get us into?

Posted by: rickedelson | January 28, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Exactly how is Mr. Obama's policy regarding Egypt any different than ant American president in the past 30 years ? If Mr. Obama is "blowing it", than so to has every President that preceded him.
It's not just Mr. Obama, it's the entire US Diplomatic and Intelligence apparatus that's blown it by contiually supporting autocrats, dictators and military regimes against the democratic aspirations of the people of Egypt and elsewhere. You would think we'd learn our lesson by now; support of dictators always ends badly for us.

Posted by: shantteyman | January 28, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

The talk from leftists about our "empire" collapsing is naive drivel. We didn't install Mubarak and we've never controlled him. He succeeded Sadat who decided being a Soviet client and getting his butt repeatedly kicked by Israel wasn't a good way to go through life. So Sadat made a deal to get back the Sinai and settle disputes with Israel. This got him killed by the Islamists, but Mubarak has continued his policy more quietly.

We have been an ally of Egypt and the patron of their military which runs the country, but in no way have we controlled Egypt. We've shared interests, such as their suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood and their hostility toward Hamas. This alliance has continued through three decades, though it was undermined by Bush II's call for democracy. Obama has since warmed up our relationship with Mubarak.

Mubarak, or at least continued military rule, may be the least bad option for Egypt. We have little ability to influence events other than to make things worse, but avoiding a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood must be our top priority. It will be ironic if we help pull down our most important Arab ally after we did zilch to help the popular movement for democracy in Iran.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Mubarak, despite a lot of talk over the years, has shown no ability whatsoever to liberalize Egypt or to move his Arab counterparts any closer to peace with Israel. The premise of the this column is correct - it was a mistake to warm relations with him in order to reach solutions for peace in the regions, because its clear he has no true desire for it and little influence. Bush was correct in his treatment of Mubarak, holding him at arms's length while pushing for political liberalization within Egypt.

Posted by: Illini | January 28, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

eonii:

It would seem that we are agreeing more and more these days. For as long as it lasts, it's a beautiful thing!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 28, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

eonii:

It would seem that we are agreeing more and more these days. For as long as it lasts, it's a beautiful thing!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446
------------
One of us may be getting smarter. ;)

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The american government as been giving US$1.3 billion dollar a year in military aid to Mubarak for years. Fact which can be easily googled. Egypt under Mubarak is the biggest recipient of military aid after Israel. That money would better spent in increasing access to free education and health.

Posted by: TheWatcher2000 | January 28, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

The american government as been giving US$1.3 billion dollar a year in military aid to Mubarak for years. Fact which can be easily googled. Egypt under Mubarak is the biggest recipient of military aid after Israel. That money would better spent in increasing access to free education and health.

Posted by: TheWatcher2000
---------
If Egypt falls to the Muslim Brotherhood, we'll be spending far more than a billion dollars on responding to the increased security threat in the Middle East and on higher gasoline prices.

Our ties to the Egyptian military are our most valuable asset now. Best case is that the military will restore order, replace Mubarak with someone like elBaradei, and make gradual moves toward the rule of law, civil liberty, and the creation of democratic institutions. That's Egypt's only conceivable path to democracy. A chaotic collapse of the regime would lead to a much worse outcome.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

The talk from leftists about our "empire" collapsing is naive drivel.

I'm sure that you're not talking about my comment,because I'm not a Leftist or any other kind of "ist". However,I'm smart enough to know that our national financial decline is leading to all kinds of unraveling as did the financial collapse of the USSR. The main difference is that we have more credit to burn than did the Soviets. Soon,we won't be able to borrow enough to even pay the interest* on our debt,but that's the nature of bankruptcy. I will admit that I was educated on Gibbon,Spengler,and Toynbee,so I am on the lookout for decline.
*When interest rates go up,and that's inevitable,we can't have 0% forever,then we will not be able to pay the interest on our debt.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 28, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

To those equating Bush with Obama, see the post at Commentary. Faced with the same volatile circumstances, I don't think Bush would be voting "present," as Obama seems to be. And recall that Obama similarly passed when given an opportunity to step up and offer support to the Iranians that took to the street a year or so ago.

Those who've familiarized themselves with Obama's record recognize that voting "present" is what he does when the going gets tough. That's what poseurs and empty suits do.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/wehner/388326

Posted by: illinijeff | January 28, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Great analysis - I am really becoming a fan!

[Rhetorical question]

[Excessive quoted text]

[Conclusory statement]

[Excessive quoted text]

[Conclusory statement]

[Excessive quoted text]

[Conclusory statement]

[Unsubstantiated conclusion in opposition to anything current administration advocates]

Good show!

Posted by: Goombay | January 28, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Ms Rubin - What exactly is your plan here? It seems that Obama and Clinton are doing exactly what they should be doing - trying to stay neutral and not piss anyone off. If the U.S. starts meddling, it will likely lead to increased radicalism. If the U.S. supports Mubarak too heavily, same thing. The best thing the U.S. can do is attempt to be a spectator here and let it work itself out so that we can align with whatever government comes into power next (or, continue aligned with Mubarak if he retains power, which is still quite possible).

Your blanket criticism for Obama is absurd. It's not like there's even any real debate over what to do. Everyone, except you, appears to be in agreement.

Posted by: beersquirrel | January 28, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect from the Obama Regime which has ruled against the will of the people from day one? Have you forgotten that Obamacare was rammed down our throats against our will at 3 am?

Posted by: wewintheylose1 | January 28, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Why does Jennifer Rubin sound like a "jerk", or is that she believes that the rest of us do not know the political history of some of these countries around the world and the U.S. relationship with many of them?

Posted by: lcarter0311 | January 28, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

The talk from leftists about our "empire" collapsing is naive drivel.

I'm sure that you're not talking about my comment,because I'm not a Leftist or any other kind of "ist". However,I'm smart enough to know that our national financial decline is leading to all kinds of unraveling as did the financial collapse of the USSR. The main difference is that we have more credit to burn than did the Soviets. Soon,we won't be able to borrow enough to even pay the interest* on our debt,but that's the nature of bankruptcy. I will admit that I was educated on Gibbon,Spengler,and Toynbee,so I am on the lookout for decline.
*When interest rates go up,and that's inevitable,we can't have 0% forever,then we will not be able to pay the interest on our debt.

Posted by: rcaruth
-----------------
I wasn't clear. I share your concern about American decline. I attribute it to fiscal recklessness, like giving a teenager your high-limit credit card, and to a lack of judgment and resolve in the conduct of our foreign policy. Simply put, the bad guys no longer fear us. We're broke and feckless.

Where I differ is that I don't believe we have an "empire" to lose. We are the only "hegemonic power" in history that didn't seize territory and install puppet regimes. We did ally with some unsavory characters, but we sought only to deter tyrants like Stalin from conquering their neighbors and to promote mundane, non-aggressive purposes like keeping international shipping lanes open.

Our looming inability to achieve these goals may usher in a new dark age like the 1930s and 1940s. China and Iran are particularly interested in filling the vacuum.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Barry, the Idiot and Chief, is following his true calling--doing nothing. A couple of years ago democratic demonstrations erupted in Iran, Bobo did and said nothing. He continues to build upon his laughable legacy today.

Posted by: jellymon | January 28, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Where I differ is that I don't believe we have an "empire" to lose. We are the only "hegemonic power" in history that didn't seize territory and install puppet regimes.

Call it what you want,our strategy since the dissolution of the USSR is not working.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 28, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"Barry, the Idiot and Chief, is following his true calling--doing nothing. A couple of years ago democratic demonstrations erupted in Iran, Bobo did and said nothing. He continues to build upon his laughable legacy today."

What, exactly, should he be doing? And what would you be posting if he was taking stronger action? Let me guess: "Barry, the Idiot and Chief is getting us involved in more foreign entanglements!"

Posted by: presto668 | January 28, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Diehl's commnets are even more ridiculous when you read the full column:

"But the Obama administration's embrace of Mubarak, even as the octogenarian strongman refused to allow the emergence of a moderate, middle-class-based, pro-democracy opposition, has helped bring the United States' most important Arab ally to the brink of revolution."

Really? Mubarak has ruled for 30 years in the same manner, and the Egyptian people only found out about it when they saw him with Obama?

"Mubarak should step down and be replaced by a transitional government, headed by ElBaradei and including representatives of all pro-democracy forces. That government could then spend six months to a year rewriting the constitution, allowing political parties to freely organize and preparing for genuinely democratic elections. Given time to establish themselves, secular forces backed by Egypt's growing middle class are likely to rise to the top in those elections - not the Islamists that Mubarak portrays as the only alternative."

Once again a Western journalist who speaks no Arabic and seldom if ever visits the Middle East presumes he or she knows the mind of the Egyptian people and who they would choose to govern.

In actuality, the only people that Western journalists ever contact in these nations are Westernized nationals who speak English and in many cases went to US universities. They immediately assume that these individuals represent the "man in the street" as it were.

They are usually shocked and befuddled when events prove otherwise, and begin the search for a US scapegoat, any scapegoat, for why we "lost" _______ (fill in the country name, from China, Iran, Vietnam, Lebanon etc).

One final note, the high level Bush foreign policy people liked the Egyptian police state well enough when it sent a stream of captives there under rendition. I guess much like Claude Rains they are now shocked to find out that there was gambling going on in Casablanca!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 28, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

While fools ruminate and second guess from the confines of their laptops, the real strategy is being executed behind the scenes by grown ups.

When you play poker, you don't show the rest of the world your cards (unless you are watching 'After Dark'). In all probability, our guys in intelligence are probably working in the background to have the Egyptian military 'convince' Mubarak to relinquish control and leave the country and at the same time quash the muslim brotherhood.

Posted by: TraderX | January 28, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Don't let Bush or Obama Derangement Syndrome cloud sensible thought. As with most intelligent governents, real action is behind the scenes and not chest beating in public.

Posted by: TraderX | January 28, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

That's about right...another blown opportunity for Odumba and his idiot Sec. of State.....

Posted by: WildBill1 | January 28, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Where I differ is that I don't believe we have an "empire" to lose. We are the only "hegemonic power" in history that didn't seize territory and install puppet regimes.

Call it what you want,our strategy since the dissolution of the USSR is not working.

Posted by: rcaruth
-----------
I would agree, but I've never been able to figure out exactly what that "strategy" is. Even Bush's response to 9/11, as successful as it has been in preventing further attacks, has been in some ways incoherent and misguided. Obama has adopted most elements of Bush's strategy -- sometimes after kicking and screaming -- but his nods to the left, his image of weakness, his reckless spending, and his fecklessness toward Iran and China, have basically emboldened our enemies and terrified our friends.

Mubarak thought he was one of Obama's friends, but the administration is seemingly at a loss how to respond. I hope we have a better plan than Biden defending Mubarak and Hillary throwing rocks at him.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin, I would at least like to see what you'd suggest as U.S. policy in this situation. I'm no fan of authoritarian leaders such as Mr. Mubarak, but sufficiently well-informed to realize that international relations in this type of situation are never simple. Please tell us your opinion of what the U.S. should be doing, and back it up with historical examples.

Posted by: apn3206 | January 28, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

If Ms Rubin could get her head out of anti-Obama mode she might just wake up and see where this is headed and it isn't any place good for us. The largest opposition party in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood. Anyone want them in power? Anyone on here hate Pres Obama that much that they can lobotomize themselves into believing they're a "democratic force" and that outcome would be good for the US or Israel? How about an Iranian like theocracy? The one thing I can absolutly guarantee won't come out of this a Jeffersonian democracy.

The US has neither the power nor the wisdom to direct the events taking place in Egypt. No nation does or ever has. We can either push Mubarek to give up power or help him supress the demonstrations. Neither of these courses has anything to recommend them. The best we can do is observe and wait. Then see how best to make do with the outcome.

Posted by: kchses1 | January 28, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Just heard Obama -- sounds like he's taking a balanced, reasonable approach. I hope the army will insist on immediate steps to broaden the government by bringing in democratic elements, while preserving order with minimal violence. The army apparently has great prestige in Egypt because it hasn't yet been directly involved in oppressing the people the way the police have. I hope the army can find a democratic middle course between the Mubarak dictatorship, which is doomed, and the Islamic fascists waiting to seize power.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Shingo, I made an error in my last post. Israel actually defeated Egypt in four straight wars, not three: 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. No wonder Anwar Sadat said the Arabic equivalent of "no mas".

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Shingo, I posted this in the wrong thread. I meant to post it in the UN resolution thread.

Sorry to clutter up this thread.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: baldinho | January 28, 2011 10:59 AM

"All the blowhards that say things like "Oh, the US is really blowing it in the Middle East again!" as if the US has any ability to wave a wand and fix things there can just shut up."

You have a point. Our forte has been breaking things, not fixing them.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Eonii,

You made errors on both occasions.

Egypt would have won in 1973 had Nixon not helped Israel.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 6:46 PM

"The army apparently has great prestige in Egypt because it hasn't yet been directly involved in oppressing the people the way the police have."

The army still answers to the dictator.

And no eonii, democracy is not fascism.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: TraderX | January 28, 2011 4:54 PM

"In all probability, our guys in intelligence are probably working in the background to have the Egyptian military 'convince' Mubarak to relinquish control and leave the country and at the same time quash the muslim brotherhood."

Like in Lebanon, where out guys did such a brilliant job behindd the scenes that Hezbollah is not in power.

Don't assume that because strings are being pulled, that the puppet masters have a clue what they are doing.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Eonii,

You made errors on both occasions.

Egypt would have won in 1973 had Nixon not helped Israel.

Posted by: Shingo1
------------------
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Nixon airlifted military supplies at Golda Meir's urging, and those supplies helped turn the tide against the attacking Arab states, but the USSR was itself backing Egypt and Syria. Our side kicked their side's butt after a shaky start, so Anwar Sadat decided a few years later to cut a deal. Proving peace is what you get after you win the war.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 7:49 PM | Report abuse

False eonii,

The USSR stayed out of the fray from he beginning.

We didn't kick anyone's butt. The 1973 war was a massive strategic set back for Israel, one that they could easily have averted had they agreed to talks with Egypt.

"Proving peace is what you get after you win the war."

That depends on who you ask. We lost in Vietnam and there was peace. Israel lost against Hebollah in 2000 and 2006, and there was peace.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 2:14 PM

“If Egypt falls to the Muslim Brotherhood, we'll be spending far more than a billion dollars on responding to the increased security threat in the Middle East and on higher gasoline prices.”

You mean, we’ll be borrowing it and hoping China loans it to us.

“Our ties to the Egyptian military are our most valuable asset now. Best case is that the military will restore order, replace Mubarak with someone like elBaradei, and make gradual moves toward the rule of law, civil liberty, and the creation of democratic institutions. That's Egypt's only conceivable path to democracy.”

No, you’re confusing democracy with fascism. Or perhaps this is your idea of what you would live democracy in the Middle East to look like.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jellymon | January 28, 2011 4:17 PM


“A couple of years ago democratic demonstrations erupted in Iran, Bobo did and said nothing. He continues to build upon his laughable legacy today.”

What would Bush have said and done?

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 3:57 PM

“Where I differ is that I don't believe we have an "empire" to lose. We are the only "hegemonic power" in history that didn't seize territory and install puppet regimes.”

Is that supposed to be a joke?
From Guatemala to Iran, we installed puppet regimes since WWII.

“ China and Iran are particularly interested in filling the vacuum.”

Such is the cycle of life. Then again, they might be smarer than us and realize that Empire is a failed business plan.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

“Our ties to the Egyptian military are our most valuable asset now. Best case is that the military will restore order, replace Mubarak with someone like elBaradei, and make gradual moves toward the rule of law, civil liberty, and the creation of democratic institutions. That's Egypt's only conceivable path to democracy.”

No, you’re confusing democracy with fascism. Or perhaps this is your idea of what you would live democracy in the Middle East to look like.

Posted by: Shingo1
------------
No, I'm not. Democracy must have a foundation. That's why the American Revolution produced a free republic, while France's, Russia's and Iran's among many others, produced only despotism and misery.

It's wise to keep in mind that most revolutions aren't completed by the people who start them. The middle-class democrats and young people marching in Egypt, or at least their leaders, may well end up in front of firing squads. The danger is that the Islamists or a Nasser-type may seize power and crush everyone else.

Pluralism and free political discourse has a short history in the Middle East, mostly limited to Israel.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Democracy must have liberty and more tnan anything, democracy must come from the grass roots, not some think tank in Washington.

The American Revolution was bloody and destructive, and followed to such recipe. It was because of enlightened leaders that we ended up with a free republic – at least for a while anyway.

I know you have a stereotypical comic book comprehension of the Middle East, but if you were to examine the Iranian Revolution, it was remarkably non violent. If there are deaths in Egypt, it will be at the hands of the dictatorship.

Speaking of Israel, it might turn out that their claim to being he only democracy in the ME might soon be over.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 8:33 PM | Report abuse

“Where I differ is that I don't believe we have an "empire" to lose. We are the only "hegemonic power" in history that didn't seize territory and install puppet regimes.”

Is that supposed to be a joke?
From Guatemala to Iran, we installed puppet regimes since WWII.

Posted by: Shingo1
---------
We intervened in other nations' affairs a number of times during the Cold War to prevent what we saw at the time as communist advances. Some of these were morally questionable and had unintended consequences. Others were probably smart realpolitik. The two you mention may fall in the first category, especially Guatamala. There are two sides to whether we were wise to remove Mossadegh.

My Iranian-American friend who hates mullahs and communists thinks Mossadegh wasn't pro-Soviet, but I don't have an opinion, not having studied the coup. It was certainly a close call, and the Shah did prove a strong ally for over twenty years. We did end up winning the Cold War because of bipartisan anti-communism until the Vietnam era and then the vision of Ronaldo Magnus.

Anyway, a few episodes during the Cold War does not an empire make. The Shah wasn't our puppet and we haven't shown any interest in Guatamala in a half century or so. These countries weren't part of an "empire" in a meaningful sense. Having influence doesn't make an empire. What Japan did in Asia in the thirties, what Stalin did in Eastern Europe, and what China is doing in Tibet today is building an empire.

If we wanted an empire, we could send a few National Guard companies to over-run Canada. Instead we have the longest unguarded border in the world.

Posted by: eoniii | January 28, 2011 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Fortunately, we have no choice but to let the Egyptians themselves either work their way into a new government or acquiesce in the re-establishment of the old. Nothing we do will matter right now, not even the machinations of our infallible and omnipotent spooks. The best thing to do as events proceed is to try and befriend those who want and support those who promise freedom--and keep a close eye on whether they keep their promises. Maybe we'll be the friends of a new liberal democracy, maybe we'll be supporting the opposition of a new Islamist regime, but either way let's do the right thing since we can no longer control the outcome of these events.

Posted by: adam62 | January 28, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

What, this is Obama's making, after this man Mubarak has ruled Egypt for 30 years since the ASSASINATION of Anwar Sadat, after Sadat tried to push for a peace intiative with Israel? No, the consequences of centuries, if not a millenium, of violence, hatred, and pure bile of the zero tolerance for variance in Middle Eastern cultures as a whole are coming to a head now. And gee, who is trying to fill the space, the equally rigid, inflexible ideology of Islamic/Muslim/Arab extremists that tell anyone foolish enough to even give the illusion of listening that it is "our way or no way". So, we look forward to substituting one dictatorship for another, although some political hack will follow with the better term for what al Queda and their ilk present as a political process.

Let's use the better term, evil and intolerance of variability. The mistake we in the middle keep making with both parties here in America is oscillating between the intolerance of the right and the overtolerance of the left. How about just plain realistic tolerance of varying opinions, as long as they don't follow with guns, knives, and bombs.

I feel for the Egyptian people just co-opted by the nefarious agendas of the few, who have literally no concern for the needs of the many!

Posted by: Joelhassfam4 | January 28, 2011 10:20 PM | Report abuse

There is ONE reason why Egypt is different from any other country mentioned here: SUEZ CANAL. I guess VP Biden was told to NOT say Suez Canal for fear the stock and oil markets would go haywire today.

So, I tend to agree with:

"...In all probability, our guys in intelligence are probably working in the background to have the Egyptian military 'convince' Mubarak to relinquish control and leave the country and at the same time quash the muslim brotherhood. ..."

Posted by: TraderX | January 28, 2011 4:54 PM
__________

Except I do think it is America's militry liasons. eonii made the point about the Egyptian Army being very highly respected by the NOT-Islamist Egyptians, and I would think a military coup would be preferable to most Egyptians and the rest of the world.

There are TWO key chokepoints for global trade: Suez Canal and Straits of Malacca.

Does anyone think the Egyptian Army, the EU, China, and the US are going to let the Muslim Brotherhood take over the Suez Canal??????????

Posted by: K2K2 | January 28, 2011 10:45 PM | Report abuse

I swear I was out all afternoon, running errands in between snow, snow, more snow, and distracted by a snowmobiling neighbor (illegal!) through the evening news, and only just read that the stock and oil markets did not need VP Biden mentioning the Suez Canal on PBS last night.

Maybe they were reading JEDyer at Contentions, withher usual excellent reporting on all things naval...

as an afterthought, before anyone offers a critique, yes, the straits of Hormuz, Gibraltar, the Panama Canal, are also chokepoints (as is the Strait of Sicily off Tunisia), but none are as critical to global trade, not just oil, as the Suez Canal and Straits of Malacca where Singapore presents an excellent example of how a dictatorship can actually ensure their citizens do not have the kind of severe economic distress that afflicts Egypt.

Geography really needs to be a mandatory subject.

Mubarak needs to promise he will retire and not run for another term.

El Baradei may be in cahoots with the MB, or not.

My bet is with the military.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 28, 2011 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't know Diehl's ME credentials and I question yours, Jennifer. This is a very tricky scenario and the US so far has played it well. Mubarak is our ally, a friend of Israel and is a significant player in helping to bring peace to the region. His removal will be a big blow to the US. At the same time, his existence is counter to our belief in democracy. Either way, we do not control them. Our few $B/year does not give us the ability to tell them what to do. If there's blame to be doled out, it should be aimed at Mubarak.

And to the poster who said the Muslim Brotherhood is going to impose sharia and kill all Coptics, try again.


Posted by: 1fasthoo | January 28, 2011 11:47 PM | Report abuse

eoniii

"We intervened in other nations' affairs a number of times during the Cold War to prevent what we saw at the time as communist advances."

Yes we always have an excuse for what we do. The Britsh Empire no doubt felt that the barbarian hordes were a threat and ïntervened with colonies for the same reason.

"My Iranian-American friend who hates mullahs and communists thinks Mossadegh wasn't pro-Soviet, but I don't have an opinion, not having studied the coup."

Every time we came across a leader who put the interests of his country before ours, we labelled them communist. We replaced Arbenz in Guatemala using the same BS excuse, even though all he wanted to do was purchase land owned by foreign (i.e US) companies and return it to local owenership.

The Shah was denitely our puppet. His rise to power was our work entirely.

"Having influence doesn't make an empire."

No but empire does mean havign influence.

Yuo're just in denial eonii.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 28, 2011 11:57 PM | Report abuse

And to the poster who said the Muslim Brotherhood is going to impose sharia and kill all Coptics, try again.


Posted by: 1fasthoo
-------------------------
Someone's already attacking churches and killing Coptic Christians. What makes you think President Zawahiri wouldn't impose Sharia?

Seriously, the veil of moderation disappears quickly once these Islamacists attain absolute power. Democracy is abhorrent to them because they believe that only God can make laws, and He's already spoken through the Prophet (sbuh).

Posted by: eoniii | January 29, 2011 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Very funny, Goombay, LOL

What's to say -- it is what it(efficiently) is!

Posted by: aardunza | January 29, 2011 12:53 AM | Report abuse

"We lost in Vietnam and there was peace."

the Cambodian Khmer Rouge state (sorry, couldn't resist, Jen) was very peacefully rested for millions of innocent people. Sorry for the bad grammar, next lone nihilist gunman. And didn't China also warfully have to teach Vietnam a lesson? But all those deaths had nothing to do with us, did they, and don't count? Oh heck, those Indians really blew it for the world at Plymouth Rock, didn't they?

Posted by: aardunza | January 29, 2011 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Rabbit's ready for another fat one Jill! ;)

Posted by: aardunza | January 29, 2011 1:36 AM | Report abuse

eoniii,

You're really descending into hysteria here. Zawahiri for president?

Did you know that following the bombing of the Coptic Christian church, that Muslims in Egypt came out en force to offer themselves as human shields by holding vigils at Coptic Christin churches during the new year celebrations?

Moderation dissapearing? How can demcorcy be abhorent to them when that it what they have been denied for 30 years, and what they are demanding?

Seriously eonii, you're starting to sound like David Horowitz.

Take my advice. Get a passport, travel overseas and get yourself an education.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 29, 2011 5:20 AM | Report abuse

shingo:

I think it's you who are going too far.

Can you name an Islamic nation in the past 20 years where Christian membership is growing, or even not declining? Here's a link to a recent CNN story about the trial on an Afghan for conversion to Christianity.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/21/afghan-christian-faces-trial-for-alleged-conversion-from-islam/?hpt=T2

They are NOT demanding democracy. Only the Westernized elite are interested in democracy. Only Islamic countries with a substantial non-Islamic population have any resemblance of democracy. That is not the case is Egypt.

Everywhere else has a theocratic rule. You will say Turkey, but Turkey is not a democracy by Western standards. It is an oligarchy run by the military behind the scenes. They will now allow any legitimate election results that endanger their power or that appeal to the fundamentalist segment of their society.

Nothing about Islam allows for the concept of a "loyal oppositiont", so necessary to a secular democracy.

Whatever may be the ending in Egypt, you can be sure that it will not be a secular democracy for long.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

K2K2:

Agree with you that even a fundamentalist Islamic government would keep the Suez open. There would be no benefit to them to close it.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

You better criticize John Bolton and Michael Ledeen just as hard, because they are also throwing their arms around Mubarak.

Posted by: mukome | January 29, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

mukone:

You sent me searching with the above comment.

Here's what the Cowardly Lion had to say on Fox News:

"I think the question is whether and to what extent the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamists have infiltrated the leadership. If the military holds firm it's entirely possible, although bloody, that the government can hold onto power. That doesn't necessarily mean Mubarak will be in power, but the military will be, and I think that is why this contrast makes it so important for people to understand, this is not a choice between the Mubarak government on one hand, and sweetness and light, Jeffersonian democracy on the other.

I don't think we have evidence yet that these demonstrations are necessarily about democracy. You know the old saying, "one person, one vote, one time." The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't care about democracy, if they get into power you're not going to have free and fair elections either.

And I think there is substantial reason, for example, to worry the minority Coptic Christian population, about 10% of the population will be very worried if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power.

Let's be clear what the stakes are for the United States. We have an authoritarian regime in power that has been our ally. We don't know at this point what the real alternatives are."

Also:

"I do think that the regime is under enormous pressure, there is no doubt about it, but I don't think that just because you have people climbing onto tanks you can assume that they are friendly to democratic values.

I think there is a lot of opposition to the regime and a lot of opposition by the Muslim Brotherhood that is determined to bring down this secular military government, and install one of very harsh Sharia law, which would have enormous implications for the United States, for Israel, for other Arab governments in the region."

So it's me and Bolton on one side and Jennifer on the other? This is not good, not good at all.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

eonii wrote - "If we wanted an empire, we could send a few National Guard companies to over-run Canada. Instead we have the longest unguarded border in the world".

Yes, that worked really well for us in 1812.
To say that the US was never interested in Empire overlooks the results of the Spanish-American War and the Mexican War. Both were fought to ensure American control on the North American continent as well as establish American spheres of influence in South East Asia and the Pacific. That we were willing to relinquish control of our former colonies like the Philippines shows that we at least recognized the limits of empire. Our failure to support democratic movements in other parts of the world over fears of communist influence brings into question our governments belief in the very democracy we hold dear.

Posted by: shantteyman | January 29, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Shingo, it wasn't the Muslim Brotherhood that formed human shields to protect Coptic Christians after the bombings. That was the westernized elite, probably many of the same people who are in the streets calling for democracy. These are the people we have a natural alliance with, like the Iranians who protested their own crooked election. We would like for the democrats to prevail, but what are the odds?

The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, shares the same ideology as the church bombers. It spawned al Qaeda and is tied to Hamas. Its slogan is "Islam is the solution". It advocates strict Sharia law as in Saudi Arabia, but it hates the corrupt kings and emirs of the region. To the Brotherhood, democracy is just a means to establish theocratic rule. It believes that laws come from Allah, not from man.

The pro-democracy protesters are a disorganized mob. The long-banned Brotherhood is organized in cells with an intact command structure, sort of like the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution but with much broader support. Has the Brotherhood infiltrated the army? If there is a sudden breakdown of order and the army won't act against the people, as in Tunisia, the Brotherhood could seize power. It's large, militant and organized.

Posted by: eoniii | January 29, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Agree with you that even a fundamentalist Islamic government would keep the Suez open. There would be no benefit to them to close it.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 10:01 AM
____________

johnmarshall5446: My point is that no one (EU, US, China, not even Saudis) will allow a fundamentalist Islamic government in Egypt to ever have control over the Suez Canal, and that includes the Egyptian military.

Kind of curious that senior Egyptian military happened to be in DC on Friday for 'regularly scheduled' annual talks with the Pentagon next week - the Egyptians flew back to Egypt on Friday.

Nassar, Sadat, and Mubarak all came from the military. What most Egyptians want is economic relief. Half live on less than two dollars per day (it is far more lucrative to be an official palestinian refugee).

Unlike Tunisia's benAli, Mubarak is not perceived as cravenly corrupt, but heavyhanded, out-of-touch, and, at 82, time to retire. Tragic case study in the perils of not taking succession planning seriously.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 29, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. Rubin,

Where's your condemnation of the GOP Conference Chair? Please do try to be consistent. I know you've got it in you to not be an unthinking attack dog and actually show principles, right?

/sarcasm

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/28/gop-conference-chairman-america-must-stand-with-egypt/

Posted by: rosenbergerin | January 29, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

K2K2 wrote:

"Mubarak is not perceived as cravenly corrupt, but heavyhanded, out-of-touch, and, at 82, time to retire"

In other words, he would be right at home in our Senate!

"What most Egyptians want is economic relief. Half live on less than two dollars per day (it is far more lucrative to be an official palestinian refugee)."

I brought this up last week, but no one was interested. As you know, but many may not, most of the world pays a far greater percentage of their income for food, than we do here. Tunisia didn't start with Westernized intellectuals calling for democracy, it started with food riots over inflationary prices.

The same situation happened in Egypt. Yes, they learned from Tunisia, but they also had rising discontent over food prices there too. It will be same all over the less devloped world, threatening not just dictators but more benevolent governments too.

One cause it that biofuels have been mandated as an energy mix by well-meaning, or bought governmental entities. It's not just the Midwest, either. Most could not name Indonesia, a temporarily democrtic government more or less, as being one of the world's biggest prducers of crops for biofuel. It is also 86% Muslim and a great potential hot spot.

I am one of those who believe that inflation worldwide may get out of control, especially in food and fuel, long before we can suppress it. This may only be the beginning.


Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. Rubin.

You must have not received your notice from the GOP. According to GOP Conference chairman Thaddeus McCotter, you are not to take the side of people of Egypt, and are instead to side with the Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak. As you well know Mrs. Rubin, the GOP is little concerned with the freedom of people, we aim only to create the illusion of freedom. And more specifically, only the illusion of freedom for the "American" people. Egyptians are not Americans, ergo, their freedom takes the proverbial "backseat" to our oil industry needs in the area.

As your story promoting the rights of the Egyptian people has already been published, please await further instructions. We will pull your article from the internet shortly and have already prepared a new piece for you to use in its stead. A piece that more closely reflects the desires of the GOP and chastises the Obama administration for throwing their support behind radical, Muslim extremists attempting to overthrow their democratic government.

Mrs. Rubin. It goes without saying, but please refrain from publishing your "opinion" pieces until you have been contacted by the GOP and have your "views" aligned with that of the organization you represent.

Thank you.
The GOP.

Posted by: SIdIcarus | January 29, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall,

Can you name any nation in the Middle East where Christian membership is growing, including Israel?

"They are NOT demanding democracy. Only the Westernized elite are interested in democracy."

Sorry but you couldn't be furthr fro the mark. It is the Westernized elite o have been supporting Mubarak, as well as every other dictator in the Middle East.

"You will say Turkey, but Turkey is not a democracy by Western standards."

Neither is Israel. Israel defines itself as a Jewish Democratic State, whereas no other western state defines itself as a religious/ethnic based democracy.

Turkey used to be an oligarchy run by the military behind the scenes, but Erdogan put and end to that, and tellingly, that was when the US began to become concerned about Turley.

Yo might recall thaty Jennifer's fellow travller, Paul Wolfowitz, condemened the Turkish military for not ignoring the wishes of the government when Turkey refused to participate in the attack on Iraq? According to Wolfowitz, this apparently showed a lack of democratic prinsipals on Turkey's behalf.

Pretty Orwellin don't you think?

"Nothing about Islam allows for the concept of a "loyal oppositiont", so necessary to a secular democracy."

Not does Israel. After all, Israel will never allow an Islamic oppositon party to exist in Israel.

You really need to think your arguments though a little better John.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 29, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Johnmarshall,

There is no reason to be concerned about the Coptic Christian population if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Like I explained to eonii, the week after the terrorist attack on the church, the a large Muslim demonstration came out to not only condemn the attack, but to surround all the Coptic christen churches during Coptic new year celebrations, to offer themselves as human shields against any repeat attacks. The bombing shook all of Egypt and was roundly condemned.

If our only ally in the region is an authoritarian regime, then that speaks ill of our foreign policy. Of course we have alternatives, but we have rejected them because we want allies to agree to our terms, which means putting out interests before those of their own.

I wouldn’t brag about being on the same side as Bolton by the way. The guy is a pathological liar.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 29, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Eoniii,

Your ignorance continues to cloud your understanding. Your talking points read like a blog from the American Enterprise Institute.

The Muslim Brotherhood is by far the largest political group in Egypt. It was a Muslim demonstration that formed human shields to protect Coptic Christians after the bombings, nor any so called Western Elite. Furthermore, the bombings were universally condemned through the country, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been demanding democracy for decades. The Muslim Brotherhood has no presence to speak of in Saudi Arabia. You’re confusing the Muslim Brotherhood with the Salafi.

“The long-banned Brotherhood is organized in cells with an intact command structure, sort of like the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution but with much broader support.”

Seriously, where do you get this stuff? Intact command structures? The Muslim Brotherhood ARE he elite in Egypt. Please stop embarrassing yourself and do some research on the subject.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 29, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Shingo:

As you, I hold Bolton in low regard. I was quoting him more for Jennifer, who worships him but is this time diamterically opposed to his thinking.

I am not concerned about the Copts. I guess I'm just not that good of a person. However you can be sure that if any fundamentalist government comes to power, they will be suppressed as they have been wherever that has taken place.

Your arguent about Israel not allowing a loyal opposition is a straw man because we are not dicsussing Israel but Egypt and the possible outcomes there.

There has been no end to the supervision of the Turkish military. They vary their methods to suit the times, but are very active. For instance Gul was allowed to assume the presidency, which is not a powerful office, but not to become prime minister because he is a fundamentalist. The court system is allied with the military and controls who can run and for what election. Don't get me wrong. It's a good thing, but the military is unquestionably domninant.

You keep comparing everything to Israel, but I am not. I have no problem with you attacking Israel, that's what makes the comments controversial, but it does not address my arguments about Egypt to keep saying but Israel does this or that.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

shingo:

One thing I forgot to address was this exchange:

"They are NOT demanding democracy. Only the Westernized elite are interested in democracy."

Sorry but you couldn't be furthr fro the mark. It is the Westernized elite o have been supporting Mubarak, as well as every other dictator in the Middle East. '

You are absolutely correct that the westernized elite have supported Mubarak. I would argue that this is because that they know better than you and I the perils of democracy in such a place. However I was speaking in the here and now, post-Mubarak.

Faced with his loss, the elite have and will continue to jump on the democracy bandwagon because the alternative for them is emigration from an increasingly Islamic oligarchic state in a union between the relgious leaders and the common people. This was the pattern in Iran, which I suspect might happen in Egypt too.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't seem to matter much what we think of events in Egypt--we're not capable of controlling these events anymore. Trying to ease Mubarak out via elections; encouraging the military to take over; reaching out to the MB--it's all equally pathetic--none of these responses help us to see beyond the next few days or weeks at most. Does anyone think we have an "elite" or "ruling class" that is capable of "grand strategy" anymore? I don't, and maybe it's a good thing. But whether it's a good thing or not, we're going to have to simplify foreign policy considerably--balancing a dictator against Islamists, liberals the military, etc., always leaves us staring into the abyss of the transition to a new ruler, the congenital weakness of all dictatorships, and the last thing outsiders can control. We don't have the jugglers who can keep all the balls in the air anymore. If we're still capable of serious foreign policy, I think it would have be something like what Angelo Codevilla proposes: make it very clear what we are going to go to war about (e.g., a terrorist attack originating from or given the slightest support, ideological or material, by a given state), and when we go to war, it is total war--the removal of the regime and the destruction of any capacity to give such support in the future. In other words, something close to Bush's original "you're with us or against us," which he took a lot of heat for even though he never actually acted on it. That would also make our alliances simpler--an ally is someone who is willing to go to war alongside you, and vice versa. Why make empty promises and commitments?

Posted by: adam62 | January 29, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 5:02 PM

"I would argue that this is because that they know better than you and I the perils of democracy in such a place."

I woudl argue that the peril of democracy that the elite fear is that a democratic leadership is obligated to put the interests of it's contituents before those of a foreign power (a la Mossadegh) , and such a possibility has been unacceptable.

Tyrants on the other hand, are predictabel becasue they are a) usualy unpopular and therefore require foreign support to hold onto power and b) driven entirely by self interest, so have no moral issues with selling out their people.

"Faced with his loss, the elite have and will continue to jump on the democracy bandwagon because the alternative for them is emigration from an increasingly Islamic oligarchic state in a union between the relgious leaders and the common people."

That's is assuming that Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive.

"This was the pattern in Iran, which I suspect might happen in Egypt too."

No not really. Even the Iranian opposition is pro Islamic. Iranwodl be an Islami state with or without democracy.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 29, 2011 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Obama, the second black or first half-white president, ironically doesn't like brown people very much. He doesn't care what happens to little brown babies (rescinded Mexico City Policy on his first evening in office, with the Huggy Bear curtains drawn); he doesn't care what happens to brown people (sided with the brutal Iranian regime during the Green Movement); he doesn't care what happens to brown children in his own city (killed voucher programs in the District of Columbia), and he sure as sugar doesn't care about a bunch of swarthy Egyptians. What are we to conclude from this? This cat likes dictators just fine, and he's got a strange psychological self-loathing of both his black and white halves. If he can't even pay lip service to human rights, what good is he to anyone in the world (besides Castro, Chaves, Hu, Kim, Ahmadinejad, Putin, and Mubarak)?

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 29, 2011 7:11 PM | Report abuse

PS - Joe Biden. Has a bigger chuckleheaded fool ever held elected office?

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 29, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

shingo wrote:

That's is assuming that Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive.

"This was the pattern in Iran, which I suspect might happen in Egypt too."

No not really. Even the Iranian opposition is pro Islamic. Iranwodl be an Islami state with or without democracy."


I do assume that Islam and democracy, at least secular democracy are mutually exclusive.

Now you could argue that Iran, until Ahmadinejad stopped it, had a psuedo-democracy where the elections were genuine and contested but the candidates were vetted by the religious hierarchy. That is probably the closest thing to a western style democracy achievable in an Islamic country absent military rule.

I would also say that an interventionist military could create a different style of Islamic democracy such as exists in Turkey and Indonesia. Now we're really getting into the pragmatic versus the ideal.

As far as Iran, you are correct today, but that was not how it started. Remember that while Khomeini was the leading figure in the revolution he did not initially rule by decree. You may remember if you're old enough Sharpur Bakhtiar, and then Mehdi Bazargan, each a transitional figure, and Abolhassan Banisadr and last but not least Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.

These men regularly appeared on US television in those days and were to varying degrees moderates who could have reached an accomodation with the West in many areas. I was a college student at the time, and many times my classes would be interrupted by the Iranian students marching through the quad yelling "Down with the Shah". (some of these moderate Iranians fled their country later in the revolution and have become American business people today, but that's another story)

Remember the owl-eyed look of Banisadr, who became by default the spokesman for Iran in the hostage crisis after Bazargan resigned?

Anyway, Bakhtiar and Ghotzbadeh were assasinated, Banisadr defected to Paris where he lives under heavy guard to this day. Bazargan for some reason was allowed to die peacefully after having completely dropped out of Iranian politics.

Anyway this stroll down memory lane is to illustrate what could happen in Egypt where, possibly like Iran, the initial moderate leaders get swept aside and in many cases killed on the way to theocratic oligarchy.

Sorry for the length, I hope we haven't driven out all the other interesting posters!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 12:05 PM: fine segue about Mubarak being like a US Senator :)

I agree that the original impetus to the Tunisia protest was economic and reaction to a corrupt government from the top down, not necessarily about what the west calls democracy. I have lost track of how much ag land for biofuels is impacting the rising recent inflation - strange weather from droughts to floods depending on where you are is also a major factor. Pakistan lost a year of crops. India has an onion shortage, which is actaully a staople in India. The Australian years-long drought before the current floods...

I assume you refer to palm oil plantations in Indonesia for bio-fuel? Malaysia does same. However, I do consider Indonesia a rare success story in democracy where people get to vote and power transfers peacefully. Amazingly complex country - and not on my list of "great potential hot spot", well, not Java, where half the population lives. When you daily face volcanoes and earthquakes, and possible tsunamis, it leads to a culture where Islam tends to still blend animism with the prior Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms.


i digress.

Some people may find it surprising that Israel is less than 80% Jewish. ALL citizens of Israel have full and equal rights. There are three "Arab" parties who win the votes to have members of the Knesset (parliament). However, the Druze, Circassian, Samaritans, and Arab Christians often vote for Likud and Ysrael Beitenu, which are in the current governing coalition.

I assume shingo thinks ALL of Israel is an "occupied settlement", which is the current official position of Hamas, which rules Gaza and has no plans to ever hold elections again.

As for Egypt? So far, it does look like the military is the key, including for Mubarak's graceful exit, and his son will not be anointed as successor.

I find it very sad that the chaos continues, but heartened that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, unlike Hezbollah, has NO armed militia, and the Egyptian military is not supportive of Political Islam. Egypt has such a strong national identity, and far less of a colonial history than the other Arab states.

Still, very bad for the global economy!

Posted by: K2K2 | January 29, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Sunni Islam is far more used to a separation of religion from government, especially in Egypt. Even the Pakistanis do not elect Islamists to parliament.

The Shi'a are much more open to the concept of theocracy.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 29, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

K2K2:

I have been spending much of this weekend wondering how to play the crisis financially, where I have actual skin in the game. The price of oil will coninue a slow rise I imagine, undeterred by any change in Egyptian leadership. Likewise I believe gold has resumed it's climb.

Bernanke may face a helluva dilemna by spring. The crisis has stopped a rise in Treasuries yields cold and strenghthened the dollar. The flight to quality is the good news because mortgages will remain low, and core inflation will be curtailed by the dollar's rise.

On the other hand, oil and food inflation, not calculated in core CPI, will continue to rise threatening the recovery in the other direction. Even raising rates would not guarantee a satisfactory outcome on these commodities because the problem is now worldwide uncertainty, not the market itself.

Hard to judge now, but I'm guessing that the Fed suffers combat fatigue and does nothing for as long as the situation remains volatile in Egypt, probably for the rest of the year either way. That probably gives housing a favorable spring and summer season, with continued low mortgage rates.

However having no real weapon to combat higher oil and food prices, we may be moving the clock closer to midnight on the danger of hyper-inflation than it was before.

Most will not delve enough into the crisis to understand that it's primary implications for the US are economic, not poltical.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 9:51 PM | Report abuse

"Some people may find it surprising that Israel is less than 80% Jewish. ALL citizens of Israel have full and equal rights."

for the life of me, I don't knwo why anyone still peddles this myth.

Arabs do not have full and eqaul rights. Just off the top of my heard, here are a few examples to prove it:

1. 93% of the land is held in trust by the Jewish National Fund for the use of Jews wherever they may be in the world. That means the Palestinians (20% of the population) are only entitled to use 3% of the land. No provision to accommodate natural growth.

2. Israeli citizens are issued ID papers coded to differentiate Jews from Muslims. Hardly necessary in a state where ALL citizens of Israel have full and equal rights.

3. Arabs are forced to pass though intense airport security, where all items are removed from the cases of Arabs. Not so for Jews.

4. Demolition of Arab homes not Jewish homes.

5. Refusal of permits for arabs to rebuild them

6. Prohibitions on Arab land purchases and the resulting overcrowding in Arab towns

7. Re architecting roads and bridges so that only Jews can travel on them

8. Gross neglect of infrastructure and services such a water, electricity, clinics and schools, especially in the Negev.

9. Exclusion of Arab workers from wealth generating sectors of the economy

10. Firing workers who speak Arab rather than Hebrew

11. Diverting or manipulating water supplies

12. Erasure of Arab presence and history by building parks and forests over Arab villages

13. Desecrating a Palestinian cemetery to build a Museum of tolerance

14. Removing former Arab place names from maps and roads.

15. Arab school curriculums are rewritten to remove Arab history and replace it with the Zionist history.

I could go on, but that gives you an idea.

Cearlt the Arab members of the Knesset have next to zero influence.

No I do not assume ALL of Israel is an "occupied settlement", just the settlements in Est Jerusalem and the West Bank, which are all illegal.

Wherther Hamas ever holds elections again is yetto be seen. Israel's puppet, Abbas stil clings to his leadership positon even though it expised 2 years aso, yet Israeli propagaistst don't seem to mind.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has not had any need for an armed militia because Egypt hasn;t been occupied for any signioficant period of time. Hezbollah woudl never have existed had Israel not occuied Lebanon for 18 years. Egypt's military is will ultimately have to serve the new elected leadership of Egypt, even if it is the Muslim Brotherhood. That's ultimately up to the Egytians to decide, but seing as they are teh biggest political party in Egypt, it stands to reason that they are most likely to win.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 29, 2011 10:10 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446 | January 29, 2011 9:51 PM: "...Most will not delve enough into the [Egyptian] crisis to understand that it's primary implications for the US are economic, not poltical. ..."

Exactly! ditto on rising oil and food prices. I used to forecast the economy for a now decimated manufacturing sector, and forgot to get rich in the 1990's :) As someone who is trapped in the sluggish real estate market, it is not well known that new, much tighter regulations since January, 2010, have offset any advantage offered by low mortgage rates.

I mostly wonder when the bond market takes over from Bernanke.

As to Egypt (Tunisia seems to have gone back to work), guess I have to figure out where the USS Enterprise carrier group and France's sole carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, are currently located.

Kudos to Sen. McConnell for being the sole voice today saying "SUEZ CANAL" first.

The obsession with Israel is starting to resemble the Muslim-country obsession with Mossad-trained squirrels (Iran arrested 14) and Mossad-trained sharks and other animals.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 30, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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