I realize that the average citizen has the memory of an Alzheimer’s patient with attention deficit disorder but indulge me with trying to use some of your brain cells. Although false claims about Saddam Hussein’s stash of weapons of mass destruction was used to whip up public support for going to war in Iraq, the underlying philosophy of the Bush strategy was to use force to impose democracy in Iraq in the naive belief that this would create a domino effect and usher in an era of democracy in the Middle East.
The crazed neocons who believe this nonsense are not stupid people–e.g., Elliot Abrams, Robert Kagan, William Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, to mention a few. Abram lit up the editorial pages of the Washington Post early this week pushing his theology that the chaos in Egypt proves that George W. Bush was right:
In November 2003, President George W. Bush laid out this question:
“Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?”
The massive and violent demonstrations underway in Egypt, the smaller ones in Jordan and Yemen, and the recent revolt in Tunisia that inspired those events, have affirmed that the answer is no and are exploding, once and for all, the myth of Arab exceptionalism. Arab nations, too, yearn to throw off the secret police, to read a newspaper that the Ministry of Information has not censored and to vote in free elections. The Arab world may not be swept with a broad wave of revolts now, but neither will it soon forget this moment.
Bush was right? Are you shitting me? Before we dissect the madness of this world view with respect to Egypt permit me a brief walk back to what has actually happened in Iraq.
We were once aligned with a brutal autocrat, Saddam Hussein. Saddam was a mean, greedy son of a bitch but he served our national interest by helping contain the threat of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Doesn’t matter whether you like that or not. It is a simple fact.
Enter the neocons. Their philosophy, born in the utopian fantasies of Trotsky (read Justin Raimondos excellent overview), insisted that forging a democracy in Iraq thru war would, in the words of Kagan and Kristol, produce an “eruption of democracy in the heart of the Arab world.”
We now know how that worked out. An elected government is in place in Baghdad and it is effectively controlled by the Revolutionary Guard of Iran. The United States’ policy in Iraq has facilitated the spread of Iran’s influence and power in the region. Ironically many of the neocons froth at the mouth at the prospect of Iran securing a nuclear weapon but turn a blind eye to their own efforts that have both emboldened and strenthened Iran. Go figure. America is not stronger or more secure because of our war in Iraq and the Middle East is not a better, more stable, more democratic region. But try telling that to the neocons.
So now the neocons are busy trying to light the fires of democracy in Egypt. Excuse me, but there is no virtue or inherent morality in a system of government that allows the majority to make the rules. Anyone care to take the position that because a majority of Germans backed Hitler’s National Socialists that there was a moral authority and right to exist for that regime?
The Kristol-Kagan-Kaplan school of thought seems unconcerned with the fact that one election does not a democracy make. Richard Haass, a former head of the Bush administration’s policy planning staff at the State Department, warns that the White House is creating ballotocracies, not real democracies. A system of checks and balances, protections for minority rights, an independent judiciary and a genuinely free and respected media are only the beginning parts of establishing a resilient democracy, he suggests. And this may take decades.
Framing an election as a success to score political points will only blur the U.S. ability to see what is really unfolding in Iraq. Influential writers and pundits who engage in lop-sided analyses of the coalition’s role in Iraq are doing a disservice to all sides in the debate and need to get back to doing what Scowcroft did: put all the views, not just the best case, on the table and plan a course from there.
Let me suggest that we ought to know what a majority of people believe before we sign on to enabling them to take the reins of power. I am no Egypt expert but I have been to the country twice. Yes there are American friendly Egyptians but there also are Egyptians who favor female circumcision, female subjugation and the installation of Sharia law. Sorry, but I’m not down for that. I would rather back a tyrant/autocrat who would keep those crazies in check. I don’t want a nation controlled by a band of religious fantics that sits astride the Suez Canal and has control of the western border of Israel.
It is bad enough that the neocons are still trying to work their magic in the Washington policy world. Making matters worse is that the fools in the Obama national security team at the White House are inviting these clowns to step inside the tent. Elliot Abrams and Robert Kagan, two of the architects of the disaster in Iraq, were invited to the White House yesterday for a conference on Egypt. They turned down the invite but have continued to appear in public and push their view that Mubarak must go.
So last night Barack Obama appears on TV and announces, “Mubarak must go now.” Obama may not be a neocon at heart but he is certainly willing to carry their water. It appears there are no adults around Obama. He has now put his prestige and that of the United States on the line by insisting that Mubarak must go now. Unless the Army moves to oust Mubarak he is not going anywhere until his term in office ends. U.S. threats to cut financial support to Egypt’s military is self-defeating to the broader U.S. interest of keeping Israel’s western border secure and minimizing the ability of Hamas to infilitrate persons and munitions into Gaza. Obama has painted himself into a corner–if Mubarak goes then odds are high that Egypt will shift quickly to a policy opposed to being a proxy protector for Israel; if Mubarak stays he is a visible reminder that Obama is weak and others in the region will get the message that the U.S. is now a paper tiger. If you think Iran and Saudi Arabia are oblivious to these facts then you are qualified to be another empty headed pundit appearing on Fox or CNN to spout nonsense.
A popular uprising deposing Mubarak does not ensure that the ensuing regime will want to maintain Egypt’s treaty with Israel. If Egypt and Jordan fall to the will of the majority of their population we are likely to face a future where Israel’s security and survival will genuinely be in question. I for one am not eager for the United States to face the call of intervening militarily in a war to save Israel. Obama’s inept handling of this crisis may very well have set those forces in motion.
Mubarak sent an unmistakable signal today in Egypt–he ain’t going without a fight. Mubarak supporters have been ordered back into the streets and they will try to take it back by force. The key in all of this remains the Army. If they are reasonably confident that Mubarak will leave as promised come the fall they are likely to back his play and allow the anti-Mubarak protestors to be forcibly beat down. If they doubt Mubarak they will refuse to support the crackdown and will move to expedite Mubarak’s departure. This is still in play and remains volatile. Regardless of outcome the events in Egypt have exposed Obama as a paper tiger who has no vision for the region and only acts with an eye to his domestic politcal audience. Just as Iran sowed the seeds of Jimmy Carter’s one term Presidency, Egypt has become Obama’s Iran moment.