Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Cradle Of Civilization

There was a possibility that the Egyptian military could have exercised a power similar to the Turkish military.

That possibility no longer exists.

One way the Turkish military was held responsible was by NATO.  That interconnectivity with the West helped restrain them from firing into crowds and the like.  But the argument that we need more interconnectivity now won't work.  It's too late.

That the Egyptian military tortured people under Mubarak is hardly surprising, and an institution that for years has acted like that is not going to be able to change its mindset easily.

If anything it looks like the Arab Spring caught the US military unprepared, because we had not tried to channel friendly Arab militaries into potential benign actors.  After the outcry over the School of the Americas in the '80s, I think we made some efforts to stop training death squads and start training the military to respect civil institutions.  For whatever reason, the end of the Cold War allowed democracy to grow in Latin America.

That result looks stillborn in Egypt.

Which is not to say the long term outlook is impossible, but part of the problem is that we have now politicized everything.

Lindsay Graham and John McCain went to Egypt and - according to sources within the Egyptian military, so take it with a boulder of salt - boxed the military in.  And all the talk of Obama being a Muslim sleeper agent means that Fox News is going to be howling with new Benghazis.

If Obama stands up to the army, he's in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.  If he doesn't take action against the army, he tacitly approves killing civilians.  And if you think Fox is the capital of Crazytown on this, I can guarantee you that the Egyptians have and will embrace conspiracy theories far more bizarre than even Steve King (R-Douchebag) can come up with.

This - I would argue - is why there is very little upside to being a global hegemon.

The primary reason to keep paying off the Egyptian military is to keep the peace with Israel.  And so the second lesson is, we need to stop letting Israel dictate our foreign policy.

I have no idea what our proper course should be in Egypt.  Which is why doing nothing is probably the only smart play.  This will unleash howls from the neo-conservatives who spend every waking moment measuring America's dick against phalluses all over the world.

There is a hoary, hide-bound mental atrophy at the root of neo-conservatism that spends every day seeing the world as a zero-sum contest.  This was the Cold War way of dealing with the world, and that approach had its merits (the Korean War) and its deficits (the Korean War).

In a complex, multi-polar world zero-sum doesn't make sense.  If we withdraw from Egyptian affairs, the Russians or Chinese could move in.  But would this weaken us?  What advantages do we get from our involvement in Egyptian affairs?  Peace for Israel?  Ayman al-Zawahiri?  And whatever Russia might gain from selling arms to Egypt it gets hit by aggravating Islamists within and without Russia.

The moment to do something good in Egypt was probably in 2001, but our need for rendition sites, our need for allies against Saddam Hussein all made that impossible given the political landscape here.  And since the Bush Administration was full of zero-sum neo-cons, they saw Egypt as a vassal state, not an ally.  A pawn in the GWOT.

Doing almost nothing is unacceptable.  But it's probably the best thing that can be done.

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