Don’t Panic Over Egypt

Back in 2011 the Arab world started a process of change that was long overdue, and hindered by the way the US and oil rich Arab states had helped keep in place obsolete political structures that embraced authoritarianism, nepotism, corruption, and brutality.   While some cynically defended such support as being “in our interests” – Mubarak may be a son of a bitch, but he’s friendly to us – that is an incredibly short sighted and naive world view.

There is no way the Arab world of the late 20th Century could be reproduced well into the 21st Century.   Globalization, changing world dynamics, and the information revolution meant that anachronistic regimes had to perish.  To persist they’d have to engage in increasingly brutal measures, such as those being undertaken by Assad in Syria.   The world is changing, including the Mideast.

Yet others took an equally naive view in thinking change would be easy.    To expect a country that has been ruled by authoritarian means for decades, built on centuries of the brutal Ottoman dictatorship, to change to a modern democracy in a short period of time would be a pipe dream.   The world doesn’t work that way.

The option was never democracy or dictatorship, it was an increasingly brutal dictatorship vs. a slow difficult decades long process of modernization and change.    Consider how long it took the US to build a democracy of the kind we expect others to leap to overnight.   We had slavery for 80 years, women couldn’t vote for 120.   We only changed as fast as our culture changed, we didn’t have 1813 America being pressured to create institutions acceptable to 2013 America!

That said, it won’t take that long for the Arab world to change.   Globalization is forcing an increased pace of change, within a generation or two I expect a modernized yet still Islamic and culturally unique Mideast.   Yet that means there is likely to be 20 to 40 years of continued flux, perhaps with terrorism, extremism, and conflict.

That’s how the world changes.   As much as I prefer peace, would love it if we’d all just understand each others’ perspectives and empathize, power is a corrupting drug.     Power is to the political system what cocaine is to an individual’s system.  It creates a belief in ones’ invincibility and a willingness to take absurd chances and not recognize ones’ own limitations.

Assad and his cadre in Syria are playing that game, unable to comprehend that the power they enjoy can dissipate in a moment.  Mubarak learned that lesson, and though he may be under House arrest rather than in prison, it’s unlikely that the process of change will go backwards.

So for all those whiny pundits who think that somehow problems in Egypt are the fault of America (or in the case of manythe right, all the world’s problems can be laid at Obama’s feet), it’s time to relax.   The dynamic underway in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world is in its early stages.   We can’t and shouldn’t yearn for a return to anachronistic dictatorial thugs.  We shouldn’t pick sides or choose enemies, but instead put forth principles we’ll support.

Fifty years ago Martin Luther King gave his historic “I have a Dream” speech, an event being celebrated this weekend.  Let’s not just keep that dream as a unique part of the American past, but find a way to communicate the principles involved into foreign policy.  With globalization, it’s no longer a Realpolitik world of myopic self interest without regards to morality and principle.   Principles matter, and its our principles, not our guns, that will provide positive influence on others.

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  1. #1 by lbwoodgate on August 26, 2013 - 08:13

    “but find a way to communicate the principles involved into foreign policy”

    I fear our principles today are flawed Scott. We project free markets are the same as democracy and connote that wealth attainment is on equal or superior ground with the needs of society. Our government talks a talk they no longer walk and the world is seeing this more clearly than they have in the past.

  2. #2 by Scott Erb on August 26, 2013 - 08:16

    The principles enunciated 50 years ago by Martin Luther King reflect what this country is about. I agree that they are not followed by government lately!

  3. #3 by pino on August 26, 2013 - 17:50

    Don’t Panic Over Egypt

    I largely agree.

    We only changed as fast as our culture changed, we didn’t have 1813 America being pressured to create institutions acceptable to 2013 America!

    Again, I agree. These countries are going to require generations to get to the point where we want them to be.

    The dynamic underway in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world is in its early stages.

    Christianity had its struggles some time ago, Islam now. And yes, the advances that we see today are a direct result of the actions set into motion when we liberated Iraq. Just as their democracy has been messy, so to Egypt and Syria.

    all the world’s problems can be laid at Obama’s feet

    However, with that said, Obama has largely been absent from the management of Syria and Egypt. Which, on balance, is almost certainly a good thing – this is not the place for an over matched amateur – however, it is distressing that no body on the Left can admit that we have elected an ineffectual community organizer to lead us during these trying times.

    • #4 by Scott Erb on August 26, 2013 - 18:34

      Well, after he was a community organizer he got a law degree from Harvard, was a successful civil rights lawyer, and then went into state politics in Illinois before becoming Senator and now President. He’s handled the position very well, especially foreign policy (compare him to the mistakes Bush made!) I’m still convinced – absolutely convinced – he is going to be remembered as one of the great Presidents. So I disagree with your take on Obama completely. I am extremely satisfied having him as a leader during these times!

      • #5 by pino on August 26, 2013 - 18:42

        Well, after he was a community organizer he got a law degree from Harvard

        He got the degree first, then went on to community organize. We don’t know how he did at Harvard, he won’t release his grades.

        then went into state politics in Illinois before becoming Senator

        He defeated his opponents by disputing signature rules and used Chicago style politics.

        and now President.

        He fraudulently signed hundreds of signatures to make sure he was in the ballot in Illinois.

        I’m still convinced – absolutely convinced – he is going to be remembered as one of the great Presidents.

        Based on what accomplishment?

  4. #6 by Scott Erb on August 26, 2013 - 19:06

    Wow, you’ve got ODS! Obama was a community organizer from 1985 to 1988. He entered Harvard in 1988. Not only did he graduate with a Harvard Law degree (no mean feat), he was elected to the Harvard Law review after his first year, and editor after his second. They don’t give that honor to poor students! After getting his law Degree in 1992, he was a civil rights attorney (not a community organizer) from 1992 to 1996. He went into state politics in 1997, and you know the rest. In his first term he got more things done than most Presidents do in two terms (I’ll find a link to a long list of accomplishments that made the circuit during the campaign when people tried to claim he didn’t accomplish anything). He also ended two wars, and is building international support for multilateral action in Syria, despite Chinese and Russian opposition. To pretend he’s not a truly successful, hard working, ambitious very intelligent man, who as President has inspired loyalty and achieved a lot is absurd. I mean, when you get away from right wing blogs and talk radio (which is by definition not serious – talk radio is the yellow journalism, and partisan blogs left and right can’t be taken too seriously. Obama isn’t perfect, neither was Lincoln. But I believe his stewardship despite intense obstruction by the GOP will be textbook. Time will tell, but he’s really impressed me.

    I can’t think of a President who was more impressive in my lifetime. Kennedy? Johnson (good until Vietnam), Nixon (probably the most successful, but Watergate really overshadows), Ford (didn’t have enough time), Carter (not as bad as the right often claims, but was too waffling), Reagan (good on inspiration, but lacked intelligence and absent from policy debates), Bush I (he did reasonably well for a one termer), Clinton (made some big errors on the economy – like Reagan, he helped set up what happened in 2008), Bush II (his second term wasn’t bad, but he made real errors in his first term – still, he’s better than the left gives him credit for). I think Obama overshadows all of them!

    • #7 by pino on August 27, 2013 - 18:20

      Obama was a community organizer from 1985 to 1988. He entered Harvard in 1988.

      Fair enough. He did organize first.

      They don’t give that honor to poor students!

      They give that honor to good vote getters.

      He also ended two wars,

      Bush ended the first war. The second war isn’t over yet.

      s building international support for multilateral action in Syria,

      Ironically, not domestic support. Unlike Bush who had legislative authority to enter Ira, Obama apparently is ready to act without congressional input.

      To pretend he’s not a truly successful, hard working, ambitious very intelligent man, who as President has inspired loyalty and achieved a lot is absurd.

      He is largely unsuccessful.
      Not clear that he’s hard working.
      Clearly ambitious.
      And yes, intelligent.

      I think Obama overshadows all of them!

      You’re as absurd as you think I am 😉

  5. #8 by Titfortat on August 27, 2013 - 17:27

    I think one question that should be asked of us in the west. Do we think we will be better off if all the world turns into a democracy of some sort? Years of watching the brutal dictators and the relationships with many of the western leaders(and their populations) makes me wonder if those same leaders(and populations) are yearning for that change to really happen. Cheap oil makes all of us do some pretty strange shit.

  6. #9 by Alan Scott on August 29, 2013 - 20:58

    I suppose that it is okay to relax about the forces President Obama helped unleash in Egypt and also about the forces he did nothing to restrain in Syria until now. I mean how many Americans even know what a Coptic Christian is anyway?

    People who sell cheap oil are pretty strange. Canadians are strange. Makes much more sense to buy oil in the middle east.

    • #10 by Titfortat on August 30, 2013 - 13:31

      Alan

      Yep, Canadians are strange. But more strange is when you buy cheap oil from the Saudis who happen to support the Wahabbi’s which is one of the most virulent forms of Islam out there. Mind you, strange might not be the best description. Dumb as shit does seem to come to mind. 😉

  7. #11 by Alan Scott on August 30, 2013 - 16:48

    Titfortat ,

    Keystone Pipeline and thousands of what President Obama calls ‘ temporary jobs or Wahabbi oil. Obviously Canadians are far stranger than Saudis. Imagine if our rulers weren’t smart enough to make these decisions for us.

  8. #12 by Titfortat on August 30, 2013 - 19:09

    Alan

    Listen to yourself. WHABBI OIL. These are the fuckers who want to blow you to kingdom come and your government is funding the project. Strange is one thing, thick as brick is another.

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