Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sowing the Wind in Egypt

The general consensus this morning among the conservative commentators on Fox News Sunday ran counter to what we said here yesterday as soon as we learned that the Obama Administration is pushing for Mubarak to leave power in Egypt. Events today have shown those commentators to be far too optimistic and too kind to the Administration. Hillary Clinton made it clear this morning that the Administration not only wanted Mubarak out of power but that it had wanted him gone for some time; that statement, coupled with Vice President Biden's confident support for Mubarak just the other day, leads one to believe that the Administration has not until the past twenty-four hours coalesced around a response--which is worrisome in itself--and that its response is precisely the wrong one.

The Administration should be working to keep Mubarak in power and then, when things stabalize, press him to enact reforms slowly and surely. The current policy of encouraging him to leave will contribute to too rapid a change in Egypt without winning us any friends, since the demagogues that will surely attempt to fill the vaccum will try to gain power by attacking the United States anyway. It is axiomatic, from Syria to Iraq to Cuba to Venezuela: if one wants public prominence quickly, if one is in power and wishes to stay there, blame the United States for all problems and whip up sentiment against her. For this reason, TMH says again that the worst thing that can happen in Egypt at the moment is for Mubarak to leave power.

Now there is talk of the Muslim Brotherhood--whom we were told by the pundits this morning on Fox News Sunday were probably not going to be able to come to power--forming a transitional government now that (as everyone thinks) Mubarak is on his way out. Mubarak is no democrat, but he holds power for the old-fashioned motive of person gain; when the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, it will hold power for rigidly ideological reasons. It will be on a mission from God, and for that reason, it will command the support of all the most strident elements in Egypt and beyond.

Much as I respect the commentators who spoke this morning, I fear that they are very wrong. I fear that the Administration's response is made fully in the knowledge that Egypt is not likely to bloom into a democracy (if so, why not celebrate President Bush's achievement in Iraq?) but may become another strict Muslim regime. Perhaps the Administration wishes to appease the forces arrayed against the liberal Western democracies, much as Jimmy Carter tried to appease the Soviets by never really doing much in response to their expansionism in the late 1970s.

Not only did such a foreign policy weaken the United States and her allies, it also led to the terrible suffering of many in nations whose fall to communism went unopposed (if not roundly encouraged: see Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). If the Muslim Brotherhood should come to power in Egypt in part because President Obama has been too eager once again to bow to the radical mullahs east of Suez, we will have helped to condemn millions more to the type of life that Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes so tellingly about in her two memoirs.

Another example from the late 1970s that we would do well to heed is that of Jeane Kirkpatrick. It was she who wrote in her landmark essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards" that traditional totalitarian regimes rarely if ever reform themselves, while authoritarian regimes sometimes do. Hence Castro's Cuba is still a totalitarian hellhole, while Gen. Pinochet allowed during the 1980s the reforms that allowed Chile to become the most viable democracy and economy in Latin America (so free, in fact, that the Chilean courts have now announced that they will hold an inquiry into the death of the Communist Chilean President Salvador Allende, whom Pinochet overthrew in 1973).

If Kirkpatrick was right, it should give us pause: it should make us wonder whether it wouldn't in the long run be much easier for us--and much better for the people of Egypt--if we had an ally of the old, traditionally corrupt variety to work with in Cairo than a new ideologically rigid government. We might well be able to work with Mubarak, particularly if we have this week's unrest to point to as a powerful argument for reform. What leverage the Great Satan will have with the true believers who will condemn us as infidels and friends of the Zionists is anybody's guess.

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