Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting Called on the Double Down

Here's what I wrote yesterday:

"It appears that Washington's Egyptian "ally" has told Washington to stuff it and intends to double down on their Mad Police State Skilz.One thing that baffles me about this is the goal of the Mubarakites.

I have never got the sense that Mubarak was Saddam, or Baby Doc, or Mugabe. He has always seemed to me to be more like Galtieri; just the face on the junta, the primus inter pares. I always thought of Egypt as an oligarchic kleptocracy rather that a cult-of-personality state. But such a state would have, you think, responded differently to this. If Mubarak was just the figurehead, why not let him go? You have the new boss, Suleiman, same as the old boss. The oligarchs make some cosmetic changes, the Mukhabarat quietly dissappears the leaders of the protests, game over.

How does this latest poke-in-the-eye-of-the-protesters help?

The other thing I don't understand is how the U.S. strategy is supposed to work.

It seems like Washington has done just enough to piss everyone off; pushed the Mubarakites on the succession and the Emergency Law, pushed the protestors to take Suleiman as the best possible deal. Assuming that the current balance of power solidifies the Mubarakites are likely to remember resentfully that the Americans tried to push their man out of the boat, while the protestors who survive will likely recall that when they could have leaned hard on the government - announcing the large aid subsidy would be cut - the U.S. mumbled instead of roared.

For the record, I think that the Egyptian oligarchy has, so far, conducted a prize-winning despotism. They have done just enough to baffle their opponents while keeping their foreign patron on the string and keeping the dometic pot from boiling over. The real winner here, as always, seems to be the Egyptian Army, who appears to have succeeded in playing both sides. Shrewd.The U.S.?

Enh. Hard to say; I'm not sure how you could "win" this one, other than start by not playing back in 1948. But there's losing and losing, and right now, with Mubarak's footprint on our ass, it seems to me that we look kinda ugly."

Update 2/11: Wow.

What a difference a day makes!

Mubarak resigns, transfers power, not to his bobo Suleiman but to Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the country's defence minister as the head of the "Supreme Council of the Armed Forces". Minimal bloodshed, and it looks as thought the Egyptian people may have actually forced their government to make some genuinely democratic changes.

Color me impressed.

I have no way of telling how much the U.S. helped in doing this. I would observe many commentators have stated that the U.S. Army, whose ties with the Egyptian Army go back to the Eighties, is supposed to have been working very hard to help keep the Egyptians from going all Tianenmen on their people. If this is so, and I have no reason to doubt it, then my Army deserves part of the credit.

This is certainly not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. IT may not even be the end of the beginning. But at least the seems, for the moment, some promise that the one thing that so many of us in the West have hoped for might have happened; an Arab dictator has been forced out of power without invasion, without chaos, without revolution.I hope this works out, for everyone's sake.


  1. The Egyptians likely know Sulieman well enough. As should Obama, unless he followed his "not look backward" policy to the very jot and is completely ignorant of Dubya & Cheney's favorite source for "enhanced interrogation" opportunities.

    Anybody buy that?

    Neither do the Egyptians.


  2. The Chinese government has *got* to be worried about this being contagious. Too bad they don't have the equivalent of an Al Jazeera.

  3. The Al Jazeera commentors wrote that their people in Bejing are finding the searches for "Cairo", "Egypt" and "Tahrir" are being blocked on the Chinese 'Net.

    Worried? I suspect...

  4. Worried, yes, they always worry. Expecting trouble? I doubt it.

    The Egyptian people were rebelling against 30 years of monumental corruption and government inaction.

    The Chinese government isn't the brightest star in those departments (neither are we these days) but they are still in the top third of the class.

    The Chinese people still see their basic needs met and their lifestyles are still improving and they are slowly, mostly by indirect means, getting some freedom of expression.

    I recently talked with an Egyptian ex-pat who had worked his way up to chief engineer of a ship on the Nile only to have his credentials (and that of quite a lot of other engineers) stripped from him. The reason: so a Mubarak grand-nephew would have seniority to become a chief engineer straight out of school and not have to wait like everybody else.

    This guy was really bright and was working as a taxi cab driver in Minnesota (he hates winter) because he couldn't stand the thought of staying in a country where such things are commonplace.

  5. Pluto: I understand that one of the things that has touched off problems in China is that sort of nepotistic corruption. Egypt being far worse, I understand.

    I don't think the Chinese government is "worried", but I do think they keep a careful eye on these sorts of popular uprisings. If for no other reasons than for "lessons learned", as it were.

    And I also think they do what they can to keep the lessons learned away from their own people who might use it against them...

  6. I dunno. When the time comes, the Chinese Colonel in charge of the regiment facing the demonstrators has to decide if he will shoot his (only) son - because it is very likely that he (and his university buddies) are manning the barricades.

    The long march survivors could do it in a heartbeat. They are long dead now.

  7. They did it in '89. The real question, I think, is whether the government of the PRC can continue to buy the loyalty of its military. The record in China for this is not good if the government itself loses the fight against corruption and nepotism. The historical parallels of the KMT and, before them, the Manchus, suggest that the PLA may well degenerate into warlordism.

    I think the government does remember that and as such will do what it can to keep corruption within bounds. Hard to say whether they will succeed.

  8. In 1989, long march veterans were still in charge. Today, China is ruled by non-ideological technocrats, clinging to power by enriching the country and enriching themselves even more. Think of them as crossing a river of gold on the back of a large crocodile.

    I doubt that the PLA middle-tier leadership could shoot their only child.

    At some point in the relatively near future, we will find out.

  9. What Ael says makes sense: long war guys are long gone. China is softening, big-time. The old Commies are gone and the new wave boys have been seduced by the dark side, the side the Chinese have always favored: capitalism.

    China will turn out to be our greatest success story: we will end up having converted godless Communism to the free enterprise light. Yes, "converted." Every Walmart represents a conversion.

    And we'll have done a lot better job with the Chinese than we did with the Russians. Unfortunately, that's bad news. The U.S. will ultimately be eclipsed big time by the Chicoms specifically because the Chinese character absolutely will not abide even giving the time of day to the likes of Palin, Paul and the rest of the circus performers Americans love so much. There is something about that Chinese character—rational, skeptical and unsympathetic to fools—that will kind of put them in the driver's seat. Oh, and they're irreligious, too. Somehow I think that will turn out to be a huge advantage.

    You know how much the good old US of A has regressed, right? A hundred years ago, if they hadn't been run out of town on a rail, people like Palin, et al, would have been objects of laughter in a sideshow. And lest the Democrats rejoice, so would have been Obama and most of his party. The point here is the US has become an unserious nation; China is serious.

    I'm old and I can see the future. I just hope God will save all of you young Americans. Seems as if that's what at least one major political party is banking on.

    You go, God! Look after those Murricans.

  10. "An Arab dictator has been forced out of power without invasion" ... but he was our dictator. We are not guaranteed anything better; Sadat was assassinated for his efforts.

    Publius: So spot-on -- we have become an "unserious nation".

    You're right, our serious candidates are ineffectual and/or buffoonish, and would've been objects of derision in the past. We have become so easily diverted, so impassioned over topics of little import, as though a mass plague of ADHD has settled over the nation fed by every form of SOMA imaginable. I do wonder when/why people will wake up and what form that will take, or if they will choose to remain comfortably numb.

    My mother says, it hurts when you rip people's blinders off; they don't like it.