Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt, Israel -- and Our Grandsons

The Memsahib and I are blessed to have three sensational grandsons and two more arriving in 2011. What’s happening in the Middle East is of the greatest significance for their lives, their parents’ lives and, perhaps, depending on how quickly things move, on the life of the Mem and me. I’m going to try your patience with another blast on the Egypt situations. First, it’s necessary to understand this:

Everyone is Wrong. It is almost impossible – no, it is impossible in fact – to say anything about the situation in Egypt without sounding fatuous – no, without being fatuous. Your Cool Hot Center most assuredly included. I’ve been reading up. Nobody knows anything. Nobody knows exactly how Islamist (i..e, radical) the Muslim Brotherhood is. Nobody knows how influential it might be in a successor government. Nobody knows whether Mubarek’s plan to hold elections in September, when presumably he would exit, can possibly succeed. Nobody knows anything. Nevertheless, please keep reading.

Who Are These Pro-Mubarak Fighters? It seems as though there are some non-military types who are out in the streets fighting in favor of the government. Who are they? (See above paragraph.) I do wonder whether there is a non-military, non-“elite,” non-paid-thug, dare I call it “middle-class” faction in Egypt that maybe isn’t that crazy about Mubarak but who is even less crazy about the prospect of Islamists taking control of Egypt. What other reason would a man-on-the-street Egyptian want to risk life and limb for Mubarak? Alas, they do seem like paid thugs; it appears that they’re fairly well-equipped and rather vigorous fighters.

Looters? Or Commenters on Egyptian History? Some of the fighters – I don’t know which side – have breached the Egyptian Museum. Some King Tut artifacts were damaged, as were some mummies. At this writing, the Museum is secure. But there seems to be a great fear that there will be looting of some of the great Egyptian treasures. I am quite certain that the main motivation here is criminal, and monetary, although where one fences a mummy I’m unsure. It has occurred to me to wonder, however, whether part of the motivation here is that some Egyptians find their Pharaonic history shameful – they’re tired of living under Pharaohs and don’t want to celebrate them any more.

Yeah, but What About the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists? In my last post I came down on the side of the anti-Mubarak guys and assuming the risk of a hostile government in Egypt. That risk about the same today as it was a few days ago. Mubarak is going to be gone – elections have been promised in his deal with the military, although why in September and not in March or April I dunno. I think it’s pretty likely that we are indeed going to end up with a radical-influenced, if not radical-led, government in Egypt, unless the military can take over and stay put. This isn’t a good thing, but if it is inevitable, geez, let’s do what we can to stick our toe in that transition. The Obama administration has dithered, and even Secretary of State Clinton has not exhibited her usual sure-footedness. But see first point – nobody knows quite what to make of all of this.

Whatever Happened to the Enlightened Despot? What is it about being a modern despot in some of these countries that requires him to line his pockets and those of his cronies while utterly devastating his people? Isn’t being a despot likely to create a real darned nice lifestyle for you and your pals without creating conditions so intolerable that they lead to exactly this kind of revolution? Not to mention the political (and in this case, religious) radicalization of the masses.

Not Too Early to Ask – How Do You Feel About Israel? Are You Willing to Go to War for It? Egypt. Jordan’s unstable. Yemen is about to go and is a snakepit of al Qaeda conspiracy. The Muslim Brotherhood is on record for Israel’s destruction and jihad against the U.S. We know about Iran. When we leave Iraq, Afghanistan . . . . If those governments become radicalized, how long will Saudi Arabia be able to hold out?

Will Israel be Poland 1939?
Israel has been a critical U.S. ally for decades. Such a critical ally, that some say it has had an influence on U.S. policy that is disproportionate to its importance. At least until recently, we have been pledged to its survival.

But folks, it is not too early to say that the noose is tightening. It is not too early to imagine Israel with not one single surrounding country with which it is reliably at peace.

I don’t need to remind you that Iran will soon be nuclear, and Pakistan already is.

And the Islamists -- and, I very strongly suspect, some percentage of Muslims who in other respects would call themselves moderate -- hate Israel and desire its destruction not because it is imperialist, not because it threatens Islam, not because its treatment of Palestinians, but because it is not Islam.  And because its founding was midwifed by the victorious WW II allies and placed in their midst.  I am not here to debate whether the creation of Israel in 1948 was a good idea or whether Arab perceptions are accurate.  I am here to say that diplomacy is not going to change the growing Muslim fundamentalism that holds that Israel must go.  I read today that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has repudiated the Camp David accords.

So when the missiles begin to fall – not next year, maybe not for the next five years, but maybe a decade from now, how will the U.S. respond?

Which begs the critical long-term question, really the only important question that is going to come out of this, the question for our grandsons: If the Middle East as a whole decides for Islamist primitivism, and makes Israel its first target, will the U.S. risk a world war with Islam – that is what it would be – to come to Israel’s defense?

But Wait, Cool Hot -- I Thought You Were in Favor of Regime Change in Egypt!  Quite true. And of course I don’t favor a world war with Islam, and by that I mean Islam as it presents itself to the world – accurately or inaccurately – through Islamist governments. But here’s how I figure it: (1) Successful revolution against guys like Mubarak is inevitable. (2) It is inevitable that these revolutions will be fueled by anti-Western sentiments, and that there is likely to be a anti-Western cast to any resulting administration. (3) We will be better off if the anti-Westernism of the Middle East manifests itself in constituted governments that we can talk to, cajole, threaten, sanction, inspect, negotiate with. Who have real representatives to talk to. Who have some chance of exercising authority over the bloodthirstiest among them.

(Which also assumes that we will have restored and continued to elect American presidential administrations and Congresses that believe strongly in American values, that have re-strengthened our military, and are not afraid to threaten American military and economic action to ensure international security under a regime of freedom.)

If it is inevitable that the next world war – be it a fighting war or a cold one – will be with Islam in its political aspect, we will be better off dealing with people with something to lose. And maybe keep Israel safe in the bargain.

As well as those precious grandsons.


  1. We have already elected a President who does not believe strongly in American values, who has undermined our military (think DADT repeal), and is afraid of threatening US military action against Islamic terrorists and nuclear Imams. Like it or not, whether he is a sympathizer, an appeaser, or just naive, he is our first "Muslim" president. Israel 2011 or 2012 will indeed be Poland 1939. I pity your grandchildren.

    The Big Apple

  2. Big App, I agree in large measure. Which is why I used the phrase "Which also assumes that we will have RESTORED" an administration with such values.

    I am doubtful that the President is "Muslim," even by sympathy. Being a Muslium would require him to believe in something greater than himself, for which the evidence is slim.

  3. I doubt that he believes in Islam, but I do believe his actions are pro-Muslim. In the same sense that Bill Clinton was our first "black" president, Obama is our first "Muslim" one. And just as Cassius Clay chose to become Muhammad Ali and Lew Alcindor to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (both good men, by the way), Barry Sutero chose to become Barack Hussein Obama.