Hat Tip: Jean Stoner
I am so torn on all this, I don’t know what or who to support. Mubarak is a horrible dictator who has condoned basically the genocide of Coptic Christians in Egypt. He tortures and brutalizes his people. The people are starving because of food prices. Those who want to work, can’t find jobs. On the other hand, we can’t allow the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran to gain control of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The world would enter another horrific dark ages if we do. I think we are damned either way.
From another group forum of which I am a contributing member comes this…
Let’s look at what we do know and what we don’t know:
It seems that these protests that blew the lid off of Egypt were the result of several factors: pent-up frustration with 30 years of Mubarak’s oppressive and autocratic rule; recent regime-change and reform movements in Iraq, Tunisia, and several other places; anger over economic factors, specifically inflation and rising food prices. Thanks to the internet and social networking, the protests were quickly organized and spread. It also appears that at least initially, these protests were driven by mostly young liberals seeking liberal reform. There are reports now that an increasing number of Islamists have joined in the protests, ostensibly seeking to exploit the unrest and fill the potential power vacuum, which is similar to what happened in Iran in 1979.
What we don’t know: We don’t know to what lengths Mubarak will go to maintain his hold on power. Will he continue to try and relieve the pressure by promising reform, while keeping the protests from invading his headquarters, but without a large loss of life? Will he turn the military on the Islamists, while leaving the rest of the protesters alone? Will he use brute force to quell the protests in their entirety, resulting in a large loss of life? We also don’t know what the military will do. Will they continue to stand with Mubarak? Will they turn on Mubarak? If they turn on Mubarak, does an as-yet-unknown military strongman oust Mubarak and take over? Does the military side with the liberal wing of this protest, or with the Islamists?
If I were betting, I’d say Mubarak’s days are short-lived, one way or another. Even if he brutally suppresses these protests, it’s only a matter of time before he either dies, which could lead to another immediate revolt, or the same thing happens at another date against a more weakened and increasingly illegitimate Mubarak regime. Furthermore, the next dominoes to fall could be Jordan, Lybia, or Yemen, which could lead to disastrous results.
The results didn’t have to be disastrous. The ultimate objective of Bush foreign policy was the spread of freedom, particularly in the Middle East. Insofar as the U.S. had and has a policy in regards to Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s to prevent al Qaeda or other militant Islamists from building a base, or in the case of Pakistan, obtaining nuclear weapons. For years, the choice in the Middle East and in Muslim Asia came down to this: autocracies or Islamic theocracies. The U.S. has traditionally, asrealpolitik dictates, supported the autocrats, because they are more stable and will willingly accept U.S. money in return for acting as allies. What we’re seeing now is the fallacy in supporting autocrats, because they can’t last forever, and whatever the reasons for their demise, the resulting power vacuum can result in disaster if no decent alternative is present to fill the void. (As far as the Iran comparisons, this is what happened: as autocrats go, the shah was liberal, Westernized, and pro-American. His overthrow, which in many respects was initially populist, resulted in the power vacuum that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and with him, the radical Shiite regime. The people in Iran never had it so good as under the shah, but in believing they could have it better, they got a result far, far worse.) I would argue that the realpolitik crowd that populates the State Department view stability as desirable above all else, which explains the U.S.’s continued support for certain dictators over the years, Mubarak being a prime example. But this policy is short-sighted, because “stability” results from oppression of opposition, and over the years that opposition can become more radicalized, and eventually blow the lid off.
I think there are some lessons here for the foreign policy crowd: we need to have consistent and coherent policies and objectives. The Bush example was a lesson on clarity: promote freedom (even though the constant references to “democracy”, in my opinion, mischaracterized this approach). The opposition to this policy from all corners served to undermine it. However, I believe that if held to over time, it would bear fruit and change minds. When the Obama regime took over, our foreign policy became incoherent. The objective seemed to be “talk for the sake of talk”. Obama’s lack of support, even in words, for the green revolution in Iran in 2009 was by far the biggest foreign policy blunder by this administration, and perhaps by any administration in a long time. This would have been the follow-through to Iraq, and in the process could have rid the world of the current Iranian regime run by the mullahs. That was the domino we wanted to fall; Egypt may indeed fall the other way, bringing others along with it.
Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s comments thus far are okay as far as they go, which have been on the side of “reform”, and not shutting down the internet. The problem is that you have O’Biden out there saying “Mubarak is not a dictator” and making other completely nonsensical and overly vague statements, and it gives the impression that there’s no clear U.S. policy or objective. (Also read John Kerry’s comments and try to find any coherent objective contained therein, it’s all vague Democrat gobbledygook.)
The damage by U.S. policy has been done: we’ve supported Mubarak all these years as the best alternative, while failing to help promote or groom a more liberal reformer to ultimately take over. We have not had a single and consistent voice in regards to the liberalization movement in the Middle East. And our own economic policies (as Larry Kudlow writes today) have also contributed, as the Fed’s QE2 policies have resulted in inflation and sharply-rising food prices in relatively poor countries.
The bottom line is this: there are different ways this could go. In my opinion, the U.S. needs to speak with a single voice, the primary objective should be stopping the Muslim Brotherhood or other radical Islamists from seizing control of Egypt, and then secondarily, and as a long-term strategy, support and cultivate liberal leaders in Egypt and elsewhere. This is not an isolated incident, and we can either stay ahead of the curve or simply react to it after it’s too late. The fact that Hillary Clinton recently said that Egypt was “stable” and that the State Department didn’t see this coming at all is not a good sign. This may well be Obama’s Iran. So far I haven’t seen any sign that his administration will be anything but impotent.
In Iran in 2009, protesters held up signs directed at Obama that said “You’re either with us, or you’re with them (mullahs)”. For years the choice had been autocrats and dictators or Islamists. Bush, against all opposition, sought the Third Way, which I support: liberal reformers.
Will Obama choose a side? Any side? Or will he just ask that we all get along? (Call it Rodney King Foreign Policy.)