Sunday, February 13, 2011

The dog that didn't bark

“And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But no dog shall bark …” Exodus 11:6, et seq.

From this, we are to learn that God’s hand was at work in the miraculous changes in Egypt. Once again, we are observing events in Egypt that defy logic and reason. Let’s review.

On June 4, 2009, at Cairo University, President Obama gave a speech entitled “A New Beginning.” Here’s some of what he said:

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

He expressed his “belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.”

The President acknowledged that “there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq.” He also stated clearly to the Egyptians, “no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”

Here’s what he said that is of special relevance to the situation in Egypt today:
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

Four months later, President received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee’s press release said:

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.”

In January of this year, protesters took to the streets in Cairo to overthrow Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was a staunch friend of the United States, but a tyrant nevertheless. For nearly three decades he ruled under an “Emergency Law” that allowed for the brutal suppression of all opposition. His nation suffered from extreme poverty, although he amassed a fortune which we have since learned is in the order of $70 billion. Successive American administrations had warned him that the situation was untenable, and had unsuccessfully urged him to liberalize his autocratic rule.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Egyptian-American alliance. The Camp David Peace Accords essentially made it impossible for there to be a unified Arab attack on Israel, as there had been in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. There is a reason why Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.

By February 11th, Mubarak had resigned, and the government was in the hands of the military. The leadership of the military has strong ties with the Americans and they have expressed that they will honor all peace agreements, including Camp David. From the American point of view the outcome of the revolution could not have been better. This is true for the Israelis, as well.

Egyptian democracy will face many challenges before it fully takes hold. Perhaps, the Muslim Brotherhood will get a foothold in electoral politics, and then renege on the commitments they have made. Ambassador Martin Indyk opined on Meet the Press, “I don’t think the military is going to let the Muslim Brotherhood takeover. The Muslim Brotherhood knows that and they are keeping their head down and saying they don’t want to takeover.”

For the time being here’s what their website says:
We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians. We do not intend to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition. We are not putting forward a candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for September.


We envision the establishment of a democratic, civil state that draws on universal measures of freedom and justice, which are central Islamic values. We embrace democracy not as a foreign concept that must be reconciled with tradition, but as a set of principles and objectives that are inherently compatible with and reinforce Islamic tenets.

What does all this have to do with dogs not barking in Egypt? In the Sherlock Holmes story, Silver Blaze, Doyle writes:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

By my lights the most curious thing about the Tahrir Square Revolution is the fact that the demonstrations were almost totally devoid of anti-American sloganeering. Nor was there any of the anti-Israel rhetoric that could have been expected. Who could have imagined that a popular revolution in the most populous Arab nation in the world, would not contain elements of reflex anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism?

If things do go badly in Egypt, Barack Obama will surely be blamed by those who hate him. But for now, it is hard to envision a better outcome. Give credit where credit is due.

"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

Post Script: I must the biggest dope of all time. I stupidly thought that the haters of Obama would wait until something went awry in Egypt before they criticized him. As you can see below, Newsweek's new columnist Niall Ferguson earns his wings by jumping on President Obama. The logic of his argument doesn't stand up any better than the headline-writer's spell-checker.


Obama's Egypt and Foreign Policy Failires

NEWSWEEK’s new columnist on Obama’s Egypt debacle and the vacuum it exposes.

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