Monday, January 31, 2011

Riot Like An Egyptian

Egypt is dominating the news these days, for good reason. Egypt lies at a strategically key location, with much of the world’s trade still passing through the Suez Canal. It shares a border with Israel. It remains a key battlefront in the war between secularists and fundamentalist Islam. And whether we like it or not, we are deeply involved in what is going on in Egypt. Here’s your primer on Egypt.

1. A Brief History. The current problems with Egypt began when General Muhammad Naguib overthrew British puppet King Farouk and declared a Republic in 1953. At that point, many Egyptians were hoping for democratic rule, but the army had other plans. Naguib was forced to resign the following year by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who tossed out the British and allied Egypt with the Soviet Union, introducing socialism. His replacement, Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviets in 1972 and allied Egypt with the United States, but he also imposed a policy of violently repressing all opposition. Sadat was assassinated in 1981, after entering into a peace treaty with Israel. His vice president, General Hosni Mubarak, took over and remains in charge until now.

In the last few years, Mubarak began losing popular support. Although a rich country, Egypt’s wealth is held by a few well-connected allies of Mubarak, with most of the population being unemployed and living in abject poverty. Political opponents are routinely jailed, and Mubarak has held numerous fake elections, often running unopposed after declaring opposing political parties illegal. He is the classic Middle Eastern strongman, relying on the military and the secret police to maintain his rule.

On January 14th of this year, the people of Tunisia rose up and overthrew their own strongman, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The surprising success of this revolution (caveat “success” in that no new government has yet been established), triggered the imaginations of the Arab world. When Egyptians heard of this, they took to the streets. Look for Jordan to be next.

2. Why Egypt Matters. Egypt matters to the United States for several reasons. First, the Suez Canal sits in Egypt. Much of the world’s trade travels through it. Secondly, Egypt borders on Israel, and has been an important player in trying to keep arms out of the hands of the Palestinians. Third, Egypt is the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that basically spawned modern Islamic terrorism. This last point is particularly important. If Egypt becomes like Taliban-Afghanistan, war between Egypt and Israel will be inevitable, and we will be drawn in. Moreover, the 20% of the population who are Coptic Christians may find themselves in the middle of a genocide, just as the Christians in Sudan found themselves.

3. What Are The Alternatives. Right now, the alternatives are the problem.

1. Mubarak could stay, though I think that’s impossible, and would just put off the inevitable. He just appointed a successor after refusing to do so for years, in the hopes of staving off the protestors. The successor, Omar Suleiman, runs the intelligence service. Prior to this, Mubarak was believed to have been planning to appoint his son, who has now fled the country. But this has not satisfied the protestors and it’s unlikely anyone Mubarak chooses will be allowed to stay in power.

2. The West is hoping the government voluntarily hands over power to Mohammed Elbaradei, who they stupidly believe to be a Western-style democrat waiting to happen. You might remember Elbaradei as the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, where he routinely claimed that Iran was not building nuclear weapons. He also lobbied against sanctions and demanded that if Iran could not have nuclear weapons, then Israel should be forced to give theirs up as well.

3. Elbaradei is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, who seek to convert Egypt into an Islamic regime; although he’s not a member, Elbaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood have apparently cut some sort of deal. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is now active in 80 countries around the world, is the root of Islamic terrorism today. Their creed is: “God is our objective; the Koran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

Unfortunately, they have been very good at lobbying and many Western patsies, including Bush Administration and Obama Administration people, have fallen for the line that the Muslim Brotherhood is a peaceful group. They have even claimed that somehow their “moderation” has made them the enemies of “extremists” like al Qaeda. The line pushed most often by their patsies is “they aren’t dangerous.” Expect to hear a lot of that until this issue is over.

4. A competing group is called the Kifaya movement, which is supposed to be a group of intellectuals who are demanding “liberal, democracy.” That sounds good, except this group is anti-Semitic and anti-American. They were formed as a protest movement against Israel’s handling of the Palestinians, and they have since protested both Israel and America’s involvement in the Middle East. In 2006, they campaigned to get a million Egyptians to sign a petition demanding that Egypt renounce its peace treaty with Israel.
Ultimately, however, I think none of these groups matter. The army will decide who runs the country. The problem with the Army is their increasingly horrible relations with the US. Because of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the United States has been providing billions of dollars in aid each year to Egypt and the Egyptian military. As a matter of official policy, the American and Egyptian militaries are very friendly and work together on most issues. However, as was revealed in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, the reality is quite different. Neither military trusts the other and the Egyptians have refused American entreaties to reform, clean up corruption, and refocus on fighting terrorism. Instead, the Egyptian military continues to consider Israel its primary enemy, and joint operations and contacts between the Egyptians and the Americans have all but stopped.

4. Why Think The Army Will Win?. Right now we are seeing all kinds of signs the Army is planning to replace Mubarak. First, when the protests began, the Army let the police be overwhelmed. They did not step in to stop the looting or killing initially. This, smartly, turned the public against both the protestors (who even looted museums) and the police, and shook Mubarak’s regime. When Mubarak called out the secret police, and they began shooting at protestors, the Army sent tanks to stand between the two groups, which again makes them public heroes. When the violence finally died down, the Army came out in force, but has refused to suppress the crowds or enforce a curfew. This puts the Army firmly in the position of being the only institution that appears to have remained neutral, pro-public and nonviolent. That gives the Army credibility, which carries with it the ability to play kingmaker, especially since the Army holds all the levers of power in the country.

If I’m reading this correctly, look for the Army to replace Mubarak sometime this week, probably with a national government of reconciliation, which is likely to be little more than a puppet government. I think the model being pursued here is that of the Turkish governments of the 1950s - 1980s. If I’m right, this may actually turn out to be a good thing, provided they (1) gain sufficient popular support to keep their legitimacy, (2) they manage to keep the Islamic fundamentalists from gaining influence, and (3) they work to reform the country to make it more stable and democratic.

5. American Involvement. Finally, here’s our involvement. When this first happened, there didn’t appear to be an American link, except that we’ve been pouring money into Egypt since the 1970s. However, the other day a handful of diplomatic cables were released by Wikileaks which show the US State Department discussing a plan with dissidents in 2008 to throw out the Mubarak government in 2011. There is no evidence yet that the US took any steps in that regard, except lobbying Mubarak to release dissidents from prison. But if more comes to light, this could put us very deeply into this.

And if this is true, it’s highly stupid to start a revolution without a plan to put something better in place, which we clearly don’t have.

Obama’s role in all of this is somewhat suspect. When the crisis hit, Obama tried to walk the line between supporting both sides. But as it became clearer the protestors are likely to win, Obama’s people started putting out word that Obama was instrumental in causing this -- something for which there is no evidence. Hillary Clinton has now all but called for the removal of Mubarak, long after it’s clear he will be leaving -- though the "all but" part has angered Elbaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately, Obama's actions seems like front-running now and may be too little too late, no matter who ultimately prevails.

Also, politically, Obama stands to gain nothing but grief no matter how this turns out -- so don't expect him to show a lot of nerve. Americans care little for overseas events and care even less for this part of the world. Thus, even if Egypt turns out rainbows and unicorns, this is unlikely to impress American voters. But if things turn ugly, people will remember Obama’s newest claims of all-but causing this revolution.



T_Rav said...

Andrew, that's a pretty good synopsis of everything in Egypt. I will say that I haven't given Obama much grief for this up to now, because what can you really do? It would hardly look good for him to be seen supporting someone who is clearly a dictator; and yet popular revolutions in Muslim countries have a bad history, to put it mildly.

I don't know if Mubarak is doomed. In the long run, he certainly is; however, I was expecting to him to be out on Saturday, after word came that his family had fled and the army was starting to side with the protestors. I'm a little surprised that he's made it this long. Either way, if he rides out this storm, he certainly won't make it past September, when elections are coming up. Aside from your possibility of the Army putting someone in power, our best bet may be for the different groups to work out a solution between now and then--although even that's a very big if.

nader paul kucinich gravel mckinney said...

Al-Mihwar TV:
Egyptian General Muhammad Khilf
3 towers detonated with Israeli help
5 dancing Mossad arrested in NYC

Joel Farnham said...


More problems. I doubt this was set up by Obama and gang. My guess is they aren't smart enough to engineer this revolution. It doesn't take away the dangers involved.

If Obama is consistant, he will annoy and irritate the new group into doing what he hates. Create an American friendly country full of negative rights. One may hope.

T_Rav said...

Nader: ????

Writer X said...

Thank you for the summary, Andrew.

It's been interesting watching the Obama administration's reaction to all of this. First, there's a major crisis in the Mideast and Hilary hops the first plane to Haiti. Classic. Biden claims that Mubarak is not a dictator, and then Obama puts out pathetic statements where he claims to have "warned Mubarak." Like, "Hey, everybody look at me! I did my part!" All in all, Obama looks like his weak, unimpressive self, much like he did during the Iranian protests when he all but ignored the protestors, at a time when he could have made a difference. Now he's irrelevant.

Looks like Egypt may get worse before he gets better, if it can get better. I feel sorry for the protestors who just want the basic necessitiies and qualities of a decent peaceful life. There are so many radicals in that part of the world that the odds aren't in their favor.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Thanks. It's possible he will stay, but I doubt it. I think the army has worked hard to gain popular approval, and the public wants him gone -- almost unanimously. For the army to now back him would give away the good PR they've worked to keep. I think they are waiting for things to calm down, and will then step in to "mediate". At that point, they'll create a relatively toothless government to take Mubarak's place, with the understanding that the army will become independent in the Turkish tradition. At least, that's what I would expect.

As for Obama, he is in a difficult spot, there's no doubt about that. BUT he's making it worse for himself. He either needs to stand back and let events happen, or get in there and drive events, or pick a winner and throw them support. He's tried to be a little bit pregnant by playing all three courses, and even now he won't come straight out and pick a single course. All that does is put our fingerprints into the crime scene, making everyone think we were supporting the other guy. That's a very poor choice.

AndrewPrice said...

Dear Nader,

Thank you for demonstrating once again why Americans should never trust anything that comes out of the mouths of Islam. No matter what events occur, you run out like lying little children to spread anti-Semitic bullshit.

Your history is pathetic. Your governments are pathetic. Your culture is pathetic. Your religion is a known lie. And to hide the shame of this, you whine and whine and whine to make yourselves victims of secret Jewish conspiracies rather than your own stupidity and childishness.

You are sad little trolls.

Be gone.

CrispyRice said...

Thanks for the synopsis, Andrew. I guess I'm a typical American, but I don't much about the (deeply involved and complex) history of the Middle East. (I pay more attention to some other parts of the world and can't watch everything.) Anyway, when something like this happens, I see all the current news, but have little idea how they got there or what factors are in play. Your article is helpful.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I see no evidence that Obama set this up. The past few years have seen a lot of successful popular uprisings -- successful in collapsing regimes at least. When Tunisia when down, that sparked this (and the ones coming up in Yemen, Jordan and Algeria).

I think Obama has been playing both sides long before this happened by talking to dissidents and supporting Mubarak. But he's never had a plan to do anything substantial. Now that this has all blown up, he's going to try to spin his minor past actions into some bold policy intended to bring about this result. But I doubt anyone will believe it, because revolutions are about results, not vague promises.

Right now, the danger he runs is that he will end up angering whoever wins this because each side thinks he's been supporting the other.

Notawonk said...

ok, just the title cracked me up and now i can't get the song out of my head. THANKS!

i wrote about the kill switch today, but this is relevant, so LINK'D! thanks for the primer, as usual i learned something.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X,

That's a very accurate assessment of Team Obama's action-hero response. Run around like idiots avoiding the issue while Biden says the wrong things. Then Obama runs out and pretends he knew it all along.

I think the biggest danger in Obama's response is that he's making each side feel that he's supporting the other. You can see where both sides are demanding that he finally speak out on their behalf.

And he's a fool if he thinks the public over there doesn't think he supports Mubarak. All the articles I've seen make mention of "American built tanks" and American support. And several of the protestors are claiming Obama is keeping Mubarak "on life support."

I feel sorry for the people too, but they are going to get poorly treated unless they take it on themselves to get out there and choose their own course. If they let the "activists" be the leaders of the revolution, they are going to trade one group of thugs for another.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, You're welcome. Everyone says they want the news to carry more foreign affairs type information, but few Americans actually watch it. We only seem to care about foreign policy when it involves American troops.

You're right about the history of the Middle East. It's got a strange and tortuous course that would be impossible to go into in great depth here, but sometimes, a synopsis is all we need.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Patti! I thought the title was appropriate! LOL!

Yeah, the kill switch is an issue that should concern people everywhere, but it's not a big deal, right? It would only be used for the power of good, right? It would never be used to frustrate the will of the people?

I'll check out your article in a moment.... :-)

Unknown said...

I'm old enough to remember the last major powers conflict over the Suez Canal. It was a highly strange situation with the US and the Soviet Union on one side and France and England on the other. Well, I never said that life wasn't interesting. And in one form or another, history tends to repeat itself when "leaders" don't learn their lessons.

I tend to agree that from what I've seen so far, the military will be the final arbiter in this mess. One sure thing--Mubarak has to go, one way or the other.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it's greatest mistakes. This draws comparisons to our failed handling of post-Soviet Eastern Europe where we declared "one man, one vote, one time" to be legitimate exercises in democracy (substituting militant Islam for Soviet oppression), and it draws comparisons to our handling of Vietnam, where we shoved out our own bad guy only to replace him with an incompetent bad guy.

You would think that after the past couple years of revolutions in Lebanon, the Ukraine, and a dozen other similar backwaters, that we would be prepared for something like this with a solid plan -- especially since we knew Mubarak was going to die at some point (he's getting older and more frail all the time).

What strikes me is how Obama seems determined to cheer generalities from the sidelines without really having a clue of what he should happen next. Either shut up and take your chances that things turn out well (bad idea) or pick a side and start helping them, OR even better offer to mediate? Get in there and help lead them to where we want them.

Ed said...

Great breakdown and excellent comments. I agree completely that the Egyptians need to get involved if they want this turn out right. If they stand back and let their "leaders" handle this, they aren't going to like what happens. The "leaders" of these things never have the interests of the public at heart.

I saw at Drudge that the Muslim Brotherhood and ElBaradei have made an agreement to form a joint government, but the people are concerned that he's weak. What do you think about that?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I think there is a lot to that. Elbaradei reminds me a lot of the pro-democracy leaders in Eastern Europe when the Soviets installed communism. They participated in the elections in good faith and never once worried that the people they were forming coalitions with (the communists) weren't acting in good faith.

So they let these people into the governments and gave them jobs (Ministry of Information, Ministry of Police) which gave them the very power they needed to toss out the democrats and impose communism. They also gave the communists political cover because they let the communists claim that fair elections took place and that the people had voted them into power. The truth was something very different.

I suspect there is something similar here. If they get the chance, they will form what appears to be a mostly-secular government with Elbaradei as its titular leader. Then they'll set about remaking the security police and the army. Then they'll start the Islamization, as Elbaradei continues to tell the world that all is good. By the time Elbaradei realizes he's been used, it will be too late.

At least, that's how Eastern Europe worked.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, I would much rather see a military dictatorship (okay, okay, there'll be a civilian "in charge") than a quasi-democratic government run by Elbaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood. Remember, this is the same guy who said that he saw his nuclear inspection assignment in Iran as necessary not so much to stop Ahmanutjob from getting a bomb as to protect them against an Israeli attack. Even if this guy wasn't going to end up controlled by the MB, he would still not be good news for Tel Aviv.

Speaking of which, one of the more interesting subplots in all this (in my opinion) is how Iran will react. On the one hand, I'm sure A-job and the imams are just delighted at the thought of another Islamist regime standing against Israel; on the other hand, their own regime hasn't been especially stable either in the past few years. In fact, I think there were some minor demonstrations in Tehran over the weekend. Any ideas what to expect from that quarter?

(P.S. Lovely takedown of the Jew-hating troll!)

Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks for a wonderful summary, Andrew. The middle east has always been a very difficult foreign policy dilimma for us. While there are not a lot of good options, team Obama has certainly not covered itself in glory. It is interesting to watch the domestic politics on this one since that is what our politicians seem to care about.

There are two central observations I have made about U.S. foreign policy since WWII. The first is the period from 1945-1989 dominated by the cold war with the Soviets. Much of our policy, particularly in SEATO countries, but the middle east as well, operated on the domino principle. We found ourselves in bed with big time human rights violators as long as they were anti-Communist. We have been consistently out propagandized. The countries are often poor or third world with attendant resentment towards our own success.

2) In the Islamic World, it almost always comes back to the Israeli's as our little commenter attested. As long as our policy is to not to help drive the Jews into the sea, we are going to have trouble being friends with a large population of muslims.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Thanks, it seemed only fair to point out that our confused friend has a great many issues! :-)

In terms of Iran, that's a really good question. On the one hand, I think Iran should be very nervous.

When you look at the history of these repressive regimes, they generally seem stable. Even when protestors take to the streets, they've been able to crush them in the past. BUT.... there are moments in history were humanity simply will not be denied. These occur when something that seemed impossible suddenly happens -- like East Germany collapsing, or the British agreeing to leave India. These moments often result in a domino-effect, where the events in the initial domino suddenly light a fire in every other similar country. This then causes one corrupt regime after another to collapse.

The collapse of Tunisia seems to be the first of those dominoes. Egypt appears to be next. If that happens (which would have seemed impossible even a week ago), then look out in all these other countries. Thus, if I were a dictator in Jordan or Yemen or Iran, I would be very nervous that the people were about to rise up and that I couldn't stop them. (Apparently, even China has suppressed coverage of these events.).

So, to that extent at least, there is serious danger here for the Iranians.

On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood has been building ties with Iranian-ersatz army Hezbollah for some time now. So this could well end up with Egypt becoming a client state/ally of Iran, which would thrill the Iranians and make them the new "great power" in the region.

I'm not sure if they are more worried or more excited? Probably a little of both.

What do you think?


AndrewPrice said...


In terms of the army versus Elbaradei, I honestly think the army is preferable. Elbaradei is a patsy at best and an Iranian flunky at worst. I think any government run by him will result in failure and chaos, and I suspect that any government which gives power to the Muslim Brotherhood will quickly devolve into Iran, Jr.

I think a temporary military government could be a good thing here -- if it's done right.

I'm not pathologically opposed to military rule, like the American left claims to be. I think that sometimes, conditions in a country really aren't ripe for democracy. And by that, I mean that there are no institutions in place which can guarantee the rights of the people, and what you are likely to end up with if you suddenly say "let's all vote and then hash it out later" is much worse than something you could achieve with an orderly transition to democracy.

I don't know that Egypt has such institutions after centuries of tyrannical rule? And since there is the strong threat of (1) Islamic fundamentalism or (2) a mentality that breeds strongmen, I think they might be better off with an interim government where the military slowly devolves power to an elected government as the necessary institutions are built.

The key, of course, is that the military must be willing to hand over power. In many instances, that has proven true, but not always.

That's where we could be a lot of help, by acting as the watchman over such a government, which is why Obama probably should be in there trying to mediate.

Joel Farnham said...

I am just going to throw this out. See what you guys think.

Could it be, the dissidents in Iran, the trouble in Egypt and the overthrow in Tunisia are inspired by the successes of the Tea Party here in the United States?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Thanks!

In truth, I think our foreign policy has largely been a disaster for decades.

I don't mind that we sided with the dictators initially -- that's what you found in those parts of the world, and we were looking for allies and stability. BUT once we made them our allies, we should have pushed them hard to reform and change and eventually become functioning democracies.

If we had done that starting in the 1950s, much of the world would be a good deal better off today.

The Middle East to me, is an even bigger problem. Not only have we backed dictators without putting any demands on them, but we've let them make Israel (and us) a scapegoat for their own problems. Massive unemployment? Must be Israel. Poverty? Those darn Israelis again.

Islamic fundamentalism is a direct response to the evil regimes of that region scapegoating Israel and the US to cover up their own incompetence.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would (1) divide these countries up into much smaller, ethnically/religiously homogenous countries -- no more mixing of Shia and Sunni or Kurd and Arab, etc. and (2) push our dictator/kings into making reforms of the kind that China made to create a strong middle class, and then eventually push them to open up political freedoms.

And I would have forbid them from using us or Israel as a scapegoat.

If we had done that, the whole region would be much safer, happier, and economically prosperous. I also think Islamic fundamentalism would be a nonissue.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Having studied history a good deal, it seems clear that certain moments in time are just more "revolutionary" than others. In other words, everything in the world moves along slowly for years and then everyone, everywhere suddenly decides they want change and they jump up and make it happen. We seem to be in one of those moments.

I would not say the Tea Party caused this, but I would say the Tea Party is part of it of the broader picture of popular upheaval -- the Ukraine, (Russian) Georgia, Thailand, Tunisia, Pakistan tossing out Musharef, numerous things in Africa, Europeans tossing out the left en mass, Americans taking to the streets to protest our own government, etc. We seem to be in one of those moments in time where everybody wants more freedom from governments they consider repressive.

What sparked all of this? I honestly don't know.

Unknown said...

Andrew: One quick unrelated comment. The Florida federal court in the 26 state challenge to Obamacare has found the mandate unconstitutional, and what I consider to be at least as important, has found that the lack of a severability clause requires the entire act to be voided. On to the Supreme Court.

Joel Farnham said...


That is GREAT NEWS!!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I just saw that! Cool... as we predicted! ;-)

Let's hope the appellate court agrees with him (they should if they are being legal rather than political), and then the Supremes could end this monster!

I wonder what those "experts" who ran out and said these were frivolous claims are thinking now?

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - whoooo whooo!!!

BevfromNYC said...

One disturbing aspect of the US response is once again, we do not speak with a united voice. Biden came out vehemently in support of Mubarak (He's not a dictator!)even as Obama was walking the fence and Sec't Clinton was publically pressuring Mubarak to resign. Shouldn't everyone, but the President keep their mouths' shut at least to the Press?

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Excellent point! Politics is supposed to stop at the water (though the Democrats have been violating that for decades now), so we often get individual Congresscritters trying to undermine the President's foreign policy.

But to have the President's own team giving three contradictory messages is truly bizarre and really makes us look bad.

I also have to wonder if we coordinated our "policy" with any of the other governments who might be in the line of fire? For example, did Obama speak with Israel, Britain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia about this? Or was he busy trying to sell high speed trains to union audiences?

I really do feel that our foreign policy is rudderless now that Obama has figured out that hope is not enough.

Tennessee Jed said...

I agree with you Bev, at least Government officials. I think there is often a tremendous pressure to react quickly in an age where, if you don't speak immediately, others will sieze the initiative to try and define the story. I have seen Obama react too quickly and too slowly and his administration speak with too many voices. I'm not saying his is the only one to ever do so, but they sure look bad as a result.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - the adminstration was busy with a going away party for Axelrod according to the first few minutes of Rush Limbaugh this afternoon. You have to understand priorities in D.C.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, You're right, I wasn't thinking clearly. It's obviously much more important that Axelrod have a nice send off than it is to work on the fates of millions of people and to prevent chaos in the Middle East.

(Wait... weren't we told Axelrod wasn't really leaving? He's just changing locations?)

My guess is that nobody would take Obama's call. Getting support from Obama is like the kiss of death for politicians all over the world. . . it's better to make him angry.

T_Rav said...

Wow, a lot of deep discussion today! Of all days to be banished to campus for several hours...(grumble)

Anyway, Andrew, I think probably in the short run, Iran's going to let the Egyptians run their own show, in large part because it's not clear how much power the MB is going to wind up with. If Vice-President Suleimann or the army (or both) end up holding the reins for the foreseeable future, they'll probably keep some distance. If the MB/Elbaradei alliance gets out-and-out control, I suspect Iran will probably not do anything blatant right away but engage in a lot of behind-the-scenes shenanigans with them, to see how much they can get away with (which with The One at the controls over here, would be a lot). In the long run, though, I think Iran has done too much to pin Israel down recently (see also Lebanon), and its leaders have gotten far too cocky, for them not to try to make hay out of this situation.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I think you're right. I don't think Iran will send troops or anything that blatant -- unless this becomes a civil war, in which event they would certainly send supplies and "advisors" to their friends.

But do I suspect they will delve into this with gusto in the hopes of pulling off a client-state government. That would be a world-changing moment if they could pull that off. Not only would they effectively surround the Middle East, but they would control the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf. That's a lot of power.

(Don't worry about school, we'll be here if you want to come back later and hit up some of these issues! :-))

T_Rav said...

Also, as for the latter half of your reply, I'm ambivalent on the whole "spreading democracy" or insisting that our allies have democratic governments thing. I tend to agree with you; I believe firmly in the basic equality of men and that all have a certain number of rights. However, we all have vastly different political cultures, so while I certainly would not say that rights apply on one continent and not on another, there are certain natural variations to be expected in how each group constructs its society and government, some of them great enough we might not recognize the resulting states as democratic. It's a conundrum.

Generally, I think we ought to tolerate regimes which are authoritarian in nature and monopolize political power, but which leave the people a wide degree of economic and civil freedom. Think of Diem's South Vietnam: yeah, the guy was undemocratic. He rigged elections Chicago-style; he had more than one of his opponents "done away with." But he kept his hands off the different religions and most businesses, and he rebuilt the infrastructure. In the early '60s, before the war began in earnest, agricultural production had more than quadrupled from a few years before, and construction of schools and roads was booming. It's not unreasonable to think that if events had worked out differently and it had survived, South Vietnam might have turned out much like South Korea: prosperous, stable, and free.

I'm not saying Mubarak's Egypt is like that. An Egyptian Christian immigrant on Fox News last night did say that business and consequently the middle class had boomed under his rule due to privatization, and in reality he was walking a tightrope with the Coptic Church, rather than simply persecuting it outright. How far that's true, I don't know. But if the choice is between authoritarianism and totalitarianism (secular or religious), well, I think we'd have to choose the former, even if the latter has trappings of democracy. Maybe especially if it has trappings of democracy.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I think you and I agree on this. The idea that we can just say "thou shalt become a democracy" and everyone will turn into the US is pure fantasy. There are too many cultural differences for that to happen.

But one thing that has proven true is that everybody ultimately wants a large amount of freedom (though exactly how much and what type differs), and the more prosperous AND free (combined) a society is, the more stable it is. So our goal should be to generate prosperity and freedom. Democracy usually accompanies that combination, but democracy may not always be the best way to get there.

The problem with non-democratic plans for achieving prosperity and freedom is that the powers that be often freak out when the population starts exercising those freedoms. Thus, it takes a pretty special leader to be a "Benign Despot." Most just end up being despots with some benign trappings until they panic about losing the despot part.

What all of this translates into, in my mind, is that our policy should not be to automatically demand full democracy, nor should we support just any benign appearing despot (we shouldn't be supporting the non-benign type at all). What we should be doing is encouraging people to form whatever governments will bring prosperity and freedom. And then we should coax them to move as quickly as culturally reasonable to an ever more democratic form of government.

By "democratic" I mean a government that respects all of it's people rights (rule of law) and which gives people a voice in their government. And by "culturally reasonable" I mean the point where the culture has become such that the democracy would be self-sustaining. In other words, the point where an Islamic group or a fasco-socialist group or any other power hungry group could not use the democracy to take over and kill off the democracy so they could take away the public's rights.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, very true, and in this age of instant communication and popular politics, that kind of authoritarian regime may no longer even be possible, at least in the long term. Especially not when media stooges such as NBC (which is lionizing the protestors as I write this) are obviously siding against them.

As for Iran, I think a good indicator of their future relations with Egypt is the tone the protests themselves take. So far, there hasn't been much of an anti-American or even anti-Semitic--whoops, I meant anti-Israeli--vibe among the demonstrators, for which we can all be duly grateful. On the other hand, a recent poll from (I have no idea how trustworthy it is) says that, among other things, 30% of Egyptians support Hezbollah, 49% support Hamas, and 84% favor the death penalty for apostate Muslims. Furthermore, according to a BBC World survey last year, Israel has an approval rating in the country of exactly 3 percent. None of this means Egypt is destined for an Islamist regime, of course, but it's not very reassuring.

Oh, and just so we don't run out of things to worry about, Neil Cavuto quoted the head of Shell Oil this afternoon as saying that in regard to oil prices, if things turn really sour and access through the Suez Canal gets cut off, "all bets are off." Great.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Yeah, control of the Suez Canal is very important for world trade, and particularly oil. I think they could eventually go around Africa, but that seems to be a huge problem at the moment and would probably require more ships.

What's interesting though, is that we get most of our oil from Mexico and Canada, so we really shouldn't face much of a problem from this, except that it's a commodity. And when getting oil to Europe becomes a lot harder, expect that our market will follow -- whether it's justified or not.

Have you noticed by the way that the media doesn't seem to care that gas is more expensive today than it was under Bush. . . when it was an outrage?

On the media, you're right. They will always try to lionize what they view to be popular movements because they want to be involved in changing the world, and they never ask themselves if they are helping or if they are working to enslave the world?

So what you get will be journalists reflexively attacking any government or coup that doesn't promise a total upheaval of society (unless of course the country is a happy socialist country, then they're upset at the outsider-inspired coup attempt). Thus, the beat this drumbeat of "the government must give power to the people." This will, in turn, spur on leftist politicians to whine about sanctions and the such, which will cause them to undermine any attempt at achieving stability and trying to improve the situation unless it results in a "people's government." And those usually turn out to be pretty murderous.

DUQ said...

Wow! Excellent discussion. I don't have much to add, except at least they seem peaceful, that's a good sign.

@T-Rav, I think Israel polls around 3% across the region, which is not surprising when you realize that they've been blaming everything bad that happens on the Israelis.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, that's just part of their charm. And while I agree that loss of the Suez wouldn't affect our oil supply that much, it would create a lot more instability--not that there are a lot of calm nerves right now. Oil shot up nearly $3 a barrel today, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it break a hundred in a week or two, depending on how all this plays out.

DUQ, overall in the Middle East, yeah 3 percent support is about what you'd expect. But Egypt has a 10-20% Coptic minority, which means that support for Israel is also abysmally low among that group and virtually nonexistent among everyone else. Equally troubling are the other numbers, which indicate a broad support for radical Islam in a country whose government has been more moderate on the issue--how far that's a factor here, I have no idea. But it doesn't bode well.

StanH said...

We’ll see, I agree that it will be the military that sorts this out, I pray they keep a secular government, that doesn’t look good in that regard.

Great news on healthcare woo-hoo…

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Peaceful is actually a very good sign. That tends to mean more people are involved, and that usually translates into more representative and less fringe. The question though, is who will be sitting at the negotiating table because that's where the distribution of power will be resolved?

In terms of the 3%, I don't put a lot of faith in polls except as general indicators. And a 3% rating is pretty clear that they see Israel as the boogeyman, which doesn't surprise me given the way Middle Eastern government works (or don't work).

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, "Part of their charm" LOL! Sadly, that doesn't seem to discourage people from longing for them nonetheless. I guess they always assume it will be the other guy who gets the all-expenses-paid trip to the death camp.

Yeah, that would indicate that even the Coptics don't like the Israelis. That doesn't surprise me though. If all you heard day in and day out was that you are unemployed because Mexican spies were wiping out companies, killing American doctors, stealing our money, killing our leaders, destroying out banks and currency, and kidnapping and torturing Americans -- and you have no way to find out that none of this was true, you would probably begin to really hate Mexico as well.

Keep in mind that Egypt doesn't really have a free press of any sort, and large numbers of people always believe what the authorities tell them, no matter how obviously false.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Excellent news, interesting decision too -- I'm working on an article about for tomorrow afternoon.

I guess we'll see what the military ultimately decides. It's not in their interests to let the Islamists take over, but they may feel that's for the best?

One encouraging sign is that the military seems to be treating the public as a whole -- rather than treating one group better than another for example. But until it all settles down, we just won't know.

Dane said...

Obama's a fool.

Chris Taus said...

What usually happens after a revolution is a provisional regime until that time when societal forces re-align themselves and the most powerful contender emerges. Should El Baradei become President, he will surely be just a transitional figure.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Superb sypnopsos Andrew!

I think it's gonna get a lot worse in Egypt, especially after reading

Here's a few of the recent headlines:

Egypt: Armed gangs attack jails, free hundreds of Islamic jihadists
(Not as peaceful as the msm would have us believe)

Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood leader: "Obama must understand that the people have woken up and are ready to unseat the tyrant leaders who remained in power because of U.S. backing"

Tunisia: Thousands greet return of "Islamist" leader

Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas collaborating, seeking to increase their roles in Egypt

Muslim Brotherhood leader: Prepare for war with Israel
(The all purpose scapegoat of Islam)

ElBaradei: Muslim Brotherhood like U.S. evangelicals and orthodox Jews in Jerusalem
(Yeah, sure they are)

Shocker: Muslim Brotherhood "mutes its religious message" during protests
(They wanna appear moderate of course)

Now, it's possible the army will take over, but how secularized they keep things depend on how many Islamic fundamentalists are in the army.

Turkey has been moving away from the secular to sharia and I would expect Egypt to do the same, even under armed forces rule.

Needless to say, if the Muslim Brotherhood take over it's game ovcer man. Sharia law and back to the middle ages for Egypt.

There have been lots of attacks on the Copt Christians lately and their leader is urging them to stay out of this completely. Let's face it, they don't have a voice there and they'll be lucky if they are tolerated as dhimmis which they practically are anyway.

Unfortunately, any democracy in Islamic countries mostly result in the adoption of Sharia, and they never recognize the right's of non muslims, while the rights of women are diminished greatly...if they get rights at all.

We saw how democracy worked for the Palestinians.
It's basically Islamic mob rule over there and they have no problem electing terrorists as their leaders.

I do believe there are more dissident voices in Egypt calling for equality for all ands a republic form of democracy that represents all citizens.

A brief perusal of,,, and many other sites that keep track of what jihadists are doing will tell you what happens to them when they speak out, even before these riots.

In any sense it doesn't look good. I'll be shocked but pleasantly surprised if the armed forces support a secular government in Egypt.

Great comments today. I learnt a lot. :^)

T_Rav said...

Looks like the mega-protest in Cairo is really rolling. There's already 250,000+, and they're spilling out onto the side streets and the bridges.

Interestingly, King Abdullah of Jordan has just sacked the entire government and called for the formation of a new one, which looks like an attempt to get ahead of the MB before protests there escalate. Oh, and apparently Israel, according to the Daily Telegraph, has just allowed Egyptian troops into the Sinai for the first time since the '70s. I think that's a bad move. Any sign of support for the Mubarak regime by Israel--actually, anything that might be construed as interference at all--is probably going to backfire at this point. Israel's best course right now, in my opinion, is not to make any move publicly, while privately trying to get some kind of deal with the incoming government, when the time comes.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


That does seem to be what Abdullah is doing. Probably a smart move at this point.

IRT Israel: I think they are anticipating the MB will take over (or take over by proxy), and if that happens it doesn't matter what they do.
Thus it makes sense to support Mubarak.

Even if the Army takes over there is a lot of hatred towards
Israel by most Egyptians and the Army will have to do something to appease that hatred.

So it appears to me that backing Mubarak is their only choice, although there's little chance he will retain power.

AndrewPrice said...

Dane, I can't say I disagree.

AndrewPrice said...

Chris, I think you're absolutely right. Most revolutions end up with one group replacing another as the power group. And usually, the government they initially agreed to while they were consolidating their new power usually ends up becoming a figurehead government very quickly.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Definitely great comments today. We've got some good people who always add a lot to the debate!

In terms of our media, they are (and always have been) dupes. These are the same people who worshiped Mussolini because he looked snappy in the uniform and he made the trains run on time. They always take things at face value from the wrong people and then question everything said by the good guys. So I'm not surprised they would buy the line that the Muslim Brotherhood has become non-religious and would not report on Islamic violence.

Israel is always the scapegoat in these things, but their spite is not going to be any comfort to these people if they do go the way of Iran of Afghanistan.

In terms of democracy and the Arab countries, I see a lot of liberal articles these days wringing their hands about "why doesn't democracy work?" They seem to be stumped. But it's pretty clear to the rest of us -- it's their culture.

First, Arab culture more than any other is premised on might makes right -- you see that in their fairy tales way back. Secondly, Islam is premised on the idea of good and bad people and that rights and dignity are different for the two groups. Third, Islam believes in the forced indoctrination of outsiders. Each of those principles run completely counter to the idea of democracy, which views citizens as equal. So it's no surprise that democracy doesn't work over there.

In the end, I'm actually feeling more positive today than I was the other day. I think the Army has played it very well to be accepted as the powerbroker.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Thanks for the update!

I think the numbers are the best sign yet. The more people who join, the less power the fringe has to steal the process -- even when the fringe is as large at the MB.

I agree about Israel -- any sign of support for anyone would all but kill them. It would be like an endorsement from Satan. In fact, it might be a good idea for them to suggest (through off the record lies) that "we're ok with the Muslim Brotherhood, we've worked with them in the recent past and they will be friends of Israel." That might neuter the MB at a critical time? But of course, that's a gamble.

The Jordan thing is a gamble too. That could well be the spark that triggers the protests. But it might also be a good way to save things because people may be inclined to give the new government a chance -- at least as long as the new government seems like a real reform government.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, That may be true about Israel and Mubarak, he may be their best/only option. Still, any support by Israel for anyone can be the kiss of death right now. But we'll see. The Israelis tend to know what they're doing!

Ed said...

I like how they call this "tens of thousands" in the AP. That's the same number they use for a million Tea Party people or five leftists and a dog.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


Well, the protesters have been blaming Israel and the US from the beginning for supporting Mubarak so it really makes no difference.
They will blame Israel regardless, and as we have seen countless times before they don't need evidence to get the crowds riled up over there.

At least Nentanyahu is showing leadership and actually doing something...unlike Obama.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Sheesh! The protesters are ripping heads off of the museum mummies.
Can't say I'm shocked but I thought they might wait awhile before destroying Egyptian art.
I wonder if the pyramids will survive?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It's all part of the game. You need to hide the lack of popular support for the left, so that soon becomes reflexive.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, That's a good point. Israel will take the blame no matter what. I still can't see Mubarak surviving this though. I don't see where he will get his support from -- except the secret police, and I'm not sure that's enough?

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I saw that the other day about the mummies. It's amazing isn't it? At least, a group of people eventually came to the museums and start guarded them.

In terms of the pyramids, it's easy to say that of course they would survive. But then you think back on the Taliban who went around the country destroying huge historic sites because they were inconsistent with their twisted version of Islam. So, in truth, I don't think you can assume anything is safe.

That's truly sad.

NadePaulKuciGravMcKi said...

Andrew Price, who engineered 9/11 to sell hatred of Islam for 10 years?

AndrewPrice said...

NadePaulKuciGravMcKi, Who engineered 9/11? I don't know? Your mom?

Oh wait, that's right, it was Osama bin Laden who admitted it, you dipshit.

Sorry about the confusion between Osama and your mom, but they do look alike.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, don't be too hard on what's-his-face. That's what happens when you don't leave your parents' basement often enough.

On a more relevant note, I'm hopeful that the Army will be able to tamp things down. I think its statement yesterday--that it would basically endorse the protests as long as they remained nonviolent--played very well. Not only was it probably in large part responsible for keeping things from getting out of hand today, it also put Mubarak under the gun. He's already announced he won't run for re-election in September, but I don't believe he can just leave at that. This is going to continue until he's gone, and I strongly suspect that will happen sometime this week.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I agree entirely. I thought that statement by the army was brilliant on many levels. It made violence unacceptable, but it also made it clear that the public would ultimately win. So the army is everybody's good guy. That keeps the army in the position of being the sole institution that has the power to decide the outcome.

I agree with you that Mubarak will ultimately need to agree to quit sooner rather than waiting for the election. But his announcement does give everyone time to try to figure out what happens next.

I'm really quite optimistic suddenly that things are headed in the right direction.

Interestingly, they are now blasting Obama. Gee, imagine that? And team Obama still can't get their policy straight. Biden said today that Mubarak needs to go, but Obama then said that we aren't advocating any particular outcome. It's like the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

Don't worry about the troll, he know the real truth about the world (not the made up truth the rest of us believe), and that makes him impervious to criticism. . . and reality.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, like you I'm feeling a bit more optimistic about all this. Not only does the Army appear to be preserving some sanity, but it appears there's also been some pushback against ElBaradei as the next president, both by the protestors and by the MB. (Sidebar: NBC quoted ElBaradei tonight as saying that Mubarak was a "dead man walking." I hereby denounce ElBaradei for his violent rhetoric, and NBC for repeating it.) Attention appears to be moving towards a general by the name of Enan, who is being described as genuinely liberal--well, as liberal as you can get in the Middle East, but hey that's something.

On the flip side, though, I may have spoken too soon about today's protests being peaceful: there are reports circulating that heavy street fighting is breaking out in Alexandria, which could be tension boiling over, Mubarak's police trying to stir things up, or...something else. So perhaps "cautiously optimistic" is the proper choice of words here, emphasis on "cautiously."

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, The hate speech issue didn't work, so it's passe again.

It's interesting that they are now talking about a general. I know nothing about him, but it sounds like an excellent solution if he truly is someone who wants to liberalize the country (in the classical sense). But if he's just another strongman, then this would probably not be a good thing in the long run.

Of course, if this general is a liberalizer, then we'll know all we need to know about the MB soon. If they're telling the truth about wanting to create a freer country, then they will go along. But if they're lying (as I suspect), then they'll try to disrupt things.

I wonder how big the violence is? If it's just a hand full of troublemakers, then it's not a big deal. But if it's something bigger, then it could be the start of something like a civil war. But if that's the case, I don't see any evidence of it spreading.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


Here's a firsthand look at the protests/riots via American Thinker that also fills in all the "holes" the MSM didn't report and gives a good, general overview of the history of this regime and what has happened politically and economically since.

The "reporting" by the MSM during these events was not only horrible, but also dispicable since many of these so-called "journalists" reported conjecture and wild guesses as facts. I'm sorry to say that Fox was only marginally better.
I understand they wanna keep their reporting crews as safe as possible so they were bound to miss a lot of info, but that doesn't excuse not verifying the "facts" they were reporting.

I know a lot of folks consider Fox to be conservative but I consider them to be populist, which is better than the MSM, and I appreciate that, but they do make some big blunders sometimes and it's wise to verify what Fox reports.
Some are obviously better than others at Fox such as Neil Cavuto, buyt then there's Geraldo, who nobody should listen to, lol.

Anyways, kinda long but a fascinating read.

The Story Of The Egyption Revolution

BTW, I can't verify everything this guy says, but a lot of it can be verified and the rest sure rings true to me, based on other non-jihadist/non-leftist accounts I have read.

I sure learned a lot from your posts and the comments here. Thanks Andrew and company! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Thanks to you for participating! It has been an interesting discussion!

In terms of Fox, they are usually better than the others, but not by much. They still get all their stories from the AP and just add their own spin. What they need to do is to start developing their own news sources.

FYI, I saw this morning that violence has been spreading. They are saying this is Mubarak supporters, but I don't know who that would really be? In any event, this could be an ugly turn.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, those "Mubarak supporters" are almost certainly state police released into the crowd to stir up trouble. That's easily the most plausible explanation. What's really worrisome to me is that the army basically stood by and remained neutral while the two sides went at it, so now for the first time they're catching some serious flak from the protestors. Not good.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Yeah, that's a bad development. The worse development was the rampant anti-Americanism today. There were a lot of protestors blaming America and attacking foreign reporters. That's a bad sign. But we'll see, these things never go smoothly and it's hard to say that one day or a few events represent any particular change.

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