Egypt on the Brink, Obama Doing His Best Carter Imitation

[Updates at the bottom]

Egypt has sent out the army to the streets of Cairo with reports of gun-battles and deaths everywhere.  Media sources are reporting 870 wounded, but this can’t be confirmed as of now.

How important are the events occurring in Egypt today in reference to the United States?  Very important.

Any person of history understands that in the 20th and 21st century, how Egypt goes, goes the Middle East.  The most distinguished Islamic university is located in Cairo and militant Islamic organizations such as Al-Qaeda are off-shoots from the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist Muslim organization based in Egypt seeking to return to the days of Muhammad.

The very same Muslim Brotherhood has joined in the protests against the Egyptian government adding to an already volatile and fluid scene.

How ironic that President Muburak, a liberal autocrat relative to the Middle East, is in a precarious situation.  Egyptians everywhere have ignited with blind resolve inspired by the fall of Marhaba Ben Ali, the dictator of what was considered the most European, ie, stable country, of all Islamic nations-Tunisia.

Egyptians have been chanting for the death of the “pharaoh”, an Egyptian epitaph used against those whom they despise in power.  Prominent Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei made a hasty return to Egypt confidently asking for Mubarak to relinquish power in Egypt.

The situation has become so unstable that Mubarak’s own children have already fled the country.

As all this materializes we have a weak and ineffective liberal American president that failed to back the will of the Iranian people as that militant Islamic regime crushed a popular uprising.  Which shows that President Obama is without a spine and a moral compass when it comes to crisis situations.

The Obama administration must take action now to manage the revolution occurring on the streets of Cairo and back a moderate or another liberal leader.  Doing this will almost ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood does not come into power and impose an extremist Islamic regime that would dwarf that of Tehran in brutality.

Can I say this is President Carter all over again with the fall of the Shah?

Yes.

Unlike Iran, Egypt is the leader of the Middle East and what happens in Egypt will not do well for Europe or the United States with a nuclear armed Iran and Pakistan nearby, we are looking at what Samuel P. Huntington foresaw.  An actual nuclear clash of civilizations.

Update I: Dramatic video of protesters and police clashing in Egypt.

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Update II: Live streaming video of news on the disturbances in Egypt here.

30 Responses to Egypt on the Brink, Obama Doing His Best Carter Imitation

  • Egyptian Sphinx eats American dove . . .

  • It is a bad day when I have to rise to the defense of Obama, but I sincerely doubt there is much that cold be done by any American administration right now. Backing one faction or another could well backfire. Other than making public statements calling for a peaceful resolution and that this is a situation that Egyptians will have to work out, I doubt there is much that an American President can do. You can bet that the Israelis are looking at this closely. They have enjoyed a Cold Peace with Egypt since the days of Sadat. They have no guarantees that the government that follows the present one will keep the same policy.

  • This is looking more and more like Iran ’79.

    You are correct, this is about stability in the Middle East. Although I don’t mean to go into this point too deep, this here is one reason that Iraq was engaged by the Bush Admin. When a powerhouse falls in an Islamic country, it isn’t usually at the hands of peace loving democrats, instead it is often at the hands of the youth that scream for democracy, but handled oh too well by older and more powerful Islamic fundamentalists.

    One point though, I do have to agree somewhat with D. McClarey. It is hard for Obama to do a lot right now. There are reports that there has been some US ties to this ordeal dating back three years. http://bit.ly/gDS7hE
    If that is the case, we better do exactly what you say and back another more liberal leader, and not let the Muslim Brotherhood take the reins.

  • I do understand what Donald and Joe are saying about the lack of influence that the Obama administration has on the outcome, but they do have influence.

    So Obama’s actions can affect the outcome to certain degrees.

  • This is a fascinating situation to watch unfold, especially with regards to its wider impact across the globe.

    Note to Obama: this should be your lesson that an internet “kill switch” is NOT a good idea under any circumstances.

    Let’s see if Mubarak goes down and if the economic circumstances that ignited these revolts in Tunisia and Egypt spread to other corners of the globe. Remember: in recent times we’ve seen riots also in Iran, Greece, France and the UK. Yes, all these countries have vastly different domestic circumstances, but don’t think that the global economy does not string all these events together.

    Curious: what more will Wikileaks have to reveal?

    Also, Obama might not have a lot he can do right now, but don’t think that our foreign aid support to nations like Egypt does not contribute to the domestic powder keg.

  • President Obama just finished his speech on the situation in Egypt.

    Basically a bunch of nice words, but nothing that puts pressure on Mubarak to make reforms or action of support for the protesters.

    He just split the difference in his speech without making a difference.

    Pretty much ineffectual flowery ‘nothing’.

    Obama is pathetic.

  • There surely is precious little this 40-something, former community agitator (a glib Al Sharpton?) and gangs of aging, hate-America hippies who spent the last 2 years dismantling the evil, unjust United States . . .

  • · I hope people remind Obama that he supports reopening the internet in Egypt the next time talk of an internet kill switch occurs

    · Isn’t it sort of bad diplomacy to admit to the whole world that you spoke with Mubarak minutes after he finished his speech?

    · Doesn’t all of Obama’s talk of government by consent over coercion just sort of reek of contradiction considering our own coercive economic policies, to say nothing of the dubious last 10 years on “human rights,” whether it be on abortion, torture, secret prisons and Guantanamo?

    ·Agreed. This was a nothing speech, designed to make him look like he has some influence over world events. He doesn’t.

  • As usual, Donald sums things up well.

    Also, on an unusually old-world conservative note for me: This underlines that democracy itself is an unmitigated good. Mubarak is certainly a dictator, but he’s willing to keep the peace in the region. It’s entirely possible that a popular government would happily participate in kicking off a regional war in a region which, however “undeveloped” by Western standards could easily stage a WW2 size war in terms of people and technology.

  • Certainly, the Egyptians will heed the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s call for no violence as he conducts two wars in their neighborhood, and listen attentively to the Secretary of State whose husband bombed Serbia and whose Attorney General engineered the massacre of 74 innocents at Waco in 1993. Clearly, the U.S. has the high ground here.

  • I don’t understand. Aren’t we supposed to be ‘pro’ democratic uprising? Isn’t Mubarak essentially a dictator? Or do we only support democracy when we are confident that it will support our interests? Such seems to be the case with our support for the autocracies of Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt. In any case, I don’t think it’s likely that Egypt will turn into an Iran. Will it be a state friendly to U.S. interests? Likely not. But then, again, it may ween us from our codependent relationship with Israel. Is that a good or a bad thing? Who knows? Augustine’s total political cynicism makes a great deal of sense in these situations. May not too many innocent die, no matter what happens.

  • Daniel Larison has characteristically excellent commentary on the situation here: http://www.amconmag.com/larison/

  • “I don’t understand. Aren’t we supposed to be ‘pro’ democratic uprising? Isn’t Mubarak essentially a dictator?”

    Oh, he is a dictator alright, a relatively benign one by the standards of his bad neighborhood where dictatorships are the norm, with the exception of Israel, Iraq and Turkey. I will weep no tears for his regime if it is toppled, but many people in Egypt and abroad will weep tears if he is replaced by an aggressive Islamist regime. At this point we do not know what will happen.

    “In any case, I don’t think it’s likely that Egypt will turn into an Iran.”

    Nasser was quite bad enough, and a Nasser II might be the most likely outcome. The Muslim Brotherhood would love to control Egypt as the mullahs control Iran. The Army might step in and take over. Many bad possibilities as well as good ones, and it is too early to tell how it will develop.

    “Will it be a state friendly to U.S. interests? Likely not.”

    Then that is a bad thing unless one subscribes to the isolationist fantasies of a Daniel Larison, who simply refuses to in habit this frame of reality.

    “But then, again, it may ween us from our codependent relationship with Israel.”

    Actually an Egypt hostile to Israel would likely drive the US and Israel closer together and make far more likely a general Middle Eastern war.

    It is too early to see how this Egyptian situation will play out. We should not indulge in either optimism or pessimism. We should watch and wait.

  • Donald,

    You too easily reduce the principled position of anti-interventionism to that favorite shibboleth of the post-Wilsonian: “isolationism.” Isolationism is not anti-interventionism. It does not involve the closing of borders, refusal of trade, abandonment of treaties, etc. It rather embodies a sense of limit and prudence, and recognizes the difficulties that attends involving oneself overmuch in the affairs of other countries. It is the position, more or less, of all of the Founders. One can disagree with this posiiton, of course, but it’s just not intellectually responsible to dismiss it as “isolationism”–this kind of language is name-calling masquerading as thought.

  • “It does not involve the closing of borders, refusal of trade, abandonment of treaties, etc.”

    By that standard WJ no one in American history has been an isolationist. Larison, acolyte for Pat Buchanan, isolationist in chief, is firmly in the tradition of the America Firsters, who they celebrate, who thought America could retreat into a Fortress America before Pearl Harbor. It was a foolish and dangerous policy at that time, and it is no less foolish and dangerous today. What worked for America in the Nineteenth Century, courtesy of the British Empire, will not work for America in the Twenty-First. Anti-interventionism is merely the latest gloss on, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “Let ‘em all go to Hell, except Cave 76!”. That does not mean that American intervention is called for in all situations. As to the situation in Egypt, for example, I can’t think of anything we could do positive right now. But the idea that the US can simply ignore developments abroad and cultivate its garden here at home is merely a pleasant illusion and not a serious foreign policy.

  • Donald,
    But it’s simply *not true* that the position of Larison and Bacevich–to take two prominent contemporary anti-interventionists–is what you describe it as being: “ignore developments abroad and cultivate its garden here at home.” This is what I meant about your consistent tendency to reduce the arguments of anti-interventionists to the strawman of “isolationism.” As though the only two options were (1) involvement in *every* foreign crisis and (2) blithe ignorance of the goings on of other countries and how they affect our interests.

  • To the contrary WJ, a retreat into Fortress America is precisely the policy advocated by both Larison and Bacevich. That of course is why Bacevich, hilariously, endorsed Obama in 2008, thinking that Obama shared his isolationist predilections.

    “So why consider Obama? For one reason only: because this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq. Contained within that promise, if fulfilled, lies some modest prospect of a conservative revival.

    To appreciate that possibility requires seeing the Iraq War in perspective. As an episode in modern military history, Iraq qualifies at best as a very small war. Yet the ripples from this small war will extend far into the future, with remembrance of the event likely to have greater significance than the event itself. How Americans choose to incorporate Iraq into the nation’s historical narrative will either affirm our post-Cold War trajectory toward empire or create opportunities to set a saner course.

    The neoconservatives understand this. If history renders a negative verdict on Iraq, that judgment will discredit the doctrine of preventive war. The “freedom agenda” will command as much authority as the domino theory. Advocates of “World War IV” will be treated with the derision they deserve. The claim that open-ended “global war” offers the proper antidote to Islamic radicalism will become subject to long overdue reconsideration.

    Give the neocons this much: they appreciate the stakes. This explains the intensity with which they proclaim that, even with the fighting in Iraq entering its sixth year, we are now “winning”—as if war were an athletic contest in which nothing matters except the final score. The neoconservatives brazenly ignore or minimize all that we have flung away in lives, dollars, political influence, moral standing, and lost opportunities. They have to: once acknowledged, those costs make the folly of the entire neoconservative project apparent. All those confident manifestos calling for the United States to liberate the world’s oppressed, exercise benign global hegemony, and extend forever the “unipolar moment” end up getting filed under dumb ideas.

    Yet history’s judgment of the Iraq War will affect matters well beyond the realm of foreign policy. As was true over 40 years ago when the issue was Vietnam, how we remember Iraq will have large political and even cultural implications.

    As part of the larger global war on terrorism, Iraq has provided a pretext for expanding further the already bloated prerogatives of the presidency. To see the Iraq War as anything but misguided, unnecessary, and an abject failure is to play into the hands of the fear-mongers who insist that when it comes to national security all Americans (members of Congress included) should defer to the judgment of the executive branch. Only the president, we are told, can “keep us safe.” Seeing the war as the debacle it has become refutes that notion and provides a first step toward restoring a semblance of balance among the three branches of government.

    Above all, there is this: the Iraq War represents the ultimate manifestation of the American expectation that the exercise of power abroad offers a corrective to whatever ailments afflict us at home. Rather than setting our own house in order, we insist on the world accommodating itself to our requirements. The problem is not that we are profligate or self-absorbed; it is that others are obstinate and bigoted. Therefore, they must change so that our own habits will remain beyond scrutiny.

    Of all the obstacles to a revival of genuine conservatism, this absence of self-awareness constitutes the greatest. As long as we refuse to see ourselves as we really are, the status quo will persist, and conservative values will continue to be marginalized. Here, too, recognition that the Iraq War has been a fool’s errand—that cheap oil, the essential lubricant of the American way of life, is gone for good—may have a salutary effect. Acknowledging failure just might open the door to self-reflection.

    None of these concerns number among those that inspired Barack Obama’s run for the White House. When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s habit of spouting internationalist bromides suggests little affinity for serious realism. His views are those of a conventional liberal. Nor has Obama expressed any interest in shrinking the presidency to its pre-imperial proportions. He does not cite Calvin Coolidge among his role models. And however inspiring, Obama’s speeches are unlikely to make much of a dent in the culture. The next generation will continue to take its cues from Hollywood rather than from the Oval Office.

    Yet if Obama does become the nation’s 44th president, his election will constitute something approaching a definitive judgment of the Iraq War. As such, his ascent to the presidency will implicitly call into question the habits and expectations that propelled the United States into that war in the first place. Matters hitherto consigned to the political margin will become subject to close examination. Here, rather than in Obama’s age or race, lies the possibility of his being a truly transformative presidency.

    Whether conservatives will be able to seize the opportunities created by his ascent remains to be seen. Theirs will not be the only ideas on offer. A repudiation of the Iraq War and all that it signifies will rejuvenate the far Left as well. In the ensuing clash of visions, there is no guaranteeing that the conservative critique will prevail.”

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2008/mar/24/0002/

    In hindsight of course this seems all completely laughable, but that is what Bacevich wrote at the time. Bacevich and Larison are isolationists, and to claim otherwise, to use your phrase, is not “intellectually honest”.

  • Nothing you’ve posted from Bacevich answers the objection I’ve raised. Opposition to the Iraq War, and a recognition of its enormous cost in lives, money, and its failure to promote the security for which it was purportedly undertaken–none of this entails “isolationism” as you continue to insist. Bacevich does articulate, briefly in that section, an anti-Wilsonian realism that is more legitimately conservative–a label that I would think most writers and readers on this blog would be proud to claim–than the ridiculous idealism that forms the vocabulary and, at times, the practice, of our foreign policy. That Bacevich was wrong about Obama, who is clearly no anti-interventionist, is irrelevant. One point of agreement that I have with you is that there was never any good reason for supposing that Obama would have the courage or ability to reverse the de facto interventionist stance that has marked the last several decades of our foreign policy. There Bacevich was suffering from an illusion. But I can’t see how that fact has any bearing on the merits of anti-interventionism as a corrective to the default position we are in today.

  • Isolationism has few advocates on the right WJ who are politically signficant. (I do not consider Ron Paul politically signifcant.) Support for a robust American foreign policy abroad has been the norm for the vast majority of conservatives in this country since December 7, 1941. As to Bacevich, he did not just oppose the Iraq war. He also believes that the Cold War was an unnecessary event against a largely illusory foe. He thinks American intervention in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, Afghanistan and Iraq were all mistakes. The man is a thorough going isolationist. I can only assume that you are unfamiliar with much of his writing.

  • A good review of the latest isolationist tome authored by Bacevich:

    http://afri.au.af.mil/review_full.asp?id=120

  • I am aware of Bacevich’s writing, and of his thesis that post-WWII America was unable rationally to reassess the benefits and liabilities to anti-interventionism on account of that War and its reception. We are just talking past each other now, as it seems clear to me that you believe anything *other* than Wilsonianism is “isolationism,” where I believe that one can be an anti-interventionist without being an isolationist, and that such anti-interventionism is, in fact, the conservative position. Eisenhower himself was deeply cognizant of the dangers that Wilsonianism would pose for post WWII America, and he was no isolationist. If you want to believe that any approach other than the largely failed and counterproducitve approach of military intervention is “isolationist,” then I suppose that’s your right. But it is historically unimaginative.

  • I would have bet money WJ that you were not a fan of Mr. Beck, but your use of Woodrow Wilson as a bogey-man makes me doubt that wager. :) I consider both the Cold War and American interventions abroad to stop Communism to have been not romantic idealism but hard headedly realistic, just as I consider the current interventions to be. I think you mischaracterize Eisenhower, you are certainly not alone in this, as anyone familiar with the foreign policy he and John Foster Dulles pursued could not reasonably regard it as in any sense non-interventionist.

    Bacevich does not bring up reasoned critques of American interventions abroad. Reasonable people can an will disagree about particular interventions. His heated verbiage about an “American Empire” is in the best traditions of both Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky. In his world American intervention is ipso facto bad, and America should retreat to its shores and let the rest of the world get along as best it can. If this foreign policy is ever attempted by the US, I think we would not like the world produced by our attempted flight from responsibility and reality.

  • In regard to Bacevich, his transformation into a raging isolationist is fairly recent. Here, in part, is what he wrote in National Review back in 2003 when he supported the invasion of Iraq:

    “Such an approach would use the coming war against Iraq as a vehicle to persuade Arab governments that they themselves have a compelling interest in putting Islamic radicals out of business. In the Arab world, American values may not count for much, but American power counts for quite a bit. Concepts like parliaments or women’s rights may strike Saudi princes as alien. On the other hand, they have no difficulty grasping the significance of a B-2 bomber or a carrier battle group.
    The promptness with which U.S. forces dispatched the Taliban in the fall of 2001 has already provided an object lesson of what awaits any regime that knowingly harbors terrorists. By dispatching Saddam Hussein in the coming weeks, U.S. forces can provide a second lesson: that any ruler who flagrantly disregards international norms and engages in behavior that poses a threat to the United States— for example, by funding terrorist groups, subsidizing radical Islam, or nourishing anti-American hatred—can expect to share Saddam’s fate.

    Thus, taken in tandem, the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and in Iraq will define red lines that a regime will violate only at its peril. In that regard, the message to the Arab world from American officials needs to be explicit and unambiguous: Respect those red lines and we will respect your existing political arrangements; disregard them and we are coming after you, with or without allies, with or without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

    In sum, what we should demand of Arab Leaders is not ideological fealty, but simply responsible behavior. And this demand is not negotiable. We will not insist that the House of Saud declare its adherence to the principles of Jeffersonian democracy. But we will insist—as the Bush administration has yet to do—that those who rule the kingdom will ensure that Saudi Arabia cease serving as an incubator of suicidal terrorists. On that point, we will be adamant and uncompromising. And on that point, with the examples, of Afghanistan and Iraq showing that we mean what we say, we can expect compliance.

    As it pertains to a post-Saddam Iraq, such an approach would find the United States extracting itself from Iraqi affairs with reasonable promptness. This is not to say that U.S. forces would withdraw in a matter of days or even weeks, but that we would not commit ourselves to a vain effort to remake Iraq in our image, which would require another semi-permanent U.S. military garrison. Once we have established a regime that is legitimate, friendly to the United States, able to maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity, and respectful of its people, Washington would do well to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

    A foreign policy based on authentically conservative principles begins by accepting the fact that the world is not infinitely malleable. It recognizes that our own resources, although great, are limited. And it never loses sight of the fact that the freedom that U.S. officials are sworn to protect is our own.”

    [Andrew J. Bacevich, "Don't Get Greedy! For sensible, limited war aims in Iraq," National Review, February 10, 2003.]

    Anyone can change his mind, but I always find it surprising when someone of Bacevich’s vintage decides to do an ideological remake in the course of a very short period of time. A debate between Bacevich 2003 and Bacevich 2011 would be amusing if not illuminating.

  • Well, when you consider the lies, distortions, and mismanagement at play leading up to and in the war in Iraq, and you consider further that his son was killed in that war, then this might make more sense to you. But Bacevich was strongly critical of both the decision to invade Iraq and the conditions that made that invasion seem responsible well before the death of his son.

  • Your litany is a familiar one from Iraq war opponents Wj, but Bacevich is not simply an Iraq war opponent. In the space of about two years, 2003-2005, he went from being an advocate of both the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq into being the reincarnation of William Appleman Williams. Bacevich was 56 in 2003. I guess we have to assume that he simply wasn’t paying attention the first 56 years, most of it spent either in the United States Army, or as an academic specializing in defense and foreign policy. I haven’t seen such a radical makeover in such a short time since Gerald Naus, formerly of The Cafeteria is Closed, rediscovered his inner atheist, shut down his blog, and left the Church. When such about faces involve someone who is relatively young and inexperienced I find them more understandable than someone who is deep into middle age, and, one would have thought, would have had time and opportunity to better develop their views over the span of most of a lifetime.

  • I guess that one’s child dying for the cause is probably enough to spark introspection at any age.

  • I can’t wait until the democratic reformers in the new Weimar Egypt vote in Sharia.

  • “I guess that one’s child dying for the cause is probably enough to spark introspection at any age.”

    Perhaps Bob, except that First Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich, a 27 year old West Point graduate, was killed in Iraq in 2007, well after the transformation discussed below.

  • When was the young Bakevich first put in harm’s way in the cause of freeing Weimar Iraq from Kaiser Saddam? (I honestly don’t know. The point that one’s own flesh and blood on the altar tests one’s devotion may or may not apply here).

  • He was first sent to Iraq as a platoon leader in 2006. He enlisted in the Army in 2004. (A correction to my earlier entry. First Lieutenant Bacevich was not a West Point graduate. He graduated from Boston University in 2003. He earned his commission through Officer’s Candidate School in 2005.) Bacevich the father has indicated that he was opposed to the Iraq war prior to his son’s enlistment, as articles he wrote prior to that time would indicate, although he supported the war in 2003.

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