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Spengler

Dumb, Dumber, Dumberer in Washington

July 26th, 2013 - 5:45 am

Earlier today, Egypt’s military government arrested former prime minister Mohammed Mursi on charges of conspiring with the terrorist organization Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian affiliate. That is as good as it gets in this part of the world. Hamas has murdered 457 Israelis and wounded more than 3,000 since 2000, according to the Israeli government. It is an implacable enemy of the United States as well as the State of Israel. Since taking power, the Egyptian military has shut down illegal tunnel traffic with Gaza, Hamas’ stronghold, and strangled its economy.

Gen. Abdulfatah al-Sisi, the Egyptian military commander, is doing the dirty work of the West. Yet both the Obama administration and the Republican mainstream have denounced the military-led government and demanded the Muslim Brotherhood’s return to power. “Trying to break the neck of the Brotherhood is not going to be good for Egypt or for the region,” a White House official told the New York Times on July 25th, explaining why Obama had canceled the delivery of four F-16s to Egypt. And some prominent neo-conservatives, including Max Boot and Reuel Marc Gerecht, are taking the side of the Brotherhood. It is the world turned upside down, foreign policy as Mel Brooks might have scripted it.

Obama and the Republican mainstream — John McCain and the Weekly Standard — united in their misplaced enthusiasm for the so-called Arab Spring in early 2011, as I reported in a Tablet magazine essay May 20 titled “Dumb and Dumber.” They have learned nothing from the collapse of the so-called “Spring” into civil war in Syria, Islamist terrorism in Tunisia, and state failure in Egypt. Such is the power of ideology. If the most practical man of business is the mental slave of a defunct economist, as Keynes said, the most practical politician may be the mental slave of a defunct political philosopher.

Here is Max Boot at the Commentary blog on July 25th:

Rather than trying to reach accommodation with the Islamists, who for all their faults did win a free election, the army is demonizing them as “traitors” who must be rooted out. Dispensing with the facade of civilian rule, the military commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, is calling for mass protests to give the military a mandate to crack down on “terrorism” and “violence,” which, if delivered, no doubt will be interpreted as a mandate to crack down on all opposition, period.

Egypt is seeing not the rule of law but the rule of the mob and the military. Alas, history teaches that when well-organized movements with mass support are pushed out of the political process, they are likely to resort to violence. See the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, or Egypt’s own bloodletting during that decade during a war against radical jihadists.

And Reuel Marc Gerecht at the Wall Street Journal, the previous day:

Economic revitalization in Egypt won’t happen unless the poor accept the pain that will come with shrinking the country’s unsustainable subsidies and state-owned enterprises. Buying in now, after the coup, will be much more difficult for those who support Islamist causes.

It also isn’t clear that the secular crowd is economically more adept than the Muslim faithful. Socialism has been a hard-to-kick drug for Egypt’s legions of nominally college-educated youth, who came of age expecting government jobs. Capitalism has probably got firmer roots among devout Muslims, where Islamic law teaches a certain respect for private property.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s senior leadership may not recover from the coup…But only the deluded, the naïve and the politically deceitful—Western fans of the coup come in all three categories—can believe that Islamism’s “moment” in Egypt has passed. More likely, it’s just having an interlude.

Gerecht has staked his reputation on what he calls “The Islamist Road to Democracy,” and embraces died-in-the-wool totalitarians as long as they keep up democratic pretenses. Anyone who disagrees with him is “deluded, naive, or politically deceitful.” How about “realistic”? It seems churlish to point this out, but I was right about Egypt from the outset while Gerecht was dead wrong. I predicted a failed state in Egypt on Feb. 2, 2011, observing that then-President Hosni Mubarak’s problems arose from a free fall of the Egyptian economy already in progress. No-one is right all the time, and there is no shame in having been wrong, unless, of course, one insults everyone who might disagree with a view that already has produced a catastrophically wrong forecast.

Gerecht asserts — without a shred of evidence — that Egypt can stabilize its economy by shutting down subsidies. Morsi refused to do so (as the International Monetary Fund demanded) because he did not believe he could do so and survive politically.  It is absurd to suggest that restoring the Brotherhood to power in some way would make possible the austerity measures that the Brotherhood could not push through when it had all the power. Who is deluded here may be adduced from the track record.

Half of Egypt’s people live on $1.65 a day or less and the country imports half its food. Its economy is in ruins and cannot be revived by an IMF austerity package, as Gerecht seems to imply. Morsi fell when he ran out of money. The Saudis and other Gulf states refused to bankroll the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seeking to overthrow the Arab monarchies, but immediately lent $12 billion to Morsi’s successors, averting starvation in Egypt for the next year.

I wrote in the cited May 20 Tablet essay:

It is a widespread misimpression (reinforced by conspiracy theorists seeking the malign influence of the “Israel Lobby”) that the neoconservative movement is in some way a Jewish thing. On the contrary, it is a distinctly American thing. As the born-again Methodist George W. Bush said in 2003, “Peoples of the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and a need for freedom as deep as our own. It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it.” The Catholic neoconservative and natural-law theorist Michael Novak put it just as passionately in his 2004 book The Universal Hunger for Liberty: “The hunger for liberty has only slowly been felt among Muslims. That hunger is universal, even when it is latent, for the preconditions for it slumber in every human breast.”

One is reminded of the industrialist in the 1930s who refused to book radio ads on Sunday on the grounds that everyone would be out playing polo. It is hard for Americans to understand that everyone is not like us: are we not an amalgam of all the cultures and races of the world? But that is a fallacy of composition: we Americans are brands plucked out of the fire, the few individuals who rejected the tragedies of the cultures of our origin and embraced something radically different.

The “political philosophy” that has guided so many diligent and clever analysts into absurdities does not address the definitive political phenomenon of our time, namely cultural suicide. The materialism of Hobbes et. al. proceeds from the idea of individual self-preservation to a theory of the state; it does not consider that cultures may veer collectively toward self-destruction. At its worst, so-called rationalist political philosophy turns into the old materialist assertion that being determines consciousness: put people into democratic institutions and they will turn into democrats, just as the Communists asserted that collectivizing the means of production would produce a “new man.” Perhaps something good will come out of all of this: Max Boot and Reuel Marc Gerecht are as close as living writers can come to an embodiment of reductio ad absurdum.

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Top Rated Comments   
I had a hard time considering seriously David P. Goldman's theory of civilizational suicide when I first read him, but the mass tragedies under way today in Egypt and Syria give it a good deal of plausibility, certainly more so than any evidence of a spontaneous generation of democracy in the Middle East, in response to a western wish, however sincere.

This opens the question of whether the self-destruction of islamism has long been a latent process, not to materialize until Islam is critically challenged by the West, on the basis of practical outcomes, like employment, public health and even personal freedom, a scary thing, but an aspiration, from some exotic paradigm?

Would the Bible be banned in Saudi Arabia if the Monarchy was not terrified by the prospect of its acceptance? A civilization afraid of a book might well be in serious peril.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hobbes: Do you have the right to be ignorant?
Calvin: I refuse to find out.

That's how.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
As long as the Saudis and their Gulf allies have the money, Egypt will be heir client state. Somalia has small interest for the Arab monarchies, but even so they are supporting the suppression of the al Qaeda allied forces in that country.

Both Gerecht and Boot see only the smallish question of "Whither the Muslim Brotherhood?" They don't see the larger picture, as David does, of economic and demographic collapse across all Middle East Muslim countries. This larger picture will govern the fate of the MB, rather than the other way round. The only reason the MB came to power after 70+ years of "hanging around in the alley," was the growing *economic collapse* of the Mubarak government. They couldn't stop it when they were in power, and most likely increased the decline through their disinclination towards tourism. Now General Sisi will be a well-behaved officer for the Saudis and will have the money to keep the country back from the abyss.

A similar agricultural collapse in Syria explains why that country ended-up with a civil war rather than bloody crushing of Sunni dissidents as in the past. David has explored this in previous posts as well.

How any political thinker worth a lick could try to marry Hobbes' theory of the absolute power of the state with the practice of limited democratic government just seems dumb, dumb and dumberier to me as well!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (57)
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Can't wait to hear Spengler's take down of McInsane and Grahamnesty's

PS Twitter is blocking the anti-Obama/Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood video produced by the Egyptian army's propagandastaffel, or at least not allowing it to appear on the 'Photos/Videos' pages of Twitter feeds. Not quite up to Riefenstahl level but very effective.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Can't wait to hear Spengler's take down of McInsane and Grahamnesty's tete a tete with the 'opposition' in Cairo. [Sic sorry for the duplicate comment please delete the above if necessary].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC-WPW4ttB8

PS Twitter is blocking the anti-Obama/Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood video produced by the Egyptian army's propagandastaffel, or at least not allowing it to appear on the 'Photos/Videos' pages of Twitter feeds. Not quite up to Riefenstahl level but very effective (some Israel bashing, but mostly ire focused on Obama, Amb. Patterson and Turkey/Qatar)
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"As the born-again Methodist George W. Bush said in 2003, “Peoples of the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and a need for freedom as deep as our own."

Well, Dubya needed to define "high civilization" here. But he didn't, and wasn't asked by the pro-Moslem mainstream press even despite their obvious opposition to him, because such a definition would have to include the belief in extortion, slavery, murder, pedophilia, sex discrimination, intolerance and the ideology of permanent war against all others that the scriptures and teachings of Islam entails.

These things, undeniable and easily confirmed, are hard to fit into a credible definition of high civilization.

And, if Islam is a religion of personal responsibility, where is it? In the aid packages upon which all non-oil Dar al-Islam nations depend?

And the "need for freedom" chokes on the clearly stated proscription of personal freedom commanded by the Islamic scriptures in the form of the Holy Ko-Ran and the example of the Holy Prophet in the Hah-Deaths of his life. There were no demands for freedom in the aftermaths of 9/11, Lockerbie, Ft. Hood or any of the hundreds of other Jihad terror war mass murders.

The only demand for freedom is the demand that everybody either give up all freedom and become a Moslem, or become a officially designated dhimmi subjugated to Moslems, or to be killed in the Cause of global Sharia.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"... as I reported in a Tablet magazine essay May 20 titled “Dumb and Dumber.”

But let us understand, when dealing with Moslems, the choice is always worse and worser. There's a third alternative, the truth and self-interest, but that is strictly off the table.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey Spengler,

I was talking to my "well educated" (they are opthamologists) Egyptian American friends. You know the type. The kind who rail against "second class citizenship" for Iraeli Arabs and Palestinians even though these Arabs live 1000 times better in Israel than the majority of the population back in Egypt. They support the "struggle" from the comforts of their posh homes in USA, no doubt living in the best Jewish neighborhood and working with Jewish doctors!

Well anyways, THOSE folks have a VERY RATIONAL explanation for why the US is backing Morsi. Care to guess? According to them the US is just doing what ISRAEL wants! Israel is a pathology for these people! These are not uneducated, inbred, genitally mutilated peasants from Egypt! These are the upper class Egyptians whosse "avarice" causes them to live in Jewish neighborhoods in the US instead of staying home and supporting the nation that DESPERATELY needs their services! AMAZING!

Anyways, I really have sympathy now for those poor illiterate Egytians living on $2 a day. Its the undereducated malcontents and the "intelligentsia". I think its because they are smart enough to realize they are doomed and just wanna see the rest of the world burn with them. Just not in their neighborhood!

On that same note And by the way, it would be my and my friends pleasure to host u for lunch at the former home (mansion)of that arch anti-capitalist, anti-zionist Hamid Denashis. Of course its in a high end in a Jewish Zionist neighborhood!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
New precondition for the Israel/Palestinian Peace agrreement:

Israel sends the Palestinians a bill for the occupation. If they dont pay up in 2 weeks, they send the Egyptians back in to run things!

In light of the Arab Spring, its really unfair to call it an occupation. Its more about outsourcing their civil society!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
what Sherry explained I didnt know that people able to make $8077 in four weeks on the internet. have you read this web link http://www.wep6.com
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I love this article because the author tackles the same point I was making at numerous discussions with both, psychotic left and refractory “right”: American foreign policy in the last 200 years is nothing short of mental disease preventing the patients from understanding that NOT all people are like us. Ostensibly, it should be easy to comprehend by default that the rest of the mankind is rather different: Americans are either descendants of or themselves (as yours truly) the ones who could NOT coexist with their original fellow-countrymen due to insurmountable differences and thus, left their motherlands. Somehow, that obvious thought escapes practically ALL makers of American policies since Monroe Doctrine (1823).
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Egypts only hope is a return to colonial rule. Lets only hope that the UK will resume the role of colonial overlord
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I admire David's foresight in saying Egypt was going to implode economically and his courage to joust with Gerecht and the neocons, whom he correctly points out like the Cheneys and many War Street Journal editorialists aren't Jewish. But my point is if you keep seeing the same patterns over and over, if neocons consistently back Islamists not only in nations like Syria where they're fighting Iranian allies like Hezbollah but also in Egypt, then you have to conclude mere naivete or incompetence is not enough. It's perfidy, and the 'neocons' are revealing their globalist colors in supporting the proto-Caliphate:

http://exposingliberallies.blogspot.com/2013/07/is-anne-patterson-part-of-muslim.html
Raymond Ibrahim: Amb. Patterson hated in Egypt, viewed as Obama's cat's paw and supporter of Mursi and Muslim Brotherhood
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
imho the civil war in egypt will go on until the cost of solar power/thorium power electricity and desalination are cheap enough for desert agriculture. http://www.amazon.com/kindle-store/dp/B0089Z7V6Y

Nasser was able to consolidate his power similarly in 1956 with the Aswan dam which was built only 20 years after the Hoover Dam.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Aswan dam which was built only 20 years after the Hoover Dam."
Not really. Hoover Dam was finished in 1936. Below is Aswan Dam per Wiki:
1960: Start of construction on 9 January[11]
1964: First dam construction stage completed, reservoir started filling
1970: The High Dam, as-Sad al-'Aali, completed on 21 July
1976: Reservoir reached capacity
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
So the Egyptian civil war will go for another couple decades. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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