I’m back to being boring again. I was more exciting a couple of months ago. When I was writing about the emotional topics like the GM bailout and gay marriage, the popularity of this blog (measured in website hits) was up 50%. Now that I am writing about things like Syria and Gorbachev, my popularity has come back to earth.
But, doesn’t all the intrigue in the Middle East – particularly Egypt – sound like a potential Showtime series like The Tudors? You have to admit that Henry VIII had nothing on these guys. Murder, treachery, deceit… it’s all there.
Let’s start with deceit. You probably saw the news a couple of weeks ago. Senators Graham and McCain have declared to the press that there has been a coup in Egypt. Really?
There was a coup. But, it took place in 1952 when General Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the elected government of Egypt. His successors were two other Generals – Sadat and Mubarak. The military has been in charge throughout.
What about the Arab Spring? Wasn’t Mubarak (and, therefore, the military) overthrown?
Okay, here’s a reality test for you. Do you really think that, in a country of 85 Million people, 200,000 protestors armed with smartphones could topple the Egyptian military leader Mubarak? The military sat on the sidelines allowing the press to create the myth of the Arab Spring. Sounds like treachery to me.
That leads to a few other questions.
Why are McCain and Graham calling this a coup? They are both long-time members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Don’t they know the truth?
Well, it could be that they would like to cut off military and other financial aid to Egypt. And, they know that Congressional rules require that aid be cutoff in the event of a coup. So, to get their way, they have planted a seed with the media that they hope will create pressure on the Obama administration to cut off aid.
So, if the military were in charge in the person of Mubarak, why would they sit idly by while the mob in Tahrir Square demanded his removal?
Geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor has provided an answer. There was a years long push for Mubarak’s son, Gamal, to succeed his father on the throne. Stratfor asserts that the military didn’t want the western educated young son of the president to run the country. To understand why you have to understand how the Generals get rich. Egyptian banks lend money to the top military officers through businesses that never make money. The officers never pay back the loan. The money ends up in their pockets.
Gamal Mubarak threatened to reform the system on which the Generals relied to get rich. So, the Mubaraks had to go.
By permitting free elections, the Generals ended up with the Muslim Brotherhood running the show. Big mistake! Now we have mobs in the streets, Muslims attacking Christian churches, military repression and so on. Murder on a grand scale.
Like I said… treachery, murder, deceit! Can’t you see a new Showtime series in all that? The only thing missing is the sex and Hollywood always writes that in.
But, I am making light of a bad situation that has cost many lives. The larger strategic issue is what US policy should be. Should we support the Egyptian military? The Muslim Brotherhood? The Syrian uprising?
There is no clear doctrine on which our allies can rely and upon which we can base sound judgments. President Obama has declared the war on terrorism over. So, on what principles should our foreign policy be based? No answer from the White House!
Writing in the New York Times, Georgetown University international affairs Professor Charles Kupchan offers a possible framework. Democratic elections sound great but they should not be the first step, he says. In the absence of the rule of law, nations and their people become subject to the poor judgment of a freely elected dictator. Good governance relies on liberal institutions of government, an independent judiciary and individual freedom.
Institutional traditions are not created overnight and Professor Kupchan doesn’t suggest they should or will. “The US should do what it can to shepherd the arrival of liberal democracy in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, “ he says. “But the best way to do that is to go slow and help the region’s states build functioning and responsible governments. Democracy can wait.”
Sounds like a great blueprint for American foreign policy. The only question is…
WHO WILL LEAD?