Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kirsten Powers Says That Americans Are Naive About Egypt

Among the more interesting intellectual sides of the debate over the crisis in Egypt is this: people are not dividing according to traditional left/right lines. Some conservatives are applauding what they see as the onset of liberal democracy while others are warning against the rise of a new fundamentalist Islamic government. Most liberals have been caught up in the thrill of revolution, though more than a few seem mostly to be interested in showing that President Obama is in charge.

Anyway, Kirsten Powers, a liberal with relatives in Egypt, has just written an article in The Daily Beast where she argues that Americans, and especially the liberals who are trying to convince us that the Muslim Brotherhood is harmless, are seriously naive about the situation. It's a very good article, worthy of your attention. Link here.


Obsidian said...

Hi Doc,
I am sure you recall the election of Hamas by the Palestinian people, and how the then-GWB-led US gov't and Israel reacted to it. In my view, they both undermined their own claims toward upholding democratic ideals. No wonder so many in that area of the world call us hypocrites.

And I think the same thing may happen again in Egypt. Let's assume that the Muslim Brotherhood is indeed all the bad things said about it - don't the Egyptian people have the right to choose for themselves, who should govern them - whether we like it, or not? OK, so Egypt may very well become an Islamist state - fine. That is the will of the People of Egypt, and we ought to respect that. Mind you, that doesn't mean we have to like it or endorse it - I am quite sure there were many people around the world who disagreed with GWB being elected and then reelected into office - but no one suggested bringing sanctions against us and the like, like we and Israel did against the Palestinian people for voting in Hamas.

And afterall, look at Lebanon - they have a sizable presence in their elected gov't by Hezbollah, and they haven't gone to hell in a handbasket necessarily. Again, I'm not endorsing Hezbollah, just making the case that if we're going to be the standard bearers and apostles for Democracy, then we have to actually mean it, by supporting the right of any people, to decide for themselves who will lead them.

I'm just sayin. If I'm wrong on this, please point it out to me?


Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Obsidian. I do think that the Bush administration came to regret allowing a vote in Gaza. For now we do not know what Hezbollah is going to do in Lebanon.

What would happen if the people of a country held an election and elected a government that abolished democratic elections? How would that accord with our ideals? And does that government then become illegitimate?

I am thinking that perhaps we should be more pragmatic about our ideals, and recognize that what is best for us might not be best for everyone else at this stage in their history.

If Egypt becomes an Islamist state and deprives people of their human rights, that will not exactly accord with our values either.

And then there's the problem of what happens if an Islamist Egypt closes the Suez canal or declares war on Israel. It would not be that much of a consolation to know that it was democratically elected.

In any event, these are very difficult questions, especially if we go to the next point and ask who should be in charge of a government that is not democratically elected?

Obsidian said...

I think it's the perfect time for all those questions to be on the table and openly debated by not just the American people, but all peoples of the world. I mean, should we deal with nations that do not have freely elected governmets? How about monarchies? The simple truth of the matter here is, that the USA has a long and tortured history of backing people and governments in the Middle East that were far from the democratic ideal we or any other nation in the Western world for that matter, would recogize as anything coming near to legitimate. But we went along with it in the name of real politik. That time has passed, in large part because of the ubiquity of the Internet. Obama needs to stand up on this issue, one way or another. And so do we.

If the Egyptian people decide they want a radical Islamist government in place, we should then ask ourselves if we want to do business with such people or not - but to bring the hammer down on them merely for the act of voting for the candidates of their choice? That's not something I for one am at all comfortable with.


Anonymous said...

TO: DrS and the O
RE: Guys....

For now we do not know what Hezbollah is going to do in Lebanon. -- Stuart Schneiderman

....if you 'do not know' what Hezbollah is going to DO in Lebanon....'re playing into Kirsten Powers analysis of 'Americans'.


[There's a price for too much arrogance, a price for too much greed, and in complacent ignorance we've sown the whirlwind seed. -- Don Simpson]

David Foster said...

Obs..."Egypt may very well become an Islamist state - fine. That is the will of the People of Egypt, and we ought to respect that"

This is a view of rights as belonging to collectives rather than to individuals. Maybe, for the sake of argument, 51% of Egyptian voters want an Islamist state with shariah law---does this totally negate the rights of a girl who doesn't want her clit brutally removed, or a man who wants the right to convert to some religion other than Islam, or no religion at all?

If the majority of Germans preferred Naziism (which is not totally clear), did this make a Nazi regime okay, regardless of how it treated minorities and dissidents? Would France and Britain have been hypocrites had they invaded Germany in 1934 and removed the Nazi regime from power?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Chuck, just a point of information: when I said that we do not know what Hezbollah is going to do in Lebanon now that it has gained political power, I meant that we do not know it for a fact, since it is in the future. I have my strong suspicions, and I suspect that my suspicions are the same as yours... but I was trying to use the term "to know" in the objective factual sense.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

And while we are thinking about governments that are not democratically elected, we should also think about China... which does not have a democratic government, and with which we try to be on very good terms... especially because they are our bankers.

This raises another question: what about countries that practice free market capitalism without democracy? And what about countries that practice democracy without free market capitalism?

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Three Guesses....

....we do not know what Hezbollah is going to do in Lebanon now that it has gained political power, I meant that we do not know it for a fact, since it is in the future. -- Stuart Schneiderman

....first two don't count.

Military Intelligence is all about anticipating the actions of a potential enemy before they can adversely impact on yourself.

I think we've seen enough of Hezzboolahboo and the Muslim Broz to see that we can expect from them.

To see anything else (1) is 'naive' and (2) invites disaster....including multiple dead bodies.

And isn't that what Powers is addressing? Or am I 'mistaken'?


[Life is a game and you're about to be 'finessed'.]

P.S. Or should that be 'finished'?