The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I can still remember the breathless commentary by the more liberal elements of the MSM (and that means just about everyone in the media) when the "Arab Spring" began in Egypt in 2011. Pictures of young secular liberals marching "for democracy" in the streets of Cairo were followed by laughably naive dissertations on the power of Facebook and Twitter to effect societal change. Barack Obama rushed to disparage Hosni Mubarack, Egypt's hard-line dictator but America's staunch ally, and at the same time embraced the "moderate" Muslim brotherhood, a rabidly Islamist organization with all that label implies. Feverishly trying to embrace Islam, Obama providing funding and encouragement for Egypt's new Islamist President, despite warnings that moderation was not in the cards.

Those of us who argued that the Arab spring would not end well have been vindicated over the past few months. "Democracy" is dead in Egypt, moderation is non-existent, but violence is alive and well.

George Bush, and Barack Obama after him along with many others, naively thought that we could somehow instill Western values in the Middle East (it really doesn't matter whether we're talking about Egypt, or Iraq, or Afghanistan). Bottom line: it isn't going to happen any time soon.

Stanley Kurtz comments on all of this:
Nobody talks about the Middle East’s social system, not only Islam and its sectarian divisions, but the patterns of tribe and kin that govern so much of life in this part of the world. Political events in the Middle East cannot be understood in isolation from the fundamentals of social life. Yet in our “multicultural” age, taking culture seriously as something that can influence politics or block political and economic modernization is now taboo.

This leaves us naively hoping for a Middle Eastern future modeled on our own hugely different social assumptions. Not content to simply long for a “democratic transition,” we actually assume that one is taking place, even as events before our eyes disprove this fantasy at every stage. One man, one vote, one time. It happened in front of us, yet we refused to see it. Egypt’s secularists and military did see what was happening and took action. They weren’t democrats either, but at least they understood their opponents.

No peace without including the Muslim Brotherhood, which represents so much of Egypt? Quite right. No peace. What this argument fails to recognize is that the image of a national reconciliation that encompasses all parties in Egypt — the goal the [New York] Times and the [Washington] Post want us to work toward –- is a chimera. The minimum consensus on social fundamentals necessary for democracy to function is simply not present in Egypt, and there is no reasonable prospect that it will be any time soon.

Come to think of it, Barack Obama took George Bush's mistakes in the Middle East and he made them worse. Virtually all of Barack Obama's foreign policy is a "chimera" that has adopted a view of the world and its actors that is pure "fantasy." Wishful thinking is not a strategy, nor is it policy, nor can it lead to anything good in the hardball world of the Middle East. And yet, Obama and his administration continue to make poor decisions and embrace bad actors as the region devolves into chaos.

Update - 1 (16 Aug 2013):

Even The New Republic (a leftist publication and a rabid supporter of Barack Obama) is beginning to ask questions about the president's incoherent approach to Egypt (and by inference, the Middle East in general):
The best defense I can muster for Team Obama's pathetic response to the events of the last month in Egypt is that the men and women in charge of American foreign policy simply don't mind looking foolish. No, really: Obama has espoused the generally astute opinion that the immediate reaction of the American president is not the most important aspect of every worrying development on the planet. Not all problems can be fixed by a show of American strength or outrage or willpower. And really, in the grand scheme of things, whether the administration looks silly or weak is less meaningful than whether it is effective.

Alas, this quasi-defense doesn't apply in the case of Egypt, where the death toll from the last 24 hours stands above 500. (Injuries are at about 3,700.) Not only has the administration looked weak and unprepared, but it looks unintelligent, too. The New York Times had several superb articles on the "crisis" today—as an aside, I wonder if people would use words like "crisis" if the Iranian mullahs had just slaughtered hundreds of people—but the one that caught my eye concerned the comments from the admistration yesterday. As Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon somewhat snidely (and appropriately) put it:
[Secretary of State] Kerry announced no punitive measures, while President Obama, vacationing here on Martha’s Vineyard, had no public reaction. As his chief diplomat was speaking of a “pivotal moment for Egypt,” the president was playing golf at a private club.
It's very troubling to think that an incompetent, ideological amateur is in control of middle eastern foreign policy. Storm clouds have already gathered. The problem is, with this level of incompetence the United States and its few allies in the region will feel the brunt of the storm.

Update - 2 (16 Aug 2013):
And this exceptionally accurate assessment by David P. Goldman commenting on Barack Obama and some republicans condemnation of recent violent events in Egypt:
Such is the absurdity of both parties’ stance towards Egypt: the Egyptian military is doing America’s dirty work, suppressing a virulently anti-modern, anti-Semitic and anti-Western Islamist movement whose leader, Mohammed Morsi, famously referred to Israelis as “apes and pigs.” It did so with the enthusiastic support of tens of millions of Egyptians who rallied in the streets in support of the military. And the American mainstream reacted with an ideological knee jerk. America’s presence in the Middle East has imploded.
{American} "elections have consequences" that don't stop at our borders.