Sunday, January 30, 2011

Victor Davis Hanson on Egypt

Victor Davis Hanson again makes sense when most other commentators are spinning to find any sort of solidity in the chaos.
"So what’s the matter with Egypt? The same thing that is the matter with most of the modern Middle East: in the post-industrial world, its hundreds of millions now are vicariously exposed to the affluence and freedom of the West via satellite television, cell phones, the Internet, DVDs, and social networks.

"And they become angry that, in contrast to what they see and hear from abroad, their own lives are unusually miserable in the most elemental sense. Of course, there is no introspective Socrates on hand and walking about to remind the Cairo or Amman Street that their corrupt government is in some part a reification of themselves, who in their daily lives see the world in terms of gender apartheid, tribalism, religious intolerance, conspiracies, fundamentalism, and statism that are incompatible with a modern, successful, capitalist democracy."
. . .
"All this has been true for forty years, but, again, instant global communications have brought the reality home to the miserable of the Middle East in a way state-run newspapers and state-censored television never could even had they wished."
. . .
"So what is the matter with Egypt? Why cannot the above mess just keep on keeping on? A number of newer twists.

"1) We are not so sure that Mubarak’s “it is us or the jihadists” is quite operative any more, given the defeat of jihadists in Iraq and the downward spiral in approval of bin Laden. . . . Thus in the last week we have gone from Biden’s Mubarak “not a dictator” to an “evolving,” finger-in-the-wind stance — in hopes that the Shah-Banisadr-Khomeini formula is not inevitable (yet in this regard, remember that 160,000 U.S. troops played quite a role in stopping the Iraq possible cycle of Saddam-Allawi-Zarqawi).

"2) Iraq changed things . . . . When Saddam was routed (had a Middle Eastern thug ever been put on trial?), and the insurrection mostly crushed, and a consensual government in power in Baghdad survived for seven years amid the most unlikely chances for survival, then the Middle East (as the Saudis rightly knew and double-dealed as a result) was not quite the same.

"Iran is desperate to strangle a free Iraq, since its nearby free media has a tendency to encourage things like the 2009 uprising across the border. Yet to suggest that Bush unleashed in 2003 a revolutionary chain of events is heretical. In our twisted political calculus, Bush is demonic for speaking out for human rights and removing Saddam, Obama is progressive for ignoring human rights protestors in the streets of Khomeinist Iran."
. . .
"4) What’s next? “Finger-in-the-wind” diplomacy may work for a while, but it requires deftness that follows conditions on the street in a nanosecond to avoid appearing purely cynical (a skill beyond Hillary, Biden, and Obama). I think in this bad/worse choice scenario we might as well as support supposedly democratic reformers, with the expectation that they could either fail in removing Mubarak or be nudged out by those far worse than Mubarak."


OregonGuy said...

I find it instructive to read the works of the luminaries of the Left, in particular, I recommend Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance.

The central belief, as I can cull from the work, is that America, when it attempts to project the values that we covet as Americans, is engaged in cultural and political imperialism. That having a strongly felt central tendency is a bad thing.

Compare and contrast this central belief with the central belief of the radical muslim movement, and ask yourself, which is more robust?

We're playing checkers. They are playing chess.

T. D. said...

Good point, OG.

The problem may also be that the Left does not have ideals with specific content to champion.

There's also the difference between classical conservatives and classical liberals. Are we trying to preserve the good bits of government or are we trying to improve government? Though I see how overreach leads to bad consequences ("don't immanentize the eschaton"), I'm drawn to the "shining city on a hill" wing.

And it's interesting that President Obama can't seem to settle on whether he's for American exceptionalism or against it. Maybe we're further ahead than it seems.

Still, Jihadist commitment is formidable. Have you read Victor Davis Hanson's The Soul of Battle? It's about how democratic ideals have encouraged normal men to become warriors and heroes for a short time. Then they go back to living regular lives.