The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Egypt: ‘Attaboy, Mubarak’?

Posted on | January 29, 2011 | 38 Comments

“The position of the government of the United States of America should never be to say to the side that’s using batons on demonstrators, ‘attaboy.’”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

Oh, I don’t know, Jim. When it came to student protesters in Berkeley and rioters in Watts, wasn’t Ronald Reagan’s election as California governor basically a result of the voters saying “attaboy”?

Grant that Hosni Mubarak isn’t UC President Clark Kerr and that Egyptians in 2011 have grievances more serious than did the residents of Watts in 1965. Still, the question isn’t merely who is wielding batons, but against whom the batons are being wielded.

I remember seeing the Denver police in riot gear at the Democratic convention in 2008 and thinking, “Man, I hope the anarchist scum try to start trouble with these guys.”

So if I didn’t mind the Denver police putting some well-deserved whup-ass on smelly American peaceniks, why should I object to Cairo police putting some whup-ass on the Muslim Brotherhood?

Because he’s a member of Congress, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Awesome) can’t put in quite such blunt terms:

Though many will be tempted to superficially interpret the Egyptian demonstrations as an uprising for populist democracy, they must recall how such similar initial views of the 1979 Iranian Revolution were belied by the mullahs’ radical jackbooted murderers, who remain bent upon grasping regional hegemony and nuclear weaponry.

American idealism about democracy and free speech and peaceable assembly doesn’t necessarily match the situation on the ground in Cairo and, in the absence of knowledge about what a post-Mubarak Egypt would look like, we ought not let our enthusiasm outrun the facts. As it is, the facts don’t look good for Mubarak:

Egypt was engulfed in a fifth day of protests on Saturday but an attempt by President Hosni Mubarak to salvage his 30-year rule by firing his cabinet and calling out the army appeared to backfire as troops and demonstrators fraternized and called for the president himself to resign. . . .
The feared security police had largely withdrawn from central Cairo to take up positions around the presidential palace . . .
Following Mr. Mubarak’s demand in his late-night speech, the Egyptian cabinet officially resigned on Saturday. But there was no sign of letup in the tumult. Reports from morgues and hospitals suggested that at least 50 people had been killed so far.

UPDATE: A former adviser to the Obama administration argues that the Muslim Brotherhood “should not be seen as inevitably our enemy” — which is what you’d expect an Obama adviser to say, I suppose — but Thomas Joscelyn isn’t buying it:

Hosni Mubarak’s regime is no friend of freedom, even though it is certainly an ally against al Qaeda.
In all likelihood, an Egypt dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood (if that is how the turmoil plays out) would be neither.

And not to justify the Zeitgeist conspiracy-mongers murmuring about “international bankers,” but Larry Kudlow suggests that Ben Bernanke’s “quantitative easing” policy at the Fed might be implicated in the Egyptian unrest:

Commodities are priced in dollars, and the Fed has been overproducing dollars for more than two years. Consequently, emerging markets throughout the world — and the food sector in particular — are suffering from rising inflation.

UPDATE II: President Obama’s official remarks last night:

The speech left “lots of people complaining bitterly that [Obama] had endorsed Mubarak’s grim struggle to hold on to power, missed an historic opportunity, and risked sparking a wave of anti-Americanism,” says GWU Professor Marc Lynch, adding: “The administration, it seems to me, is trying hard to protect the protestors from an escalation of violent repression, giving Mubarak just enough rope to hang himself, while carefully preparing to ensure that a transition will go in the direction of a more democratic successor.”

Well, Professor Lynch is an expert and I am not, but I would say that in general, previous optimism about the Obama administration has inevitably led to disappointment. Even in a situation like this — where the U.S. seems confronted by a choice between “bad” and “worse” — my hunch is that whatever Obama does will turn out to be disastrous.

UPDATE III: Carolyn Glick of the Jerusalem Post is not sanguine about what the Egyptian unrest means for Israel. Her pessimism points toward the basic problem with those who talk hopefully about “Mideast peace,” namely the fact that the Arab/Muslim world has been steeped in anti-Israel hatred for so long that Israel’s choices come down to either fighting against radicals or negotiating with “moderates” who don’t really represent anyone.



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