Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Sensible Look At What's Going On In Egypt...

And in the Middle East in general from none other than blogpal and Middle East expert Professor Barry Rubin, who provided some extremely worthwhile must-read analysis in an interview with NRO's Kathryn Lopez on Egypt, the future, and the farcical level of the dinosaur media coverage of what's going on. Here's a slice:

It’s been a few days, so I’ve checked in again with Barry Rubin, who last time we spoke threw some cold water on early optimism about events in Egypt. Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and author of books including The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement.

Kathryn Jean Lopez
: What do you make of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s statement yesterday?

Barry Rubin: The regime has agreed on a plan. Parliament will dissolve, a commission will meet to draft a new constitution, then there will be parliamentary elections, and finally presidential elections. Mubarak will save face and finish his term in September.

Presumably, the army and elite agreed on this for a peaceful transition in which they hope that only Mubarak’s head will roll, so to speak. It is interesting to think about how the constitutional commission will be organized — presumably they would want to ensure that regime and elite representatives would be on it.

Lopez: Can he hold on until September?

Rubin: On the one hand, by withholding the army and avoiding a lot of repression, the regime has already signaled to the opposition that it has won and that the Mubarak regime has no chance. On top of this add the Obama administration’s position. So the regime has no cards left.

Why should the opposition compromise on anything, especially since they want Mubarak gone right away? The only factor to the contrary is if ElBaradei and others — but who are the leaders of the opposition? — feel that otherwise people will start going hungry, anarchy will be destructive, and so on.

There is no predetermined answer, but I think that either there will either be a deal or the regime will retreat further or even collapse long before that.

Lopez: Is something going on regionally that can’t be stopped?

Rubin: First, you have to recognize what’s happening; then you have to want to do something about it. If you think that something disastrous is good, then you won’t be motivated. The fact is, however, that no radical regime is menaced as of now. For one thing, they would kill people without moral compunction. Then they would use demagoguery to muster support to an extent more moderate regimes cannot do. Unfortunately, repression works if really applied, and only when it is mitigated does it become vulnerable, as Egypt and Iran prove.

Lopez: Is Mohamed ElBaradei as big an opposition player as the U.S. media presents him?

Rubin: No. He isn’t charismatic, and he has no base and no program, while a lot of his backers are Muslim Brothers. Do the demonstrators really support him or will he be seen as an American-imposed candidate?

Lopez: What do you think will happen in the coming days?

Rubin: The opposition will reject the government’s proposal for transition and there will be more disorders. If the army has decided not to act at all, there could be anarchy and a large-scale breakdown of order.

Lopez: How would you advise the White House if they’d listen to you?

Rubin: They won’t and it is probably too late. But they better start thinking about Plan B, and little things like how they are going to handle a similar scenario in Jordan.

Lopez: Are you getting grief for being a contrarian?

Rubin: An interesting question. Let me answer it in detail. Nowadays there is no real public debate on such issues as there once was. I can write things that, say, 40,000 people will see while the message that everything’s fine and the Muslim Brotherhood is really moderate will reach tens of millions. The mass media take a point of view and anything contradicting it is largely excluded. Indeed, those with the hegemonic standpoint don’t even read alternative positions. In this atmosphere they certainly don’t need to construct strong arguments in order to try to refute them. Thus, their arguments become very flimsy and full of obvious errors that nobody points out. In short, there is no great incentive to criticize someone like me unless it furthers the liberal-conservative partisan struggle, which isn’t really involved in this issue.

Read the rest here.

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B.Poster said...

If we think of American national policy as based upon a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being a full scale support of democracy even if it contradicts American interests and 10 being an aggressive pursual of American interests to the point of actively suppressing democracy, American foreign policy currently is set at somewhere around 1.

Right now I wouldn't expect America to intervene in this situation to thwart the Muslim Brotherhood because many folks in the US and "Western" governments simply don't see the Muslim Brotherhood as being a problem!! I think Mr. Rubin is spot on when he points this out. In fact, it appears we are going to support "Democracy" regardless whether such a position places the American people in danger or not.

After all, we have to stand on principle here. It matters not whether the Mubarak opposition may pose a grave threat to the survival of millions of Americans. Onr man one vote baby!! This is even if the Muslim Brotherhood gains control. See no evil, hear no evil.

The media has pointed out that the Mubarak supporters are being paid by Mubarak and backed by his people. While hardly surprising, this is interesting. What I'm wondering is we are told that Egypt suffers rampant unemployment. Yet these people have ready access to things like the internet, cell phones, twitter, facebook, etc. Where are they getting the money? Whose funding this? I think its not an accident these questions aren't being asked. We might not like the answers to such questions. After all, we have to support democracy at any costs.

Might Mr. Obama's public speeches encouraging Mr. Mubarak to step down have contributed to the violence? Had he simply kept his mouth shut might we have had a more orderly transition of power that might not be an unmitigated disaster for America.

Essentially what we should be trying to get to here is an Egyptian government that will address the needs of the Egyptian people and will help us against groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Does the incesatant chatter of American officials and Media pundits undermine such a prospect?

If American forces were to directly take Mr. Mubarak out of the country and offer public support to the Muslim Brotherhood might this help us, at least temproarily with the Arab street? I suspect our officals think the answer is yes but they are not doing this because American officials are reluctant to intervene directly in the domestic policies of another nation based on principle. After all, we gotta stick to principle. The lives of American or the preservation of ANY of America's interests can never take precendence over principle.

B.Poster said...

A very important question to ask is how did American officals get caught so far off guard with this? I suspect it is as I've been saying for years. Aemrican intellegence is completely incompetent. This is exacerbated by the wikileaks fiasco. This has made it less likely any one will share any thing of value to us with us.

The best approach to this would be to identify groups within the revolution who will address the needs of the Egyptian people and will not oppress them AND wll assist the US in areas of vital concern to it, such as assisting us agains the Muslim Brotherhood, other Islamic terrorist groups, and keeping the valuable Suez Canal open to America. These are the groups we should be assisting, if we can identify them.

If you can't identify a revolution of this magnitude before it happens, how can you identify the groups I mention? I can only pray American intellegence is more competent than it seems to be or it can find a competence it has never had and find this competence quickly.

Anonymous said...

Quote from the article :

' Nowadays there is no real public debate on such issues as there once was ... The mass media take a point of view and anything contradicting it is largely excluded. Indeed, those with the hegemonic standpoint don't even read alternative positions. '

Spot on ! I used to employ what I termed the 16th paragraph rule when reading such politically-correct rags as the N Y Times. I should read quickly, or even skip, several paragraphs till I could un-Earth the non-pc paragraph wherein the media gate-keepers would deign to mention, quickly, swiftly, chop-chop, en passant, don't blink or you'll miss it ( like the state of Rhode Island in the interstate highway system ) the other side's positions & arguments. ( The last time I bought a copy of the NY Times was in Nov 2000 : yes, the famous colour map wherein they bumbled & used Red for Republican ridings, even though Red symbolises the Left, socialism, communism et c. To be fair, the alliteration of Republican & Red was probably irresistible , & they would not have realised that they were inadvertently creating a cartographic template for all future partisan political maps. I was also angry with the NY Times for what they did to an European newspaper which they had acquired partial ownership of ; it was not one whereat I had worked, but I knew several people which worked there & their descriptions of the vitiation disheartened me. )

To return to our muttons : the media climate which Mr Rubin depicts evokes for me eerie memories of the mid-1960s : a spooky spell during which the television news presenters worshipfully & fearfully referred to the war-criminal Lyndon Johnson as ' our ' president, & no real criticism of that creature or any criticism of his immoral Vietnam War was permitted. People naturally reacted with resentment to the censorship & bullying. Walter Cronkite was very brave to shatter the news embargo, &, fortunately, the war-criminal LBJ was humiliated in the New Hampshire primaries & forced to abandon his pursuit of the Dem prez nomination in 1968. ( You can't take New Hampshire ' for Granite ' . ) But people were organised & persistent in that halcyon era. I can only hope that the Tea drinkers will be able to persevere : this is a marathon, not a sprint.

To BPoster : We have the Manchurian Candidate in the White House till at least 20 Jan 2013. If the American people elect a replacement in Nov 2012, then after Jan 2013, the US can be a productive influence in the world. Till then, there is no real baby-sitter.