» 2012 » July


Monthly Archives: July 2012

So far, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi has called for the release of the “Blind Sheikh” Abdul Rahman — the convicted mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 — released 25 convicted terrorists from Egyptian prisons, and met with the leaders of the Gaza-based terror organization Hamas. President Obama invited Mursi to the White House in September. What would Morsi have to do to get disinvited? Eat babies?

America may have to deal with unsavory governments as a matter of national interest, but an ostentatious welcome to the leader of a terrorist organization — the Muslim Brotherhood — who embraces as a comrade the most notorious jihadi terrorist in an American prison is an utterly reprehensible betrayal of American national security interests. PJ Media’s own Andrew McCarthy, the federal prosecutor who convicted the World Trade Center bombers, explained the nature of the beast in a July 23 post here.

It’s no surprise that Morsi would embrace Hamas, which “was founded in 1987 (during the First Intifada) as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood” (Wikipedia). As the Jerusalem Post reports this morning,

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is expected to meet in Cairo on Thursday with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi. Haniyeh, who left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border terminal Wednesday, is accompanied by a 17-member delegation of Hamas officials and businessmen. He will be the second Hamas leader to meet with Mursi since the latter assumed power. Last week, Mursi met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Haniyeh’s objective is to eliminate border controls for people and goods between Egypt and Gaza. Egypt and Israel controlled the Gaza border to limit the supplies of weapons to terrorists. According to the Israeli Army,

Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, terrorists have fired more than 8,000 rockets into Israel. Over one million Israelis are currently living under threat of rocket attacks. In 2011 alone, 627 rockets from Gaza hit Israeli towns. That’s an even higher number than in 2010, when 231 rockets hit Israel. Since 2001, more than 12,800 rockets and mortars, an average of 3 attacks every single day, have landed in Israel.

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

Why You Won’t Find the Meaning of Life

July 25th, 2012 - 5:35 am

YouTube Preview Image

The “meaning of life” business is booming despite the recession. After eviscerating Jim Holt’s new meaning-of-life tome in an Asia Times Online review, I felt sufficiently saturated with antibodies to watch Terrence Malick’s Oscar-nominated existential epic Tree of Life on pay-per-view. Giggles overcame me after about half an hour.

As G.K. Chesterton said (actually, he didn’t quite, but should have), if you stop believing in God, you’ll believe in anything. For all their self-righteous scientism, atheists turn into the soupiest spiritualists when it comes to problems like birth and death. Malick’s silly flick wants to project the problems of a 1950s Texas family onto a cosmological backdrop, with images of the birth of the universe, or whatever. It so pretentiously idiotic that I wrote off the $4.99 I had paid to Time-Warner cable in short order.

Woody Allen had it down pat in Antz. An ant on a couch tells an ant psychiatrist, “I feel so insignificant!,” to which the ant psychiatrist replies, “That’s a breakthrough. You are insignificant.” I’m not out to proselytize, but the choice is digital: either the Maker of Heaven loves you, which makes you significant, or the idea of a Creator God is as of the same ilk as Richard Dawkins’s Flying Spaghetti Monster, in which case you are insignificant. In the latter case, get over it.

Pages: 1 2 3 | Comments bullet bullet

Hopeless But Not Syri-us

July 24th, 2012 - 1:56 pm

Over at the new Gatestone Institute, some longstanding friends and I conduct a regular electronic meeting to dissect crisis situations, and let the public read the results after we’re done. There are too many moving parts for any individual to follow, and Syria is a case in point: It resembles one of those Quentin Tarantino standoffs in which everyone has a gun pointed at everyone else. Our last exercise came to a striking conclusion: Nothing is going to happen in Syria, except more of the same. Syria will stand as a living monument to the delusions of the Democracy Exporters.

UPDATE: My friend Lee Smith writing at Tablet thinks that Assad will fall, that a Sunni government will replace him, and that this will diminish the Iranian threat. Lee is a terrific journalist, but I disagree on all counts: Assad can’t be dislodged from an Alawite enclave as long as the Russians back him (and they will; there’s no combination of Sunni forces that could form an alternative government; and the problem of Iran’s nuclear weapons development has little to do with Syria. To deal with the Iranian threat, there’s a simple solution: Neutralize their nuclear program with air strikes and related pinpoint attacks.

The Turks won’t push in, because it’s a booby trap for them. The Russians won’t intervene, unless Syria’s chemical weapons are at risk of passing into the hands of terrorists who might use them against Russian targets. Basher Assad will keep power, at least in the coastal mountains where his Alawite supporters hold sway. Syria’s Sunni majority won’t push him out because tribal and confessional differences keep them at each others’ throats.

Among the journalists involved at the Gatestone project are David Samuels, a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and one of the most experienced Middle East reporters in the US; Pepe Escobar, the roving correspondent for Asia Times Online; and Rotem Sella, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. Last weekend we were joined by Tony Badran of the Across the Bay blog, and a Russia expert. I helped assemble this group mainly for selfish reasons: what we came up with surprised me.

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

The Problem Is Obama, Not Huma Abedin

July 21st, 2012 - 8:06 pm

Why should anyone worry about agents of the Muslim Brotherhood creeping in the back windows of the State Department, when President Obama has invited them to the front door of the White House? This is a time to unify the Republican Party, not split it, and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s misstep in the Huma Abedin affair weakened the Republican side. The way to win is to attack Barack Obama directly for coddling the Muslim Brotherhood. Nobody said it better than Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post:

Two weeks ago, in an unofficial inauguration ceremony at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi took off his mask of moderation. Before a crowd of scores of thousands, Mursi pledged to work for the release from US federal prison of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. According to The New York Times’ account of his speech, Mursi said, “I see signs [being held by members of the crowd] for Omar Abdel-Rahman and detainees’ pictures. It is my duty and I will make all efforts to have them free, including Omar Abdel-Rahman.”

Otherwise known as the blind sheikh, Abdel Rahman was the mastermind of the jihadist cell in New Jersey that perpetrated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His cell also murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York in 1990. They plotted the assassination of then-president Hosni Mubarak. They intended to bomb New York landmarks including the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the UN headquarters. Rahman was the leader of Gama’a al-Islamia – the Islamic Group, responsible, among other things for the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. A renowned Sunni religious authority, Rahman wrote the fatwa, or Islamic ruling, permitting Sadat’s murder in retribution for his signing the peace treaty with Israel. The Islamic group is listed by the State Department as a specially designated terrorist organization.

After his conviction in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Abdel-Rahman issued another fatwa calling for jihad against the US. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Osama bin Laden cited Abdel-Rahman’s fatwa as the religious justification for them. By calling for Abdel-Rahman’s release, Mursi has aligned himself and his government with the US’s worst enemies. By calling for Abdel-Rahman’s release during his unofficial inauguration ceremony, Mursi signaled that he cares more about winning the acclaim of the most violent, America-hating jihadists in the world than with cultivating good relations with America.

And in response to Mursi’s supreme act of unfriendliness, US President Barack Obama invited Mursi to visit him at the White House.

UPDATE: Mohammed Morsi has just pardoned 25 convicted Egyptian terrorists from Jama’a al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihard, according to the Egypt Independent:

Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, has said that the 572 military detainees pardoned by President Mohamed Morsy on Thursday included 25 leaders of Islamic Jihad and Jama’a al-Islamiya [the organization led by the "Blind Sheikh" Abdul Rahman, convicted of the first World Trade Center bombing].

Jama’a al-Islamiya engaged in armed confrontations with security forces in the 1990s, aiming to depose the Mubarak regime and establish an Islamic state. In the late 1990s it renounced its violent, jihadist ideology, and apologized for its attacks that had killed hundreds. Its members were targeted by the intelligence services, but since the 25 January uprising many have been released from prison and it now has a political arm, the Construction and Development Party. Islamic Jihad, which was led in the 1990s by Ayman al-Zawahiri, also renounced violence some years ago [and if you believe this, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you].

Morsi supports the deadliest terrorist in an American jail, and has just pardoned two dozen of his convicted terrorist minions. Obama invites him to the White House. That’s something the voters can understand. And that’s where Republicans should focus their fire, not on the murky case of Hillary Clinton’s long-time assistant Huma Abedin. Unless Rep. Michele Bachmann et. al. have a smoking gun case against Ms. Abedin, they should stop wasting their time. Yes, Ms. Abedin has family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. But she’s also married to a liberal Jew, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, with whom she is seen pushing a baby carriage in a photo in the July 18 New York Post. The Weiner-Abedin household made it into a People magazine profile this weekend.  That’s what the voters will see, to the extent they bother. The fact is that no-one cares about Ms. Abedin. For that matter, no-one cares about Hillary Clinton. There’s one issue in this election, and that is Barack Obama.

Inviting the blind sheikh’s backer to the White House: there’s no ambiguity there. It speaks for itself. Barack Obama wants the Muslim world to succeed as an article of faith, and will embrace elected Islamists no matter how outrageously they behave towards the United States. By embracing the odious Mr. Morsi, Obama is doing the Republicans a big favor. If he offers Morsi any aid, he’ll be doing us an even bigger favor.

Morsi’s visit to the White House also puts the likes of John McCain on the defensive–to the extent that matters. The failed 2008 presidential candidate came off as a gentleman and man of honor defending Ms. Abedin against what seem to be rather murky and indirect charges. The bad news is that  McCain  still believes that Arab democracy will support American interests. Along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, he sent a congratulatory message to Morsi the moment that election results were announced June 24:

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Sunday congratulated Mohammed Morsi on his election as the new president of Egypt.

“The Egyptian people have spoken,” the senators said in a joint statement, “and we respect their choice and look forward to working with President-elect Morsi in a spirit of mutual respect and in pursuit of the many shared interests of the United States and Egypt.”

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

The Righteous Frau Merkel

July 21st, 2012 - 7:17 pm

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative government has taken the initiative to restore religious freedom in Germany in the matter of infant circumcision (“German Court Opens the Sluice-Gate for Anti-Semitism,” July 2).  That shows real leadership. Judging from opinion polls and media commentary, a German court’s ban on infant circumcision has strong popular support, for what seems to be very bad reasons. But Germany’s Chancellor took a strong stand on moral grounds, and appears to have closed the sluice gate. Reports Der Spiegel:

Responding to intense international pressure from Jewish and Muslim groups alike, Germany on Thursday moved to send a signal that the country will continue to allow the tradition of circumcision for boys despite a court ruling that critics said could make Jewish life in Germany impossible. In recent days, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany would become a laughing stock for the rest of the world if it allowed any ban on the circumcision of boys to stand. he resolution is not legally binding, but it was passed to send a message to religious communities in Germany and abroad that a controversial June court ruling would not be allowed to stand.

Three weeks ago, a Cologne regional court ruled in a case involving a Muslim boy that the child’s circumcision had been tantamount to bodily injury and was therefore a punishable crime. The decision drew immediate criticism from Muslim and Jewish groups in Germany. One prominent rabbi described the ruling as the worst attack on Jewish culture in Germany since the Holocaust and warned that Jewish life would no longer be possible in Germany if the ruling became a precedent.

Angela Merkel is also a steadfast friend of the State of Israel. Her government just delivered a fourth Dolphin-class submarine to the Israeli Navy.

Nothing is more important to the functioning of a free market than commercial banks with a degree of flexibility in taking risk. If banks had foreclosed on every home mortgage that missed a couple of payments after the 2008 crisis, we would be in a Great Depression. The same is true if banks called in the loans of every corporate borrower who violated a covenant. Mark Twain defined a gold mine as a hole in the ground with a bunch of liars standing around it, and in tough times, bank balance sheets are a tissue of white lies — otherwise known as giving borrowers the benefit of the doubt. What if banks cross the line into actual criminal behavior, though? On top of the LIBOR scandal, we have a new report from the New York Times claiming that big investment banks gave an illegal advance look at research reports to their biggest hedge fund clients.

In an election year, the liberal media will incite witch hunts against the financial industry in order to bias voters against financiers who made their money honestly — Mitt Romney, for example. I am deeply suspicious of the Justice Department’s motives in criminalizing the LIBOR problem. But where there are instances of real criminality they need to be prosecuted.

There are white lies and (possibly) criminal lies involved in the LIBOR scandal. This looks like a matter for civil courts. The biggest lie was to underreport the actual cost of funds when the truth would have revealed prospective difficulties in funding and contributed to panic. I wrote this morning in Asia Times (“The LIBORatory of Dr. Frankenstein”):

The US Justice Department plans to bring criminal charges against banks for manipulating the benchmark rate for US dollar money markets, the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). It would be the first prosecution of financial institutions for having charged their customers less rather than more, and having taken less rather than more income.

That’s right: rigging LIBOR transferred income away from the banks to their debtors. There is a case for a civil suit by shareholders for income lost to the banks’ largesse, but hardly a criminal case.

Attorney General Eric Holder, the man who arranged former US president Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive tax cheat Marc Rich, fresh from condemnation for contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives, is shocked — shocked — to find that interest rates went misreported at the peak of the financial panic of 2008. Criminalizing the kind of rule-bending that the regulators sanctioned during a crisis is sadly typical of the Barack Obama administration’s operating procedure.

Meanwhile, the liberal punditeska from The Economist (with its “Banksters” cover last week) to the Washington Post call for prosecution of the banks. Holder and his colleagues see the economy as an experimental subject for a sort of Frankenstein’s laboratory. No wonder that investors are keeping their cash in mattresses rather than investing it the kind of risk ventures that create jobs.

After the August 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse, money markets froze, and large global institutions paid a risk premium to borrow money. The volume of interbank loans contracted by a quarter, and the concept of a uniform LIBOR rate dissolved as banks charged each other as much as they could get.

Underreporting the cost of funds (in order to pre-empt possible panic about the condition of the banks) was the least interesting lie the regulators sanctioned. The biggest lie involved the solvency of the banks themselves. The banks may have been insolvent, but they were still earning enough interest income from their portfolios of AAA-rated trash to pay their interest costs. There was no reason to wind up their affairs; ignore the technical insolvency and focus on current cash flow, I argued, and the system would return to health… That was a much bigger lie than the rigged LIBOR rate, but it wasn’t the biggest lie. The real whopper was the pretense that tens of millions of homeowners could and would pay their mortgages. Banks delayed foreclosure and kept families in their homes for months and years past the usual cutoff date for seizure. That was also the right thing to do.

This tissue of lies, collective referred to as “regulatory forbearance,” allowed the banks to get their balance sheets under control within a year, repay emergency loans to the US Treasury with a profit, and get back to the business of lending.

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

Hungarian Suicide Song Redux

July 12th, 2012 - 7:49 am

Hungarians are disappearing faster than any other nationality. Ethnic Hungarians, according to unpublished government data, have a fertility rate of 0.83 — fewer than one child per woman, after the high birth rate of the local Roma population is excluded. If the Roma are included, the fertility rate is just 1.28. In the global ranking of suicide rates, Hungary ranks sixth out of 107 countries where data is available, at 40 per 100,000 population per year — a four-way tie with South Korea, Guyana, and Kazakhstan (only Lithuania is noticeably higher).

Hungary’s best-known pop culture export, appropriately enough, is the so-called suicide song “Gloomy Sunday.” The term “cultural pessimism” doesn’t begin to describe the Hungarian view of the world. Built as a capital to rule a territory with 25 million under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest is a hydrocephalic changeling, a pantheon rather than a capital for the mere ten million people left in present-day Hungary.

At Jewish Ideas Daily, Elliot Jager reports on an eruption of Hungarian nostalgia for the kind of wartime leaders that the rest of the world thinks of as war criminals, along with the resurgence of extremist nationalism and anti-Semitism. A recent Bloomberg story reports on a new fashion for building statues to Hitler’s wartime Hungarian ally Miklos Horthy, who helped the Nazis murder half a million Hungarian Jews. Jager observes:

Security is tight at all Jewish institutions. Unlike in Western Europe, the threat stems less from Islamists than from locals. In fact, Muslim visitors have not been immune to attacks from local thugs while the Roma (Gypsy), the perennial bête noire of South-Eastern Europe, again find themselves under attack from the far Right. Indeed, the populist-oriented government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban finds it politic to kowtow to Gabor Vona’s ultra right-wing Jobbik Party, which holds 46 out of 386 parliamentary seats.

While I was in Budapest last month, Elie Wiesel repudiated a Hungarian state award he had received in 2004 because government officials recently attended a ceremony for World War II-era Nazi sympathizer Jozsef Nyiro. For the same reason, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin disinvited his Hungarian counterpart, László Kövér, from a Jerusalem ceremony honoring Raoul Wallenberg. Instead, President Janos Ader will represent Hungary.

Pages: 1 2 3 | Comments bullet bullet

So far, the Arab ballot box has given us Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a supposedly moderate Islamist party in Tunisia, an Iranian-allied regime in Iraq, and… a putative success in Libya, celebrated by the Wall Street Journal editorial page with the pronouncement, “Once again, Arabs demonstrate their desire for self-government.”

UPDATE: Al-Ahram reported July 10, “Wartime rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril took an early lead in Libya’s national assembly election, according to partial tallies released on Monday that pointed to a weaker than expected showing for Islamist parties. If confirmed that trend would set Libya apart from other Arab Spring countries such as Egypt and Tunisia where groups with overtly religious agendas have done well – although Jibril insists his multi-party alliance is neither secular nor liberal and includes sharia Islamic law among its core values.” (Emphasis added; hat tip to Andrew Bostom).

The “once again” part is dubious, for the WSJ does not mention where else this “desire for self-government” has produced the desired result. But the Republican establishment, having signed on to the Bush Freedom Agenda and its gigantic cost in blood and treasure, cannot gracefully back away from a discredited ideological commitment. While the obnoxious military and the unspeakable Muslim Brotherhood square off in Egypt, and the tech-savvy democrats of Tahrir Square disappear, the WSJ praises the one Arab election that appears to justify  the grand enterprise of exporting democracy. Why beat up on other conservatives? Because focus on the supposed Libyan success lets the Obama administration off the hook at a moment when Republicans should pillory the president for coddling a terrorist nest like the Muslim Brotherhood.

The WSJ editors wrote:

It’s fashionable these days to say that NATO’s intervention in Libya left that Arab country no better off, but tell that to the Libyans who joyously voted in free elections on Saturday. An election alone does not a democracy make, but Libyans understand it’s better than the tyranny of Gadhafi & Sons, Inc.

The vote for a new legislative body wasn’t perfect but went off better than expected. Armed groups in the eastern, oil-rich region around Benghazi stormed a couple of polling stations, and tribal groups in the south tried to sabotage the vote. Yet a majority—with an estimated turnout of 60%—defied the threats. The post-election celebrations around Libya were the most spirited since Moammar Gadhafi’s demise in October.

Preliminary results indicate a strong showing by a secular alliance headed by a former rebel leader, Mahmoud Jibril. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists may also claim a large share of seats in the 200-member General National Congress once official results come out this week.

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet

The economics of confrontation in Egypt
(Cross-posted from Asia Times Online)
By Spengler

Egypt has enough foreign exchange on hand to cover six weeks’ of its imports (US$7.8 billion in liquid reserves, against a $5.5 billion monthly import bill). It would have run out of cash in June except for emergency loans from Saudi Arabia, which backs the Egyptian military but abhors the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate Mohammed Morsi won Egypt’s presidential election last month. Total reserves are listed at $15 billion, but this includes gold, International Monetary Fund (IMF) drawing rights and other non-liquid items.

The economic context is necessary to make sense of Egypt’s politics: it points to an important conclusion, that no path exists to stable rule by the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi help has kept Egypt’s economy away from the brink of collapse, but only just. A paralyzing fuel shortage threatens to shut down essential functions, including bread supplies. If the Muslim Brotherhood were to push the military out of power, the Saudis almost certainly would pull the plug and leave Egypt in chaos.

Figure 1: Egypt’s Liquid Reserves Cover Six Weeks of Imports

A situation of dual power, to use the old Bolshevik term, prevails between the Brotherhood and the military. At this writing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had called an emergency meeting to respond to President Morsi’s attempt to revoke the military’s earlier decree dissolving Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament. Morsi announced that the dismissed parliament would meet within hours; some news reports from Cairo expect the military to refuse entry to members of parliament. The speed with which Morsi moved to confront the military surprised most analysts, who expected a few months of regroupment before the Islamists tested the military’s resolve.

There are two likely explanations for the Muslim Brotherhood’s gamble. One is that economic distress requires the Brotherhood to rally its base in a dramatic action; another is that the Brotherhood has been emboldened by the perception that it enjoys the tacit support of the White House against the military. A test of wills between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, though, would lead to disaster.

A number of observers, for example Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council, and ex-CIA official Robert Grenier, predict that the military will crush Egypt’s Islamists like Algeria’s military regime two decades ago. By supporting the Muslim Brotherhood against the military, the Obama administration has raised the probability of bloodshed.

It is not clear, moreover, whether Saudi generosity can stabilize Egypt even under the best of circumstances. With its trade deficit running at $3 billion a month, and other sources of revenue much reduced, the country’s annual financing needs probably exceed $20 billion. Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat and depends on imports for half its caloric consumption.

Exhibit 2: Egypt Imports and Exports

Source: Bloomberg

President Morsi will visit Saudi Arabia later this week, presumably to persuade the Saudis to support his regime (and perhaps to threaten them if they do not). It will be a difficult dialogue, after the Muslim Brotherhood staged riots against Saudi diplomatic installations in Egypt late in April (see The horror and the pita, Asia Times Online, May 1, 2012), and a senior Saudi advisor told Egypt’s largest daily al-Ahram June 21 that the Muslim Brotherhood lacks the vision and experience to govern the country. The Saudi-sponsored Islamist party in Egypt, the Salifi Nour Party, has threatened to boycott Morsi’s cabinet on a number of religious grounds that probably express Saudi discontent.

The volume of aid for which Egypt present is negotiating is tiny relative to its financing requirements. On June 2, the Saudis put $1 billion into Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves and bought $500 million in Egyptian government bonds on June 4. And on June 8, the Saudis announced that Egypt could use a $750 million credit line to import fuel “based on the severe oil-products shortage faced by Egypt,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Saudi Embassy in Cairo. In addition, Egypt is expected to receive a US$1 billion loan to finance energy and food imports from the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Almost as soon as the checks cleared, the Egyptian military dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament.

It appears that the authorities are trying to skimp on foreign exchange by restricting fuel imports. Diesel fuel and gasoline have been in chronic short supply for the past year, and the shortage appears to be getting worse. As the Egypt Independent reported July 3: “This summer season, already hectic with election fever, has only seen worse shortages and longer lines, with diesel, the gasoline 80 that is commonly used by taxis, and other fuels all but disappearing from many pumps. …In the Upper Egypt city of Minya, on the first day of the presidential runoff, gas stations had longer lines than polling stations.”

Egypt is also negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion loan, which presumably will open up other possible funding sources. The IMF loan is contingent upon the president’s negotiations with the SCAF on a new government.

Evidently the Saudis are keeping Egypt on a short leash. They do not want to let the country slide into financial distress as long as the military remains in charge, but neither do they want to provide resources to a Muslim Brotherhood regime that might subvert the monarchy.

The problem is that Egypt’s economy is a dog that cannot hunt now and cannot be made to hunt in the future. Without the Saudi lifeline, Egypt will stop some essential imports in a matter of weeks.

Why, then, is Mohamed Morsi picking a fight with the military?

As Jackson Diehl put it in the Washington Post July 8, “Last month the administration leaned heavily on the ruling military council to recognize Morsi’s victory in a runoff election. Lobbying by [US Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may have prevented the council from handing the presidency to its favored candidate, a former prime minister. But it infuriated the generals, Egyptian Christians and some US supporters of Israel, who fear the Islamists more than the old regime.”

With backing from the Obama administration, and enormous pressure from his political base, Morsi has rolled the dice with the military. The result is likely to blow up in his face as well as the Obama administration’s.

At best, international aid will allow the status quo to continue a while longer. But the status quo involves a barely-adequate supply of bread, a dreadfully inadequate supply of fuel, and no outlook for the future except poverty and insecurity. It seems most unlikely that a political or economic equilibrium can be established on such a wobbly base. The uneasy modus vivendi between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military most likely will fail, and probably sooner than later.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of You, also appeared this fall, from Van Praag Press. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

There’s no mistaking Francis Scott Key for a great poet, but like other minor talents at exalted moments, Julia Ward Howe, for example, he wrote a great poem. It might seem a stretch to think of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as high art, but its first verse, despite some deficiencies, has true grandeur. Some years ago I discussed America’s anthem at Asia Times. In honor of the 4th of July, here are some revised thoughts.

There is something inherently fragile about the United States of America. France will be France and Slovakia will be Slovakia so long as French and Slovak are spoken, irrespective of their mode of government. But if Americans cease to govern themselves in a way that no people ever governed itself before, America will not be America. We are the only nation founded on an idea, rather than on blood, territory or culture. We look back at our founders with reverence. Each day we should ask ourselves whether we are good enough to keep the republic which they bequeathed us. We came close to losing it more than once. If we continue to drift into dependency, we might lose it now.

That is why it behooves us to sing  a national anthem that begins and ends with questions. In this respect, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is an unusual poem. To begin a poem with a rhetorical question is a common enough device (“Why! Who makes much of a miracle?,” “What is so rare as a day in June?” or “Who rides in the night through wind and wild?”). Key’s opening question, though, is not rhetorical, but existential. The hearer from whom the poet demands a response has kept the poet’s company in an anxious vigil. The question itself thus places the hearer alongside the poet in that vigil.

The poet withholds the name of the object we are trying to espy in the first light: It is “what so proudly we hailed,” “whose broad stripes and bright stars” streamed valiantly over the rampart as the poet and his interlocutor watched through the perilous night. And this precious thing could be glimpsed intermittently only by the light of the enemy’s munitions, through the glare of rockets and the flash of exploding bombs: these, the missiles of the foe, gave proof through the night that the our flag — at last the object is named — was still there.

But now the first light of the dawn has come. The bombardment has ceased. The poet asks that the listener say whether, in the dim sunrise, he still can see the flag above the ramparts. It is an anxious moment; the hearer has watched through the night to see if the US position has held or fallen; in a few moments he will see in the first light of day whether the flag is still there. All the fears of the nightly vigil are bound up in this moments of anticipation. Even more: the hopes and fears of generations hang upon what the hearer will see as day breaks..

Pages: 1 2 | Comments bullet bullet