As the carnage and chaos grow in Cairo, there are no easy answers for the United States in Egypt. But once upon a time, Republican leaders and their allies in the conservative commentariat had a simple answer indeed for the Middle East. Waiving their purple fingers in early 2005, the likes of David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer and Rich Lowry cheered American democracy promotion in the region, "God's gift to humanity" delivered by the barrel of a gun. But with the military's overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi, the right-wing's best and brightest are having second thoughts about their support of the Bush Doctrine.
Take, for example, David Brooks of the New York Times. Faced with a choice of the lesser of two evils, Brooks declared he would be "defending the coup." The Egyptian military could offer the people the promise of the "substance" of democracy, while the Muslim Brotherhood elected by its "process" could not. The problem for Egyptians, he argued, was all mental:
Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them...
It's not that Egypt doesn't have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.
But back in 2005, Brooks suggested, President George W. Bush was providing all the ingredients budding Middle Eastern democracies needed to flower. As his Congressional Republicans waived their purple fingers to celebrate the just-completed elections in Iraq, President Bush declared in 2005 State of the Union address, "We've declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." In response, a fawning David Brooks marveled, "Why Not Here?"
This is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?...
But this is clearly the question the United States is destined to provoke. For the final thing that we've learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe. When Bush meets with Putin, democratization is the center of discussion. When politicians gather in Ramallah, democratization is a central theme. When there's an atrocity in Beirut, the possibility of freedom leaps to people's minds.
Brooks was far from alone in having a change of heart about democracy in the Middle East.
Last fall, National Review editor Rich Lowry fretted that about Egypt's democratic future. "In the signature revolution of the Arab Spring, the country turned its back on a secular dictatorship only to fall into the arms of what looks like a budding Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship." The new pharaoh, he lamented, was the same as the old pharaoh, only less "progressive in comparison."
But in March 2005 (that is, over three years before Sarah Plain prompted him to sit up straighter and see starbursts), Lowry pointed to the Iraqi vote, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the call for elections in the Palestinian territories as vindication for George W. Bush. In "When Good News Strikes: Glum Liberals Try Coping with a Changing World," Lowry mocked the likes of Jon Stewart, Charles Peters and Daniel Schorr, crowing:
By toppling Saddam Hussein and insisting on elections in Iraq, while emphasizing the power of freedom, Bush has put the United States in the right position to encourage and take advantage of democratic irruptions in the region.
And so we have created the conditions for being pleasantly surprised by the positive drift of events in the Middle East, or unpleasantly surprised -- depending on your politics.
Depending on your politics, that is, and who's winning elections in both the Middle East and the United States.
Washington Post columnist and Fox News regular Charles Krauthammer embodies both contingencies in his support for democratic change. Applauding the military coup in Cairo, week, "The Brotherhood leadership, I think, understands that if it does an Algeria and decides it's going to go and make war on the army, it's going to lose and it will lose badly and be imprisoned and disperse or go back to the 1950s." In that sense, at least, Krauthammer was being consistent with his views from 1993, when Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak first found himself under threat from his own people. His lesson for the same for Egypt as it was for the FIS in Algeria and the Nazi Party in Germany:
In the case of Egypt, the question is becoming acute. President Hosni Mubarak is in the midst of a desperate campaign against Islamic extremists adept at terror and committed to a Khomeini-like Islamic state. The fall of Egypt, linchpin of the Middle East, would be an international calamity second only to the fall of Russia, linchpin of Eurasia. Mubarak is no doubt asking us, "Do you support me in my war against the fundamentalists?" Our answer has to be: Given the alternative -- yes.
Are we not violating the very tenets of democracy that are supposed to be the moral core of American foreign policy? No. Because democracy does not mean one man, one vote, one time. In the German elections of 1932 and 1933, the Nazis won more votes than any other party. We know what they did with the power thus won. Totalitarians are perfectly capable of achieving power through democracy, then destroying it.
Moreover, democracy does not just mean elections. It also means constitutionalism -- the limitation of state power -- in political life, and tolerance and pluralism in civic life. Yeltsin and Mubarak are clearly more committed to such values than those who would overthrow them. That is why it would be not just expedient but right to support undemocratic measures undertaken to avert a far more anti-democratic outcome. Democracy is not a suicide pact.
But in the spring of 2005, Krauthammer took the pages of Time to lead "Three Cheers for the Bush Doctrine." Like Lowry, he insisted American liberals and European snobs owed President Bush an apology. (They have been "forced to acknowledge that those brutish Americans led by their simpleton cowboy might have been right.") As he explained in the Washington Post, "The Arab Spring of 2005 will be noted by history as [a] turning point for the Arab world."
We do not yet know, however, whether this initial flourishing of democracy will succeed...But we do know one thing: Those who claimed, with great certainty, that Arabs are an exception to the human tendency toward freedom, that they live in a stunted and distorted culture that makes them love their chains -- and that the notion the United States could help trigger a democratic revolution by militarily deposing their oppressors was a fantasy -- have been proved wrong.
Krauthammer version 2005 could have been speaking to Brooks v.2013 when he added:
The left's patronizing, quasi-colonialist view of the benighted Arabs was not just analytically incorrect. It was morally bankrupt, too.
As it turned out, it was Bush's cheerleaders who quickly proved to be morally and intellectually bankrupt. When the White House changed hands in 2009, these champions of unqualified democracy promotion in the Middle East suddenly got cold feet when the autocrats' successors took to the streets and took power. For them, the right answer to that age-old American quandary about stability versus democracy, realism versus idealism depends on who is president here and who is protesting abroad.
But it wasn't just Barack Obama's election which disabused of them of their short embrace of people power on the Arab street. Hamas, after all, won U.S. sponsored Palestinian elections in 2006 and conquered Gaza after an American-backed clandestine operation backfired. (As former State Department official Liz Cheney lamented, "I don't think they were ready for it. I don't think we should have pushed it.")
Now, Libya is in chaos, Iraq is threatening to descend into a second sectarian civil war, and the bloodbath in Syria has no end in sight.
Meanwhile in Egypt, many have to be looking at the wreckage and wondering, "Why not here?"
Once again the future of Egypt hangs in the balance. The ultimatum delivered yesterday to the Muslim Brotherhood government by the Egyptian military puts President Mohamed Morsi on notice that it will not tolerate repression of the protesters who have turned out in unprecedented numbers this week to demonstrate against the Islamist movement’s push to seize total power. Should Morsi agree to early elections, that might avert a confrontation. But given his determination to press on with his Islamist project and with a massive following of his own that could be unleashed on the streets, it’s not clear whether the president will try to call the army’s bluff or back down. No foreign power, even one with the leverage that the billions in annual aid to Egypt gives the United States, can solely determine the outcome of this standoff. But anything President Obama does or says at this crucial moment can have a disproportionate impact on what will happen. Thus, the news that President Obama is trying to play both ends against the middle in Egypt is a discouraging sign that once again the administration doesn’t understand the stakes involved in this struggle and where U.S. interests lie.
As CNN reports, the United States is sending out mixed messages to the competing factions. On the one hand, reportedly the president told Morsi that he should agree to new elections, a sign that finally the administration is stepping away from its embrace of the Brotherhood government. On the other hand, it has apparently also warned the military that the U.S. will not tolerate a move to unseat Morsi or to impose its own “road map” to a new government, as the army has warned it will do should the Egyptian president allow the 48-hour ultimatum to expire without agreeing to respect the demands of the protesters.
While it is clear the U.S. is in a difficult position, Obama’s attempt to thread the needle in Cairo may well wind up leaving America with the worst of both worlds. As it did in 2011 when its equivocal response to the Arab Spring protests helped dump Mubarak while at the same time alienating the Egyptian people, the administration has not made clear its priorities. After a year in which the actions of both Washington and Ambassador Anne Patterson have left the impression that President Obama is firmly committed to supporting Morsi, the threat of an aid cutoff if the military acts to curb the Brotherhood may have far more resonance that its sotto voce whispers about new elections. The result is that by refusing to fully support the military’s efforts to prevent Morsi from consolidating power, the United States may be missing another opportunity to prevent Egypt from slipping irrevocably into Islamist tyranny.
From the start of the Arab Spring protests, President Obama has sought to portray himself as a supporter of those who wanted to overthrow authoritarian dictatorships in the Muslim world. This is a laudable impulse, but the practical effect of this policy has been to lend the legitimacy of U.S. backing to Islamist movements like the Brotherhood who used their superior organization to win the elections that followed Mubarak’s fall. Elections are important. But when voting takes place in the absence of a consensus in favor of democratic principles, it is often a poor barometer of genuine progress toward freedom. Like the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, the Brotherhood’s triumph at the ballot box wasn’t an indication that Egypt was on its way to democracy. As Morsi has proven over the course of the last year, it was merely a way station toward the Brotherhood’s plans to remake the country in its own image, something that horrified many moderate Muslims as well as secular and Christian Egyptians.
It should also have shocked an Obama administration that used its considerable influence over the Egyptian military to force them to stand aside and let Morsi and the Brotherhood take over the government last year. But now that the people have risen in numbers that dwarf the considerable protests that helped oust Mubarak, it is time for the United States to make it clear that what it wants is an end to the brief and unhappy experiment of Brotherhood rule.
President Obama has shown himself to be reluctant to throw America’s weight around when it comes to defending U.S. interests as opposed to those causes that can be portrayed as a gesture toward universal principles. Thus, he seems averse to anything that can be seen as repressing the will of the Egyptian people. But after a year of the Brotherhood’s efforts to undermine any checks and balances on its power, the demonstrators realize something that perhaps has eluded the president and his inner circle: this is probably Egypt’s last chance to oust Morsi before he completes the process of consolidating his power.
If the U.S. forces the Egyptian military to back down as it did last year, then it is highly unlikely that Morsi and the Brotherhood will ever be successfully challenged. Without the military behind them, the anti-Morsi protests could be repressed. More elections may follow, but if the Brotherhood is allowed to complete its conquest of the bureaucracy, the media and the military, then it is unlikely that anyone will ever be able to unseat them.
Much as he would like to avoid picking sides, the time is fast approaching when Obama must choose between his strange willingness to make common cause with the Brotherhood and its Turkish ally, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the need to help those who wish to prevent Egypt from sinking into an Islamist nightmare. In this case, ambivalence and nuance is not, as the administration seems to think, the same thing as effective strategy or a defense of U.S. interests. As Egypt heads toward the precipice, President Obama must make it clear that America will back those who seek to prevent a Brotherhood dictatorship. If he doesn’t, both history and the Egyptian people may never forgive him.
Three Cheers for the Bush Doctrine
[Note: this website does not espouse any particular political stance. The following is reproduced for thought/reflection. Rowland].
Monday, Mar. 07, 2005
History has begun to speak, and it says that America made the right decision to invade Iraq
By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
Jon Stewart, the sage of Comedy Central, is one of the few to be honest about it. “What if Bush … has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may … implode.” Daniel Schorr, another critic of the Bush foreign policy, ventured, a bit more grudgingly, that Bush “may have had it right.”
Right on what? That America, using power harnessed to democratic ideals, could begin a transformation of the Arab world from endless tyranny and intolerance to decent governance and democratization. Two years ago, shortly before the invasion of Iraq, I argued in these pages that forcefully deposing Saddam Hussein was, more than anything, about America “coming ashore” to effect a “pan-Arab reformation”–a dangerous, “risky and, yes, arrogant” but necessary attempt to change the very culture of the Middle East, to open its doors to democracy and modernity.
The Administration went ahead with this great project knowing it would be hostage to history. History has begun to speak. Elections in Afghanistan, a historic first. Elections in Iraq, a historic first. Free Palestinian elections producing a moderate leadership, two historic firsts. Municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, men only, but still a first. In Egypt, demonstrations for democracy–unheard of in decades–prompting the dictator to announce free contested presidential elections, a historic first.
And now, of course, the most romantic flowering of the spirit America went into the region to foster: the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, in which unarmed civilians, Christian and Muslim alike, brought down the puppet government installed by Syria. There is even the beginning of a breeze in Damascus. More than 140 Syrian intellectuals have signed a public statement defying their government by opposing its occupation of Lebanon.
To what do we attribute this Arab spring? While American (and European)
liberal and “realist” critics are seeking some explanation, those a bit closer to the scene don’t flinch from the obvious. “It is strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt explained to David Ignatius of the Washington Post. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”
When Ronald Reagan declared that the unfreedom imposed by communism was simply unsustainable and that it should be not appeased or accommodated, but instead forced–by the power and will of free peoples–into the ash heap of history, he was ridiculed and patronized as a simpleton. Clark Clifford famously called him an amiable dunce. The amiable dunce went on to win the cold war.
Two decades later, another patronized President. Our intellectuals and Middle East “experts” have been telling us that Bush’s grand project to democratize the region is the fantasy of a historical illiterate. Faced with the stunning Iraqi election, they went to great lengths to attribute this inconvenient yet undeniable success to the courage of the Iraqi people.
This is all very nice. But this courage was rather dormant before the American invasion. It was America’s overthrow of Saddam’s republic of fear that gave to the Iraqi people space and air and the very possibility of expressing courage.
Those now waxing rhapsodic about the courage of the natives and the beauty of people power need to ask themselves the obvious question: Why now? It is easy to get sentimental about people power. But people power does not always prevail. Indeed, it rarely prevails. It was crushed in Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Tiananmen Square 1989–and Iraq 1991. Matched against tyranny at its point of maximum cruelty, people power is useless.
In the 1991 uprising, tens of thousands of Shi’ites and Kurds were killed by the raw power of Saddam’s helicopters and tanks and secret police. What was different this time? No Saddam. The American army had come ashore to disarm and depose him. After the sword, it provided the shield to allow 8 million Iraqis to revel in their first exercise of democratic self-governance.
Why now? Because until now the forces of decency in the region were alone and naked, cynically ignored by an outside world content to deal with their oppressors. Then comes America, not just proclaiming democratic liberation as its overriding foreign policy principle but sacrificing blood and treasure in the service of precisely that principle.
It was not people power that set this in motion. It was American power. People power followed. Which is why the critics of the Bush doctrine take refuge in a second Bush-free explanation. They locate the reason for this astonishing Arab spring, if not in people power from below, then in rot from above. These superannuated dictatorships, we are now told, were fossilized and frail, already wobbly and ready to fall, just waiting to be undone by the slightest challenge.
Interesting. If the rot was always there, why is it that these critics never said so before? They never suggested that we challenge these wobbly despots? In fact, they bitterly denounced the Bush doctrine for presuming to destabilize the region in pursuit of some democratic chimera? They opposed the Bush doctrine precisely because they preferred stability. They warned us darkly that the alternative to the status quo was the seething Arab street–an unruly mob, anarchic, anti-American, pan-Arabist or perhaps Islamist, ignorant of all liberal traditions and ready to rise up against America should it disturb the perfect order of things by “imposing democracy.”
Turns out, the critics, liberal and “realist,” got the Arab street wrong. In Iraq and Lebanon, the Arab street finally got to speak, and mirabile dictu, it speaks of freedom and dignity. It does not bay for American blood. On the contrary, its leaders now openly point to the American example and American intervention as having provided the opening for this first tentative venture in freedom.
What really changed in the Middle East? The Iraqi elections vindicated the two central propositions of the Bush doctrine. First, that the will to freedom is indeed universal and not the private preserve of Westerners. And second, that American intentions were sincere. Contrary to the cynics, Arab and European and American, the U.S. did not go into Iraq for oil or hegemony, after all, but for liberation–a truth that on Jan. 31 even al-Jazeera had to televise.
This was the critical event because Arabs have had good reason to doubt American sincerity: six decades of U.S. support for Arab dictators, a cynical “realism” that began with F.D.R.’s deal with Ibn Saud and reached its apogee with the 1991 betrayal of the anti-Saddam uprising that Bush 41 had encouraged in Iraq. Today, however, they see a different Bush and a different doctrine. What changed the climate in the Middle East was not just the U.S. invasion and show of arms. It was U.S. determination and staying power, and the refusal of its people last November to turn out a President who rejected an “exit strategy” but pledged instead to remain until Iraqi self-governance was secure.
It took this marriage of power, will and principle to produce the astonishing developments in the Middle East today. This is not to say that this spring cannot be extinguished. Of course it can. The dictators can still strike back, and we may flinch in defense of those they strike. History has yet to yield a verdict on the final outcome. But it has yielded one unmistakable verdict thus far: the idea that Arabs are not fit for or inclined toward freedom–the underlying assumption of those who denounced, ridiculed and otherwise opposed the democracy project–is wrong. Embarrassingly, scandalously, blessedly wrong.http://www.time.com/time/columnist/printout/0,8816,1035052,00.html
Israel could not ask for a friendlier Foreign Relations panel chairman than NJ Sen. Menendez. He used the left-wing Haaretz to state the US needs to intervene in Syria. Faint hopes for ”peace process.”
Published: May 27th, 2013
The United States cannot stop at jawboning Iran and turning a blind eye to Syria but instead needs to take the offensive to “stand up for American’s interests” as well as those of Israel, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert Menendez during his first official visit to Israel.
A strong and passionate support of Israel, he chose to write in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper Monday, “I arrive in a thriving Israel, but there is trouble in the neighborhood. From Egypt to Syria and beyond, the Arab revolutions have been a mixed bag for Israel.”
He wrote that instead of standing on the sidelines, the Obama administration “cannot allow the Iranians to continue to stall through talks while simultaneously bringing hundreds of new centrifuges online.”
He also stated that the United States must actively intervene in Syria, regardless of the emergence of Islamic terrorist groups among rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“The United States must play a role in tipping the scales toward moderate opposition groups and work to build a free and stable Syria,:” he wrote. “I know that there are real concerns about providing arms to the opposition, and I understand those concerns. But the choice is not between arming and not arming. The choice is between responsibly stepping in and leaving it to others who will simply arm the extremists.”
The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons sharply criticized Menendez and the Foreign Relations Committee, warning that the senator does not understand that the “heart-breaking situation in Syria is…not nearly as vital to American national interests as” he claims.
“The al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front is one of the few Syrian opposition operations currently making headway against Assad,” according to Clemons. “When it comes to al-Nusra in Syria, the enemy of our enemy remains our enemy — but Senator Menendez does not seem to include this group in his fantasy vision of what the Syrian resistance is comprised of.”
All of us knew it but couldn't prove it. Now we can prove it. Newly declassified documents published at the National Security Archive prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the Bush administration planned to topple Saddam Hussein and invade Iraq as early as January, 2001, and were making strategic plans and resource allocations as early as November, 2001.
January 30, 2001 – Bush administration principals (agency heads) meet for the
first time and discuss the Middle East, including Bush’s intention to disengage from the Israel-Palestine peace process and “How Iraq is destabilizing the region.” Bush directs Rumsfeld and JCS chairman Hugh Shelton to examine military options for Iraq; CIA director George Tenet is directed to improve intelligence on the country. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke are both struck by the emphasis on confronting Iraq, an aim consistent with Rumsfeld’s hiring of Wolfowitz and later Feith, well known for their bellicosity on the issue, for high-level Pentagon
positions. (Source: EBB/Franks Timeline (PDF))
When did we invade Afghanistan? Oh, that's right...it was October 7, 2001.
Walking through these documents makes it clear that the Bush Administration -- from Day One -- intended to invade Iraq at some point in their reign of terror. Here is a memo (PDF) dated January 23, 2001 outlining the "Origins of the Iraq Regime Change Policy". This was requested by Vice President-elect Dick Cheney before taking office, presumably as a way to justify policy formation around aggressive US efforts for "regime change" in Iraq.
This memo (PDF) written on November 27, 2001 should send cold chills up and down your spine. It is a list of talking points from Rumsfeld to Franks about how to handle a run-up to a full-scale Iraq invasion. November 27th, 51 days after Afghanistan was invaded. And check this talking point:
Afghanistan was never, ever a priority for the Bush Administration. It was always about Iraq. To line up support for the plan, they were marshalling the Catholics and anyone else they could get to start forming arguments for "just wars". An internal memo from Robert Andrews, Dep. Assistant Secretary of Defense on December 17, 2001 touted this:
A prominent Catholic theologian outlines the moral justification for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.
[...a list of reasons why it was so important follows]
- Introduces the concept of "regime factor,"
- illustrates the concept using the Iraq situation
- demonstrates how pre-emptive action against Iraq fits into the just-war tradition
That memo made its way to Douglas Feith, neocon extraordinaire, who left his approval in the margin:
George is a brilliant guy and a gentleman. Thanks for sending this along. DJF
Speaking strictly for me, the idea of Catholic aides to the Pope pushing wars as "just" to our government smacks of intervention not of the divine kind. The article itself pushes along the lie about WMD, too, reinforcing what we now know was nothing more than fantasy in the black hearts of Cheney and his neocon brigade. But it added to the political cover the Bush administration needed to push the Iraq effort forward.
Iraq, for Cheney, Bush and the crew, was a way to increase prestige and power. Nothing speaks to that louder than the oft-repeated words in this memo from Donald Rumsfeld on July 27, 2001 where he says this at least twice:
If Saddam's regime were ousted, we would have a much-improved position in the region and elsewhere.
The first time he mentions this, it's with some regret that we're not better friends with Iran. The second time he mentions it, it's in his closing argument for why toppling Saddam Hussein will strengthen US Arab-Israeli policy. It's like a talisman for Rumsfeld, this idea of improving our "US credibility and influence throughout the region".
Here's the punchline, courtesy of the National Security Archive summary:
At this point, the weight of evidence supports an observation made in April 2002 by members of the covert Iraq Operations Group – Iraq “regime change” was already on Bush’s agenda when he took office in January 2001. (Note 33) September 11 was not the motivation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq – it was a distraction from it.
Now, at least, our instinct about Iraq being the one true goal is confirmed. For whatever that's worth, anyway.