In this, as in so many other matters, the political and policy class would do well to remember the words of Oliver Cromwell to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1650: ” I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”
We seek in vain, Bob, for any encouraging sign of humility, however small, in the class.
ViaMeadia says things like:
“The region [middle East] he [Obama] thought existed was an illusion built on American progressive assumptions about the way the world works.”
And then there’s this:
” … most of our political and policy class is deeply steeped in these beguiling fantasies about how the world works ..”
Both observations are quite true. Oh boy, are they ever true.
But let us extend such observations domestically and the problems we face here.
Take Mr. Mead for example as he is an establishment figure.
Because Mead was seared by experiences — both real and imagined — during his formative years in the pre-civil rights era in the South, he seems to be inhibited from seeing certain realities as it relates to blacks. To Mead, blacks will forever be “the victims.”
I’d be more specific here but that would only invoke a knee-jerk censor from Mead … or more likely one of his well trained kiddies.
My point is that true progress in racial relations in the U.S. has to be based on reality instead of illusions fabricated for reasons like assuaging guilty or to give one a feeling of moral superiority.
So, true progress in this area will probably have to wait until Mead’s generation passes from the scene. Hopefully by then, they will not have to irreversible damage.
I agree with you, Pete. He and most of the professoriate think too well and too much of Europeans and Asians, seems blinkered to the grievous faults of a civil rights industry frozen in 1963, is reluctant to expect better of minoirities for all the money we’ve poured into the myriad “anti-poverty” programs, seems to be okay with minorities extorting money from the treasury forever in recompense for ancient sins committed by the long dead, can’t seem to call the Brotherhood a gang fascist thugs who are getting what they would mete out if only they had remained in power a few more years. There’s no reason whatever to lament the military crack down on the MB any more than crack downs on the Nazi brown shirts should have been. There are no “civilians” in that struggle. Historians who stand on this side of events like the WW2 and muse “if only” but fail to see the wisdom in similar events taking shape in their own time fail to make instructive use of what they know. Sad, really.
You say we can’t abandon Egypt.
Seems to me that’s the best answer.
It seems to be what the Egyptians want, and I think in most instances, what the local people want should be what they get.
Seems to me the current situation with the military in power is the least bad solution in the short term.
I certainly don’t think the Obama administration has shown the competence needed to produce interventions that would generate positive results.
If we keep cutting the DoD budget and particularly the navy, we won’t have any other options to consider about much of the world.
We’re trading power and influence for entitlement payments to old people and other non-producers.
Don’t worry about our military strength, Obama has a stern look and strong words and a very firm lecture prepared for every eventuality…and a card game on hold while he gets AirForce One refuled for a trip to Vegas.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!
And don’t forget his “sternly worded” letters.
Obama intervened on his first apology tour, to get Mubarak thrown out of power. A dictator to be sure, but our ally for 30 years who kept the peace with Israel.
I believe it was on that tour that Obama made his famous quote about how he “knew more about foreign policy than his foreign policy advisers, ,more about economics” than his economics advisers…you get the picture.
Since then, things have been building to this tragedy. In the meantime, Obama is angry because the Egyptians had the gall to throw the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, the very same Islamists who were backed by Obama. How dare they!
The Egyptians are planning to put an end to the Muslim Brotherhood there for once and for all.
In 1983 the Muslim Brotherhood said they were going to take over the world in 100 years.
This is a cruel blow to Obama and to Clapper, who has repeated shown he does not understand the threats posed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
This mess in Egypt has Obama’s name written all over it. And now, they hate us.
What about Hillary?
Hillary has repeatedly shown herself to be quite pro-arab & more subtly anti-Israel. Besides her penchant for lying & obfuscation, she & Bill are dangerously close to radical muslims through their various foundations.
There is nothing subtle about Hillary Clinton.
She is openly and aggressively ambitious.
Obama’s narcissism is part of what makes him so very dangerous.
The Egyptian military and the elites do not want the US to abandon Egypt. They just want Obama and the others to stop hectoring them and telling them how to run their country.
The battle in Egypt is between the forces of the medieval obscurantism of Islamist fascists and the secular modernist autocracy of the military.
The second choice will give women, seculars and the Copts a measure of protection, whereas the first choice will oppress everyone with a Sharia boot where little girls are sold into sexual slavery by their Allah worshipping families.
Obama thought that he could appease Al Qaeda by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, disregarding the fact, if he even knew it, that the MB had murdered Sadat for the sin of wanting peace rather than war.
Contrary to Obama’s blind belief, Al Qaeda is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They differ only in tactics since the Muslim Brotherhood was willing to stand for elections and use the elections to establish a Sharia state in Egypt, the largest and most powerful Arab state.
Obama’s blindness is similar to the blindness of those who supported the Stalinist state, and for similar reasons, namely the support of the common people against the elites.
Of course, Obama, the narcissist that he is, does not realize that he is a super elitist who had attended private schools his entire life and never had to hold a real job or publish a law article even when he was a lecturer at the University of Chicago.
How anyone imagined that this Hawaiian beach boy, admitted to snorting cocaine, and usually lazy, with no experience of the world, could be a competent president, is inexplicable. Yet, this is what makes America ultimately unique and exceptional, and the contemptuous Obama should thank his lucky stars.
“Bambi Meets Godzilla In The Middle East”
I doff my chapeau in awe at the brilliance of that insight.
I would probably have phrased it as “OBambi meets Al-Qodzilla” …
“President Obama has had a rude awakening in the Middle East…. and most of his crtics on both the left and right are as deeply and fatally confused about the region as he and his advisors have been…. In such situations, American diplomacy is generally ineffective and often unites a whole country against us, frustrated by the mix of arrogance and cluelessness….”
WRM, reflecting on the theme of essay (Middle East) and considering historical timeline, Middle Eastern countries though necessarily Muslim were all provinces of the Ottoman Empire which heavily shaped the way they developed; moreover, after Ottoman rule collasped English and French hegemony held sway then giving to independence premised on hierarchical, authoritarian political regimes.
This historical pattern, interacting with institutional and cultural arrangements (not solely Islamic religion) forged largely by both Ottoman and European rule, leads to political and social dynamics affecting U.S. foreign policy as measured by democritization (liberal market principles). The past most definitely helps to shape the present and America’s Middle East foreign policy considerations while recognizing contingencies ought to be more mindful of “small differences and critical junctures vis-a-vis the weight of history”.
Funny thing that Islamist aggression in the middle east is matched by Islamist aggression in Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Thailand…I could go on. None of these were ever under Ottoman rule.
What’s your point; essay about Middle East foreign policy and American interface. Timeline meant to infer historical development not emphasize Islamic aggression. I have no religious ax to grind (pardon trite metaphor). I am not interested in scoring ideological points at expense of context. Thanks.
The guy’s been gone for three hours. Your welcome
Living entails more than Via Meadia…
thanks for the tip
You’re welcome and for this thread, I’m done.
Observation to above reply: one of the pervasive risks faced in the information age is that even if the amount of knowledge in the world is increasing, the gap between what we may know and what we think we know may be widening. Given that I identified response to my WRM essay to be non sequitur, affirmations thereto infer inability to see beyond personal biases toward truth of commentary – but objectivity is hard: “when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?” (John Maynard Keynes)
200 years ago, Muslims would be part of the Monarchy Party, as they dream of an all powerful Tyrant called the Caliph. Many if not all of the most powerful Muslims today, dream of themselves as the all powerful Caliph, ruling over their minions. So, Democracy with its elections, and separation of power, is in direct conflict with the hopes and dreams of devote Muslims.
Democracy however is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of Islamic Culture, as the increasing frequency of purple fingers raised aloft in victory demonstrates. This is a cultural battle being fought with ideas, which the Islamists are trying to fight by murdering innocents, which does more to prove the west’s case, than help the Islamist’s case.
The problem with the west is impatience, as they want cultural change now, when in reality, cultural change has only 2 speeds, stagnate and glacial.
Do why does Obama come down on the side of the Islamists?
Isn’t the answer blatantly obvious?
The most likely option is cluelessness.
I read an article many years ago, maybe a decade, which I always think about with articles like the above. It discussed tribalism in the middle east and pointed out that this makes that region fundamentally different from just about all other places in the world.
In a tribal society, you first duty is to your father, your second duty is to the patriarchal head of your family. This could be a grandfather, grand uncle, uncle, etc. (If your father is a younger son, then his older brother out-ranks him in the tribal hierarchy.) Next comes the clan hierarchy, a close grouping of intermarried families, then the tribe.
It is the tribe that offers protection, financial benefits, and punishments to those that don’t toe the line.
This structure makes democracy nearly impossible, as no one would ever consider voting for someone outside their tribal allegiance. The last thing you would want would be to empower a different tribe. Voting occurs strictly on tribal lines.
In this view of the middle east, it is far more important to think of the Assads as Alawite and as Saddam as Tikriti, than to view them as members in any sort of pan-Arabist or Arab-socialist movement.
This also effects the ability to develop a capitalist economy. In a tribal society, there are demands within a tribe which have little to do with the supply and demand curve, where a supplier might be expected to provide goods and services below cost or below market to members of the tribe. Outside of the tribe, trust is fundamentally lacking. Tribes may not deal with each other fairly or honestly, each seeking an advantage over the other.
The article pointed out that, though many societies have been tribal in the past, none that have successfully developed into a democratic-capitalist state have been tribal.
Funny you should mention that tribalism business. Batchelor’s been covering the region for over a decade. He’s been quoting a saying about Egypt in the turmoil, “In the Ummah, there is only one nation, Egypt. All the rest are tribes.”
As an aside but relevant to the conversation: a new movie coming out called The Patience Stone is filmed primarily to create sympathy, outrage and awareness regarding the ghastly repression against women in the Middle East. Does ANYONE believe women are treated well in the Islamist religions? And yet liberal filmmakers, our media and the Left continue to try to convince us that we have a responsibility to change this when in fact the entirety of Islamist countries have zero desire to see anything changed. We are repeatedly manipulated to feel guilt and an obligation to act (but no one knows how) to make these backward yet long-held beliefs and societal customs evolve. And what is WORSE we are expected to embrace their culture and religion as peaceful and without threat to us on our own soil. It’s insane.
Surprisingly, the only mainstream movie to deal with that issue (slightly) lately was “Sex in the City 2”.
Liberals think that women are treated just hunky dory by Muslims. Thus proving the idicy of liberals in General.
More correctly, liberals do not care how Muslims treat their women just as they did not care that the Communists slaughtered millions of people in order to build an economically just society. They believe that the means justify the ends.
The end effect of either view of what passes for liberal logic vis-a-vis the Muslim treatment of women is the same.
Absolutely correct. I know liberals who solemnly condemn the Holocaust but, while acknowledging the mass murder under Stalin and Mao, prefer to explain it away rather than condemn it. When I pressured one Ivy League professor to explain why he didn’t consider Stalin’s atrocities equal to Hitler’s, he replied, “Stalin’s were for a good cause.”
I hope your response was, “Hitler thought the same thing.”
Walter makes the point that conservatives are just as blind to the Middle East/South Asian realities as are liberals. Idiocy is trans-American political thought. Pay attention or repeat the mistakes Dems and Repubs make over and over.
Whoever wrote that article is correct.
However, Egypt is not tribal.
I doubt Obama has “awakened” at all. He will continue to believe the same mistaken assumptions and pursue the same broken logic and be indifferent to failure.
Since anything we do in the Middle East will ’cause’ them to hate us, how about letting them hate us for staying at home? And keeping our money there, too?
Walter Russell Mead leads his story with the assumption that Obama cares about democracy, about American interests, and about anything at all.
Many of us believe what Mead writes is the American thought process and concern for democratic principles, but not Barry Soetero.
He happily encourages and creates chaos. His goal is not to advance American interests, or democracy, his goal is to destroy us and the principles on which our nation was founded.
“and about anything at all.” Poor Obama cares only about admiring himself in the mirror of other people’s eyes, like both Clintons, Kerry, Gore, and all the lesser lights in the Democrat sky, right down to Spitzer, Weiner and Filthy what’s his name in San Diego. It’s a condition of employment.
Based on Obama’s words and actions, it has been clear since 2008 that his main interest lies in domestic “fundamental transformation”. His foreign policy is determined by two contradictory views. First, he sees America’s role in the world in negative terms and thinks our global retreat is an apt punishment. Second, he needs to make sure that no terrorist attack or other crisis entangles him in foreign “adventures” and undermines his domestic goals, which is what he learned from the Bush years (Bush having been undermined by people like Obama). That is why we get appeasement and drone strikes. Obama means to win time for his transformation project. He doesn’t think about Russia, Egypt or Afghanistan except to keep a lid on it until he is out of office. A clever move for him, but there is nothing in it for the rest of us.
Obama always tries to split the difference, have it both, or either way it breaks. he got caught like a jerk holding hands with two girls and now both sides despise him. Before his term is up he will be the most hated, and ridiculed political figure in the world
he sure wont leave that ‘ george washington feel ‘ when he gets tossed out.
Remember back in the 90s when focus groups first became the thing? A woman at one for the Dems, responding to the question, “What would be Clinton’s favorite color?” said, “Plaid.”
Obama is temperamentally incapable of picking sides in any situation unless there are Republicans to vilify.
After 5 years of Obama our economy is a disaster and the President of the United States has never been held in so much contempt by so many world leaders. Its almost uncanny how Obama’s left wing ideolgoy and incompetence lead him to almost always to the wrong thing, whether with our economy or in foreign policy. Obama support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been a disaster that almost led to another IRAN in Egypt. A complete dictatorship by the Muslim Brotherhood. Even now the people Obama has supported are trying to burn every Christian Church, and kill every Christian in the entire country while imposing a religious dictatorship on everyone else. Thank Goodness the Egyptian Generals and pro-democracy forces have realized just what an incompetent Obama truly is and are fighting for their nation against the extremists. Obama is a total disaster. To think that he is spying on all of us every minuted of every day.
Apparently you didn’t read the article. The point of the article is the absurdity of assuming that the U.S. can dictate how people behave in the Mideast and the rest of the world and when those dictates result in an inevitable failure, people like you claim that the inevitable failure was an individual failure. Read more slowly.
Just like a liberal – telling others what they should be doing – reading no less… valwayne is absolutely right. The muslim brothers were simply using the democratic process to to create a theocracy. It’s not just lack of expertise – it’s the ignorance and stupidity in this government that is astounding. Policy mistakes have consequences and this administration has lmanaged the impossible – reduce our standing and create a worse position for ourselves with respect to every country in the ME and North Africa and that includes alienating countries that are considered enemies of each other. That takes some real applied ignorance.
Another citizen with reading comprehension problems. This excellent article explaining why the U.S. can be not much more than a bystander in the near-term evolution of an established social and political order, no matter who is in office or what their politics are, is wasted on the mob. The mob who have never been to or interacted with citizens of a foreign country/society but who think they are experts in bombing them into being a democracy. And, let’s not forget, it’s Obama’s fault. Not the British, the French, the Ottomans, AIPAC, and over a century of conquest and exploitation; it’s Obama’s fault that Cairo is not also electing a new mayor, perhaps a lesbian mayor, this week.
When O won the Whitehouse in 2008 I said, “watch what he does, everything… single move and choice will be precisely the wrong action for the benefit of the USA. And if at first it appears that he is doing something in our interests look deeper because it NEVER, ever will be.” I have been proven correct. And it doesn’t bring me any satisfaction.
Egypt will become another Iran yet. The Egyptian Civil War has barely got off the ground. There is no way this powder keg can be contained, given global food prices and the economic non-viability of Egypt as presently constituted.
I think Obama is a success, not a failure. From his, and a leftist, anti-American point of view, of course (same thing).
Bush may have been naive in his belief that we could bring Democracy to the Middle East but Obama was willfully blind. He, after all, had the still fresh example of Bush’s Iraq debacle available as a stark lesson. He chose to ignore it.
hey, obama does NOT care one iota about you or anyone else. He does what he does only because he can. He redefines the word ‘ fibber’….
I spent 15 years on a Special Forces A-team, 8 “wars”, something 35 different countries. I pretty much agree with everything in this article based on a lifetime spent actually living and working in 3rd world countries, and interacting with the people.
Our so-called experts in DC, with their ivory tower attitudes and elitist educations, have not a clue. Foreign policy, as practiced in DC, is short sighted, and short term, based on election cycles, and is primarily for our own domestic consumption. No one trusts us to be there for them, and few are going to commit short of desperate need, or lots of cash up front to divert for personal use.
The real deal; most of them hate us, or hold us in often scarcely veiled contempt. The amount of contempt displayed, is usually in direct proportion to the amount of firepower on tap. Those that don’t, largely think of us as ignorant small children, with an innate aptitude for breaking things and destruction. They want our “stuff”, without any of the baggage. American culture, as shown to them on TV, they largely find abhorrent. Heck, so do most Americans.
Americans smugly blow in, have no clue (or vastly wrong ideas) about local cultures, history, or lifestyles…and think they’re all supposed to bow down and turn into “Little America” on demand. American are often considered rude and vulgar, quite often unknowingly, because we can’t be bothered to learn local customs. Or don’t care enough to bother.
Worse, we’re hypocrites. We talk about corruption in government in places like the Mid-East, and rend our hair…while Washington DC is the international poster child for rampant corruption on a scale most other countries can only dream of. Elections, we think we can travel the world telling others how to conduct their elections. 4 words…”Hanging Chad”, and “Voter ID”.
Thank you that first-hand knowledge and wisdom. You are right on the money.
And thank you for your service to our country.
The first and second world wars allowed monarchies and empires to fall, fascism and Stalinism to be tested (failed) and colonial powers to scale back. The Middle East could just be at a point where too many monarchs, fascists, socialists and theocrats need some room to push each other around until their populations get unresty enough to put the boots to them.
Best course of action?
Ask yourself if the government is democratic and does it respect human rights? If yes, quietly support it.
If no, don’t worry about what worse might replace it. Subvert it, quietly. Call for fair elections. If elections are not fair or if the people choose stupidly, subvert it again and DON’T protect the people who chose from the consequence of that choice–at least not completely. Keep subverting (even if that subversion is just cutting them off from privileges). Until they get it right. When someone tells you you need to support a brutal dictatorship to keep something worse from happening tell them to chew something obscene. They will not protect society from that “something worse”–they will cultivate it. They will keep it in their back pocket and bring it out to scare people once in a while; remind people who is in charge and why.
Excellent course of action, as long as you can endure the resultant dysfunctions that spill out beyond their borders and into global civilization before they “get it”.
Otherwise, more direct intervention may be in order.
And during this beautiful experience Obama and his crew are cutting the ribbons out of our military ……….this guy is Bambi on steroids……
Liberal democracy arose in Christian societies after several centuries of Christianity. Christianity was arguably a necessary condition for the birth of democracy, and may be a necessary condition of its existence within a society.
Christianity – the divine right of kings ring a bell? It was those pagan Greeks and Romans that have more to do with our modern political arrangements than Christianity.
Frankly, you have no idea what you’re talking about or you’re too blinkered by ill-feelings toward Christianity to speak intelligently on the matter.
Nonsense, I’m a Christian, but I do not believe that Christianity is responsible for all good in the world. Israel, for example, has done very well for themselves embracing Western culture, without a belief in Christ’s divinity. Oldy is right in that our founders borrowed more from Greek politics than Christianity.
I’m not disagreeing with you about the weight of Roman/Greek contributions; I disagree with weighing Christianity too little.
The rejection of christianity and its ejection from the halls of power was necessary for the birth of democracy. And the Japanese seem to do okay with it, along with the Israelis.
As I’ve said before, what Christianity brought to the party was its Reformation … the shift from blind submission to a clerical hierarchy, to a direct relationship of respect between the individual and their God.
That is what ultimately broke the back of the Divine Right of Kings, and led to the beginnings of rights-respecting governance in Britain, then America, then elsewhere.
When you can go up to the king and tell him that he is bloody daft for suggesting that you should die for his expansionist aspirations, you get a lot less war in the world.
Islam has not yet had its Reformation (though were it to have one, it is questionable that it would survive as a belief system, IMO) … and that is a big part of the problem.
The people voted in Egypt and got their man. Now some don’t like it and the winner Morsi abused his power and advocated a Constitution many could not live with going forward into the future.
So the Military has a coup… What will they do next try again after having alienated a significant chunk of their population by removing Morsi?
Good luck with that…
that horrible evil man mubarack aint looking as bad as oblama wanted him to be. sure would restore some order.
What we should have done with Mubarak … and the Shah … and the Vietnamese leadership … is stood up and compelled them to institute rights-respecting governance the first time they leaned towards tyranny, instead of playing the “realism” game and tarring ourselves with their tyranny in the eyes of their people.
But again, our colonialist guilt got in the way of that … and that’s why these men ended up at the center of collapsing societies.
The problem is they moved too fast. Went from one dictator to another. They need a much slower process which gives political parties a chance to emerge and then have an election.
I believe at the time Morsi was elected the Brotherhood was really the only organized opposition group in the country.
A bigger problem is that they bought into the line of the Western Progressives … that democracy and “self-determination” are the be-all-end-all … and the Brotherhood thought they could exploit that to impose their fundamentalist view.
Had they instead sought to make rights-respecting governance the focus, the Brotherhood’s threat to that would have been clear to see.
Well this is certainly discouraging. Seems the formula for establishing democratic capitalism abroad is in countries that have been either utterly defeated at great sacrifice in wars of aggression against US and its allies as were Japan, Germany and Italy, or in countries that are desperate for power regardless of political ideology and realize they have to give in to trying, however clumsily, democratic capitalism, like Russia and maybe someday China. This is why it is imperative to keep our military and industrial base strong enough to utterly defeat our adversaries, like China, who’s appetite for resources will sooner or later force them to challenge us. About all we can do is wait, be prepared for war and keep healthy. This is precisely why Obama and Democrats are so ill-suited for governance. They are ruining the military and sacking the economy.
I’d note that of the Far East nations, S. Korea slowly adopted democratic governance. They also have become the most Christian nation that’s not a former British colony in the Far East. The official figures say 30% are Christians, although I’ve read it’s closer to 40%. They also are very pro-American these days. We’ve signed a free-trade agreement with them. They had been very mercantilist in their stance towards trade until recently. Hence, I do think there’s something to the thought that Christian nations are most likely to adopt democratic forms of governance.
Michael Ledeen suggests that Iran may be the Middle East country where the population is most fed up with corrupt, theocratic/corporatist rule. The mullahs have oppressed them for 33 years. The Obama admin. missed an opportunity to undermine the mullahs in 2009 when they allegedly stole the election from the more moderate “green” supported elements in the country. Recall the brutal suppression of the student demonstrators on the streets of Tehran. There were signs asking, “Whose side are you on, Obama?”
Ledeen suggests a quiet behind-the-scenes support for democratic elements in Iran. After all, Iran was allied with the U.S. for 35 years under the Shah. PowerLine quotes from a Ledeen piece in this post:
Ledeen is usually wrong. I wouldn’t bet 2 cents on anything he says. All empirical evidence is that the vast majority of Iranians fully support their regime.
What empirical evidence? Where is it? Is this more of the “science=consensus” type of evidence?
BS. The urban youth are usually more liberal in any nation than the adult countryside. Works in the US, works in Egypt. Liberals there can put a few million on the streets in Cairo, and other big cities. The Muslim Brotherhood can empty every village in the country.
How many centuries of slow, incremental self-rule did we have before we were ready to run our own government? The line of progress from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence is long and slow, with many steps back before we got significantly forward. You can’t compress the societal training necessary into a few months. It takes centuries.
Good point, however is it not remarkable how fast Japan, Germany and Italy changed for the better following their total defeat in WWII?
Observation: different strands of argument need to be knitted together to better understand thrust of essay; to that end, blending facts and values can obscure objective intent of analysis (seeing what you want to see and not what is really there). One can get lost in the narrative.
why does america need to alter all countries to democracy?? Who cares what government runs zimbabway ?? let them figure out what works for them and leave them alone.
That works until the inevitable dysfunctions that result from trial-and-error discovery spill out beyond their borders … or leaves their people so destitute and suffering that compassion demands we intervene.
That approach is why Africa … forty years removed from colonialism … is in many places worse off than it was under colonialist rule.
And the world is too tightly interconnected these days, to simply ignore those dysfunctions … there is no practical way to isolate these nations until they get it right.
Rights-respecting governance and its associated rule of law is the price of admission to global civilization, if we are to protect our own interests … and we must insist upon it, instead of treating dictatorship and democracy as equally deserving of sovereign respect in the hopes the former will “figure out what works”.
Why do we assume that all people around the world are steeped in Western European, Enlightenment values? That is an astounding bit of both cultural chauvinism (contrary to the dictates of multi-culturalism) and blindness to an awful lot of human history. Cultural liberalism is not universal – not even close. Without that you aren’t going to get Western political institutions (e.g. rule of law) or economic arrangements. It is the worst kind of teleologic conceit to presuppose that all the world MUST emulate our way of life – if not sooner, than later but irresistibly all the same.
What part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is NOT a human yearning, universally shared among the vast majority of the seven billion or so souls on this rock?
These are not merely “Western” … they are HUMAN rights. The problems start when someone tries to pursue their happiness at the expense of these rights for another … whether that be at the point of a gun or a page from a holy book that one is blindly following.
History shows that governments that protect those rights are far less likely to exhibit the dysfunctions that lead to tyranny and terrorism than the alternatives to such governance.
The problem we in the West have is that, in our colonialist guilt, we have replaced confidence in these values with a bland moral equivalence that treats dictator and democrat with the same sovereign respect, encouraging the former while inhibiting the latter from protecting themselves.
THAT is how you get “war without end” … for without freedom and its protection by your government, the only sure peace for you is that of the grave.
No good golf courses in Egypt and no Egyptians will be voting(legally, at least)in our 2016 elections so Obama doesn’t care.
How often we forget that the Revolutionary War ended in 1783 but Washington didn’t become President until 1789, 6 long years.
The transition to a democratic government is often long and slow even in the best of circumstances.
The credo isn’t even valid here in the USA. We are slowly but inexorably moving toward totalitarianism, with the full support of the Democratic media.
The age of enlightenment launched humanity in a prolonged and painful war against its own evolved nature. That nature is one of brutal tribal loyalty where the strong man (or woman) wins all.
Humans are still born with an innate desire to follow and be loyal to the most powerful leaders/patriarchs in their midst.
It was perhaps a necessary part of survival during the hunter gatherer years, but is now a curse. We now must deal with a very populated world with almost infinite numbers of competing patriarchs (and their coerced followers), bumping heads with one another.
Tribalism is NOT only a problem in the Arab world. It defines ALL human politics with its deep rooted genetic determinism in all of us.
By claiming a pox on all political houses, Mead provides Obama with a convenient shield of murky political relativism.
It was Obama’s appointed assistant sec. of state who declared, during the start of Egypt’s supposed Arab Spring, that the Brotherhood was a “largely secular organization.”
Fast forward to Brotherhood fanatics recently painting red marks on the homes Coptic Christians for retaliation.
“W” Bush is retired. Obama runs US foriegn policy. A whole lot of Iraqis appreciated the chance at democracy.
Obama’s team started out on the side of the Nazi Islamists who control the Brotherhood and always have.
This Obama policy was not democratic idealism gone awry – it was complete Leftist ignorance and anti-Semitic capitulation to Arab fascism.
Many of us have said all along that current policy in the Middle East was based on illusions and magical thinking. The sad part is that if it has taken this long for the MSM to figure it out then it means another year or more before the idiots actually in charge of the country’s foriegn policy do the same.
The USA’s conduct post the Iraq war has been feckless and stupid. Removing Saddam Hussein was a great idea, but then we should have withdrawn with a threat and a promise – if any ruler behaves like Hussein again, we will remove him. If we had done that, the Middle East would have been hostile but tractable. Instead, we staid in Iraq the better part of a decade and kept the oilfields closed, thereby increasing the price of Texan and Saudi crude. It was absolutely moronic and showed us as weak. Obama thought the solution was to make friends. That was stupid too. We have as much chance of being friends with these people as Sinn Fein had of being friends with Baroness Thatcher. Today, there is no one in American public life of the caliber of the Earl of Birkenhead. We should change a regime – Iran – but then leave with the threat of returning.
“President George W. Bush bet the ranch on the imminent democratization of the Middle East. So did President Obama.” Except one bungled far worse than the other. Picking a side wrong among bad options is not the same as starting a war the US more or less lost and would now like to forget.
Right and going to play cards while 4 Americans died in a firefight trying to protect our citizens isn’t the same as working to eradicate terrorism in the immediate aftermath of attack on US soil with the full approval of Congress. If we start playing the game of who is worse then O has lower the bar so far not even an inchworm could clear it…get real.
oh, bs. Bush won against the AQ insurrection in Iraq with his gutsy Surge and, as usual, Democrats threw the victory away. We could have had at least one strong ally for a time in Iraq. Afghanistan was always a holding pattern–Barry tried to turn it into the “real” theater, which was a stupid mistake.
Democrats always view foreign policy as a tool of domestic politics. It makes for horrible errors but at least wins the cynical Democrats an election or two.
Cannot comment on Afghanistan, but many Americns, Republicans as well as Democrats, wanted to be rid of the Iraq war. Thought it was telling that the GOP candidates never mentioned it in their debates. Bush used Iraq as his own tool in domestic politics — alternately tried to get people pumped about it and push it away. Most Americans have no idea it even happened these days…the surge is forgotten and Iraq is once again awash in violence. Did not work out too well.
Bush went in weak early. We went into Iraq with Four plus divisions instead of raising the taxes necessary to build the army to go in heavy with ten or twelve divisions.
Bush f**ked it up. He made a policy decision to go in light and it came back and bit him in the a$$. Fortunately for him, he had Petraeus, who could make a lemonade stand out of a box of lemons.
To govern is to choose. In WWII, we chose between war and peace by choosing to win the war in a rather relentless way. Bush told people to go shopping after 9/11. No battle cry there.
BTW, I voted for the guy twice so I’m guilty as charged for not coming to my senses sooner.
It is hard for Americans to understand that in Islamic countries, the dictator, in Egypts case, the Army has to sweep in occasionally and kill the bad guys, the Osama want-to-be actors. Great visual on the title. Bambi meets Godzilla.
Given how Putin has proposed extensive partnership with the Egyptian generals to replace the feckless Americans, it seems that Godzilla’s foot is spelled ноги
Ouch! And in a rational government commentary like this would leave a mark. Instead, purist idiots will scream about “supporting” a coup with money intended to bribe Egypt from attacking Israel.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
Our current voters and leadership have truly forgotten the lessons of Vietnam–imposing western-style democracy upon all cultures (without occupying the country after winning the war) is a quixotic effort. In the 1970’s, 80’s, and even the 90’s we had internalized this. Unfortunately by the 21st century we had forgotten this basic lesson again when GW midwifed a republic in Iraq. It was successful for awhile but probably is ultimately doomed. One can no more expect Arabs to become republicans than one can expect your dog to do the same.
More than Vietnam, the lessons of 1776 are forgotten. 1776 was a culmination of a process, stretching decades, of slow national awakening in America. When trying to help other countries transition to democracy, it is vital to ask what is the analogue to that period for them? If that analogue period is short or nonexistent, there will be difficulties in transition and the process may fail. If we were to assist in that national awakening, we’d end up with both better results and a higher reputation in the world.
The difference, to me, is the establishment of republics in Japan and Germany. Neither country had democratic/rule of law traditions yet both were successfully transition to democracy by virtue of (1) killing nearly everyone willing to continue fighting WWII, and (2) massive occupation for decades (even though it wasn’t called occupation after awhile).
Not suggesting that this was the proper solution in Iraq but that the experience of history indicates that the vast majority of people in the conquered territory must be brought (forcefully, if necessary) to democratic principles in order to establish a new political culture.
“A corrupt people that lives under the government of a prince can never become free, even though the prince and his whole line should be extinguished.” Machiavelli, 1517, Discourses
Congratulations, you’ve identified the analogue “national awakening period” for post WW II Japan and Germany, the post war occupations. Had we been teaching history correctly, in the US the past few decades, the mismatch between forces available and forces needed would have been much more clear. It would have shortcut a lot of nonsense about the ability to go in lean that wasn’t very well grounded in reality. It would also allow us to keep an eye on the real prize, creating a situation where the Iraqis (and everybody else) ends up growing up on their own terms.
Thank you. We went in heavy into Japan with 22 divisions (see the order of battle for Operation BLACKLIST the peaceful version of DOWNFALL, the Japanese invasion plan). Contrast the wisdom of MacArthur and George C. Marshall with the folly of Bush, Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks.
“the establishment of republics”? Japan is not a republic and never has been one – it is a constitutional monarchy under the Emperor. As for Germany, it became a republic in 1918 and technically remained one during the Third Reich, since Hitler did not bring back the monarchy. He was in fact favourably disposed to the idea of a republic; it was parliamentary democracy that he didn’t like. It follows that after WW2 it was not the establishment of republics that made the difference in either Japan or Germany, but rather the establishment of democracy and the rule of law. These values are compatible with the status of a republic, but they are not synonymous with it by any means. After all, what did the acronym “USSR” stand for? The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!
You have no clue what the conflict in Viet Nam was. You are as blind and opinionated as the author states most people are. The assumptions you make about either conflict show only your own parochial biases and not the facts on the ground at the time.
blah, blah, blah. ad hominem arguments aren’t as difficult as actually making your point.
Am I the only one who (openly) holds what we might call The Classical or Machiavellian view that war AMONG the savages is much preferable to war WITH them? Whether by accident or design, my own long-time preferences in the ME are being applied; hold elections. When the inevitable Islamist victory takes place, let them apply their whips without obstacle. Then if there ARE ‘Moderate Muslims’ out there they will have to make themselves known for their own survival. That’s the ideal but if that fails there is still the material benefit that every Jihadi fighting another Muslim is one who won’t be bombing a bus station. All I am saying is give war a chance. We don’t have much choice, anyhow.
A bus station in the West, I should say.
Not the only one, I’m watching Syria with popcorn and a vuvuzela. It’s just the best thing ever, Hezbollah and the Alawites against Hamas and international Jihad? More please.
Egypt enjoyed relative peace and stability. Then we started meddling in order to make them a democracy.
Now they have no peace, no stability and still no democracy.
Islam is a cancer on the planet that responds to treatment but metastasizes when not actively being supressed.
“The end of history… is to American political
philosophy what the Second Coming is to Christians.”
1. It’s not the Second Coming that counts, it’s how a nation responds to the First Coming. Our Republic was designed by and for a Christian people. Those Christian values — thrift, not being in debt, delayed gratification, charity, industry, honoring of contracts, honoring the Sabbath — used to be our values.
2. Installing external “democracy” (mob rule) as opposed to internal republicanism (rule of law) in non-Christian countries leads to the famous “One Man, One Vote, One Time” paradigm of Cuba and every tyranny that’s ever come along. I don’t expect Moslem nations to be able to self-rule. Their Guiding Principles don’t allow for it.
To which I would only add that the liberal assumptions about the Middle East are completely contrary to fully 5,000 years of recorded history–more history being ignored than exists anywhere else in the world. That kind of ignorance and hubris really goes above and beyond even the normal denial of the obvious that we see elsewhere in modern liberalism
Remember when neocons were ridiculed for THEIR beliefs?
“other things being equal over time the societies who embrace these ideas will outperform those who do not.” Very true, but things are not equal, and many of the economically disfunctional states in the Middle East are propped up by either their own oil income, or that of fellow traveler states. This subsidizes their disfunctions, and thus delays their failure, and eventual search for a new political and economic model.
This, along with Garfinkle’s recent article ‘Missionary Creep in Egypt,’ represents the best articulation of American ideology in its foreign policy I have ever seen, and I generally find myself in agreement.
However, I do not necessarily agree with Mr. Mead on the notion that liberal, democratic capitalism is the best way to order human society, or that the world is gradually shifting towards it. I concede that it is a very, very good way, and that there has been a trend in countries around the world towards it over the last few centuries that will likely continue for the next few centuries; but even Mr. Mead puts too much faith in it for me.
As the societies of the world develop from this point onward, and as history ‘happens,’ invariably new methods will be discerned to do things; and just as Christianity’s proliferation did not result in a single faith but a multiplicity of very different doctrines, politically separated and oftentimes at war with each other; and just as the spread of capitalism resulted in very different sorts of capitalism in the various countries of Asia, Europe, and the Americas, so I think it is inevitable that the expansion of liberal democracy has created different forms of democracy which, eventually, will be seen as independent phenomena of their own. The democracies of Europe, the United States, and Japan are all very different systems, and given a couple centuries, I am not sure that future political scientists will even lump them together under the same title.
Beyond the simple historical dynamic, it might be important to consider the implications of space colonization upon civilization. Once we turn to the stars not simply for knowledge but for new lands to conquer and settle, it seems to me that the potential for the development of new political systems will be as limitless (though limited by human frailty and physical isolation) as the new realms through which our descendants may expand.
Our Middle Eastern policy, like all of our foreign policy, should be based on American self-interest. Our main interests in the Middle East are to ensure the free flow of oil and to destroy the ability of anti-American Islamists to wage war against us. By this measure, an authoritarian military dictatorship in Egypt is far superior to a “democratic” Islamist theocracy (which was well on its way to becoming undemocratic when the military stepped in).
Much can be learned about a nation by the hilarious lies the leaders are forced by convention to tell the population. It speaks to the deepest yearnings and prejudices of the people. Americans want to be told that the world will become peaceful and prosperous like them. The Arab world likes to be told that everything is an American/Zionist/Crusader plot. The very fact that the leaders must utter these idiocies is an insight into the people they rule.
This administration appears to utilize mirroring; seeing the person on the other side of the negotating table as having the same values as they do. There are few realistic people such as John Bolton advising this President. One wonders how many of Obama’s people ever played in the school yard where they had to deal with people who had values unlike theirs.
If it weren’t so disastrous it would be amusing that the idiots promoting “diversity” have no idea of real diversity.
Gotta love the “Bambi Meets Godzilla…” title.
Good article. I was hoping to see a reference to Norman Angell’s “The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage,” which relates directly to the theme of your article in that Angell, prior to WWI, argued that war was obsolete due to international economic prosperity and the bonds that international trade establishes. Then WWI happened. Oops.
Another common failing of Americans is that they think that people in different countries are just like them.
No. Not even close.
They think differently, reason differently and have entirely different priorities.
They’re not Americans that talk and dress funny.
The Egyptians should pass legislation requiring the people to be more Swedish. If it would work here (sarc), it would work there.