Three Cheers for Serviceable Hypocrisy
Published on: June 22, 2012
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  • John Barker

    “Serviceable hypocrisy looks to be firmly in the saddle. So far, so okay.”

    That answers many questions for me.This is a concept with a lot of generality.

  • Regretfully, I have to voice a number of disagreements.
    1) No, you have more than 1 loyal reader

    2) You seem to have considerable confidence that the Obama administration is getting things mostly right in Egypt. From my vantage point, this doesn’t seem to be the case — though my vantage point is from Israel, and this is of course a widely shared view here.
    I think it was Michael Totten who reported some 2 months ago from Tunisia that he met a lot of people who thought that the Obama administration is eager to see Islamists taking over everywhere — and that’s indeed how it looks (even if you’re not into the conspiracy theories that are so popular in the region).

    As you rightly note, “democracy now” wasn’t really an option in Egypt, and therefore there wasn’t any reason for Obama to rush to throw Mubarak under the bus. True, US influence is limited, but I don’t think it’s as negligible as you seem to suggest, particularly with the military. Since it was the military that got rid of Mubarak to safeguard its own interests, I think much upheaval could have been avoided if the US had pressed right from the start for an orderly transition that had left Mubarak in place until the elections, with him committing to stepping down.

    If Obama thought he’d curry favor with the anti-American masses in the Middle East by dropping Mubarak like a hot potato, he is thoroughly deluded. Moreover, it was clear that elections would result in a very strong/victorious showing for the Muslim Brotherhood, and instead of “going with the flow” of hyper-exicted reporting about the twittering Facebook kids on Tahrir square, the administration could have taken a sober position by making clear that it believes that getting rid of Mubarak and holding elections does not a democracy make, but that this requires a long process that provides safeguards for pluralism.

    Obama personally seems utterly clueless about Islamism, as is also illustrated by his infatuation with Erdogan, whom he described as a friend who gives him advice about how to educate his daughters… Just a small anecdote, to be sure, but a telling one.

    “Servicable Hypocrisy” could and should have meant that the Obama administration would huddle with SCAF right from the beginning and say: OK guys, you don’t want Mubarak installing his son, and we both don’t want the Muslim Brothers getting too big. So let’s keep in touch and talk about how to address the protesters’ demands in a way that avoids a big mess and still allows for some reforms.

    3)- related: the point that the US shouldn’t (or can’t) care all that much about how Egypt is run and is doing domestically is very short-viewish IMHO: Egypt is already on the way to becoming a failed state, i.e. it already can barely feed, properly educate, provide jobs and security for its people, and the Sinai is developing into a Pakistani-tribal area-style playground for all sorts of jihadists and criminals.

    Last but not least, a question: Do you think that there are other powers that give lots of money (like the US gives to Egypt & Pakistan) and that are content to say: oh well, that doesn’t entitle us to expect anything…

  • Oh, and one thing I wanted to add re. Obama’s cluelessness about Islamists: here is a truly delightful clip of an Egyptian debate about Mursi’s presidential campaign, where — in his presence — the speaker promised the cheering crowds that Mursi would establish the United States of the Arabs with its capital in Jerusalem:

  • Steve

    “one of my loyal readers (my only loyal reader, for all I know)”

    Adam, there is No Whining in Blogging.
    I’m glad we had this little talk.

  • JLK

    Dear Adam

    You write very good, thought proking articles. Even though you are no WRM in writing skills you need to cut out the apologetic tone and get on with it!!!


    PS You give Obama too much credit. What you are taking for “Strategic Hypocrisy” or some such is actually cluelessness, ennui and lack of interest.

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  • WigWag

    Given that all the options for dealing with the situation in Egypt and Syria are bad, perhaps it’s time to follow the advice of Mae West who famously said,

    “Whenever I’m caught between two evils, I take the one I’ve never tried.”

    In Egypt, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (and the new Egyptian President) means supporting Islamic extremism that, while not quite as bad as the extremism of Al Qaeda, is still antithetical to enlightenment values. While John Kerry is doing everything he can to assure us that the Muslim Brothers aren’t all that bad (see,, we should be mindful of their credo,

    “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

    We would be foolish to think that they don’t mean it.

    On the other hand, supporting the corrupt and incompetent Egyptian military hardly seems like a long range strategy destined for success. It’s not the corruption that’s the problem, it’s the incompetence. While Turkey and Egypt may be very different countries with different histories and cultures, just as the civilian Islamists in Turkey eventually defeated the military, the same thing could, with time, happen in Egypt.

    In Syria, the situation seems even more bleak. Supporting Assad would be tantamount to supporting a tyrant who is viciously killing his own people; not to mention his alliance with Iran and Hezbollah. Supporting the Syrian insurgents will inevitably end up in the creation of a Sunni Islamist regime that will be even more brutal than the Assad regime and is likely to result in genocidal violence against Syrian Alawites and Christians (not to mention the likelihood of an increase in terrorism against Israel).

    It’s the classic no-win scenario; a lose-lose situation; for Star Trek fans it’s the Kobayashi-Moreau.

    Perhaps Mae West offers an alternative strategy; as counterintuitive as it seems, maybe we need to make the chaos in the Middle East our friend. Why not do everything we can to perpetuate the war in Syria between Assad and his enemies? Why not do what we can to insure that the violence continues? After all, when the civil war eventually ends, the losing side, whichever it is, is likely to be obliterated. Is the ongoing violence really any worse than the violence likely to be inflicted on the losers at the end of the conflict?

    The longer the conflict goes on, the more Syria’s military will be degraded, the poorer the country will become and the less of a threat it will be to its neighbors and American interests once a victor in the civil war finally emerges. The weaker the Syrian Government gets, the less valuable an ally it will be to either Iran or Hezbollah, even if Assad finally succeeds at crushing the insurgents. Instead of arming Sunni extremist groups, perhaps the United States should encourage, train and arm Syrian Kurdish separatists who hate the Assad regime and mistrust the Sunnis.

    Obviously, this approach is far from perfect; perpetuating instability can also cause serious problems; a Mogadishu type situation in Damascus poses big risks. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to think that insuring that whoever emerges as the victors in Syria are as weak and exhausted as possible may be the best of the bad alternatives. I doubt that this is an “evil” that the Administration has “tried.” Maybe it should.

    In Egypt we are faced with the Hobson’s choice of preferring the anti-Semitic and anti-western Islamists who, whether or not they can achieve what the Erdogan Government has in Turkey has, surely desire to. Alternatively we can support a military regime so befuddled and stupid that it’s hard to be enthusiastic about its long term prospects.

    Why not do what we can to sow discord in Egypt? Instead of propping up the Egyptian economy, why not let it collapse? Instead of helping Egypt manage its hemorrhaging foreign reserves, why not let the Egyptian financial system implode? Why not provide enough food aid to insure that there is no mass starvation but refuse to provide any assistance that helps the Egyptian economy gets back on its feet? Given the bleak prospects for Egypt one way or the other, shouldn’t the United States be doing what it can to insure that whatever Government finally emerges in Egypt is poor, militarily weak and able to cause as little trouble for its neighbors and American interests as it can?

    If so, we need to make Egyptian turmoil our friend; we need to insure that it goes on as long as possible.

    When it comes to Egypt, at least, we can be sure that this is an “evil” that the Administration won’t try, even though perhaps it should. It’s not only John Kerry begging Congress to give the Muslim Brothers a chance, Hillary Clinton is sending signals to the Egyptian military about the importance of democracy; even if it means that the America-hating Muslim Brotherhood emerges victorious.

    Only the extraordinarily dimwitted Obama Administration could think that

    “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law…” is as reasonable an expression of democracy as “We hold these truths to be self evident…”

    Why is President Obama so insistent on trying to work with the Muslim Brothers? I think it comes down to Mae West again. She posed the well known question; “is that a gun in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”

    When it comes to what he mistakenly thinks are moderate Islamists, what President Obama has in his pocket is not a gun, but the other thing Mae West had in mind.

    It’s too bad, really. We would be much better off if it was a gun in Obama’s pocket.

  • Kris

    [email protected]: I have nothing to add to your comment, apart from a minor nitpick.

    “It’s the classic no-win scenario; a lose-lose situation; for Star Trek fans it’s the Kobayashi-Moreau.”

    It’s Kobayashi Maru, though I’ll admit your version sounds much more intellectual. Also.

  • LarryReiser

    Of one thing we can be assured whatever course this administration stumbles upon a bad situation will only become much worse.Maybe it’s best they continue to do nothing until we get some adults in place come November.

  • Grace

    This information is all so overwhelmning, but its great that it is being put out there for the learned public to read.
    …I’m in favor of invoking the Holy Spirit to guide us towards the EVERLASTING truth.

  • Grace

    Never argue with idiots… they’ll beat you over the head with ‘experience’… and it JUST isn’t worth it!!!

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