Egyptian Improv

WaPo's Jackson Diehl wrote Monday that the "best evidence" for the Mideast's political transformation "comes from the [region's] autocrats themselves." For now, argues Diehl, the significance of the call for election reform by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is that the president has been forced to abandon the autocratic tactics he's been using for a quarter-century.

Writes Diehl, "Mubarak, under mounting pressure from the Egyptian political elite, on Saturday abandoned his plan to extend his term in office through an uncontested referendum later this year. Instead he announced that the constitution would be changed to allow for a multiple-candidate election for president. His most credible liberal challenger, Ayman Nour, remains in jail on trumped-up charges, and Mubarak's reform may prove to be little more than a ruse. But the old autocrat's attempt to crush the opposition movement Nour helped to create has clearly backfired, forcing him to improvise."

The prospect of political liberalization vindicates those Egyptian liberals who foresaw the possibility in advance of the Iraq war. In March 2003, I noted on Hit&Run that "Four Egyptian intellectuals appeared on the Arabic-language ART-TV program Against the Grain this week, and agreed that an American Mideast presence stemming from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein could represent a 'window of opportunity' for the region. According to the panelists -- three academics and a journalist from the weekly Rose Yusef -- the U.S. could become a force for democratization."

As Diehl wrote in Monday's Post, "[L]ess than two years after Saddam Hussein was deposed, the fact is that Arabs are marching for freedom and shouting slogans against tyrants in the streets of Beirut and Cairo -- and regimes that have endured for decades are visibly tottering. Those who claimed that U.S. intervention could never produce such events have reason to reconsider."

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  • ||

    Less than two weeks after George Bush goes on a charm offensive in Europe, the fact is that Arabs are marching for freedom and shouting slogans against tyrants in the streets of Beirut and Cairo -- and regimes that have endured for decades are visibly tottering. Those who claimed that closer ties between the United States and France could never produce such events have reason to reconsider.

    I know, there's absolutely no evidence of a causal relationship, but apparently, that's no longer necessary.

  • ||

    But joe said it was because Bush is mending fences with Europe!

  • ||

    joe, take a deep breath and say "Iraqi elections". I know you can do it.

  • ||

    The great thing about geopolitics is that there's no way to isolate and repeat experiments, so there's no way to literally prove anything -- hence you can always construct a plausible deniability that your opponent has ever achieved anything.

  • ||

    Just as soon as you attribute the economy of the 1990s to Clinton's economic policies, Doug.

    Look, first one thing happened, and then the other happened. Can't argue with that.

  • ||

    Wouldn't Palestine be a more likely model for what's happening in Egypt and Lebanon than Iraq? Egypt wasn't invaded, occupied, and an electoral system set up for it by a foreign power.

  • ||

    Joe, Why do you keep calling Todd Doug?

  • ||

    But Bush wasn't very charming, was he?

    I mean, he baasically threatened Iran right after saying they shouldn't be threatened.

    And he called Chirac a "cowboy". Isn't this the height of insult in Europe?

    I think the ME autocrats are trembling from the Pope's weak condition.

  • ||

    Oops, me do bad with the brain thing.

    Apologies, Todd.

  • ||

    I don't need to draw some tenuous cause and effect connection, I can go by the words of people in the region. And it's just simply more likely that it's the result of a major regional event like the democratic elections in Iraq than something insignificant like Bush's tour of Europe. Do you think everyone in the mid-east has their eyes glued to the TV watching Bush and Chirac kiss and make up? Like they care?

  • ||

    Also, I attribute the economy of the 90s to the hard work and innovation of business people in America. Clinton's only role was in (partly) staying out of the way. Afterall, who actually generated the wealth?

  • ||

    Crow Gumbo
    4 Breast fillets
    1 1/2 cups of margarine
    1 cup of flour
    1 bunch celery, chopped
    3 cloves of garlic chopped
    4 medium onions, chopped
    1 bunch green onions, chopped
    1 large bell pepper, chopped
    4 cups of sliced okra 2 20oz. Cans tomatoes
    1 15 oz. Can tomato paste
    2 teaspoons MSG
    1 teaspoon oregano
    2 tablespoons salt
    2 tablespoons parsley flakes
    1 teaspoon thyme
    1 tablespoon black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon red pepper

    Rinse crow breasts and pat dry. Cook in water to cover in large saucepan until tender. Drain, reserving 2 quarts broth. Melt margarine in skillet. Add flour. Cook until dark brown, stirring constantly. Stir into reserved brothin large saucepan. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add crow, celery, garlic, onions, green pepper, okra, tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings. Cook over low heat for 2 hours or until desired consistency, stirring frequently. Served over hot cooked rice.

    Yield: 10 servings

  • ||

    "Afterall, who actually generated the wealth?"

    Afterall, who actually took to the streets/supported opposition parties?

    "I don't need to draw some tenuous cause and effect connection, I can go by the words of people in the region." Or rather, that slice of the people in the region who are quoted in media outlets seeking to further a certain narrative.

    "And it's just simply more likely that it's the result of a major regional event like the democratic elections in Iraq..." Or democratic elections in Palestine? Nope, can't be, the Great White Fathers in Washington didn't arrange those, so they clearly couldn't have been an inspiration.

    For the last time, the Europe Charm Offensive quip was meant to demonstrate the absurdity of your "non prop ergo propeter hoc" fallacy. The fact that these events took place AFTER the invasion of Iraq does not prove that they took place BECAUSE of the invasion of Iraq. I deliberately chose something that obviously has no causal relationship, and asserted one without evidence, on the basis that one thing happened after another. Do you get it yet?

  • ||

    Speaking of "hot...rice", how about that picture of Dr. Rice on the cover of the WaPo the other day? WooHoo!

  • ||

    4 crow breasts feed 10 people? Do you also think that 400 billion would pay for for SS privatization, or 80 billion would for the Iraq war/occupation/reconstruction?

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    I'm willing to put up with a lot, joe, but your massacre of the beautiful Latin language is a bridge too far. The phrase you're looking for is "post hoc ergo propter hoc," word for word "after that therefore because-of that."

  • ||

    "4 crow breasts feed 10 people?"

    As if the commenter has a problem making outlandish claims....

  • ||

    http://www.wpbstv.org/CabinCountryINFO1002.htm

    Crow Gumbo site. If crow can be so stretched perhaps we should start giving the darn things away to starving folks across the world? I know there's about 10 outside my window that anyone can have for free!

  • ||

    joe

    First, note the trio of Egyptian racists who feel the US could be a force for good in the region, particularly if we depose native tyrants and permit Arabs to select their own leaders.

    Where did Palestinean democracy come from, joe? Was it through contact with an Israeli society where - among other things - hundreds of thousands of Arabs vote?

    Still working up those plans to partition Iraq, with the UN brother-lovers who said the Iraqi elections couldn't work?

  • ||

    My bad. FOUR Egyptian racists - lot of self-hatred there, right joe? Same with all those Europeans on the continent who wanted the allies to boot the Nazis fer 'em! And the Chinese who didn't have the gumption to whip the Japs on their own!

    But, wait a minute joe - weren't you predicting all kinds a BAD consequences from the war in Iraq?

  • ||

    Yes, joe I get it. You are incapable of attribtuing any good to anything Bush does.

    I never claimed that the Iraqi invasion was the sole cause of the events in Lebanon. Of course the Palestinian elections are part of it. Your Great White Father comment is another straw man. Clearly the credit for this goes to the Lebanese, they are making it happen. But you are the one making the absurd claim, by refusing to admit that the Iraqi elections - one of the most significant events in the region recently - had anything to do with it.

  • ||

    Yes, I was predicting bad consequences from the invasion of Iraq. Did you see yesterday's news, Andrew - 125 dead from a car bomb.

    When did I refer to "Egyptian racists?" The argument that the United States could do things to promote liberalization and democracy is quite a way from claiming that all positive political developments in the region are the consequence of American initiatives. The latter sentiment is quite disrespectful to the people of the region, in that it casts them merely as people to be acted upon, rather than as agents of their own lives.

    "Where did Palestinean democracy come from, joe?" Er, from Palestine?

    "Was it through contact with an Israeli society where - among other things - hundreds of thousands of Arabs vote?" I've read this idea before - maybe there's something to it.

    "Still working up those plans to partition Iraq, with the UN brother-lovers who said the Iraqi elections couldn't work?" What "plans" are you talking about? The UN has never endorsed partitioning Iraq. You seem to have misread - really shocking, that you'd do such a thing - an earlier thread on secessionist sentiment among Iraqis, in which some of us agreed that that would be one direction the country might go in. Such a division being a possible consequence of greater popular sovereignty. Where you got the idea that an Iraqi version of the Czech/Slovak split was a counter to Iraqi democracy, I'm not sure - it was discussed as a possible outcome of Iraqi democracy.

    Though you've been arguing for three years that opposition to the was motivated by respect for Saddam Hussein, so these latest absurd distortions aren't much of a suprise.

  • ||

    joe, Mr Gillespie says it better than I can:

    "It is unambiguous that the U.S. intervention into Iraq is producing real, tangible results in the Middle East. Critics who fail to acknowledge that are writing themselves out of rational debate on the topic."

  • ||

    "You are incapable of attribtuing any good to anything Bush does."

    This would seem to be contradicted by the support I voiced for his recent efforts to "call out" undemocratic allies like Egypt in the State of the Union speech. Or for the war in Afghanistan. Or any of the other times I've defended Bush in this space. Such occurances are rare - Bush does do very few things worthy of plaudits - but I do give him props when he deserves them.

    "But you are the one making the absurd claim, by refusing to admit that the Iraqi elections - one of the most significant events in the region recently - had anything to do with it." I don't see what the Iraqi elections had to do with the broad public resentment of the former Prime Minister's murder. You've obviously decided, ahead of time, that every positive development in the region can be laid at the feet of George Bush. I'm sorry, I'll need to actually see some evidence of causation.

  • ||

    In case you haven't noticed, Todd, I'm not in the habit of taking Reason employees' statements as gospel.

  • ||

    It's not the only habit of yours I've noticed :-)

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    I have mixed thoughts with regard to the effect of liberalization being our doing. It would not be possible unless there was a pre-existing movement already pushing for reforms. This was the case in Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt. Those groups were marginalized and repressed, but they've existed for a very long time. Especially anti-Syrians in Lebanon and democracy advocates in Egypt. I will grant that US intervention in the region helped embolden these groups to push for harder reforms and our intimate involvement in the region puts those regimes under the microscope. Repression that would be ignored by us a decade or two ago is intertwined with the security of our military, so we're going to express out displeasure much more.

    This ties the hands of the rulers. Mubarak can't just hand power to his son, he's going to have to try to sneak it through a "legitimate" system (the fact that the president can decree elections means he can end them just as easily if we don�t care). If we pull out of Iraq because things are hunky dory there, but there are significant struggles still in Egypt and Lebanon, are we going to lend them our aid or will we not care anymore.

    I also think part of this has caused liberalization movements to, pardon the expression, �sack up.� With the long shadow of the US military in the region, for the express purpose of democratization, they know that they have to act now or it will be more difficult in the future. They�re pushing harder than usual because they can and it is safer for them with us in background.

    If this pans out, put some Treebeard's hot sauce on my crow, please.

  • ||

    Almost forgot:
    The importance of a political push for democracy is important. Sudan isn�t going to be a democratic state anytime soon because there�s not the ground level, grassroots activists (yet). I think the same is true in Afghanistan, we�re not going to see a fully functioning democracy in Afghanistan before Iraq, Lebanon or Egypt, IMHO. I think this is something we need to keep in mind. Domestic movements are a key to pushing for democracy. This is far more important than the �tradition� of democracy that�s brought out. Every democratic nation at one point had a period where it had no democratic history (with the notable exception of the US, due to our British roots).

  • ||

    oh joe

    For two years I have heard you droning with the chorus of sceptics, that Iraq couldn't possibly float a democracy, because their previous experience with it amounted to less than pre-1945 Japan etc...

    ...NOW, in order to explain an abrupt surge in regional liberalization - following an American intervention in the region YOUR lot confidently predicted would turn the Arab street against Western values for a generation or more - you're informing us that this same cultural world that his sported the most dismal string of police-states for the past generation has been just frothing with liberal sentiment, and the zest was bound to rise just about now...

    well. OK. Then why the scepticism about the invasion? Face it joe - YOUR set of predictions, concerns, fears and characterizations have already been refuted about as thoroughly as any ever will be in a real world.

    Is there a pressure for freedom in the Arab world independent of US policy? Of course - and I would give most of the credit to the internet and satellite TV. That's what made Bush's calculation feasible. The same interventions in the 50's or 60's likely wouldn't have had the same outcomes

    ...but the time is ripe - AND it is apparent from your own case, that the BEST minds in your end of the political spectrum lack the vision or the daring for it.

  • ||

    You seem to have "heard" a lot of things that weren't actually stated, then. At least not by me. My argument with the war was about the means employed, not the end of spreading democracy. I came to the conclusion that the ends were not likely to be achieved via an invasion and occupation, administered by people like Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld.

    I've explained this to you God knows how many times over the past three years. Your inability to actually engage with my ideas, and need to assign to me position you're more comfortable believing I hold, doesn't actually alter what I believe, or what I've argued.

    Your analysis of America's role in the region over the past 50 years is equally delusional. We didnt' just do nothing - we actively worked to undermine democracy througout the region, because Washington preferred obedient thugs like the Shah to democrats, and their annoying habit of acting in their, rather than in our, best interest. The end of active hostility to democracy that began with the end of the Cold War is finally paying dividends.

    "Then why the scepticism about the invasion?" The huge number of dead and maimed Iraqis. The $300 billion price tag. The 1500 dead Americans. The unfinished business in Afghanistan. Pray tell, which of these predictions has been refuted?

  • ||

    mr. andrew, not all of us are eager to see the global democratic revolution come to the middle east. traditional societies are far more stable. societies that have drunk the kool aid of nietzsche inevitably self-destruct. the arabs would be far better off in traditional societies where individualism is kept in check by authorities. if the arabs hold elections then i fear that their best years are about to end.

  • ||

    Is that a bot? it's really cool!

  • ||

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

    Not a bot. Bots are machines, and machines can get stuck in loops.

  • ||

    Ah, joe and his BIG "ideas"

    I seem to remember one - something about handing out carbines to unvetted shiites (Challabi's people? Muqti-Sadr's?) on Day Three of combat operations, so they could do what? fight an Iraqi army disintegrating faster than our intel. people could track 'em? THIS would have made all the difference?

    That the US supported all the uglies in the past is something I already knew...because our President is the first to say so, every time this subject comes up.

    Let's say your right joe- anyone could do a better job than Bush Cheney Rumsfeld...IF THEY WERE WILLING TO DO IT AT ALL!

    And there's the rub. If we had listened to the international Left in 2001, the Taliban would still be brutalizing Afghanistan,

    if we had listened to the Democratic Left in 2003 Saddam would still be tyrannizing Iraq and rearming in the post-sanctions era,

    and if we had listened to Kerry in 2004 we would be getting Syrian troops INTO Iraq, instead of OUT of Lebanon, we would be shipping nuclear fuel to the Mullahs, and the we would have deferred to a UN that wanted to post-pone elections until AFTER the insurgency expired.

    joe, if I don't know more about your ideas, it may be because you have spent so much of the last two years sniping at the Pres and flogging your limp-dick candidate.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    Todd Fletcher,

    ...I can go by the words of people in the region.

    Note that the write-ups by Reason contributors haven't been exactly representative re: those "words."

    Just the other day - in the same article that quoted Jamblatt - one of the leaders of the Lebanese protests stated that this was the work of the Lebanese only. When you have that sort of selectivity and quoting what you want to hear going on, something stinks.

  • ||

    "Just the other day - in the same article that quoted Jamblatt - one of the leaders of the Lebanese protests stated that this was the work of the Lebanese only."

    Which is exactly what I said in another thread. This does not mean that the Iraqi elections are not acting as a catalyst in the mid-east.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    Todd Fletcher,

    It doesn't mean that it is either. You can claim mathematical certitude about the matter all you want to, but such simply doesn't exist. Gillispie and the statements of other prats to the contrary.

    Furthermore, I would like to reiterate my point more strongly. A few of the contributors to the blog have been purposefully touting Jamblatt while ignore the voices of others. That points to bias, IMHO, and a willingness to put the blinders on when some fact does not support their opinion appears. That's pretty fucking sad, IMHO, and strikes me as the same tactic our local bigot BrillyBray often takes.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    badius,

    You are too funny.

    Todd Fletcher,

    Look at from my perspective. From 2000-2005 there have been street protests, and other measures that have increased the pressure on the Syrian regime. Now, Harriri was killed by the Syrians and the Lebanese reacted to this even more severely. All of this occured in the context of a war in Iraq, etc.

    Which of these are you going to attribute change to? These ongoing events in Lebanon that started long before the war in Iraq, etc., or the war in Iraq? The more plausible of these scenarios is the former. Yet Gillespie, etc., want us to completely ignore the context of these past events.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    Todd Fletcher,

    And one has to ask, why was Harriri killed? It certainly wasn't because he was emboldened by the U.S. efforts in Iraq. What you have in Lebanon is the working out of events that started long before the U.S. invaded Iraq. The same is true of the P.A. The most important issue re: the latter (which even the Bush administration admitted to) was the death of Arafat.

  • ||

    "Yet Gillespie, etc., want us to completely ignore the context of these past events."

    Let's turn this around: do you believe that the Iraqi elections have had NO effect on democratization in the mid-east as a whole?

  • Gary Gunnels||

    Todd Fletcher,

    Of course, that's not the claim, is it? So its not what I am arguing against.

    This is my default position:

    Change in any society is internally constructed.

    I've had this default position since the mid-1980s or so and it was vindicated by the collapse of the COMECON countries (especially Poland). I don't see any reason to change it.

  • ||

    Gunnels,

    Why can't the actions of outsiders be the catalyst for change as in the Meiji Restoration? You could argue the it would have occured anyway, but you couldn't argue that it would have happened at the same time or in the same way.

    This is one possible explanation of an "Iraq Effect". The effect made the dictators Assad and Mubarak - sorry, presidents - more cautious at the same time as it emboldened the opposition. No "Iraq Effect", no change (maybe later, but not now).

    This is similar to arguing that the actions of outsiders, the "9/11 Effect", has made the US more receptive to the ideas and proceures of a police or garrison state (you can argue we were going that direction anyway but the effect sure as hell sped it up).

    It's a bit blinkered to argue that what they do doesn't affect how we act and vice versa.

    QFMC cos. V

  • ||

    This is similar to arguing that the actions of outsiders, the "9/11 Effect", has made the US more receptive to the ideas and proceures of a police or garrison state...

    The effect in question is on third party nations, is it not?

    Are you suggesting that 9/11 made Mexico and Canada more receptive to the ideas and procedures of a police or garrison state? No one suggested that 9/11 didn't have an effect on the United States.

    No one suggested that the U.S. invasion didn't have an effect on Iraq. My question is by what mechanism did this effect extend to Egypt?

  • ||

    "This is my default position:

    Change in any society is internally constructed.

    I've had this default position since the mid-1980s or so and it was vindicated by the collapse of the COMECON countries (especially Poland). I don't see any reason to change it."

    What incoherent rubbish. First, you claim you aren't arguing that Iraq had no effect, then claim only internal factors matter. Which is it?

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