Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Optimism About Egypt

UPDATE: Don't miss Hernando de Soto's WSJ op-ed.


Bill Kristol in the February 14th Weekly Standard:
The question is how the U.S. government can do its best to help the awakening [in Egypt] turn out well.

In his column, Krauthammer refers to the French, Russian, and Iranian revolutions. They all turned out badly. But before 1789 was 1776. After 1917, there was 1989. And after 1979, there was also 2009, when the Obama administration shamefully and foolishly did nothing to help topple the most dangerous regime in the Middle East.

Furthermore, in the last quarter century, there have been transitions from allied dictatorships to allied democracies in Chile, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name only a few. The United States has played a role in helping those transitions turn out (reasonably) well. America needn’t be passive or fretful or defensive. We can help foster one outcome over another. As Krauthammer puts it, "Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance."

Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it’s a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

It was not so long ago, after all, when conservatives understood that Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Mubarak’s help spawn global terrorism. We needn’t remind our readers that the most famous of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was an Egyptian, as is al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al Zawahiri. The idea that democracy produces radical Islam is false: Whether in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, or Egypt, it is the dictatorships that have promoted and abetted Islamic radicalism. (Hamas, lest we forget, established its tyranny in Gaza through nondemocratic means.) Nor is it in any way "realist" to suggest that backing Mubarak during this crisis would promote "stability." To the contrary: The situation is growing more unstable because of Mubarak’s unwillingness to abdicate. Helping him cling to power now would only pour fuel on the revolutionary fire, and push the Egyptian people in a more anti-American direction.
Unlike many on the right, I think the Obama Administration's diplomacy on Egypt has been -- although not perfect -- reasonably praiseworthy. These situations are tough: America cannot get either too far out front or too far behind events, which requires a delicate balance.

We have to hope for the best. But, I can't say a conservative Administration would have done better.

Oh, and check out Yaakov Kirschen's take on Dry Bones:


4 comments:

OBloodyHell said...

> It was not so long ago, after all, when conservatives understood that Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Mubarak’s help spawn global terrorism.

Really? Does he have any evidence of all of this?

ANY?

Some dictatorships certainly ally themselves with terrorists. Others aren't so helpful. I'm sure they are neither Pollyannas nor desirable, and I'd assume some small measure of such oppression can fuel terrorist sympathies -- but claiming a direct connection between all dictatorships and global terrorism is a bit of the same kind of hysteria that he's complaining about.

OBloodyHell said...

> We needn’t remind our readers that the most famous of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was an Egyptian, as is al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al Zawahiri.

Yeeeeeahhhh, so? A lot more of both have been Saudi, including Osama himself. Is that a condemnation of the Saudi people as universally responsible for that, or is it more perhaps tied to the Saudi Wahabbist/Salafi Islamic movement there?

Cart. Horse.

Ordering?

GW said...

Where I disagree with the analyisis is that Obama, upon taking office, slashed the budget for promotion of democracy in Iran, shortly thereafter followed by a near equal slash in the budget for promotion of democracy in Egypt. I think we might be in a different situation if there had been follow through on Condi's 2005 speech. But Obama walked back from that, too, in his 2009 speech.

Carl said...

I agree with GW. As for OBH -- even though I agree with his critique of some of the rhetoric -- I just don't think there's a lot we can do to alter events over there.