Egypt: US foreign policy at the nadir
Egypt a century ago, under the firm and inspired hand of Lord Cromer, was a boomtown, a miracle and a paradise. A multicultural paradise, even, with Frenchmen and Brits and Greeks and Jews and Turks and Armenians—all of whom the Century of Fear would later send fleeing with a single suitcase. But as late as the ’30s “Alex” was a city of the civilized world—a place where boho trustafarians, like Lawrence Durrell, would move as if to Prague, just because it was a fun cool cheap place to live. Architecture from this period can still be seen, chipped and obscured by smoke, behind the howling mobs and growling tanks in your YouTube clip.
There are many old Egypts. Stray bits of some survive. But somehow, now, Egypt has offended the gods. They have ordered her to pass through the fire—and slowly. In the last century she got a taste. In this she bids fair to endure the full ordeal. At full heat, even the pyramids will burn. There is nothing, nothing, that politics cannot reduce to ash.
For we have seen this movie before. When the student of history contemplates the “Jasmine Revolution,” applauded deliriously by the entire “international community,” by Americans right and left, Brahmins and rednecks, neocons and paleocons and progressives, post-Trotskyists, post-Maoists and post-Stalinists, not to mention every human being on Earth who has so much as heard of Egypt, all serenading pure chaos with gladiatorial bloodlust—CNN had become so boring lately—the student does not even need to set his time machine. The pattern is simply too familiar. The autopilot can see it. The pony knows his way back home.
The student is at once in Russia, February, 1917: the archetypal exported revolution. Whose results are familiar—though seldom ascribed to their obvious cause. Solzhenitsyn, in From Under the Rubble, put it best:
The intelligentsia proved incapable of taking action, quailed, and was lost in confusion; its party leaders readily abdicated the power and leadership which had seemed so desirable from a distance; and power, like a ball of fire, was tossed from hand to hand until it came into hands which caught it and were sufficiently hardened to withstand its white heat (they also, incidentally, belonged to the intelligentsia, but a special part of it). The intelligentsia had succeeded in rocking Russia with a cosmic explosion, but was unable to handle the debris.
Power, like a ball of fire! Solzhenitsyn will look pretty prescient when al-Zawahiri, or similar, catches his ball of fire. A Salafi is not quite the same thing as a Bolshevik, but history is never quite the same. What would you do, as an anonymous face in one of these mobs? Your hands would strain upward of their own volition, reaching for the fire. Will the liberals give it to you? They can promise it to you. But they are already sold to Hillary and Soros.
The reactor explodes. Power, radioactive, is everywhere. Everyone who can scrape up a piece of it will never have to scrape again. After the revolution, he will be a dignitary, his belly will swell, his children will be well-educated. Power! Who offers power, raw and clear like new whisky, smoking slightly with the devil’s breath?
Granted, the greatness is gone. All the players in St. Petersburg—a great city in a great country—were great men. There is no greatness on CNN. But there is plenty of bathos, incompetence, barbarism, ignorance, bureaucracy, and involuntary black humor. When the devil was strolling around St. Petersburg, when he saw it was time for a change, as a student of history I can assure you these essential human qualities were all present in full quantity. Along with the greatness, which has, again, vanished.
In Egypt especially! But Hamlet can be played by pygmies, and history rhymes even as farce. Mubarak can play Nicholas II, Mohammed El-Baradei can appear in the role of Pavel Milyukov, Charles R. Crane can be performed by George Soros, and Hillary Clinton (who has as I write just knifed Mubarak in the back, a deed which can surprise no one over the age of three) does a marvelous Sir George Buchanan. All the details are different, of course; the thing is the same.
We find among the most perspicacious American commentators something extraordinary, an awareness of reality which approaches actual moral consciousness. The power conservatives at Powerline, for instance, write:
My guess is that Arab dictatorships, like autocracies elsewhere, will prove surprisingly brittle once they are challenged. What the current unrest will lead to is anyone’s guess, but there is no reason to think that more popular input will lead to friendlier regimes. Instead, we may see more Irans and Gazas. Be that as it may, there is a certain relief in seeing the dam finally break and the ossified, archaic, anti-free enterprise ruling elites of the Arab world come tumbling down.
Here is the true arsonist’s logic, approaching real mens rea—almost, but not quite, a conscience. Of course, if I throw a Molotov cocktail into this church, it will burn down. Lives may be lost. Lives will be lost! But, I mean, what a flammable building. Look—the whole thing is made entirely of wood. Even the siding. And it’s such an ugly, cheap, common little building. And besides, those horrible snake-handling Pentecostalists…
On so many issues today, especially in foreign policy, this is the difference between the American liberal and the American conservative. The liberal delights in the fire—he hates the church, this church, any church, all churches. Once it is burned down, he thinks, it can be replaced by a modern, handicapped-accessible and well-stocked library. His reforming impulse is founded in cupidity, in the human lust for power, but above them he has built a charming little cottage of delusions and good intentions.
The conservative knows that burning the church is wrong. He knows that nothing will be built on the rubble, that it will remain a heap of charred bricks and snake corpses for years and perhaps decades. But he also knows that some liberal will burn the church if he doesn’t; he, too, is human and delights in the sight of flame; and he’s not a Pentecostalist. So he goes right along and flicks his Bic.
And in this way, “human rights imperialism” has spent the last two centuries doing its best and damnedest to reduce the entire planet to a charnel house, using this same old playbook to smash every genuinely independent locus of sovereignty which rules two sticks that can be rubbed together—from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Gladstone’s “negation of God”), to Rhodesia and South Africa, to these boneheaded and criminal petty dictatorships of North Africa—themselves installed by American diplomacy, which 50 years ago so cleverly euchred North Africa out of French and British hands and handed it to the Bourguibas, Nassers, etc. Just sticking up for American interests, boss, same as always!
Last time I was in Naples, God seemed pretty absent. Evidently He did not, after all, come in with Garibaldi and the British navy. I haven’t seen Him on any of these Youtube clips either. In His place, Hillary Clinton and her extensive staff seem more than happy to settle the destiny of these lands. Let’s hope the State Department only rules Africa for another century, not two. There would be nothing left but the scorpions, and pretty miserable scorpions at that.
But what could be done differently? Is the State Department really guilty of supporting these demonstrations? Aren’t they, rather, guilty of the opposite—of supporting the ruthless dictator, Mubarak? The truth is that every regime in the world today must be either pro-American, in which case its “support” from Foggy Bottom is existential and its State desk officer can pull its plug with a strongly worded memo, or anti-American—meaning that it has already been revolutionized and remains revolutionary, and State is its best friend, “engaging” it by any means necessary. After all, why would Americans need a State Department if everyone already loved America?
Thus, Washington can do nothing to undermine the dictator Assad, and the dictator Assad makes sure it stays that way. If this strikes you as an incentive for signing up with the axis of evil, you’re not exactly wrong. Mubarak is no doubt kicking himself for not being evil enough, and signing up or at least flirting with the Iranians. But alas, it’s almost certainly too late. Thus, the daily bread of the “international community” is destroying herbivorous autocracies, harmless to the American taxpayer, in order to create carnivorous ones which justify more diplomacy. And this, of course, with your tax dollar.
In case it isn’t obvious how this policy could be changed, let me briefly juxtapose Secretary Clinton’s paragraphs with the words that would emanate from Secretary Moldbug’s office:
I would like to say something about the unfolding events in Egypt. We continue to monitor the situation very closely. We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces.
I would like to say something about the riots in Egypt. We are watching this on TV like everyone else, but we are deeply concerned about the threat to public order. Egypt is a foreign country, nowhere near America and of no economic or military importance to us. Its legitimate government for us—in the words of President Monroe—is the government de facto. At present there seems to be only one government operating in Egypt, the existing Mubarak regime. A stable, orderly world is the only interest of our foreign policy. We hope the Egyptian security forces can suppress the riots quickly and with minimum bloodshed.
At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully. As we have repeatedly said, we support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of expression, of association, and of assembly.
We call on the rioters to obey all official instructions, and return to home and/or work. The United States no longer practices democratic imperialism. We have returned to our historic foreign policy of continental neutrality. We do not believe that political power is a “human right.” We are not the “leader of the free world”—free nations need no “leader.” We do not export revolution, we do not operate satellite states or amuse ourselves with puppets, and we deeply regret having played this game in the past.
As a partner, we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political, and social reforms.
Not that our advice matters—since Egypt is a sovereign country, it can and should do whatever it has to do. But we believe it is imperative for any sovereign to avoid concessions in the face of force, whether foreign or domestic. If the rioters make unreasonable demands, their demands must be denied. If they make reasonable demands, these reforms must be withheld at least until the rebellion has failed and its participants thoroughly regret their actions, so that they appear as the gifts of the government and not the fruits of victorious rebellion.
We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications. These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.
We urge the Egyptian authorities to consolidate their security structure by arranging a legitimate succession for President Mubarak. We also suggest a titled nobility and a civil list, so the dignitaries of the ruling party can secure their financial futures and not have to steal so much. We also recommend indefinite separation from the global Internet, which Egypt is clearly not ready for, and severance of international cultural links such as NGOs, tourism, and educational exchanges. The policies of Bhutan might approach an example.
Egypt does not have a healthy relationship with the West. Egypt does not need our revolution; we don’t need its terrorists. The government of Egypt, if it survives these riots, should end this bad marriage and focus on reconstructing a healthy traditional society, preferably one which funnels the talents of the best young Egyptians into constructive work rather than emigration or rebellion. Even trade should be restricted to the extent consistent with human nutrition.