Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spengler on Egypt

From the onset of the Arab Spring I have found the columns written by Spengler, aka David Goldman, to be the most incisive and most informative. Thus, I have often cited them in the posts where I have tried to help us all follow the unraveling of the Obama/Clinton Middle East policy.

Without any doubt, Spengler has been far more prescient than the New York Times columnists who were camped out in Tahrir Square to celebrate a New Arab Dawn.

Beyond his analysis of the politics Spengler has offered clear insight into Egypt’s economic distress. It’s well worth a read.

Recently, he summarized the situation in Egypt, as follows:

Egypt is running out of everything, except well-wishers from the Western foreign policy establishment, for which the Arab Spring has been a humiliating proposition. After a year of attempts to reinforce the Sunni opposition in Syria, the West is left with an insurgency dominated by radical jihadists, and an Assad regime that continues to draw support from minorities who fear the Sunnis even more than they fear Assad. In Libya, the US helped overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and for its trouble got a dead ambassador and roving bands of terrorists equipped with the best of the Libyan arsenal.

No nation the size of Egypt has become ungovernable except as a result of war during the whole of the modern period. The deterioration of the Arab Spring into societal breakdown constitutes a reproach to the Western foreign policy establishment, which could not envision this outcome before, and refuses to consider its consequences now.

The closer Egypt comes to chaos, the shriller the expressions of solidarity with Cairo from Western leaders. The discovery of a 2010 video of President Mohammed Morsi denouncing Jews as “descendants of apes and pigs” came at an inopportune moment. The least of the problem is that Morsi hates Jews; no-one suspected him of any other sentiments. The trouble is that the speech exposes Egypt’s president as a pre-modern creature of barbaric habits of thought and Dark Age ignorance – hardly the man to execute the most difficult operation that the leader of any troubled economy has been asked to accomplish in the recent record of economic disaster.

Western leaders have a story, though, and they are sticking to it. European Union President Herman Van Rompuy was in Cairo last week, along with a delegation of American lawmakers led by senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The European leader promised $6.7 billion in loans and investments, provided that Egypt sign the agreement with the International Monetary Fund that it has been unable to close for the past year.

Even Bill Gates has gotten involved, as part of a consortium of US investors buying a $1 billion stake in the Egyptian cement and construction firm Orascom. The whole of Egypt’s stock market is worth about as much as a middling member of the S&P 500, on par with American Express or 3M, which is about all one needs to know about the valuation of an economy with 80 million citizens.

Spengler is especially displeased with the Republican foreign policy establishment:

The discovery of Morsi’s apes-and-pigs comment might have provided a pretext for America’s Republican Party to wash their hands of the Egyptian president and shift the blame for the entire mess onto the Obama administration. Such is the loyalty of the Republican mainstream to the so-called freedom agenda of the former Bush administration, though, that Republican leaders have gone out of their way to declare their solidarity with Cairo.

Of course, anti-establishment Republicans, the kind that are routinely excoriated and demeaned, both within and without their party, have offered a different view on Libya and the Arab Spring.

Here I am thinking of Michele Bachmann, who received great praise from Andrew McCarthy. While John McCain is making a fool of himself, Bachmann is sounding more and more like the voice of reason.

In McCarthy’s words:

I wonder if the jihadists of eastern Libya are still “heroes” to John McCain. That’s what he called them — “my heroes” — after he changed on a dime from chummy Qaddafi tent guest to rabid Qaddafi scourge.

See, the senator and his allies in the Obama-Clinton State Department had a brilliant notion: The reason the “rebels” of eastern Libya hated America so much had nothing to do with their totalitarian, incorrigibly anti-Western ideology. No, no: The problem was that we sided with Qaddafi, giving the dictator — at the insistence of, well, McCain and the State Department — foreign aid, military assistance, and international legitimacy. If we just threw Qaddafi under the bus, the rebels would surely become our grand democratic allies.

This, of course, was a much more sophisticated theory than you’d get from lunatics like Michele Bachmann. Sit down for this, because I know it’s hard to believe anyone could spout such nutter stuff, but Bachmann actually opposed U.S. intervention in Libya. She claimed — stop cackling! — that many of McCain’s heroes might actually be jihadists ideologically hostile to the U.S. and linked to groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the terror enterprise’s North African franchise. She even thought — yeah, I know, crazy — that if Qaddafi were deposed, the heroes would get their hands on his arsenal, ship a lot of it to AQIM havens in places such as Mali and Algeria, and maybe even turn rebel strongholds such as Benghazi into death traps for Americans.


Dennis said...

Has anyone noticed that the people who are most excoriated by the Left and/or the "media' are almost always right in their conclusions? The converse of that is also true. Those that the Left and/or "media" extol and intimate are brilliant are almost always wrong. Worse yet they are so wrong that they are a danger to themselves and the human race.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Very true... it's what I, after Kotkin, was trying to get at in the post about the new ruling class. It continues to amaze me that it does not seem to matter whether people are right or wrong about what they say. It really feels like it's only the propaganda that matters.

DeNihilist said...

and Garfinkle

Lastango said...

The theme of many conservative analysts is that western politicians have been deluded Pollyannas about the nature of the Arab Spring. McCarthy cites a similar misconception on the part of the state department and American legislators: "If we just threw Qaddafi under the bus, the rebels would surely become our grand democratic allies."


I suspect this is a fundamentally inaccurate representation of what motivated Europe's governments and the Obama administration. They were not "wrong" in the technical sense. Rather, they were self-interested and perfidious. Further, there is nothing new about this; the Bush administration was "reaching out" to radicals across North Africa while undermining our allies there.

The Europeans did indeed throw Qaddafi and Mubarak under the bus, but they did it because they expected the Islamists to win. The Europeans wanted to back the right horse, and curry favor with powers-to-be. They want to be able to continue to buy their oil from Islamist states, and they want those governments to continue to be customers for Europe's state-entwined manufacturers. Obama, like Bush before him, got on board. None of them can say that, of course, so they're clinging to the Arab Spring alabi. "Our hearts were in the right place" they are saying, "...and in the long run we may yet prove correct."


For anyone who never heard about what the Bushies were up to, start here: