Al-Sisi’s Hammer, Obama’s Nine-Iron?
Published on: August 15, 2013
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  • WigWag

    No wonder President Obama is having margaritas with Brian Roberts. After all, having lost that lovin’ feeling’ with the New York Times, he can’t afford to lose the affection of the major television networks, and Robert’s company, Comcast, owns NBC.

    In fact, I bet that Steve Burke, the President of NBC, was at the party too. Steve has connections all over the entertainment and news industries; his father, Dan, was the President of Capital Cities Communications when it owned ABC.

    For what its worth, his uncle, Jim Burke,(who died last year) was the legendary CEO of Johnson & Johnson and led it successfully through the tainted Tylenol scandal in 1982.

    No one was a better crisis manager than Jim Burke; he singlehandedly guided J&J through a calamity that would have sunk lesser men. Since the start of his second term, Obama has faced one crisis after the next. Maybe the President hopes that Jim relayed some good advice to his nephew, Steve, that he can pick up on during cocktail chatter.

    Surely Obama can use all the help he can get.

  • John Burke

    I certainly agree that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that one or two elections add up to liberal democracy, political liberty, representative government or the rule of law, and Arabs, including Egyptians, may have more trouble than most realizing any of these values.

    However, this should not lead us to abandon the USA’s longstanding commitment to promoting democracy, liberty and human rights everywhere — in responsible, sensible ways consistent with our security interests. Call me a neocon or a liberak internationalist but we have been waving this flag since 1776 and have done a pretty good job of helping a lot of nations into the club we might well call the Free World. In the past six decades, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the rest of central Europe, the states of the former Yugoslavia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and India have joined. In Latin America, after 150 years of tin pot dictatorships, we’ve seen a lot of progress in Mexico, Panama, Columbia, Brazil, Chile and many others, despite some backsliding here and there and the threats posed by Chavez and the Sandinistas. While some states in Black Africa are a mess politically, some are coming along pretty nicely.

    The US deserves a chunk of the credit for this world-changing transformation. It would be a serious mistake to abandon or diminish our historic commitment because it’s not always convenient.

    • Ah, do it in responsible ways, you say. That, often, is exactly the problem…..

      • John Burke

        To be sure. That’s the hard part.

  • WigWag

    “What happened in Egypt yesterday and is continuing to happen today is sad…” (Adam Garfinkle)

    Adam calls the violence in Egypt sad, but what is unclear is exactly what aspect of the sorry spectacle saddens him. Is his remark merely perfunctory in an “any time there’s blood shed it’s sad” sort of way or are there specific details of the unfolding story that make him morose?

    I’m also saddened by aspects of the story. I think it’s sad that a mother would be so dismissive of her children’s well-being that she is willing to put them in harm’s way.

    I think it’s sad that 17 year old Asma el-Beltagi was killed in the imbroglio. By all accounts she was a bright and gentle young lady, who, had she lived, might have moderated her views as she matured. After all, the previous Pope was a one time member of the Hitler youth; most of us get wiser as we get older.

    I also think it’s sad that so many young women, who have had their genitals mutilated to insure that sex would be less pleasurable to deter them from adultery, would be deluded enough to put their lives on the line to support a movement that advocates this type of mutilation.

    But there are other aspects of the story that I don’t find sad at all. I’m not saddened that the Egyptian military used deadly force to disperse a crowd that wanted a President reinstated who described Jews on several occasions as the “descendants of apes and pigs.”

    I don’t think there is anything sad that a movement that mercilessly attacks Copts and their House of Worship is being crushed.

    Given its history, including ties to the Nazis, I can’t find any particular reason to be saddened that Muslim Brotherhood cadres have been granted martyrdom, which is, after all, the “highest” of their “aspirations.”

    We don’t know yet whether the Brotherhood will be driven back underground and we don’t know whether the military regime or what follows it will last any longer than Morsi’s, presidency did, but for now at least, it seems to me that we should be celebrating.

    What I find remarkable is the sheer stupidity that has characterized reaction to the military’s behavior on both sides of the aisle. The fact that Democrats and Republicans alike harbored the idea that democracy might be coming to the Islamic world is both remarkable and frightening. It’s as if the foreign policy establishment in the United States has lost its collective mind.

    Only those who know nothing about the Muslim Brotherhood could have ever been clueless enough to think that the Brothers were the moderate alternative to more radical Islamic terrorists. The idea that politicians like Morsi or Erdogan ever had the ability, let alone the intention, of slowly but surely leading their nations towards Jeffersonian democracy is too absurd to even entertain.

    But that’s exactly what the Barack Obamas and the John McCains of the world thought. So did the Tom Friedmans and Robert Kagans of the world. Obama is supposedly a constitutional scholar; doesn’t he understand that elections are the least important aspect of democracy not the most important? Doesn’t he understand that pluralism is the bedrock atop which democracies are built and that the Egyptians (like the rest of the Islamic world) are anti-pluralists?

    Where were John McCain and Lindsay Graham when their seventh grade history teachers were explaining how political theorists from Cicero to our Founding Fathers drastically limited voting rights because they distrusted majorities and instead created a system that protected individual rights and dispersed political power? Perhaps McCain and Graham were smoking in the boy’s room that day, because they sure don’t have a clue what democracy is, if they thought that before the coup the Egyptians were on the road to it.

    One aspect of what’s happening in Egypt that I’ve wondered about but haven’t seen any commentary on is how the United States and Saudi Arabia seem to be working at cross purposes; in fact, it’s worse than that. It looks like a complete rupture.

    Has there ever been a time in the past 30 years when U.S.-Saudi relations have been so poor? Certainly the Saudis had a great relationship with the first President Bush (and with James Baker) and my recollection is that they had a reasonable relationship with Bill Clinton. Whatever they thought of George W. Bush, my suspicion is that the House of Saud had too much affection for his father to oppose Dubya’s policies too forcefully.

    It seems to me that the Saudis have concluded that President Obama is both a light weight and a coward. They are as annoyed at his fecklessness over Iran as the Israelis are and they were incensed by Obama’s decision to abandon Mubarak as if he was a piece of trash.

    Perhaps Adam can tell us whether there is anything that resembles the concept of Karma in Islam, but one thing is sure; what’s going around does seem to be coming around.

    Why does the United States have no leverage with the Egyptian military? Because the Saudis have insured that American aid is miniscule compared to the aid that they are willing to provide.

    What was the Saudi Government telling the Egyptian military to do just as Obama, Hagel and Kerry were begging for restraint? They were telling al-Sisi, “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

    As Obama was “punishing” the Egyptian military by reneging on the delivery of fighter jets what was Saudi Arabia doing? It was arranging for the delivery of an arms package by the Russians that they have agreed to finance.

    I also wonder whether there has ever been a time when the interests of the Saudis, the Gulf States, Jordan and the Israelis have been more closely aligned than they are now. After all, they all agree on the two major issues confronting the region; Iran and Egypt and they all see Obama’s incompetence as a major strategic threat.

    It seems to me that while the hot war between Sunni and Shia is getting all the press, the cold war between the Sunnis is equally important though rarely recognized. Saudi Arabia leads one faction and Turkey leads the other. Obama, because of his foolish belief that moderate Islamism is the answer to America’s problem with the Muslim world, has sided with the Turkish faction. Unfortunately for Obama and his best friend, Erdogan, the Saudi’s are cleaning the Turk’s clocks.

    These days every night before I go to sleep, I find myself saying a prayer for the health of Prince Bandar. At least he’s protecting American interests and, ironically, doing more to promote our values, than the current Commander in Chief who appears to be asleep at the switch in the Oval Office.

    • I’m sad for the sweet innocent children, mainly; but its sort of sad too when any human community devours its own.

    • Frank Arden

      Wig,

      That was the most passionate, yet rational and comprehensibly succinct, and, too, absolutely correct post you’ve made that I can ever remember reading. It’s one thing to care and another thing to express it with clarity.

      Hats Off!

      I also wonder why the political elites on both sides of the isle are so addicted to this democracy sandwich. Every time either of them mentions the words “democracy and free elections” they deride both terms and cheapen them.

      Although I voted for him, I used to cringe every time Dubya said we were spreading democracy to the Middle East. He was right in the sense that democratic polities are more peaceful and adhere to the Rule of Law, yet totally wrong that democracy could be spread over the Middle East like peanut butter on a slice of fresh, white bread.

      It occurs to me that the so called neoconservatives emerged and attached themselves to the Republican Party during the twilight of Carter Administration. As liberal anti- communist democrats in the Sixties, they were massacred over the war in Viet Nam along with Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey by radicals at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

      Intellectuals (mostly Jews) were appalled as Irving Kristol (the first neoconservative who said that he had been mugged by reality) and Norman Podhoretz, who had edited Commentary Magazine since 1960 and swam almost alone in a vat of hawkish pro-Israel, liberal, anti-communism with no fellow democrats. That changed in 1976 when that wonderful liberal hawk from Harvard, supporter of Israel, anti- communist intellectual Professor Pat Moynihan, defeated conservative Jim Buckley (brother of William F.) in the New York US Senate race.

      According to Podhoretz, social and economic liberalism had achieved most of its goals in the US. After four years of Carter, he thought, what was needed was a robust and muscular anti-communist defense against the Soviet and the equivalent muscular support of Israel. This he found in Moynihan, one of the last hawks of the Democratic Party (not to forget Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson).

      The neoconservatives supported Reagan, and Bush I, and smelled the scent of victory during the Clinton years as former Eastern Soviet satellite countries chose liberal constitutional republican democracy and capitalism.

      Even our friend, Frank Fukyama, thought history was finally dead.

      But then came 9/11 and the neocon troops blew Revele and gathered again at the front lines of US foreign policy. They supported the invasion of Afghanistan to kill bin Laden and exterminate other roaches in Tora Bora. Fine with me.

      Although I supported it, I had misgivings about Iraq. No president who claimed to be a conservative would think nation building was possible, especially in Iraq.

      When the effort was failing, the new raison detre’ was to establish democracy in this dry and arid place (see Psalms 63).

      I never thought this was possible, but the clarion cry from on high from misguided conservatives and neocons gave the intellectual impetus for this foolishness.

      Even worse were the liberal democrats who went along with it in the name of democracy. They think the Seventeenth Amendment is the best thing since sliced bread yet have no clue to how it ruined the federalism of James Madison. Democracy, at any cost, is a god.

      Too, is the gross ignorance of the American People who believe in “majority rule,” but have no idea that our Constitution is designed to limit democracy and protect minorities.

      So when Republicans and Democrats are chanting “democracy, democracy,” you’ll find a lot of cheers from the Amen Corner.

      I don’t mean to suggest that the triumph of democracy should not be our national credo and belief, but only that it is precious and its hard won glories and benefits come with tremendous sacrifices since the Magna Carta.

      I do mean to suggest that most people in the US are quite ignorant of the dangers of runaway democracy that our founders limited with the Constitution. It’s depressing that I must include in the ignorant classes the senior members of our government, both progressive and conservative, democrat and republican, including the president and his advisers in the Left Wing and the loons in that great asylum called the State Department.

    • Frank Arden

      Wig,

      That was the most passionate, yet rational and comprehensibly succinct, and, too, absolutely correct post you’ve made that I can ever remember reading. It’s one thing to care and another thing to express it with clarity.

      Hats Off!

      I also wonder why the political elites on both sides are so addicted to this democracy sandwich. Every time either of them mentions the words “democracy and free elections” they deride both terms and cheapen them.

      Although I voted for him, I used to cringe every time Dubya said we were spreading democracy to the Middle East. He was right in the sense that democratic polities are more peaceful and adhere to the Rule of Law, yet totally wrong that democracy could be spread over the Middle East like peanut butter on a slice of fresh, white bread.

      It occurs to me that the so-called neoconservatives emerged and attached themselves to the Republican Party during the twilight of Carter Administration. As liberal anti- communist democrats in the Sixties, they were massacred over the war in Viet Nam along with Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey by radicals at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

      Intellectuals (mostly Jews) were appalled and Irving Kristol (the first neoconservative who said that he had been mugged by reality) and Norman Podhoretz, who had edited Commentary Magazine since 1960 and swam almost alone in a vat of hawkish pro-Israel, liberal, anti-communism with no fellow democrats. That changed in 1976 when that wonderful liberal hawk from Harvard, supporter of Israel, anti- communist intellectual Professor Pat Moynihan, defeated conservative Jim Buckley (brother of William F.) in the New York US Senate race.

      According to Podhoretz, social and economic liberalism had achieved most of its goals in the US. After four years of Carter, he thought, what was needed was a robust and muscular anti-communist defense against the Soviet and the equivalent muscular support of Israel. This he found in Moynihan, one of the last hawks of the Democratic Party (not to forget Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson).

      The neoconservatives supported Reagan, and Bush I, and smelled the scent of victory during the Clinton years as former Eastern Soviet satellite countries chose liberal constitutional republican democracy and capitalism.

      Even our friend, Frank Fukyama, thought history was finally dead.

      But then came 9/11 and the neocon troops blew Revele and gathered again at the front lines of US foreign policy. They supported the invasion of Afghanistan to kill bin Laden and exterminate other roaches in Tora Bora. Fine with me.

      Although I supported it, I had misgivings about Iraq. No president who claimed to be a conservative would think nation building was possible, especially in Iraq.

      When the effort was failing, the new raison detre’ was to establish democracy in this dry and arid place (see Psalms 63).

      I never thought this was possible, but the clarion cry from on high from misguided conservatives and neocons gave the intellectual impetus for this foolishness.

      Even worse were the liberal democrats who went along with it in the name of democracy. They think the Seventeenth Amendment is the best thing since sliced bread yet have no clue as how it ruined the federalism of James Madison’s genius. Democracy, at any cost, is a god.

      Too, is the gross ignorance of the American People who believe in “majority rule,” but have no idea that our Constitution is designed to limit democracy and protect minorities.

      So when Republicans and Democrats are chanting “democracy! democracy!” you’ll find a lot of cheers from the Amen Corner.

      I don’t mean to suggest that the triumph of democracy should not be our national credo, fundamental pride and belief, but only that it is precious and its hard won glories and benefits come with tremendous sacrifices all the way up from the Magna Charta.

      I do mean to suggest that most people in the US are quite ignorant of the dangers of runaway democracy that our founders wisely limited with the Constitution. It’s depressing that I must include in the ignorant classes the senior members of our government, both progressive and conservative, democrat and republican, including the president and his advisers in the Left Wing and the loons in that great asylum called the State Department.

      Living under the blessings of democracy makes it tempting to spread those blessings as a thing to cure sick polities under the banner of democracy. That’s a mistake. Democracy cannot be given or shared from one nation to another. Besides, democracy on its naked face is dangerous without a Constitution designed to limit its effects on true liberty and that rests upon pluralism

  • John Burke

    The question I keep coming back to is this: will Israel decide to attack Iran unilaterally because it concludes from the disarray of Obama’s diplomacy that it can count on the US only for weakness, confusion and vacilation, and because the upheavals in Syria, Egypt and Libya will keep its Arab adversaries plenty preoccupied? Or will it lean even more heavily on its US alliance because of the chaos around it and determine that it has no choice but to follow Obama’s lead, at least vis a vis Iran?

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  • I guess Pinochet has been vindicated. Military force is justified if democracy brings into power a bunch of radicals hellbent on destroying democracy from the inside. Imagine if the German military had deposed Hitler the same way.

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