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Political Crimes Of Nature

The events going on in Egypt are doing wonders for the reputations of a number of American politicians and pundits -- mainly exposing a lot of people for being far less knowledgeable and correct than they would have us believe. But with the full story still yet to develop, and the sheer unprecedented nature of things, I'm willing to give a bit of a pass to a lot of people I normally enjoy kicking -- and withhold credit from those whom I normally praise.

First up, it's beyond dispute that the Obama administration did a really crappy job. They didn't see how fast things would play out, tried to play both sides of the game, and in the end only managed in looking like the clueless twits many of us pegged them as years ago. In the end, we demonstrated both that we will not solidly back those who have been allies for decades against internal turmoil, nor will we lend solid support to repressed people trying to overthrow a corrupt dictatorship. So we both alienated other allies and people seeking freedom. Quite a coup.

On the other hand, while it's true that the Obama administration totally botched the situation, I don't think there was any good solution available. Strictly speaking, the Egyptian turmoil is a purely internal matter, without outside agitators and agents of other nations fomenting dissent (like in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Lebanon, just to name three). As such, the principle of national sovereignty plays a role, and we shouldn't get too involved in that sort of thing. For another, while Mubarak was a corrupt dictator, there are a lot of those around the world -- and he was hardly the worst out there. Compared to Syria's Assad, North Korea's Kim Jong Il, or Cuba's Castros, just to name three, Mubarak was positively enlightened and liberal and benevolent.

So I'm not going to spend much energy on how Obama "lost" Egypt, regardless of how it plays out. Yeah, he and his regime are hopelessly out of their depths, but I don't think anyone could have handled it in a way that would work out much better.

On the other hand, quite a few people are crowing about how Sarah Palin was out in front of things, castigating the Obama administration and predicting that Mubarak would be gone soon -- and we should prepare to deal with the aftermath.

The few times I've talked about Palin, I've mainly defended her against what I saw as unfair attacks. I've taken the side of reality and truth, as I see them. In that spirit, here I'm going to deny her what I see as unearned praise.

Palin's comments were more aimed at the ineptitude of the Obama administration, and seem to be based more on an application of Murphy's Law on Obama -- "anything they can get wrong, they will get wrong" -- than a superior insight into the events in Egypt. I happen to agree with that principle, but it's hardly a good touchstone for predicting events in other nations.

But all that is domestic distractions. What is far more important is trying to figure out what will happen in Egypt -- and how we should deal with that.

The problem, as I've noted many times before, is that what is happening now has never happened before -- and the only similar situations have not ended well.

Consider, if you will, a Venn Diagram. Label one circle "Arab Nations." Label the other "Muslim Nations." The overlap is considerable -- there are very few non-Arab Muslim nations, and I don't think there are any Arabic non-Muslim nations. And within those overlapping spheres, the political realities are very dark.

In the Arab/Muslim world, it seems that there are two "natural" forms of government. With very few exceptions, most of those governments can be categorized as "theocratic tyrannies" and "corrupt dictatorships." And when things change, it's usually to switch between the two forms.

So when one of those governments shows signs of toppling, it's kind of hard to solidly back their downfall -- because there's not only no guarantee that the replacement government will be better, but considerable history that shows it very well might be worse -- worse for both its people, and the world in general.

Genuine secular, enlightened democracies are extremely rare in the Arab/Muslim world. Turkey succeeded, largely through the efforts of a "benevolent dictator" in the form of Ataturk -- but militant Islam is experiencing a resurgence there. And Indonesia, the nation that holds more Muslims than any other, is a democratic republic. But these two are the aberrations, not the norm.

It's often been noted that freedom is not the natural state of Man, and there is a lot of truth to it. Truly free states -- states that recognize the sovereignty of the people, that regularly hold free and fair elections, and respect the rights of individuals -- are relatively rare and require constant vigilance to preserve. This truism is even more accurate in the Arab/Muslim world.

Of course, such things are infinitely preferable to the dictatorships and tyrannies that govern most of the world's populace. But they are never easy to start, and harder to maintain.

Will such a state emerge in post-Mubarak Egypt? It would be great if it did. But it is in no way guaranteed. Further, it is probably the hardest and least likely to emerge.

We should hope for that. If possible, we should encourage it. But there is absolutely no guarantee that it will, and considerable indicators that it will not. So while we hope for the best, we should prepare for the worst.

And that includes the Muslim Brotherhood's proclamations that Egypt should become an Islamist state, enforcing Sharia law, repudiating the peace treaty with Israel, and even shutting down the Suez Canal.

In the 1950s, Egypt's President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. In response, England, France, and Israel invaded and seized the Canal.  It didn't end well,  but it did secure the rights of all nations to use the Canal without discrimination.

The closing of the Canal would have a devastating affect on the world's economy. And a militarily resurgent Egypt resuming its hostility towards Israel would likewise wreak havoc on the world.

We should hope like hell that things don't unfold that way. But we would be fools if we didn't take into account that it might happen, and make plans accordingly.

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Comments (27)

Ahmadinijihad has his eyes ... (Below threshold)
914:

Ahmadinijihad has his eyes on the canal for sure.

Using our own oil has never been more imperative. Will Barry act ahead of time and open the spigots to head this off?

All signs point to NO! He is worse then a drunk driver at the wheel of this Country.

So, as you see it, Jay Tea,... (Below threshold)
twolaneflash:

So, as you see it, Jay Tea, Sarah Palin knows enough about the Egypt situation to call it right, but she's aiming at Obama, and that proves, in your mind, that she knows nothing about Egypt, or anything else. Jeezus! I wish I had your deep knowingness.

Mr. Tea,I disagree... (Below threshold)
SER:

Mr. Tea,

I disagree with your belief that "there was any good solution available." In my opinion (uniformed as it is), the President should have kept his mouth shut while engineering President Mubarak's exit while working with the Egyptian military. This could be accomplished the same way Ferdinand Marcos was "bounced" out of the Philippines. While this could be a "sneaky" way of getting things done, it does not play to Mr. Obama's strong suit. The President likes to take "credit without accomplishment" and this required "accomplishments without credit."

Let me try that again, twol... (Below threshold)

Let me try that again, twolane. I think Palin didn't know enough about Egypt to get it right. But I think she knew enough about the Obama administration to know that they would get it wrong.

And she was correct.

J.

Jay-I am going to ... (Below threshold)
Brian The Adequate:

Jay-

I am going to go pedantic on you even though it does not really detract from your main point. The statement that there are few non-arab muslim states is a really egregious error of fact.

In fact, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Albania, Nigeria, Somalia (assuming you can really call it a country) and all of the various -stan remnants of the old Soviet Union are Muslim majority nations that are not ethnically Arab. The majority of Muslim majority states are not Arab.

In fact, the vast majority ... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

In fact, the vast majority of Muslims are not Arabs. The two most populous Muslim nations in the world are Indonesia and Pakistan, which together outnumber the entirety of the Arab world.

Jay wrote: "But we would be fools if we didn't take into account that it might happen, and make plans accordingly."

So of course Barry Lackwit and his gang, being the biggest gaggle of fools seen in this country since the 1850s, won't make any such plans.

I don't blame Obama for our... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

I don't blame Obama for our having a bad situation in Egypt. That was pretty much inevitable, and there was little, if anything, he could do.

I do blame him, however, for looking so inept, and thereby undermining his authority (as when, e.g., Mubarak essentially told him to get stuffed). He should have stuck to vapid exhortations (something he's good at) of good will, etc. without appearing to take sides, so we would have at least a shot at working with whomever ends up picking up the pieces.

For someone who has a gift for appearing to be all things to all people (the blank screen on which others project their desires), this was the time of times to use that gift, but he didn't. I do blame him for that.

To paraphrase Palmerston's famous aphorism, we have no friends, and no enemies - only interests.

You'd think Barry, of all people, would understand that. But then you'd be wrong.

"I do blame him, however, f... (Below threshold)
914:

"I do blame him, however, for looking so inept, and thereby undermining his authority"

That didn't take long.. For a moment there I thought You'd let Barry off the hook.

Remember the "revolution" d... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Remember the "revolution" didn't start over democracy, human rights, Mubarak, islamic issues, or Israel. The spark was rising food prices and shortages.

Food prices and shortages have been caused by a number of factors, including the increasing pressure of the continuing drought in China which will only make matters worse, but also the dramatic drop in corn supplies from the American midwest as those grains are diverted to subsidized ethanol production.

This is exacerbated by the general rise in commodity prices fueled by the falling dollar and kept going by the continuing pumping of currency into the system by "quantitative easing" (a new and obscure term meaning "printing cash like crazy").

So, no ethanol subsidies and no QEI & II, and the price and supply of food would not have come under such pressures. No food crisis, no Egyptian demonstrations.

In a way, then, it IS all Obama's fault.

So no one could have handle... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

So no one could have handled it any better, but Obama proved he was out of his depth by how he handled it? Huh?

He "botched the situation" but there wasn't "any good solution available." WTF?

Why don't you just make the headline of all your pieces "Obama Sux?" While you're at it, just type that in the text, too, and save yourself the effort of all that tedious "writing."

Don't know if you're aware of it, but lots of people around the world are giving Obama credit for handling a fast moving crisis pretty adroitly, at least so far. Few people who aren't rightwing partisans think that the Administration "botched" anything. Not yet, anyway.

Jay Tea: Today, ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:


Jay Tea: Today, They (the Obama administration) didn't see how fast things would play out, tried to play both sides of the game, and in the end only managed in looking like the clueless twits many of us pegged them as years ago.

February 4th version of Jay Tea: So, no, the only realistic option for the US here is "hands off." We should avoid coming down too firmly for either side, recognize that this is a matter for Egypt to work out on its own, and prepare to make nice with whichever side prevails. (Jay, of little faith).

So Obama pretty well does exactly what Jay advises, albeit but with a significant tilt against Mubarak in favor of the protesters, not nearly enough in my estimation, while Jay would have shown no tilt, if anything grudging respect for Murabak whom he refers to repeatably as a 'less offensive dictator', as long as you're not an Egyptian, who has enjoyed the ´hospitality´ of Egypt´s police force.

Had any major Western leader followed Jay´s advice- thank God they didn´t- they would have joined that exception, the current laughing stock of the free world, Italian president Berlusconi, "Murabak is the wisest leader in the Middle East", from the mouth of the consort of underaged Ruby ´the heart-stealer', the self- proclaimed grandchild of Murabak.

Steve, you sure you wanna s... (Below threshold)

Steve, you sure you wanna start challenging world leaders' insights and perceptions on world events based on sexual peccadilloes? That is NOT a path you want to go down, chum.

And what I had in mind with Obama's bad move was announcing on Thursday that Mubarak was resigning that day -- prompting Mubarak to make a point of announcing that he would NOT be resigning, and trying to hang the protesters with "foreign influence" smears.

Singularly stupid move there. But then again, the CIA seems to be getting most of its "intelligence" from CNN, so I guess that's the best we can expect.

J.

"For someone who has a gift... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"For someone who has a gift for appearing to be all things to all people (the blank screen on which others project their desires).."

That jedi mind trick only works on people who have 'blank screens' for brains themselves; like our domestic kumbaya libs with more money and leisure than brains.
The gimlet-eyed world leaders have taken the measure of Barry and know he is an empty suit. Especially the leaders who play for keeps in some of the tougher neighborhoods of the world.
The only use they have for Barry's 'leadership' is merely connected to how much their own ignorant mobs buy into the HopenChange myth; and how much money they can scam from Uncle Sugar.

I´m chiding you on this bec... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

I´m chiding you on this because I (know>) think at least, Egypt is quite different from the other countries in that region. I wouldn´t have nearly the faith in Algeria or Syria or Yeman. I would hold all your reservations.

I realize Obama should have more Egypt specialists, but they were gutted, i think as far back as the Bush administration. Obama, I give a solid B, still sounded much better than Biden or Hillary Clinton- experienced dead hands, they seemed very upset at the demonstrators, for putting them in this situation where they had to work overtime, no sympathy whatever was shown. This should have been a time for real exhilaration', this is after all what is most exciting-flying on the seat of their pants- about politiics, instead Hillary expecially, showed, they wished they could have been somewhere else, anywhere but on the hot seat. I don´t know why any of these people go into politics,... status, money, vacations, perhaps?

Obama: Somebody just point ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Obama: Somebody just point me in the right direction and show me who to bow to!

Jay Tea says that this has ... (Below threshold)
Oldflyer:

Jay Tea says that this has never happened before. I wonder just what are you referring to? A military coup in an Arab nation? Because at this point that is what has happened in Egypt.

How do you think Nasser came to power originally?

How do you think Sadaam came to power in Iraq?

How do you think Assad's predecessors in Syria came to power?

Someone was naming the non-Arab Muslim countries earlier, but forgot two of the most significant ones--Iran, and of course Afghanistan.

Turkey is a Muslim country; and seems to be on its way to a Theocracy.

By the way, India has a huge Muslim minority. It is a significant problem for the Indians.

Muslim minorities along the southern borders of Russia, in the Caucus region are also a big problem for the Russians.

Muslim minorities in western China are a relatively small but irritating problem.

Palin does not need to know about Egypt--yet--because she does not have governing responsibility. But, you don't need to know about a specific region to recognize when your government is flailing dangerously.

Ah, Steve, the first lefty ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Ah, Steve, the first lefty to say Bush gutted he Egypt crowd. Kudo's. Even though Obama has been in office for more than two years and spent money on everything else, except Egypt. A putz of the largest order.

Bruce, you are superman. In touch with the whole worlds opinion of Obama. You are a very busy man. Again, an idiot.

Two lane, a little reading comprehension would help you.

Biden stated loudly, Mubarik is not a dictator. Clinton stated we stand by Egypt, Obama did nothing except at the end of the crisis that "I did this. I inspired Egypt". At least that is what his mouthpiece Chris Matthews stated.

The left has gone off the road. You know, the ditch thingy. ww

oldflyer, I meant a peacefu... (Below threshold)

oldflyer, I meant a peaceful populist movement overthrowing a ruler in a way that did NOT have a strong Islamist element from the beginning.

Brian the adequate, you're absolutely right -- I always tend to forget about all the -stans that the Soviet Union blessed us with. Thanks for the correction.

wolfwalker, I did take that into account. That's why I went by the "number of nations" route. Which I thought was a good weasel, until Brian blew that one up in my face...

J.

Marc Lynch of Foreign Polic... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Marc Lynch of Foreign Policy magazine:

"The Obama administration also deserves a great deal of credit, which it probably won't receive. It understood immediately and intuitively that it should not attempt to lead a protest movement which had mobilised itself without American guidance, and consistently deferred to the Egyptian people. Despite the avalanche of criticism from protestors and pundits, in fact Obama and his key aides -- including Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power and many others -- backed the Egyptian protest movement far more quickly than anyone should have expected. Their steadily mounting pressure on the Mubarak regime took time to succeed, causing enormous heartburn along the way, but now can claim vindication. By working carefully and closely with the Egyptian military, it helped restrain the worst violence and prevent Tienanmen on the Tahrir -- which, it is easy to forget today, could very easily have happened. No bombs, no shock and awe, no soaring declarations of American exceptionalism, and no taking credit for a tidal wave which was entirely the making of the Egyptian people -- just the steadily mounting pressure on the top of the regime which was necessary for the protestors to succeed."

Jay, I was actually fraid t... (Below threshold)
Oldflyer:

Jay, I was actually fraid that is what you meant. Tsk. Tsk. As the old saying goes: "earth to Jay".

This was a military coup. Pure and simple. The trigger may have been the mobs in the street; but they were powerless. The military had to decide whether to crush them or usher Mubarak into overdue retirement, at age 82.

It was a lot simpler to retire Mubarak; and I presume it keeps Obama off their backs for awhile. And incidentally keeps the U.S. $$$ flowing.

Please note that Egypt is now ruled by a Supreme Military Council, which is headed by a senior General. There is no parliament. There is no constitution.

Where it goes from here is anyone's guess. But, let us not kid ourselves about what has transpired to this point.

Keep worshiping at Barry's ... (Below threshold)
914:

Keep worshiping at Barry's altar Bruce. He needs all the help he can get.

Oh, Bruce. You're so cut... (Below threshold)

Oh, Bruce. You're so cute when you get all huffy and delusional.

The Egyptian military is highly respected within Egypt, and is the most stabilizing influence. The protesters were NEVER terrified of the military; it was the police that were their concern.

It's true the military has power. Right now, it appears they didn't take it, but were handed it. And it's also unclear whether they will keep it. It's way too early to call it a coup.

The main reason you want to call it a coup is to prove me wrong. Otherwise, you'd recognize the paradox you've constructed -- you're praising Obama for his handling of the situation, yet now you're denouncing it as a military coup.

Make up your mind, will ya?

J.

Wow, Jay Tea, when you get ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Wow, Jay Tea, when you get me and Oldflyer mixed up, you know you're "out of your depth."

So, is Oldflyer, one of the most reasonable of your conservative commenters, "huffy and delusional?" How do YOU feel about Jay Tea's insult, Oldflyer? I'm used to 'em, myself -- he always resorts to them when he has nothing of value with which to retort. And when he feels defensive.

Which is more and more often these days, it seems. Joining Drummond and Rick in the "Trolls Are Picking On Me" club.

Bruce, the piece you posted... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Bruce, the piece you posted is big on opinion and implication but really no facts. Where as the Director of Intelligience and all the departments under him did not even know this was going to happen. Likewise with Clinton. Taken by surprise. But you yet drink the Obama kool aid.

In comparison GW Bush gets a daily briefing that says terrorists were going to fly planes somewhere and you lefties actually blame him for making 9/11 happen. You are as stated above, an idiot. ww

Does not surprise me that J... (Below threshold)
Oldflyer:

Does not surprise me that Jay has confused me and some Liberal, because Jay seems really confused right now.

Your argument doesn't hold water Jay. We have the word of the U.S. mainstream media that the military is "respected". Why, on what basis? This is the military that has ruled behind one face or another since 1952. Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and now "what's his name?". This is the military that got its ass kicked by Israel multiple times.

Yep, this military is benign for intents and purposes as long as there is a secret police to do the dirty work. So, you say they were handed power. But, the alternative to "handing" them power was.... Well, I will tell you. Order was going to be restored for the good of the country. One way or the other.

This story has a ways to go before it is resolved. It will, however, be resolved on terms that suit the Generals--or a genuine blood bath and chaos will ensue.

Obamas first move is always... (Below threshold)
dunce:

Obamas first move is always to vote present,his second move is to vote no,his third is to ask whats in it for me.Now everyone can see how this works as foreign policy.He goes ,he stays, he leaves later,WTF you can thank me later.

And what I had in mind w... (Below threshold)
john:

And what I had in mind with Obama's bad move was announcing on Thursday that Mubarak was resigning that day -- prompting Mubarak to make a point of announcing that he would NOT be resigning

Or, perhaps Obama's announcement served as pressure, making Mubarak's resignation a fait accompli in the minds of world leaders and Egyptian citizens, thus instantly turning him into a lame duck and making his attempt to retain power less tenable.

In the end, we demonstrated both that we will not solidly back those who have been allies for decades against internal turmoil

Or, we sent a message to other dictators that they can't count on the US coming to their rescue when they mistreat their people, and sent a message that "this can happen to you too" if they don't shape up.

nor will we lend solid support to repressed people trying to overthrow a corrupt dictatorship. ... Strictly speaking, the Egyptian turmoil is a purely internal matter, without outside agitators and agents of other nations fomenting dissent (like in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Lebanon, just to name three). As such, the principle of national sovereignty plays a role, and we shouldn't get too involved in that sort of thing.

OK, I confess this one confuses me. Obama screwed up by not supporting an internal struggle, which we shouldn't get involved in because it's an internal struggle?

So I'm not going to spend much energy on how Obama "lost" Egypt, regardless of how it plays out.

And if it plays out by turning into a secular democracy? But no need to wait and see. To you, Obama already "lost" Egypt. Thank you, Sen. Reid.

Obama did something, and Egypt resolved itself as many had hoped. If it went the other way, you'd be blaming Obama for blowing it. But it didn't, and you're still blaming Obama for... uh, well, something. Did his actions have an impact one way or the other? No one will know.

I was wearing a green shirt the day I got into a car accident. Then again, I wear a green shirt weekly and I don't have cancer. Please let me know if I should blame green shirts for causing car accidents or I should extol them for staving off cancer.




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