Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: National Post (2-7-11)
[Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He has lived for three years in Egypt.]
With anti-regime demonstrations raging in Egypt, and the possibility of a new government led by or involving the Muslim Brotherhood, many are asking whether Islam is compatible with democracy? The answer is yes, it potentially is, but it will take much hard work to make this happen.
Present realities are far from encouraging, for tyranny disproportionately afflicts Muslim-majority countries. Swarthmore College's Frederic L. Pryor concluded in a 2007 analysis in the Middle East Quarterly that, with some exceptions,"Islam is associated with fewer political rights." Saliba Sarsar looked at democratization in 17 Arabic-speaking countries and, writing in the same journal, found that"between 1999 and 2005 … not only is progress lacking in most countries, but across the Middle East, reform has backslid."
How easy to jump from this dismal pattern and conclude that the religion of Islam itself must be the cause of the problem. The ancient fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc ("after something, therefore because of it") underlies this simplistic jump. In fact, the current predicament of dictatorship, corruption, cruelty, and torture results from specific historical developments rather than the Koran and other sacred scriptures.
A half millennium ago, democracy reigned nowhere; that it emerged in Western Europe resulted from many factors, including the area's Greco-Roman heritage, rendering-unto-Caesar-and-God tensions specific to Christianity, geography, climate, and key breakthroughs in technology and political philosophy. There was nothing fated about Great Britain and then the United States leading the way to democracy.
Put differently: of course, Islam is undemocratic in spirit, but so was every other premodern religion and society.
Just as Christianity became part of the democratic process, so can Islam. This transformation will surely be wrenching and require time. The evolution of the Catholic Church from a reactionary force in the medieval period into a democratic one today, an evolution not entirely over, has been taking place for 700 years. When an institution based in Rome took so long, why should a religion from Mecca, replete with its uniquely problematic scriptures, move faster or with less contention?
For Islam to encourage political participation implies a giant shift in approach, especially toward the Sharia, its law code. Elaborated about a millennium ago in quasi-tribal circumstances and operating within a vastly different ethos from today's, the code contains a range of features deeply unacceptable to a modern sensibility, including the anti-democratic ideas of the will of God prevailing over that of the people, military jihad as a legitimate means to expand rule by Muslims, the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims, and of males over females.
In short, the Sharia as classically understood cannot be reconciled with modern life in general, democracy in particular. For Muslims to achieve political participation means either rejecting the law's public aspects in total – as Atatürk did in Turkey – or reinterpreting them. The Sudanese thinker Mahmud Muhammad Taha offered one example of the latter when he reread the Islamic scriptures and wholesale eliminated noxious Islamic laws.
Islam keeps changing, so it is an error to insist that the religion must be what it has been. As Hassan Hanafi of Cairo University puts it, the Koran"is a supermarket, where one takes what one wants and leaves what one doesn't want."
Atatürk and Taha aside, Muslims have barely begun the long, arduous path to making Islam modern. In addition to the inherent difficulties of overhauling a seventh-century order to fit the ethos of a Western-dominated twenty-first century, the Islamist movement which today dominates Muslim intellectual life pulls in precisely the opposite direction from democracy. Instead, it fights to revive the whole of the Sharia and to apply it with exceptional severity, regardless of what the majority wants.
Some Islamists denounce democracy as heretical and a betrayal of Islamic values but the more clever of them, noting their own widespread popularity, have adopted democracy as a mechanism to seize power. Their success in a country like Turkey does not transform Islamists into democrats (i.e., show a willingness to relinquish power) but demonstrates their willingness to adopt whatever tactics will bring them power.
Yes, with enough effort and time, Muslims can be as democratic as Westerners. But at this time, they are the least democratic of peoples and the Islamist movement presents a huge obstacle to political participation. In Egypt as elsewhere, my theoretical optimism, in other words, is tempered by a pessimism based on present and future realities.
Posted on: Monday, February 7, 2011 - 15:58
SOURCE: End is Coming (Blog) (2-7-11)
[Jonathan Tremblay is a Historian and Breaking News Editor for the History News Network]
After fourteen days of protest, unrest and almost 100 casualties, the citizens of the Egyptian Republic continue to pressure their authoritative government for change and more liberty. In fact, the entire region is in turmoil as Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan have also experienced great political unrest in the past weeks and Algeria may just be around the corner, having already had a few demonstrations of protestor self-immolating in front of government offices. All of these efforts have varying goals but object to a unifying theme, especially in Egypt, a system of democracy that has been tinged with corruption and that inexplicably maintained authoritarian rulers for decades.
Indeed, President Hosni Mubarak has been the Egyptian head of state since 1981 and has won every election since, no matter how contested the results have been by both international observers and his own constituents. His strong military backup, deference to influential Arab businessmen and alliance with the United States (and non-aggressive stance towards Israel) have permitted Mubarak to brave affronts and challenges to his long reign – that is until 2011. As protestors continue to call for his resignation, he has at least confirmed that he (and his son) will not seek re-election later this year.
As much as these events will impact the geopolitical situation of Egypt, the Arab World, the Middle East and the next five years of an unstable Northern Africa, we at the End would like to expose a more far-reaching and timeless threat caused by the Egyptian unrest. As we enter week three of unrest, rioting, looting, vandalism and protest, we must turn towards something we might lose forever, something unique, something part of human legacy, something that is precariously preserved in the volatile Arab Republic of Egypt.
The main protest site in Cairo where tens of thousands have amassed and where dozens have died is Tahrir Square in the centre of the city. In that same Square we find the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where it has stood since 1902 and where looters invaded a week ago. Worldwide, historians, archaeologists, Egyptologists and fans in general have worried about the state of Egyptian archaeology from the temples of the south to the museum warehouses of the Sinai but it is in Cairo’s museum that we find the greatest collection (120,000 pieces) of ancient Egyptian artefacts and where our fears have been justified.
For the moment, we have confirmation that two preserved mummies (from the nine on display in the Hall of Kings) have been decapitated and up to 200 artefacts have been damaged in a looting invasion on the 28th of January. The thieves broke into ceiling windows and rappelled down into the museum “looking for gold” as stipulates our source Dr. Hahi Hawass, Director of Egyptian Antiquities. Surprisingly, when Mr. Hawass actually made it back into the Museum, he could not find that anything had been stolen (not even Tutankhamun’s funerary mask of solid gold) and this was thanks to an amazing group of students and protestors that have holed up in the museum and have taken it upon themselves to defend their history with vigilantism not seen outside of a batman comic. Reports also indicate that other of Egypt’s 24 State museums and countless sites of archaeological architecture (Library of Alexandria, Temple of Abu Simbel, the Valley of Kings, etc.) have been overtaken by farmers and students in order to protect the artefacts (and indirectly the 6% of Egyptian GDP that comes from tourism). Thankfully, the past week has seen an increased military presence at all the museums but we still fear for the temples, pyramids, mastabas and other tombs.
As of Feb. 7th, Mr. Hawass and sparse reports specifically fear for the Qantara museum near Suez that was broken into, the warehouses of Saqqara where we find the famous step pyramid may have been extensively looted, the Valley of the Kings still has no official protection force (only aforementioned farmers and students) and almost everything in southern Egypt that is more rural and far from administrative power (Temples of Philae, Abu Simbel, Luxor, Karnak…). Ironically, one museum that seems to be safe is the Royal Jewellery Museum in Alexandria. Although looters overran it quite rapidly, the employees had already taken everything out of displays and hastily sealed it in the basement vault.
This entire episode will undoubtedly call into question Mr. Hawass’ own appeals for the return of ancient Egyptian artefacts to Cairo as New York, Berlin, Paris and London among others continue to refuse. Now I contend that these antiquities belong to all of humanity as our collective ancestral heritage and no contemporary state has a birth right to it. Furthermore, I reject the usual defence and propose that a great majority of today’s Egyptians have no more of a legitimate claim to the Rosetta stone than I have to Native American relics. Nations are only a product of the last 200 years but the civilizations of 5,000 years ago have been included in the cultural heritage of every peoples from Canada to China. What is important in this archaeological debate is preserving the actual artefacts. I may question how the U.K. got its hands on so much Egyptian artefacts but I have to admit they are quite safe and very accessible in London’s British Museum. On the other hand, Egypt has proven its instability time and time again in the last century.
For example following the Second World War, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser developed some policies that were less than friendly to the colonial interests of France and the U.K. and so when he decided to nationalize the Suez Canal in 1956 (potentially having the right to refuse boat passage on the only maritime shortcut between Europe and India), the country was invaded and bombarded. France and the U.K. wanted the Canal and Israel joined in (and took over half the country) because Nasser and his Arab nationalism were less than friendly to the new Hebrew presence in the region. Very few reports exist on the state of antiquities at the time and the impact of the Suez War on them but foreign tanks rolling through and bombs dropping overhead could not have been good. It was through shear tactics and negotiation that Nasser got international opinion (i.e. the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.) to turn against France, the U.K. and Israel and thus with the withdrawal of the three by 1957 Nasser was hailed as a hero of the Arab World, the conqueror of the European imperialists and as an Egyptian King, this despite the toll on the cultural treasures of the region.
Nasser’s reign can be debated as bad or good by more qualified political historians than myself but I will say that he was not very good for archaeology. In 1960, fed up with the whims of the Nile River and seeing great potential for the rapid progress of his people, Nasser ordered the construction of the Aswan Dam. Ten years, 25,000 engineers and many millions later, the dam began providing half the country’s electricity, regulated Nile flooding to make agriculture more efficient, prevented periodic droughts for the future and making tourist boat trips viable. Four kilometres long. a kilometre large at the base and 111 metres tall, the dam also had the effect of flooding everything around itself, creating Lake Nasser. Having seen this coming, Nasser let UNESCO and international governments do as they would with the archaeology of the proposed basin while the dam was being built. This is why sumptuous temples are now found in New York, Leiden in the Netherlands and Madrid, having been rescued from the Dam. Further financing was provided to move the more famous temples of southern Egypt (Philae, Abu Simbel, Amada and Kalabsha) by cutting them into cubes and rebuilding them as seamlessly as possible on higher ground. Finally however, many temples (and perhaps potential discoveries that are now almost impossible) are now underwater, the price we all paid for the Aswan Dam and the vision of President Nasser.
Even further back, we have periodic evidence of two great so-called “Intermediary Periods” in Dynastic Egypt’s history (2191-2055 BC and 1650-1550 BC).These almost assuredly saw foreign invasion and pillage of all known tombs. In fact, evidence shows that the Great Pyramids of Gizeh were emptied out at that time, over 3,500 years ago.
In conclusion, Egyptian unrest seems to have passed its most volatile point already last week but it seems to be far from over and may very well not be the last time the country verges on revolt and revolution. I contend that every country on earth has to look out for Egyptian antiquities and that the greatest pieces of its archaeology including the Rosetta Stone, Papyrus of Ani, Mask of Tutankhamun, Bust of Nefertiti and Narmer Palette should be preserved and made accessible at all costs for the enrichment of all mankind and for many generations to come. This may involve leaving certain items in stable countries where they are now and maybe even relocating certain items from Egypt to said countries in the future.
With my historical and archaeological digression over, I wish a stable democracy to today’s Egyptian people and not any kind of continued oppressive authoritarianism that our ancient Egyptian ancestors periodically suffered through.
Posted on: Monday, February 7, 2011 - 14:37
SOURCE: CNN.com (2-7-11)
In American diplomatic circles, the "realists" have long argued that the U.S. must be primarily focused on national self-interest, rather than concentrating on trying to promote democracy and human rights in other countries.
They object to the style of idealism promoted by President Woodrow Wilson, who envisioned that war and diplomacy could transform international relations by institutionalizing cooperation among nations, allowing for the self-determination of people and ending war for all time....
The realists have been highly skeptical about Egypt. They warn that revolution in Egypt could open the door to Islamic fundamentalism, as in Iran in 1979, and cost the U.S. and Israel one of their most loyal allies....
However, if Mubarak stifles the revolution, or fundamentalism takes hold, realists will, for a long time, point to Egypt as the prime example of why we cannot hope for much better than the status quo when it comes to the Middle East.
Posted on: Monday, February 7, 2011 - 13:01
SOURCE: The New Republic (2-5-11)
President Obama is in a tight spot. The 2010 elections have sharply contracted his ability to achieve legislative victories, while his room to maneuver on other issues will be limited by the intrusive investigations which are almost certainly coming his way. Progress will be harder to attain than ever. But, especially in light of the upheavals which are now spreading across northern Africa, there is one major policy change he could adopt right now, which would make a great deal of difference.
Engagement with various aspects of the Muslim world, from the Middle East to South Asia, to Muslims in Europe and the United States, has been one of the signatures of Obama’s foreign policy. Now, two years after he announced this policy of outreach, it is time for him to assess this experiment and conclude that it has failed. The failure is not due to a lack of effort, passion, or commitment on his part, nor to problems of implementation. It lies instead in the initial assumptions on which the approach was based, namely the idea that it was the policies and personality of his predecessor that were the driving force behind Islamist hatred of our country.
To Obama’s great credit, he has been fighting the Islamists far harder than his early supporters in the left wing of his party ever expected he would. Whatever illusions they may still have about Third-World virtue, he has left them far behind. His undeclared war on our enemies has included escalation of the Predator drone strikes in Pakistan, and he has appointed his predecessor’s favorite general, David Petraeus, to run and win the war in Afghanistan. Disappointing many liberal intellectuals, he extended the timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014, in order to achieve some definition of victory. And judging by newspaper headlines about plots thwarted, he has pushed cooperation among intelligence services engaged in counterterrorism as aggressively as ever. However reluctant a warrior he may be, however much he did not run for president in order to fight this war, he is using the force of arms far more than most voters in 2008 anticipated.
In his inaugural address in 2009, he surprised me—I was 20 in 1967—by favorably mentioning the Battle of Khe Sanh, during the Vietnam war, among the moments of glory in American military history. I suspected then that he was more the commander-in-chief than he had let on. Since those euphoric early days, his actions indicate that he understands the seriousness of the threats that the Islamists pose to the United States and our allies. We do not need Julian Assange to reveal the extent of continuity between his policies and those of his predecessor. For both Obama and President Bush, actions did not fully coincide with words. In Bush’s case, it was partly because he could not find the words or because he thought the cause was so obviously just that more words were not needed. In Obama’s case, the gap between harsh actions and the uncertain trumpet of his public speech appears to have more to do with his initial conviction that words as harsh as his actions would be counterproductive in engaging the Muslim world. So he spoke softly and carried a big stick. Like his immediate predecessor, Obama has refused to use “Islamist” or “Islamism” to name the ideological tradition of the enemies that have declared war on the United States, our European allies, Israel, and many Arab states....
Posted on: Sunday, February 6, 2011 - 11:49
SOURCE: Fox News (1-28-11)
Egypt is burning. Its military just imposed a national curfew. The phone networks and Internet arteries have been shut down to preserve order. Rubber bullets and tear gas canisters are flying to dissuade protesters. Yet, a defiant populous is still running through the streets of Cairo, ignoring the order to stay indoors.
Important installations are now burning in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. Egyptians everywhere are openly calling for the immediate ouster of its iron-fisted president, Hosni Mubarak, vituperation that just days ago was unthinkable. Now the West is suddenly confronted with yet another shock in the Middle East. To understand this shock, one must understand an entrenched concept in the Middle East known as “the Arab Street.”
While the world creates an information highway and bridges throughout the world, the term Arab Street is one which is too often forgotten—but not for long. The Arab Street is a dusty, unimproved and irrepressible thoroughfare of fury whose frequent itinerary has been known and feared for generations in the Middle East.
Quite simply, the Arab Street refers to the unexpected potential for popular upheaval at any time in any Arab locale. With no democratic venues to express popular wrath, this wrath pours onto the street and acts out en masse against the established order.
Historically speaking, Arab countries were created not by centuries of popular geopolitical evolution, as they were in the West, but by the artificial establishment of nation states according to an agenda driven by the West after WWI. That agenda was always one of commercial exploitation or the lust for petroleum. In the case of Iraq and Iran, it has been the lust for petroleum. In the case of Egypt, since 1869, it has been dependence on the gateway to a commercial artery of indispensable value, the Suez Canal.
The billions that flow into the western-backed and westernized regimes that govern Arab countries have never been shared with the majority of the populous. The overwhelming majority of people remain uneducated, unemployed, disenfranchised, and politically subordinated. In other words, they exist as a giant, detached, roiling, suspicious underclass ready to ignite at a moment's notice....
Posted on: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 10:47
SOURCE: Berkeley Blog (2-1-11)
Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, widespread looting occurred across archaeological sites and museums in the region. Most notably, the National Museum of Iraq was heavily pillaged and dozens of irreplaceable artifacts went missing.
Although many of the artifacts were eventually recovered, some were permanently lost or destroyed. Scores of other archaeological sites were damaged in the wake of the conflict and, eventually, the United States military and other international agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a series of special attempts to protect archaeological sites and prevent further looting from museums. And in the years following the initial invasion, a number of museums in the United States began working closely with curators at the National Museum in Baghdad to recover, conserve, and protect collections related to Iraq’s heritage not only in Iraq, but also in U.S. museums.
The response of the United States to the problem of looting in many ways echoed the events of World War II, when a special Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section — a group eventually nicknamed the “Monuments Men” — was created in Europe following the invasion of Normandy. This group, led by bookish professors who viewed the objective of recovering art stolen by the Nazis as both a unique adventure and a contribution to the war effort, successfully managed to conserve, protect, and return much of the pillaged art displaced by the chaos of war.
Recent events in Egypt, where conflicting reports are emerging regarding the exact state of archaeological sites and museums, will leave the responsibility of protecting cultural heritage to whomever emerges successful following the uprisings. Reports I have received from colleagues in Egypt and Europe suggest that while most antiquities in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo are, as of now, relatively unharmed, archaeological sites throughout Egypt are being subjected to vandalism and theft.
Conflicting reports suggest that at least two mummies currently displayed in Cairo have been seriously damaged by vandals. Reports indicate that many archaeologists tasked with protecting museum collections and archaeological sites are too fearful for their well being to remain at their posts. Some have already left the country. In the wake of the looting that caused extensive damage to mummified remains, the Egyptian army was tasked with the responsibility of protecting state run museums.
As a historian of collections of human remains in the United States, I was particularly startled by the recent reports of the destruction of mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The long and unusual history of collecting, researching, and displaying mummified remains represents a fascinating component of how scholars and the public have learned about issues such as race and prehistory. Anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians continue to learn much from mummies, and their grotesque desecration should be avoided at all cost, as they represent a priceless piece of our shared global heritage.
For generations, students have visited museums like the Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the Berkeley campus to view Egyptian mummies and learn about both the human body and ancient history. Many museum visitors connect with the physical remains of people who lived in the past in a manner unique from their examination of art or artifacts. Bodies fascinate us, and they have been long been used as vehicles to teach museum visitors about complex issues such as race, medicine, and human history. Our interpretations surrounding human remains have changed drastically over time, but the bones and mummified bodies have remained essentially static.
A shared global heritage
Due in no small part to their nearly constant display in museums, mummified remains originating from the Egypt are some of the most recognizable symbols of the ancient world. In the first half of the 19th century, mummified remains were prized in the West as souvenirs from voyages to the Middle East and Africa. Returning tourists might impress their friends with “mummy parties,” where a recently acquired mummified body would be displayed in a parlor for guests to examine as hosts recounted details of their travels.
Eventually, many of these privately collected mummies were subsequently donated to museums (imagine inheriting an Egyptian mummy from your deceased relatives). Professional archaeologists built upon donations from wealthy tourists and, by the middle of the 20th century, it had become so ubiquitous for museums in the U.S. to display mummies from Egypt that one museum curator even commented wryly that any self-respecting museum simply must have one to exhibit.
Despite the seeming abundance of mummies to display in our museums, they represent an irreplaceable commodity of our shared global heritage. In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, museums in the United States were offered funding to work closely with cultural officials in the region, taking thousands of digital photos, conserving objects, and publishing information about existing collections.
As an intern at the Field Museum in Chicago in 2004, I was part of a large team working to reorganize, conserve, and photograph valuable archaeological collections from Kish in Iraq. The project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities under the auspices of a special “Recovering Iraq’s Past” initiative. In addition to such work in museums in the United States, museum professionals around the world have also offered valuable assistance and expertise to their counterparts in Iraq via e-mail and teleconference.
Similarly, in the wake of recent events in North Africa, we should call for government and international agencies to take a renewed interest in preserving Egyptian heritage. We need to take seriously reports of looting and pillaging in Egypt. Thankfully, in the digital age, our own “Monuments Men and Women” can contribute to the goal of preserving cultural heritage from across the globe. Before this important work can happen, however, we need to make the conscious decision to prioritize their valuable work. While keeping the safety of Egyptians, tourist, and expatriates in mind, we must also consider the preservation of our global heritage.
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 12:34
SOURCE: American Thinker (2-2-11)
Are there any similarities between Iran of 1978 and Egypt of 2011? Sadly, yes.
To start with, autocratic leaders who gradually managed to alienate the majority of their populations ruled both countries for thirty years. Both statesmen suppressed the activities of the democratically inclined and secular political forces -- a huge mistake that brought about the fatal narrowing of the social base of their regimes. Undoubtedly, Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was a dependable American ally, who for the duration of his domination over Iran was able to bring stability into a volatile, very important, and permanently explosive region. The same characteristic is valid for President Mubarak of Egypt. Last but not least, both secular leaders and the regimes created by them faced the opposition of the Islamic fundamentalists.
It is obvious that there are also important differences between the situations in Iran and Egypt. The most important one is the status of both leaders with regard to the army. Given the military credentials of President Mubarak, his relationship with the officer corps of the Egyptian army, and the degree of his control over it, he continues to exercise at least a certain degree of influence even in the midst of the crisis. An important fact that should not be ignored is the far more important role played by the Egyptian army, which since July 1952 has the status of a guarantor of the political system of the country -- a fact that provides Mubarak with leverage the shah didn't have....
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 12:31
SOURCE: American Interest (blog) (2-2-11)
The Obama administration is now living through one of the oldest and most difficult recurring problems in American foreign policy: what do you do when revolution breaks out in an allied country?
The only clue history offers is not an encouraging one: there is often no satisfactory resolution of the dilemmas revolutions present.
In 1789 Americans watched the progress of revolution in their closest ally. King Louis XVI, whose decision to back the colonists with money, ships and troops forced Britain to recognize American independence, was tottering on his throne.
In 1917, as the United States moved toward entry into World War One, Americans watched the February Revolution drive Tsar Nicholas II from his absolute rule in one of our key allies in the conflict we were about to begin.
In 1948-49 the Truman administration watched as communist forces systematically defeated the nationalists in the Chinese Revolution. At the dawn of the Cold War, the most populous country in the world fell under communist rule.
Ten years later the Eisenhower administration watched Fidel Castro seize power in Cuba and begin the process that would betray the hopes of Cubans and turn this neighboring state into a firm ally of the Soviet Union.
And in 1978 the Carter administration watched helplessly as mounting public anger in Iran drove one of our important Cold War allies from the throne.
None of these precedents will cheer up the White House. In all these cases, the United States failed to find an effective policy response to the revolution, and each time the foreign revolution created thorny political problems for the sitting president...
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 09:47
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (2-2-11)
On the 20th of June 2005, I stood in a packed auditorium in the heart of Cairo as my boss, the then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, gave a deeply considered speech. She and I had worked together during the revolutions in Europe in 1989-1990. That experience informed her pronouncement that: “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither. Now,” she added, “we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”
Her remarks satisfied no one. Some regional editorial writers congratulated her for trying to “sweep away all of the dust and cobwebs that have limited democratic progress in the Arab world”. But she angered Hosni Mubarak and his elite by going too far. She angered Egypt’s opposition by not going far enough. Others, noticing war-torn Iraq, saw there the nemesis of a hubristic “freedom agenda”.
Yet the confusion then, and now, is the belief that somehow America would offer an answer for Egypt’s future. Ms Rice and aides like me were instead asking a question: “My friend, can you explain your positive vision for Egypt’s future? What we see does not look promising.”
Sadly, the question was never really answered. Ms Rice’s successor, Hillary Clinton, spoke out last month to pose it again. Now, coincidentally, many Egyptians are demanding the answer.
That answer will be uttered first in Arabic. Washington did not choose Egypt’s president and it will not choose the next one. The last popular revolution in Egypt was in 1952, replacing King Farouk with a revolutionary council of “free” military officers. They enacted land reform, wrote a democratic constitution, crushed the Muslim Brotherhood – which then, too, had been a focus of organised dissent. Then they sorted out their own internal power struggle. Muhammad Neguib, the well-liked front man for the revolutionaries, was taken down. In his place arose Nasser ... Sadat ... and Mubarak.
But what does this history say to well-wishing outsiders like my government? Quite a lot...
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 09:27
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (2-2-11)
Europe's future is at stake this week on Cairo's Tahrir Square, as it was on Prague's Wenceslas Square in 1989. This time, the reasons are geography and demography. The Arab arc of crisis, from Morocco to Jordan, is Europe's near abroad. As a result of decades of migration, the young Arabs whom you see chanting angrily on the streets of Cairo, Tunis and Amman already have cousins in Madrid, Paris and London.
If these uprisings succeed, and what emerges is not another Islamist dictatorship, these young, often unemployed, frustrated men and women will see life chances at home. The gulf between their life experience in Casablanca and Madrid, Tunis and Paris, will gradually diminish – and with it that cultural cognitive dissonance which can lead to the Moroccan suicide bomber on a Madrid commuter train. As their homelands modernise, young Arabs – and nearly one third of the population of the north African littoral is between the age of 15 and 30 – will circulate across the Mediterranean, contributing to European economies, and to paying the pensions of rapidly ageing European societies. The examples of modernisation and reform will also resonate across the Islamic world.
If these risings fail, and the Arab world sinks back into a slough of autocracy, then tens of millions of these young men and women will carry their pathologies of frustration across the sea, shaking Europe to its foundations. If the risings succeed in deposing the latest round of tyrants, but violent, illiberal Islamist forces gain the upper hand in some of those countries, producing so many new Irans, then heaven help us all. Such are the stakes. If that does not add up to a vital European interest, I don't know what does.
Is this the Arab 1989?..
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 09:24
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (2-2-11)
Alarms have been raised by those observing the popular uprising in Egypt that, while it is not itself a Muslim fundamentalist movement, the Muslim fundamentalists could take it over as it unfolds. The best-positioned group to do so is the Muslim Brotherhood. Some are even conflating the peaceful Brotherhood with radical groups such as al-Qaeda. I showed in my recent book, Engaging the Muslim World, that the Muslim Brotherhood has since the 1970s opposed the radical movements. In any case, the analogy many of these alarmists are making, explicitly or implicitly, is to Iran in 1978-79, which saw similar scenes of massive crowds in the street, demanding the departure of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, their king.
Misagh Parsa argued that the revolution of 1978-79 was made by several different social groups, each for its own reasons. The revolution was fought against the monarchy, which presided over an oil-exporting economy that had gone into overdrive because of the big fourfold run-up of prices in the 1970s. Many felt that they were not sharing in that prosperity, or were inconvenienced by the Shah’s authoritarian government.
1. THE BAZAAR: The bazaar is a way of referring to the old business and artisan classes who congregated in covered bazaars and around mosques and courts in the older part of Iranian cities. Everyone from tinsmiths, to moneylenders, to carpet import-export merchants is encompassed by the phrase. The bazaar came to be in significant competition with the new business classes (importers of tin pans were putting the tinsmiths out of business, and modern banking was making inroads against the moneylenders). The bazaar had many links with the ayatollahs in mosques and seminaries, including via intermarriage. The Shah despised the bazaar as a bastion of feudal backwardness, and imposed onerous taxes and fines on it, in addition to casually destroying entire bazaars, as at Mashhad. THE BAZAAR FAVORED THE CLERGY AND BANKROLLED THE REVOLUTION.
2. WHITE AND BLUE COLLAR WORKERS: Industrial and oil workers struck over their wages and labor conditions. School teachers and white collar professionals (nurses, physicians, etc.) protested the lack of democracy.
3. SECULAR PARTIES: The old National Front of the early 1950s movement for oil nationalization was weak and aging but still significant. The Communist Party was much less important than in the 1950s but still had some organizational ability. Left-leaning youth radicals, such as the Fedayan-i Khalq (which leaned mildly Maoist) had begun guerrilla actions against the regime. There were also secular intellectuals in what was called the Writer’s Movement.
4. RELIGIOUS FORCES: The religious forces included not only the clergy and mosque networks of dissidents such as Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (in exile in Najaf, Iraq and then Paris), but also religious party-militias such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK: Fighters for the People). In Shiite Islam, a doctrine had grown up that laypersons owe implicit obedience to the clergy when the latter rule on the practice of religious law. Ayatollahs have a place of honor not common for Sunni clergy.
Parsa argues, I think correctly, that the religious forces were initially only one of the important social groups that made the revolution, but of course they ultimately hijacked it and repressed the other three. Note that although the rural population was the majority in Iran at that time, it was little involved in the revolution, though it was very well represented in the subsequent revolutionary parliament and so benefited from new rounds of road, school and other building in the 1980 and 1990s.
Egypt is, unlike Iran, not primarily an oil state. Its sources of revenue are tourism, Suez Canal tolls, manufactured and agricultural exports, and strategic rent (the $1.5 bn. or so in aid from the US comes under this heading). Egypt depends on the rest of the world for grain imports. Were it to adopt a radical and defiant ideology like that of Iran, all its major sources of income would suddenly evaporate, and it might have trouble even just getting enough imported food. Moreover, the social forces making the revolution in Egypt have a significantly different profile and different dynamics than in Iran. Let us just go through the same list....
Posted on: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - 21:22
SOURCE: Talking Points Memo (2-2-11)
[Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale.]
David Brooks and Leon Wieseltier, whom I'll politely call"historically neo-conservative" commentators, are singing Kumbaya and shouting whatever is Arabic for"Right on!" to Egyptians pressing for democracy and Hosni Mubarak's departure.
At least one might think so, reading Brooks yesterday in the New York Times and Wieseltier in The New Republic. They aren't actually there in Cairo with the demonstrators, of course. Neo-con commentators never go anywhere in the Arab world, unless in a tank. But they do sound amazingly like liberal Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is in Egypt praising the movement for democracy. All agree that Obama hasn't done enough to oust Mubarak and hearten the people.
Huh? This from Brooks and Wieseltier, who've long countenanced Mubarak and his regime without a murmur? If it was just them, it wouldn't matter. But they're exemplars of a mindset that endangers Egypt, Israel, and the United States.
Egyptians, Brooks informs us, are no different than Russians, Ukrainians, and South Africans in their quest for dignity. True. Yet Brooks sounds bizarrely out of character, as if he's channeling The Young Rascals:"All the world over, it's so easy to see, people everywhere just wanna be free!"
Wieseltier, less rapturous, decides that Obama is hesitating because he's still recovering from Liberal Iraq-War Syndrome and We Unjustly-Overthrew-Mossadegh Syndrome and is taking the wrong lessons from history. Although"the rebellion [in Egypt] is still maddeningly obscure, and [Obama] must be careful," that makes his"support for the democratizers of Egypt more urgent."
Wieseltier even quotes Kristof quoting demonstrators craving American support. Tahrir Square is Tienanmen; all it needs is a visit from the real Statue of Liberty, instead of a Chinese demonstrator's poignant model. But I am not making light of the upheavals in the Arab world. I am observing the upheavals in neo-conservatives' minds
Wieseltier has determined that"Since the outcome of the revolution is completely unclear, we must do what we can to influence it..... Why should we not put ourselves in a position to retard and to impede the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been cunningly biding its time?" Brooks claims that a Working Group on Egypt, which he cites but doesn't identify and which includes the neo-cons Robert Kagan and Elliott Abrams,"has outperformed the U.S. government by miles" in"warning of Mubarak's fragility."
Kumbaya, this ain't. But are the neo-cons' calls for decisive American intervention the better part of realism? Are they drawing the right history lessons, themselves? Or have they contracted a few syndromes of their own? One, actually. But let's get at it slowly.
I can't help but recall Wieseltier's joining with Richard Bruce (Dick) Cheney, Carl Christian Rove, and others, years before George W. Bush was president, to form the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, one of many neo-con outfits over the years (The Committee for the Free World, The Committee on the Present Danger, and other anti-Communist drum-bangers). This one urged war with Iraq long before most Americans even knew where it is.
I also recall Wieseltier's signing, barely a week after 9/11, a public letter to President Bush from William Kristol's Project for the New American Century that read, in part, ''even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.''
I also recall Brooks' writing to Yale students in 2002, during the run-up to the Iraq War, that since the number of democracies in the world had risen"from a handful to 140,.... You have to be pretty unrealistic to think that this great democratic tide can't sweep through the Arab world as well. And you have to be pretty cynical to think that those of us who enjoy democracy shouldn't...champion it everywhere." Brooks cautioned against thinking that"if we try to champion democracy in Iraq we will only screw it up."
That was then. Now, nine years later, he writes,"More than 100 nations have seen democratic uprisings over the past few decades. More than 85 authoritarian governments have fallen. Somewhere around 62 countries have become democracies, loosely defined." But this time he warns that"the United States usually gets everything wrong. There have been dozens of democratic uprisings over the years, but the government always reacts like it's the first one. There seem to be no protocols for these situations, no preset questions to be asked."
I've written more about Wieseltier's and Brooks' protocols here at TPM (the column linked here has links to the PNAC letter and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq) and in The American Prospect, and as I watch them call yet again for American intervention for democracy, I can't help but wonder what tail keeps wagging this dog.
Each such movement is unique, of course, its context fraught with different perils. But neo-cons' democracy promotion strategies are so"flexible" that they're more than a bit hypocritical.
In 1979, for instance, they won clout with presidential candidate Ronald Reagan after he read"Dictatorships and Double Standards," by Jeane Kirkpatrick, in their flagship Commentary magazine. She urged the U.S. to stand with traditional autocrats (such as the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos and Chile's Augusto Pinochet) against democratic (but surely leftist and probably Communist) movements to overthrow them. At the same time, she urged the U.S. to ramp up its pressures on Communist states, whose totalitarian grip on their societies could be dislodged, if ever, only by American power.
The traditional autocrats, while often brutal, were anti-Communist, and unlike totalitarians, they respected their societies' traditional religious and familial patterns, which preserved stability and, with it, hope of orderly evolution toward democracy. Reagan agreed, and made Kirkpatrick the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
But when the Argentine Jewish journalist Jacobo Timerman revealed that anti-Semitic, semi-fascist ghouls in his country's military junta had tortured him for his Jewishness as well as his left-of-center politics, Commentary, always quick to spot anti-Semitism on the left and in the Arab world, excused it in a lengthy article by Mark Falcoff that tried to cast doubt on Timerman's character and credibility.
If neo-cons can go that far, why not stay with the autocrat Mubarak, the cornerstone of Israeli security strategy - or, for that matter, with Saddam Hussein? The point is that did exactly that for years, democracy be damned. They even marginalized democracy-promoters within their own ranks at the American Enterprise Institute, such as Joshua Muravchik, who wrote ardently about helping ordinary Arabs to democratize Egypt.
Part of the reason for this discrepancy between their supporting Pinochet or the Argentine junta back then and their calling more recently for the removal of Hussein and Mubarak is that Communism imploded, denying the neo-cons their chief foil and energizer and confounding Kirkpatrick's doleful predictions about totalitarianism's staying power, as well as neo-cons' hysterical warnings about"the present danger" of imminent totalitarian expansion.
Another part of the reason for their double standard was that the fall of Marcos -- with a shove from Reagan, to many neo-cons' consternation -- and of Pinochet, and of the Argentine junta-- with a shove from Margaret Thatcher -- also discredited Kirkpatrick's estimation of their reliability and stability.
Fortunately for neo-cons' psychic equilibrium, however (and unfortunately for the rest of us), a new"present danger" arose: The Arab threat to Israel loomed larger than ever once Iraq's Hussein, an horrifically brutal autocrat but an American ally of sorts against Iran, invaded Kuwait and sent scud missiles into Israel, which hadn't joined in the Gulf War.
Suddenly, neo-cons were calling day and night for the democratization of Iraq. It would take only a" cakewalk," the masses would greet us with flowers, and Brooks scoffed at any who thought that"if we try to champion democracy in Iraq we will only screw it up."
Now, he writes that the subsequent experience can"teach us a few lessons. First, the foreign policy realists who say they tolerate authoritarian government for the sake of stability are ill informed."
Take that, Jeane Kirkpatrick! But not all of us needed to learn this and other lessons Brooks offers. I have records only a click away showing that Brooks'"us" and his"we" are imperial, at best: These were lessons that he and the neocons and AIPAC needed to learn. Others of us had learned them. Let him read my 1982 account of Commentary's handling of the Argentine junta.
In 2006, as Brooks started to teach"us" the lessons that recent events had taught him, Joshua Muravchik, the ardent neoconservative democracy promoter, labored laboring mightily to show that few lessons needed to be learned at all. In an essay for the American Enterprise Institute, "How to Save Neoconservatism," he urged neo-cons to make sure that the U.S. would"bomb Iran" and teach the American public about the necessity.
Muravchik also urged the country to"Fix the Public Diplomacy Mess." How?"The Bush administration deserves criticism for its failure to repair America's public diplomacy apparatus," he observed magisterially before announcing,"No group other than neocons is likely to figure out how to do that. We are, after all, a movement whose raison d'être was combating anti-Americanism in the United States. Who better, then, to combat it abroad?"
Who better, indeed! Still more hilariously, Muravchik has claimed recently in the Wall Street Journal that polls in the Muslim world show support for terrorism dropping more under Bush than under Obama."Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama wanted to drive down support for terrorism among Muslims. Mr. Bush's approach was to knock heads together and speak bluntly of the need for societal change. Mr. Obama's approach has been to curry favor with publics and rulers alike. Mr. Bush's approach may have worked better.
"Of course," Muravchik concedes,"it may be that the critical factor in changing attitudes has not been U.S. policies but the actions of the terrorists themselves--who regularly turn their bombs against Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan and elsewhere."
May be! Many thousands of Muslims -- Sunnis, Shiites, democrats, editors, town-council members - have been slain in Iraq's public spaces and private homes. Two and a half million have fled the country to escape this mayhem. This suggests that Muslim disillusionment with terror may owe more to George Bush's head-knocking than Muravchik is inclined to credit, and more to the approach of Bush's neo-conservative cheerleaders, including Muravchik, who now wants to bomb Iran.
But maybe I'm being a bit too churlish. Democracy is the oxygen of human dignity in society, and we should be glad that neocons agree with Kristof and other liberals this time in urging US support for Egypt's democracy movement.
Maybe this sudden harmonic convergence can lighten what Yossi Klein Halevi, writing in the Times, calls"the grim assumption" of most Israelis and American neo-cons that"it is just a matter of time before the only real opposition group in Egypt, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, takes power. ... Mohamed ElBaradei, the icon of the Egyptian protesters, and many Western analysts say that the Egyptian branch of the Brotherhood has forsworn violence in favor of soup kitchens and medical clinics. Even if that is true, it is small comfort to Israelis, who fear that the Brotherhood's nonviolence has been a tactical maneuver and know that its worldview is rooted in crude anti-Semitism."
True enough, and that's why many of us find ourselves on the same side of the table with Wieseltier, Brooks, Muravchik, and Halevi, urging American engagement with the democracy movement now. But the neo-cons have come to the table differently than others, and they're heading somewhere else; this is a tactical maneuver of their own.
They're touting democracy out of rising desperation to head off horrors that, over the years, they've done more than they can admit to make more likely. we can" chicken and egg" this all night, but there's no escaping this truth. While they bring the advantage of not being naïve about anyone's motives, including their own, they also bring the disadvantage of not being trustworthy. They wouldn't know how to extend trust cannily and bravely enough to elicit it from others if their lives depended on it. And, in a sense, they do depend on it.
Halevi claims there are no others to elicit trust from, and, at this point, he may be right. But what we think about this depends on how we read the history."Since its founding," he writes,"Israel has tried to break through the military and diplomatic siege imposed by its neighbors. In the absence of acceptance from the Arab world, it found allies on the periphery of the Middle East, Iran and Turkey. Peace with Israel's immediate neighbors would wait."
Well, yes and no. I don't want to sound as purse-lipped and censorious about this as certain churches do or as curdled English majors at Harper's and The Nation, writing about the End of Days in eschatological or ideological ways and displacing their bourgeois self-loathings onto the Jews. Still, for all of Brooks' rhetoric about dignity and his denials that if we try to spread democracy, we'll only screw it up, he has shown time and again that he doesn't really believe it can be done. In 2006 he urged Americans to meet Iraqi insurgents'"savagery with savagery" because the insurgents had" create[d] an environment in which it is difficult to survive if you are decent."
Far be it from me to say who created which environment over what period of time. But I doubt that our Iraq invasion was well-advised or that Israel has never missed an opportunity to improve its Middle East prospects. Halevi insists that"Since its founding, Israel has tried to break through the military and diplomatic siege imposed by its neighbors. In the absence of acceptance from the Arab world, it found allies on the periphery of the Middle East, Iran and Turkey. Peace with Israel's immediate neighbors would wait."
Yes and no. He glosses too much, as do all these new rhapsodists of democracy. Whether Halevi's and Wieseltier's history lessons, Muravchik's manifestos, and Brooks' democratic songs and dances are willful deceits or actual delusions, I won't say, but let me offer a history lesson they've overlooked, perhaps for too long now for it to be of any use.
It's from Hannah Arendt, in 1944, when many Jews felt with good reason that there was no justice for them in the world and that they could trust nothing but vengeful nationalism, dark violence, and cold power politics.
Arendt warned that if Zionists" continue to ignore the [forging of partnerships with neighboring] Mediterranean peoples," including especially their immediate Arab neighbors,"and watch out only for the big, faraway powers, they will appear only as... the agents of foreign and hostile interests. Jews who know their own history should be aware that... the anti-Semitism of tomorrow will assert that Jews not only profiteered from the presence of the foreign big powers... but had actually plotted it and hence are guilty of the consequences..."
No one can credibly accuse of Arendt of being naïve about either the legitimacy or the duplicity Arabs' varied grievances and motives. Yet she, who called for a Jewish army to fight the Nazis during the war, decided that it was right-wing Jewish nationalists who were naïve in deploying that strategy in Palestine in the ways that they did, and to the extent that they did. These right-wing Zionists were even more naïve in trying to reinforce up their strategy in Faustian bargains with the great powers.
"The big nations that can afford to play the game of power politics have found it easy to forsake King Arthur's Round Table for the poker table," she wrote,"but the small, powerless nations [the Jews in Palestine] that venture their own stakes in that game, and try to mingle with the big, usually end by being sold down the river."
Arendt understood that the cause of Arab democracy is a pressing one. But I think she would also know that Brooks is sounding so idealistic about it now, and Wieseltier is seeming so serious about it, it's only because they have squandered the advantages that Israel once had, and that they have no other cards left to play, and they're scared shitless of being sold down the river.
Posted on: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - 16:30
SOURCE: Truthdig (2-1-11)
A largely unheralded hero of the Egyptian revolution is a mild-mannered academic who endured imprisonment and then exile for daring to criticize the Mubarak family’s increasingly dynastic ambitions.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim has spoken out forcefully on human rights and democracy for decades, and he is finally being vindicated. But his message that the United States needs to support democracy in the Arab world and put aside its paranoia about Muslim fundamentalist movements may be unpalatable to Washington’s elites.
As an academic at the American University of Cairo, Ibrahim pioneered the study of Muslim dissidents and radicals, receiving permission to interview them in the dreaded Tura prison in the early 1980s, in the wake of the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by a joint council of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Grouping.
By a great irony of history, Ibrahim was destined to join his former interview subjects in prison himself. Having become a democracy activist in the 1990s, Ibrahim helped make films instructing peasants how to vote. In Egypt’s class-ridden, hierarchical society, the elite around President Hosni Mubarak viewed these activities as seditious....
Saad Eddin Ibrahim is being vindicated by history. The young crowds in the streets are protesting about the same policies he has spent his life deploring. The Obama administration has fumbled badly in its statements on Egypt’s unrest, from Hillary Clinton’s assertion that the Mubarak regime is “stable” to Joe Biden’s ill-advised insistence that Mubarak is not a dictator. It would do well to take some advice from the grand old man of Egypt’s democracy movement. One thing is increasingly clear: Egypt will be spared the ignominy of monarpublicanism.
Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 12:30
SOURCE: National Review (1-31-11)
The Obama administration’s deer-in-the headlights policy toward Egypt will probably change if and when Mubarak & Co. leave and thereby introduce the risk of a Czar–Kerensky–Lenin or Estates-General–Paris Commune–Committee of Public Safety scenario — i.e., the better organized and militantly non-democratic forces coming to the fore amid loosely organized protest against prior oppression....
I suppose the West currently feels like someone watching a train approaching an abyss without much insight into how to prevent the train from going over the cliff. Our daily-evolving strategy apparently hinges on proper triangulation, shifting from prodding Mubarak to reform to calling on protesters to form a democratic government as Mubarak appears to weaken, all while allowing some leeway should he make a remarkable recovery....
Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 12:01
SOURCE: CS Monitor (1-31-11)
There is no good policy for the United States regarding the uprising in Egypt, but the Obama administration may be adopting something close to the worst option. It seems to be adopting a policy that, while somewhat balanced, is pushing the Egyptian regime out of power. That situation could not be more dangerous and might be the biggest disaster for the region and Western interests since the Iranian revolution three decades ago.
Experts and news media seem to be overwhelmingly optimistic, just as they generally were in Iran’s case. Wishful thinking is to some extent replacing serious analysis. Indeed, the alternative outcome is barely presented: This could lead to an Islamist Egypt, if not now, then in several years.
There are two basic possibilities: the regime will stabilize (with or without President Hosni Mubarak), or power will be up for grabs. Here are the precedents for the latter situation:
* Remember the Iranian revolution of 1979, when all sorts of people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now president....
Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 11:29
SOURCE: CNN.com (2-1-11)
...In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama reminded Congress that Gates had agreed to cut out billions that "he and his generals believe our military can do without."
Some Republicans have acted reflexively, insisting on no cuts to the military budget. Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and an establishment Republican, said: "I cannot say it strongly enough: I will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform."
Other Republicans have joined him. Sarah Palin has repeatedly stated that military spending should be off the table when it comes to deficit reduction. "The administration," Plain proclaimed last June, "may be willing to cut defense spending, but it's increasing it everywhere else. I think we should do it the other way round: Cut spending in other departments, apart from defense. We should not be cutting corners on our national security."
But some Republicans, primarily those associated with the Tea Party, have started to push back against their colleagues. Former House Majority Leader Richard Armey, who has worked closely with the leadership of the Tea Party Movement, told The New York Times, "A lot of people say if you cut defense, you're demonstrating less than a full commitment to our nation's security -- and that's baloney." Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have signaled they are willing to consider the Pentagon's budget in discussions.
To many Republicans ... conservatives calling for a smaller national security establishment seems to be sacrilege.
For many Republicans, the sound of conservatives calling for a smaller national security establishment seems to be sacrilege. After all, this is the party of Ronald Reagan, and it has insisted since the 1980s that more defense spending is essential to protect the nation. Whenever he was asked what he would do if it came down to a choice between defense and deficits, Reagan said: "I always said national security would come first, and the people applauded every time."...
Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 11:27
SOURCE: WSJ (2-1-11)
As Hosni Mubarak teeters on the brink, a lot of wishful thinking is emanating from the West—both from those who want him gone and those who don't. But it does scant justice to the complexity of the situation to claim that Mr. Mubarak was a superb ally, or to imagine that we can manage an easy transition to a post-Mubarak regime.
The best that can be said for Mr. Mubarak is that he has been easy for the West to deal with. He is always ready to spur along Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to stage military exercises with the United States. He is certainly a dedicated foe of Gamaa al Islamiya and other Islamist terrorist organizations that threatened his rule. Above all, he did not renounce the peace treaty with Israel that had gotten his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, killed. Behind the scenes, Mr. Mubarak and Omar Suleiman, formerly his intelligence chief and now his vice president, have had close relations with a succession of Israeli prime ministers and American presidents.
But let's not romanticize the soon-to-be-departed dictator. He presided over a very cold peace with Israel. Even as he was negotiating with Israeli leaders, he was turning a blind eye to the rabid anti-Semitism and anti-Westernism that polluted Egypt's state-controlled news media and mosques. The Middle East Media Research Institute has an invaluable archive of these revolting statements. Last year an Egyptian cleric, Hussam Fawzi Jabar, was quoted as saying, "Hitler was right to say what he said and to do what he did to the Jews." Keep in mind that in Egypt most clerics are state employees whose pronouncements are carefully monitored by the secret police. That Mr. Jabar is able to say such things in public means that Mr. Mubarak doesn't object...
Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 10:23
SOURCE: Time.com (1-31-11)
Whenever a Chinese leader goes to the U.S. for a summit with an American President, you can assume that several things will happen. There will be allusions to the 1979 meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter, the first such meeting to take place in the U.S. There will be speeches calling for the two countries to find common ground despite different histories, values and political systems. The U.S. media will debate whether the White House is showing too much deference to the head of a brutal regime. The Chinese media will stress the respect a leader from Beijing is being accorded by the world's most powerful country — still true, despite the talk of America's decline. And then Henry Kissinger will get into the picture.
All of these things came to pass once again when President Hu called on President Obama in Washington. But take away the bromides and the benchmark of 1979, and what stands out is not just how much the world has changed but how far the two nations have moved away from the state of bilateral affairs during Deng's far more consequential and colorful trip across the Pacific.
In 1979, Japan made headlines by floating the idea of offering loans to cash-strapped Beijing. In 2011, of course, when debts between countries are mentioned, the focus tends to be on the huge store of U.S. Treasury bills held by China, which surged past Japan this past summer to take the spot as the world's second biggest economy. In '79, the U.S.-China relationship was still shaped largely by a shared antipathy toward — and a common desire to limit the global reach of — the Soviet Union. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that country's disappearance....
Posted on: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 00:19