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Belmont Club

The Duel of the Nile

August 14th, 2013 - 4:30 pm

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have been killed in Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military continue to struggle for control of the country.  The Brotherhood is angry that America isn’t backing its ‘democratic rule’ while the military is probably angry at the unleashing of the Brotherhood in the first place. Disappointment abounds. “The US has lost the Islamists, Egyptian society and the military,” Geneive Abdo, a Stimson Center fellow who monitors Egypt says. That kind of makes you wonder who’s left on the American side.

But the Washington Post thinks the administration can win the Islamists back. Nothing is apparently beyond the ability of the Obama administration. Not even the ability to make enemies of everyone, a feat which formerly seemed beyond the capacity of any mortal man.  The WaPo warns in an editorial: “the further use of force against the Muslim Brotherhood will lead to the immediate suspension of U.S.-Egyptian military cooperation.” I predict that if Egypt complies and reinstates Morsi the next WaPo editorial will read,  ”the further use of force by the Muslim Brotherhood against the military will lead to the immediate suspension of U.S.-Egyptian  cooperation.”

Never mind: the rules are apparently whatever happens it’s always America’s fault. Were it not for the gravity of the situation it would bring to mind those Three Stooges skits where Moe hits Larry and Larry hits … Curly.

The New York Times thinks the open violence between factions in Egypt “may be an ill-omen for the broader region.” It explains this amazing insight.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — In Libya, armed militias have filled a void left by a revolution that felled a dictator. In Syria, a popular uprising has morphed into a civil war that has left more than 100,000 dead and has provided a haven for radical jihadists. In Tunisia, increasingly bitter political divisions have delayed the drafting of a new constitution.

And now in Egypt, the epicenter of the Arab World, the army and security forces have toppled the elected Islamist president, killed hundreds of his supporters, declared a state of emergency and worsened a deep polarization.

It is clear that the region’s old status quo, dominated by imperious rulers who fixed elections, ruled by fiat and brutally quashed dissent, has been fundamentally damaged, if not overthrown, in the three years since the uprisings optimistically known as the Arab Spring. What is unclear, however, is the replacement model.

Unfortunately the replacement is model is probably imperious rulers who fix elections, rule by fiat and brutally quash dissent. The new boss is the same as the old boss. The Times quotes a local pundit who says “the old regional order has gone, the new regional order is being drawn in blood and it is going to take a long time.” That’s true insofar as it goes but the NYT analysis doesn’t go far enough. The problem is not  just that the national arrangements that are dissolving. The regional framework has melted too.

America has got out of the  hegemon business. This seems to be in part a conscious decision by the Obama administration. But they didn’t think it through enough.

What has replaced it is what was quaintly termed a power vacuum. There are still powers in the region to be sure. Russia, Iran, the Gulf States and the ghost of the old hegemon, the United States: when it isn’t worrying about gay marriage, global warming or feminist rights. But none of those powers is as yet able to fill the old position of dominance. Each has enough power to affect events but none is willing or able to determine their outcome. In other words the current actors have enough juice to cause problems but not enough to fix them.

The perils of power vacuum used to well known. They are like fires with nobody to put them out. Sixty years ago as a result of the traumatic experiences of combat, the US Navy concluded with  religious fervor that fire was your enemy and one never gave it the chance to get out of hand. At the first chance one flung down the fire curtains, cooled the hot spots, jettisoned the bombs, tossed the smoldering planes over the side. You did anything and everything possible to keep the conflagrations from joining up because once the flame ran together you were toast, both literally and figuratively.

This lesson was apparently forgotten by the administration. It’s first act was to transfer the bulk of its available forces to Afghanistan, which is landlocked. Fire brigade gone, check.

The second was to take the flames of Egypt’s Arab Spring and North Africa and fan them to white hot intensity in Libya, like a child fascinated by bright colors. It then blew on the coals in Syria until they leaped up into sparks. Spread democratization through the Arab world. Check.

Then to cool the flames burning in the Levant it asked Jordan to open its doors and Lebanon too. Not content with this ventilation, it asked Turkey to take a hand. Keep things under control. Check.

And so things spread. But to top everything off, it performed these tasks in the most opaque manner possible, under the cover of secrecy, night and disinformation, as exemplified by Benghazi. Put a blindfold on everybody. Check.

Nobody knows what’s going on. But never mind: trust Obama, trust Obama we are told. Why? because he grew up in Indonesia, because he’s a child of the world. Yet given what is known, why trust Obama again?

If Admiral Spruance had appointed Admiral Obama to command the carrier force, and Obama’s first instinct was to order every bomb hit immediately doused with aviation fuel, Spruance would have reassigned him to the golf course. But we don’t learn any more. It’s all spin all the time. The New York Times is right: the region is ill-omened. But the reasons for this reversal of fortune are no mystery.  Obama bet the farm and lost. And he bet it secretly too.


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Top Rated Comments   
Instapundit has the same comment tool, and HE HAS AN EDIT FUNCTION. I don't understand why some PJM'ers are more equal than others.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Remind me again what a terrible job Bush-Cheney did in managing those terrible tyrants Mubarak and Qaddafi. The threat of regional conflict was reduced. The threat of WMD proliferation was controlled. The level of domestic repression was influenced. They were, to borrow a phrase, being nudged.

Some argue from the Right, that is the traditional and libertarian perspective, that we can attain no good ends and should simply stay out. My reply is that we can attain no good ends with people like Obama Hillary and Kerrey in charge.

Our genial host says that the intent of the Obama regime was sound since they could not move back into the old house. That is the house that they the Democrats burned down. I reject their intent, their assumptions, their values and their conclusions.

My prediction is that millions will die. The Egyptians have proven themselves unworthy of the True Believers. Atomic weapons on ICBMs are not needed to destroy the apostates and Copts. The Aswan Dam is a bomb in place.

Israel can only hope to live another day. With luck the military Kemalists in Turkey and Egypt, and maybe in Iraq, will seize the chance to reject the repudiated doctrines of Socialism Islamism Communism and Fascism. Perhaps the cultural transformation needed to set the foundations for rational liberty can still emerge from this crucible. It cannot happen though with the present forces in power in America and Europe.

Perhaps in 5 years we will be talking about how the rise of other energy sources reduced the incentives for mayhem in the Middle East, or at least reduced the impact on others. Perhaps while the focus shifts to the East the changes Ihope for above may be allowed to take root.

In an unrelated note, or not?, I saw a report on Deutsches Welt that a German Energy company is planning to shut down 10,000 MW of conventional/nuclear power as part of the "more profitable" shift to Green. They claim the European economies are growing again. I smell fraud.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is said that you should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity...but in Obama's case I think it is a unique combination of both malice AND stupidity. I would call it 'malignant incompetence.'
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (62)
All Comments   (62)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Inhttp://www.la-croix.com/Actualite/Monde/En-Algerie-le-Haut-conseil-islamique-condamne-les-de-jeuneurs-kabyles-2013-08-08-996177

Algerian Kabyles ostentatorilly ate during the day while forbidden by Ramadan rules

So there's still some "light" in these troubled countries

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a bombing in Damascus
Cairo's broken out in fights
There a situation in the Levant
That's backed up to the Golan Heights
The President's a child
The Brotherhood's running wil
Mrs. Bubba Clinton, where are..?
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
oops, the Muzzie bros are running wild
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Prez 44 where are you?
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Formerly Eggplant: "I have observed amongst some Egyptians who were both highly educated and well traveled, a remarkably passionate anti-Americanism."

Yes. And also among some Americans who were equally highly credentialed and well traveled (at least to Old Europe). Let's not talk about the anti-Americanism of today's EUrotrash -- which can be quite staggering. And of course the EUrophiliacs among the US Political Class ape their betters in all things, including the appropriate Anti-Americanism.

But stop & think about all the world-ending bullets that have missed so far. Cyprus was going to collapse world finance, or was it Greece? Obama's war in Libya (on orders from his EUro superiors, of course) was going to spill out into the wider world. Asian bird flu, anyone? Global warming! We were going to lose an entire generation to AIDS!! And here we still are. My capacity to get excited is waning fast.

Let's not forget that the only way the world can avoid the economic catastrophe made inevitable by good Leftists printing currency notes with abandon would be the granddaddy of all wars. Repudiate those foreign debts; kill off those surplus Chinese males; let disease reduce the population of unaffordable pensioners and welfare dependents.

In its homosexually-charged demographic decline, the Roman Empire reportedly at one point passed a law requiring men to marry -- not that it stopped the decline. In the modern world, the equivalent might be to outlaw Planned Parenthood and change marriage laws to put the interests of children first, ahead of their philandering parents selfishness. Would that kind of world be so bad?

Ahead of us, after a very dark night, lies a bright dawn. Although it may be our grandchildren who get to see it.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
"If Admiral Spruance had appointed Admiral Obama to command the carrier force, and Obama’s first instinct was to order every bomb hit immediately doused with aviation fuel, Spruance would have reassigned him to the golf course. . ."

Wasn't Admiral Obama the guy who lost Midway because Nagumo caught him with his planes fueled and armed on deck. . . after Obama had told the air-group commanders to sort out gay marriage and women in combat before launching. . .

There he was, in the situation room, playing cards when a lookout screamed "enemy dive bombers!"
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
THE NILE

The Nile existed before time
And flowed unvexed to inland sea
Through empty lands at once sublime
But knowing what would one day be
The flowing waters saw the rise
Of temple builders on its shores
Of Pharaoh kings who ruled the skies
And Caesars settling old scores
Napoleon would come to grief
From Nelson’s guns at Aboukir
She’s seen it all without relief
Elation, joy and troubled fear
The flow of time she understood
A thousand years is but a day
She cares not all for Brotherhood
Or what Obama has to say
They’ll all be gone in blink of eye
Forever though the waters flow
And what it sees none can descry
Nor man discern what waters know

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
The key to trying to move toward a better situation is to know you have a problem with the disconnect between the practitioners of The Rhetorical World and those in The Real World.

Democrats, most of whom are lawyers, live in the Rhetorical World. Citizens live in the Real World. If you want to diminish the influence of Democrats, speak truth to power and call them lawyers who babble on and on in legalese. Take a poll of public approval of various professions and you'll find lawyers down there with Congressmen (one and the same in many cases).

One consistent criticism of Republicans is that they have not proposed alternative solutions to the Democrats. Try this one on for size..."First, let's vote out all the Congressmen-Lawyers".

Want an example? Obamacare is "healthcare" translated into legalese. The LIVs will hate it, just like they hate lawyers.

Once we have our house in order, we can lead from ahead in places like Egypt. What Egypt needs is restored tourism. To get that, they need order and safe passage for tourists. Tell the Egyptians they could take a page out of the Tea Party playbook and leave the site of their protests cleaner than they found it. Act like a civilized nation! Why should anyone come to look at the history of your civilization, if you are NOT civilized?

There is a profound lack of leadership from ahead. And it is made much worse by that brownnoser (there is an arcane term from the Pre-Political Correctness Era) Barack Hussein Obama II.

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment

Btw, excellent column this morning by Stanley Kurtz in National Review's The Corner: articulates many of the same thoughts and themes in this thread. See:

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/355871/america-looks-egypt-and-sees-itself-stanley-kurtz

Key graff: "What we ought to be doing now is tending to America’s key interests and giving up ill-founded fantasies of liberal democracy in a still thoroughly illiberal region. In any case, Times and Post notwithstanding, our capacity to influence events in Egypt is fast disappearing. With their literal and political survival at stake, the actors on the ground are no longer much subject to what we have to say. The Gulf states are giving more money than we are, and they want the Brotherhood crushed. So whether the military stabilizes Egypt or we get a civil war, it’s now largely out of our hands. The best we can do is keep the treaty with Israel intact and the Suez Canal open and secure."
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment

Gentlemen:

Excellent discussion. Exceptionally so, I think. Thanks to one and all for your contributions and insights.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama's approach to unilateral nuclear disarmament is not new, of course. At a "Women's Strike for Peace" forum for presidential candidates during the 1984 primary season, I got to hear Jesse Jackson's rep (some uber-lefty white dude with a goatee. Natch) give Jackson's proposal. It was for unilateral disarmamaent and unilateral dissolving of NATO, "In The HOPE," his words as Jackson's rep, "in the hope that the Soviet Union would do the same with its arsenal and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact."

Nobody laughed. No eye-rolling either. Remember, this was a WSFP meeting. I was there because my gorgeous housemate asked me to come, even though she knew my world view even then. She was very releved and proud of me for behaving myself.

It is because of this backlog of experience and knowledge about the Left in general, and black Democrats in particular that I knew there was no way I would ever vote for Obama. I knew what he actually was from the get-go.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
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