The ruinous alliance of neocons and leftists on the Egypt crisis

In an article of rare scope and insight, Caroline Glick grasps the double ideological illusion that controls American politics toward Islam in general and the Egyptian uprising in particular. On one side, the neoconservatives/Bushites believe that elections will automatically give birth to good regimes in the Muslim world, and so they support the popular rebellion against Mubarak even though in reality it will most likely lead to the creation of an Islamic republic. On the other side, the left-liberals/Obamites believe that anything done by Third Worlders in the name of resistance to Western colonialism is good, and since the protesters in Egypt are resisting Mubarak who is supposedly nothing but a U.S. puppet, left-liberals support them. Thus pro-democracy neocons on one hand and anti-colonialist leftists on the other both cheer developments that will bring about the radical Islamic takeover of the largest Arab country.

How is it that pro-American neocons, who define America as a universal benevolent abstraction, and anti-American left-liberals, who see America as a vicious oppressor of non-Western peoples, end up on the same side? What is it that the two factions have in common? What they have in common is that neither believes in America or the West as a concrete entity. Neither is capable of thinking about the good of America or the West as a concrete entity. And so both promote policies that are harmful to America and the West as concrete entities.

When we further remember that respectable opinion in America is virtually monopolized by the above described neoconservative and left-liberal positions, with no options outside them, we start to realize how demented, dangerous, and destructive American politics has become.

Here is the Glick article:

February 1, 2011

Clueless in Washington

The Egyptian multitudes on the streets of Cairo are a stunning sight. With their banners calling for freedom and an end to the reign of President Hosni Mubarak the story these images tell is a simple one as old as time.

On the one hand we have the young, dispossessed and weak protesters. And on the other we have the old, corrupt and tyrannical Mubarak. Hans Christian Andersen taught us who to support when we were wee tots.

But does his wisdom apply in this case?

Certainly it is true that the regime is populated by old men. Mubarak is 82 years old. It is also true that his regime is corrupt and tyrannical. Since the Muslim Brotherhood spinoff Islamic Jihad terror group murdered Mubarak’s predecessor president Anwar Sadat in 1981, Egypt has been governed by emergency laws that ban democratic freedoms. Mubarak has consistently rejected US pressure to ease regime repression and enact liberal reforms in governance.

This reality has led many American commentators across the political spectrum to side enthusiastically with the rioters. A prestigious working group on Egypt formed in recent months by Middle East experts from Left and Right issued a statement over the weekend calling for the Obama administration to dump Mubarak and withdraw its support for the Egyptian regime. It recommended further that the administration force Mubarak to abdicate and his regime to fall by suspending all economic and military assistance to Egypt for the duration.

The blue ribbon panel’s recommendations were applauded by its members’ many friends across the political spectrum. For instance, the conservative Weekly Standard’s editor William Kristol praised the panel on Sunday and wrote, “It’s time for the US government to take an active role … to bring about a South Korea/Philippines/Chile-like transition in Egypt, from an American-supported dictatorship to an American-supported and popularly legitimate liberal democracy.”

The problem with this recommendation is that it is based entirely on the nature of Mubarak’s regime. If the regime was the biggest problem, then certainly removing US support for it would make sense. However, the character of the protesters is not liberal.

Indeed, their character is a bigger problem than the character of the regime they seek to overthrow.

According to a Pew opinion survey of Egyptians from June 2010, 59 percent said they back Islamists. Only 27% said they back modernizers. Half of Egyptians support Hamas. Thirty percent support Hizbullah and 20% support al Qaida. Moreover, 95% of them would welcome Islamic influence over their politics. When this preference is translated into actual government policy, it is clear that the Islam they support is the al Qaida Salafist version.

Eighty two percent of Egyptians support executing adulterers by stoning, 77% support whipping and cutting the hands off thieves. 84% support executing any Muslim who changes his religion.

When given the opportunity, the crowds on the street are not shy about showing what motivates them. They attack Mubarak and his new Vice President Omar Suleiman as American puppets and Zionist agents. The US, protesters told CNN’s Nick Robertson, is controlled by Israel. They hate and want to destroy Israel. That is why they hate Mubarak and Suleiman.

WHAT ALL of this makes clear is that if the regime falls, the successor regime will not be a liberal democracy. Mubarak’s military authoritarianism will be replaced by Islamic totalitarianism. The US’s greatest Arab ally will become its greatest enemy. Israel’s peace partner will again become its gravest foe.

Understanding this, Israeli officials and commentators have been nearly unanimous in their negative responses to what is happening in Egypt. The IDF, the national security council, all intelligence agencies and the government as well as the media have all agreed that Israel’s entire regional approach will have to change dramatically in the event that Egypt’s regime is overthrown.

None of the scenarios under discussion are positive.

What has most confounded Israeli officials and commentators alike has not been the strength of the anti-regime protests, but the American response to them. Outside the far Left, commentators from all major newspapers, radio and television stations have variously characterized the US response to events in Egypt as irrational, irresponsible, catastrophic, stupid, blind, treacherous, and terrifying.

They have pointed out that the Obama administration’s behavior—as well as that of many of its prominent conservative critics—is liable to have disastrous consequences for the US’s other authoritarian Arab allies, for Israel and for the US itself.

The question most Israelis are asking is why are the Americans behaving so destructively? Why are President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charting a course that will necessarily lead to the transformation of Egypt into the first Salafist Islamic theocracy? And why are conservative commentators and Republican politicians urging them to be even more outspoken in their support for the rioters in the streets?

Does the US not understand what will happen in the region as a result of its actions? Does the US really fail to understand what will happen to its strategic interests in the Middle East if the Muslim Brotherhood either forms the next regime or is the power behind the throne of the next regime in Cairo?

Distressingly, the answer is that indeed, the US has no idea what it is doing. The reason the world’s only (quickly declining) superpower is riding blind is because its leaders are trapped between two irrational, narcissistic policy paradigms and they can’t see their way past them.

The first paradigm is former president George W. Bush’s democracy agenda and its concomitant support for open elections.

Bush supporters and former administration officials have spent the last month since the riots began in Tunisia crowing that events prove Bush’s push for democratization in the Arab world is the correct approach.

The problem is that while Bush’s diagnosis of the dangers of the democracy deficit in the Arab world was correct, his antidote for solving this problem was completely wrong.

Bush was right that tyranny breeds radicalism and instability and is therefore dangerous for the US.

But his belief that free elections would solve the problem of Arab radicalism and instability was completely wrong. At base, Bush’s belief was based on a narcissistic view of Western values as universal.

When, due to US pressure, the Palestinians were given the opportunity to vote in open and free elections in 2006, they voted for Hamas and its totalitarian agenda. When due to US pressure, the Egyptians were given limited freedom to choose their legislators in 2005, where they could they elected the totalitarian Muslim Brotherhood to lead them.

The failure of his elections policy convinced Bush to end his support for elections in his last two years in office.

Frustratingly, Bush’s push for elections was rarely criticized on its merits. Under the spell of the other policy paradigm captivating American foreign policy elites—anti-colonialism—Bush’s leftist opponents never argued that the problem with his policy is that it falsely assumes that Western values are universal values. Blinded by their anti-Western dogma, they claimed that his bid for freedom was nothing more than a modern-day version of Christian missionary imperialism.

It is this anti-colonialist paradigm, with its foundational assumption that that the US has no right to criticize non-Westerners that has informed the Obama administration’s foreign policy. It was the anti-colonialist paradigm that caused Obama not to support the pro-Western protesters seeking the overthrow of the Iranian regime in the wake of the stolen 2009 presidential elections. [LA replies: Off hand, this is the first time I remember seeing a mainstream commentator point out something I’ve indicated many times, namely that the left has never criticized the Bush pro-democracy policy because it’s based on false and utopian assumptions about Muslim society, but because they think the pro-democracy policy is fascist, imperialistic, and oppressive. Leftists NEVER discuss the Bush pro-democracy policy in terms of its advocates’ own understanding of it, and then show how that understanding is wrong; they only describe the pro-democracy policy as something vile and evil.]

As Obama put it at the time, “It’s not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the US president meddling in the Iranian elections.”

And it is this anti-colonialist paradigm that has guided Obama’s courtship of the Syrian, Turkish and Iranian regimes and his unwillingness to lift a hand to help the March 14 movement in Lebanon.

MOREOVER, SINCE the paradigm claims that the non-Western world’s grievances towards the West are legitimate, Obama’s Middle East policy is based on the view that the best way to impact the Arab world is by joining its campaign against Israel. This was the central theme of Obama’s speech before an audience dominated by Muslim Brotherhood members in Cairo in June 2009.

Like the pro-democracy paradigm, the anti-colonialist paradigm is narcissistic. Whereas Western democracy champions believe that all people are born with the same Western liberal democratic values, post-colonialists believe that non-Westerners are nothing more than victims of the West. They are not responsible for any of their own pathologies because they are not actors. Only Westerners (and Israelis) are actors. Non-Westerners are objects. And like all objects, they cannot be held responsible for anything they do because they are wholly controlled by forces beyond their control. [LA replies: Here Glick’s analysis is very similar to my discussion of the three-character “liberal script,” in which virtuous white liberals lord it over bigoted white nonliberals for the sake of nonwhites. In this script only the liberal whites and the non-liberal whites are moral actors; the nonwhites are not moral actors. They are either victims of the white non-liberals’ evil acts of discrimination, or beneficiaries of the white liberals’ virtuous acts of non-discrimination. See this and this.]

Anti-colonialists by definition must always support the most anti-Western forces as “authentic.” In light of Mubarak’s 30-year alliance with the US, it makes sense that Obama’s instincts would place the US president on the side of the protesters.

SO THERE we have it. The US policy towards Egypt is dictated by the irrational narcissism of two opposing sides to a policy debate that has nothing to do with reality.

Add to that Obama’s electoral concern about looking like he is on the right side of justice and we have a US policy that is wholly antithetical to US interests.

This presents a daunting, perhaps insurmountable challenge for the US’s remaining authoritarian Arab allies. In Jordan and Saudi Arabia, until now restive publics have been fearful of opposing their leaders because the US supports them. Now that the US is abandoning its most important ally and siding with its worst enemies, the Hashemites and the Sauds don’t look so powerful to their Arab streets. The same can be said for the Kuwaiti leadership and the pro-American political forces in Iraq.

As for Israel, America’s behavior towards Egypt should put to rest the notion that Israel can make further territorial sacrifices in places like the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley in exchange for US security guarantees. US behavior today—and the across-the-board nature of American rejection of Mubarak—is as clear a sign as one can find that US guarantees are not credible.

As Prof. Barry Rubin wrote this week, “There is no good policy for the United States regarding the uprising in Egypt but the Obama administration may be adopting something close to the worst option.”

Unfortunately, given the cluelessness of the US foreign policy debate, this situation is only likely to grow worse.

[end of Glick article]

- end of initial entry -

Paul Gottfried writes:

This situation seems to be resolving itself. Several days ago the Israeli foreign minister issued a statement indicating that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over Egypt in the planned transition to democracy. Needless to say, this assessment is realistic. Since then, this may or may not be coincidence, most of the neocon maniacs have been back-pedalling. Bolton has become sensible, and even Rich Lowry is punctuating his stuff about global democracy with the reminder that Bush’s initiatives in this direction “petered out.” My initial reaction was the same as yours but now it seems that even neocons can learn, at least in this instance, if pushed toward reality.

LA replies:

Twice in the last 24 hours, most recently on William Bennett’s radio program this morning, Norman Podhoretz’s son-in-law Elliot Abrams has said that the events in Egypt “prove that Bush was right,” i.e., that all Muslim people want democracy, and that the push for “democracy” should be cheered. I’ve heard that other neocons are saying that as well. And Glick indicates that they are saying it.

At the same time, it’s true that some neocons are warning against Egyptian regime change. Frank Gaffney has an article today underscoring that the Muslim Brotherhood is our enemy.

Still, the impression I have is that the American political-media sphere has been overwhelmingly in support for “democracy” in Egypt, a view that reflects both leftist and neocon influences.

E. in Florida writes:

Good for Glick. I’ve been watching the national evening TV news for several days now, something I rarely do, but I wanted to see their coverage of Egypt. I was astounded that, almost to a person, the newscasters, whether in the studio or in Egypt, were not concealing their glee at the upcoming overthrow of the Mubarak regime. I don’t get it. It’s clear that the Mubarak elite will simply be replaced by another elite, probably Islamists and their cronies. The middle class and upper class will suffer (or flee to the U.S. and Europe if we let them). The poor will be even worse off than they are today. And the whole Middle East will go Islamic radicalist. I just this afternoon asked a friend if he’d seen ANY analysis that remotely paralleled mine and he said No. I am totally in your camp. The people who run this country (U.S.) and our news media and analysis are divorced from reality.

Alan Levine writes:

I thoroughly agree with you and Caroline Glick, but I would argue that the blather that has passed for “analysis” of the Egyptian situation is really a special case of a more general leftist mania, namely, the cretinous belief that if a bad regime is overthrown by people who are “democratic” or claim to be (of course even this is doubtful in the Egyptian case), the result will be the victory of democracy.

Yeah, right.

We know how well this worked in France in 1789 and Russia in 1917 and countless places since. These people are even stupider than the Bourbons. They, at least. could remember things; these people cannot even do that.

LA writes:

Investors Business Daily also criticizes “pundits on both the left and the right” for taking the side of the Muslim Brotherhood. Among the pundits on the “right” it names is President Bush’s former press spokeswoman, Dana Perino, who has become an all-out pest on Fox News over the last two years.

IBD writes:

As the radical Muslim Brotherhood schemes to oust a pro-American despot in Egypt, U.S. pundits have cheered the move as a boon for freedom. This is dangerous pablum.

The Muslim Brotherhood is in talks with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei to form a unity government to replace the regime of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. ally.

Pundits on both the left and the right have naively portrayed the Brotherhood—a worldwide jihadist movement based in Cairo—as a pro-democracy force that has “courageously campaigned against the government and for the poor,” as a CNN anchor put it. Obama adviser Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, argues that the U.S. “should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood.” He claims it “renounced violence years ago.”

Former Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino chimed in that at least the Brotherhood would pick up the trash and provide basic services for Egyptians. “Don’t be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” she said on Fox News. “This has nothing to do with religion.” In fact, it has everything to do with it. The exiled Brotherhood hates Mubarak because he secularized Egyptian society. The Brotherhood wants to Talibanize it.

Charles T. writes:

IDB quote from the above post:

“Former Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino chimed in that at least the Brotherhood would pick up the trash and provide basic services for Egyptians.”

This person is a fool. We all know who else could make the trains run on time.

Is this what passes for analysis on TV these days? I stopped watching the tube years ago.

LA replies:

Dana Perino is a typical TV talking head female: preciously pretty, with media skills, and with absolutely nothing worthwhile to say. The main message she conveys is, “I am so pretty and I know how to talk; and I am so very special because I’m pretty and know how to talk.”

Laura G. writes:

Are you sure that sufficient account has been paid to Obama’s own Muslim self? Father Muslim, adoptive father Muslim, Muslim schooling, Muslim after-school classes: as they say, you do the math. In my opinion, an adequate explanation for why he was so silent on the Iranian demonstrations is that he didn’t want to rock the Muslim boat the mullahs controlled, and the reason he is now so solicitous of the Egyptian “demonstrators” is that they are the front for a suitably radical organization, which Mubarak (Semi-allay of U.S. and Israel) is not and never was. Whatever the core values that are leading to the Egyptian meltdown, the outcome will be another radical Muslim state, and the One knows this very well. As far as his public defense of the need for democracy in Egypt is concerned, all I can say is: Taquiyya, you’all. He hates the U.S., has fairly visible plans for its future, and never hesitates to advance the strength and position of all things Muslim. I do not deny the correctness of your assessment of the genesis (i.e., neocons and leftists) and that of the wonderful Caroline Glick, but I do think that you both may have under-appreciated a central and core element.

February 2

Gedaliah Braun writes from South Africa:

Laura G.’s comment is right on the mark.

Over and over and over again I read people writing about Obama and see their confusion and puzzlement when they try to explain his behaviour and are not really able to do so. The only hypothesis that can really explain his behaviour (at least vis a vis the Middle East) is that he is a jihadi Islamist at heart, and like others of that ilk hates whites, hates Jews and hates America, and will therefore promote any behaviour that is against the interests of these groups and will oppose anything that he thinks will harm the interest of Islamofascists (such as the leaders of Iran).

Yet almost never does anyone actually bring this up and yet it goes to the heart of the matter. I myself do not fully understand just why so many people who are (rightfully) hostile to Obama nevertheless seem to shy away from this (to me) seemingly obvious fact—of Obama’s ‘Muslim self’. The only thing that limits Obama’s behaviour in this regard is his uncertainty about just how far he can go—and just how obvious he can be—without suffering political consequences from the not completely eviscerated moral conscience of the American people.

LA replies:

I wrote in June 2009 that Obama in his Cairo speech had declared himself to be the worldwide enforcer of Islamic law.

Donald Hank writes:

Here is a neocon, Cal Thomas, who seems to have woken up.

LA replies:

I don’t think it’s correct to call Thomas a neoconservative. He has not pushed the specifically neoconservative line over the years, though he is in agreement with neocons on various issues. He’s better described as a “mainstream Christian conservative,” with a huge dose of racial egalitarianism but also a strong opposition to Islam. Among conservative columnists, he has consistently been one of the most hostile to Islam. So I wouldn’t describe this column warning about the MB as a “waking up.”

Also, Paul Gottfried’s statement that neocons are waking to reality because John Bolton and Richard Lowry are sounding warnings about the MB does not prove the point he’s trying to prove. It is not my impression that Bolton has been a convicted promoter of the neocon democracy line; he has a harder, more realistic edge than most neocons. As for Lowry, rather than being neoconservative per se, he’s simply vacuous. He’s an Empty-Con, drifting in and out of various debates and positions with no stable point of view of his own. In any case, he has not over the years passionately promoted Muslim democracy. The people who have passionately promoted it, the hard core neocons, are still doing so.

LA continues:

As far back as 2003, Cal Thomas has taken strong exception to Bush’s universal democracy rhetoric. I wrote in November 2003:

Cal Thomas has written an insightful critique of President Bush’s “freedom and democracy for the Moslem world” speech. As Thomas puts it, Bush assumes that the Moslems have the same basic values, the same aims and strivings for “liberty,” that we do. But they don’t. Moslems’ notion of “liberty” is to live according to Allah’s law and to impose that law on everyone else. They regard our kind of radical personal freedom as corrupting and sinful.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 01, 2011 02:21 PM | Send

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