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Friday, February 11, 2011

Obama doesn't get the Middle East

In an important op-ed that I urge you all to read in full, Guy Bechor explains some of the things that President Obama doesn't understand about Egypt and the Middle East.
The moment it became clear that Egypt’s immense defense establishment – millions of soldiers, police officers and security personnel – is standing by Mubarak and his officers, the matter was decided. The moment government institutions in Cairo were kept in the army’s hands, it didn’t matter how many protestors gathered at Tahrir Square, because this is how Egypt is ruled: From the radio and television building, from the Interior Ministry, from the government palaces, and from the Central Bank.

Egypt doesn’t like disorder. It is a vast civilization, which for 5,000 years now had been ruled as a formidable power pyramid; its domestic genetic code stresses “social order” and revulsion in the face of anarchy, and at the end of the day the regime managed to regain its legitimacy. With a great degree of accuracy, the regime portrayed itself as the obstacle in the face of chaos, Hezbollah or al-Qaeda terror, or violent political Islam.

Machiavelli wrote that there is nothing scarier than an impassioned crowd without a leader, but also noted that there is nothing weaker. And indeed, the masses who gathered at the squares had no leader. Baradei is a Western joke, as he knows nobody in Egypt and mostly in its corridors of power. He lived in Europe for most of his life.

The other candidates are insignificant as well. Preacher Yusuf Qaradawi lives far away in exile and the only leadership that remains is the almost primitive incitement of al-Jazeera; many people in the Middle East already understand that this is no news channel, but rather, a propaganda tool on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood and its regional proxies. Al-Jazeera is already watched with reservations in the Mideast.

Egypt is not the Palestinians or Tunisia. As long as the protestors there have no real power, the regime remains undefeated. Yet other regimes in the region aren’t so powerful. The first state that should be worried is the Khomeinist Iran, because we already saw the buds of rebellion against the regime a year and a half ago. However, the regimes in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are also in the sights of political Islam, and these states lack the vast Egyptian tradition of repression and government power.
I agree with him about Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which are among the more 'moderate' regimes here. I don't believe Syria will fall, because Assad is even less hesitant than Mubarak to use force. He's no different than his father. As to Iran, I'm afraid that opportunity has gone by the boards. I don't see much of a chance of that regime falling until Khameni dies.

But Obama definitely doesn't get it. After two years in office, he still hasn't figured out that he cannot talk anyone in this region into doing anything they don't want to do. Hopefully, not even Israel.

Read the whole thing.

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At 9:26 AM, Blogger tuleesh said...

Jim Hoft has a post on Mubarak's speech. The following quote is from an article in the post; it's quite telling:

"The Supreme Military council during a meeting yesterday stated in one voice, 'We will not be ordered around by the Obama regime and we will not hand over Egypt to the bastards he supports. If they think Mubarak is a tyrant they have seen nothing.'”

It seems as if Obama counts too much on his charm to overcome the "save-face" aspect of Arab/Muslim culture.

Nope. The godling just doesn't get it.

Hmm...Why wasn't Obama so insistent that the Mad Mullahs of Teheran "obey the will of the people" a year and a half ago?

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama can't make a leap of faith in real power politics --this can be a good thing as a break against adventurism, but when faced with a choice between one unknown and another unknown and/or two likely bad choices he freezes. His first impulse is to badger allies to appease unknown enemies but so far if the allies refuse he's left again with unknown roads ahead and lapses again into passivity. otoh America cannot control the world and we don't want to lurch from Bay of Pigs to Bay of Pigs otoh we can't have an empty suit for the Cuban Missile crises of history either.


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