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Monday, February 28, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Oh What a Lucky Man": A Serenade to the Absence of Foreign Policy

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Oh What a Lucky Man" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/opinion/01iht-edcohen01.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Roger Cohen writes:

"Obamaism is taking form. Its themes are nonviolence, youth-driven social media as engines of change and limiters of autocratic brutality, and the universality of those rights listed in Cairo."

Queries for Roger:

Why did it take so long for Obama, who in the past was photographed shaking the hand of Qaddafi with a toothy grin, to call for the Libyan tyrant's ouster? As known to the entire world and as recently acknowledged by Libya's former foreign minister, Qaddafi was personally responsible for approving the Lockerbie bombing.

Why did Obama refuse to support the Iranian dissidents who took to the streets of Tehran in 2009? A mere word of support for the dissidents from Obama and the tyrannical Ahmadinejad regime, responsible for the brutal persecution of women, homosexuals, Baha'is, Kurds, Sunni Muslims and political dissidents, might have crumbled.

Why has Obama refused to criticize human rights abuses in China?

Why did Obama show the Dalai Lama out a side door of the White House, where the garbage was waiting to be collected?

Why has Obama ignored genocide in the Congo?

Why has Obama forgotten Darfur since becoming president?

Why did Obama reach out to Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962?

Why did Obama lock hands with Hugo Chavez, who has actively eroded freedom of the press and freedom of the judiciary in Venezuela?

Why has Obama chosen to renege on his promise to acknowledge as president the mass slaughter of Armenians by the Turks as genocide?

Most devastating, Obama continues to pursue a meaningless war in Afghanistan that has resulted in more than 2,200 coalition deaths, is costing the U.S. billions of dollars needed for education and economic revival, and is causing countless numbers of civilian casualties. Is this also part of the Obama's "theme of nonviolence" and the "universality of rights" recited by the president in Cairo?

If you ask me, Cohen is a "lucky man" to be able to publish this claptrap.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Afghanistan: Obama's Forgotten War

With world attention focused on the purported coming of "democracy" to the Muslim Middle East, American involvement in Afghanistan has largely gone ignored by the media. Nevertheless, this inordinate waste of lives and resources continues unabated, and the news coming from the front lines is not good. As reported on February 24 in a New York Times article entitled "U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital to War" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/world/asia/25afghanistan.html?pagewanted=print), the U.S. game plan has gone awry:

"After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

. . . .

President Obama’s Afghan troop buildup is now fully in place, and the United States military has its largest-ever contingent in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s reinforced campaign has switched focus to operations in Afghanistan’s south, and to building up Afghan security forces.

The previous strategy emphasized denying sanctuaries to insurgents, blocking infiltration routes from Pakistan and trying to fight away from populated areas, where NATO’s superior firepower could be massed, in theory, with less risk to civilians. The Pech Valley effort was once a cornerstone of this thinking."

"Less risk to civilians"? Consider the following Yahoo News article dated February 20 (http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110220/wl_afp/afghanistanunrestnatocivilians), according to which Afghan President Karzai is accusing NATO forces of massacring more than 50 civilians in Kunar Province:

"President Hamid Karzai on Sunday accused NATO troops of killing more than 50 civilians in a troubled province of eastern Afghanistan, as international troops pledged to probe the allegations.

Karzai's statement followed comments by Fazilullah Wahidi, provincial governor of Kunar province, alleging US-led NATO forces had killed up to 63 people, including women and children in airstrikes on suspected rebels.

. . . .

Wahidi earlier told AFP that most of the dead were civilians including 20 women, three elderly men and a number of children.

They were killed mostly in air raids by the ISAF against suspected rebels in Kunar province's Ghaziabad district, a remote mountainous region at the feet of the Hindu Kush ranges, he added.

. . . .

A human rights watchdog said earlier this month that 2010 was the deadliest year for ordinary Afghans since the US-led invasion of 2001, with more than 2,400 civilians killed.

Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for more than 60 percent of the dead, the report by the Afghanistan Rights Monitor said, blaming the US-led force for 21 percent of the casualties."

Time to put an immediate end to this tragic folly; however, as I have noted in prior blog entries, Obama "likes to watch".

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roger Cohen's "From Oklahoma to Tobruk": Again Time to Remove the Rose-Colored Glasses

The following blog entry, which was submitted as an online comment in response to Roger Cohen's op-ed, "From Oklahoma to Tobruk", was censored by The New York Times:

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "From Oklahoma to Tobruk" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/opinion/25iht-edcohen25.html), Roger Cohen, writing from London, concludes:

"The Arab world has embarked on a very long road to enfranchisement. It will be tempestuous but the direction taken is irreversible."

This is the same Roger Cohen who told us that Iran is "not totalitarian".

This is the same Roger Cohen who told us more recently in "Hosni Mubarak Agonistes" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/opinion/04iht-edcohen04.html) that the Muslim Brotherhood is "scarcely a band of fanatics". Cohen forgot to mention that Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, claimed that the Holocaust was divine punishment of the Jews, defended the Iranian fatwa demanding the death of Salman Rushdie, and promoted a “day of rage” against cartoons of Mohammed printed in Sweden and Denmark. Qaradawi has defended female genital mutilation and supports the death penalty for those who abandon Islam.

What Cohen still doesn't understand is that the current upheaval is not about democracy, but rather about haves and have-nots, and crushing poverty, which cannot improve owing to a spiraling birth rate.

Democracy and enfranchisement? Sure, I hope it comes to the Muslim Middle East. And if and when it comes, I hope it will also include:

- women;
- Kurds;
- Copts;
- Baha'is;
- homosexuals.

May there be an end to "honor killings" and the stoning of women accused of adultery. May there be an end to the hanging of homosexuals. May there be an end to the brutal persecution of Kurds, Copts and Baha'is.

Enfranchisement of all in the Muslim Middle East? Sorry, Roger, but it's not in the cards. Again time to take off your rose-colored glasses.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kristof's "On the Line With Libya": An Unwavering Refusal to Criticize Obama


In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "On the Line With Libya" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/opinion/24kristof.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Nicholas Kristof writes:

"Skeptics will note that none of these moves would convince Colonel Qaddafi to be any more genteel. And these are uncertain levers, creating some risk that he would respond by going after citizens of the United States."

Qaddafi might "respond by going after citizens of the United States"? Excuse me, but hasn't Qadaffi already murdered U.S. citizens? Libya's ex-justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, has just acknowledged what all the world already knew: Qaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988 (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-12552587).

Of course Qaddafi's involvement in the Lockerbie bombing did not prevent President Obama from shaking the Libyan tyrant's hand with a warm smile. These photographs will yet come back to haunt Obama.

Kristof concludes:

"So let’s not sit on our hands."

Who is this "we"? What Kristof really means, but is unwilling to say explicitly (we mustn't criticize Obama), is that it is high time for the president, who in the past embraced Qaddafi, to do become proactive as this tragedy unfolds.

Unfortunately for the world, Obama "likes to watch" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/02/jg-caesarea-middle-east-iq-test.html).

Israel, Apartheid, E. Coli and Jimmy Carter


With all the turmoil currently enveloping the Middle East, perhaps you happened to notice the one country in the region where Arabs are not rioting and seeking to overthrow the government. Which country? Surprise, we're talking about Israel.

How can this be? Why haven't Israel's Arabs taken to the streets, hurling rocks and demanding independence? Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter tells anyone ready to listen that Israel is apartheid, yet if this is true, why aren't we witnessing unrest or some sort of demonstration?

Is Carter wrong concerning his allegations of apartheid? Wary of making an utter fool of himself, Carter avoided debating the topic with Alan Dershowitz, who would have unraveled Carter's falsehoods and hardwired racism with facts and figures. I make a point of reading Mr. Dershowitz's columns, and I could never rival his scholarship and dialectic skills, but perhaps I can still contribute to this discussion on a different, more intimate level.

Some of you noticed that my blog recently went idle for more than a week. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with work and have no time to write a new entry. Sometimes I am busy traveling and cannot attend to the blog. Last week, however, I was sick and ended up in the hospital for six days.

Although rarely ill, I had developed a high fever and decided to visit my health fund doctor for the first time in several years. Whereas I suspected flu, my doctor, who is a remarkable medical practitioner, instantly diagnosed a bacterial infection, sent me for blood and urine tests, and started me on antibiotics. The next morning he called me on my cell phone: the blood tests had come back, my leucocytes had reached an astronomical level, and I needed to go to the hospital immediately.

I had never stayed in a hospital before, and I was hoping that the emergency room would decide that my health fund doctor was being overly cautious; however, they also quickly saw the danger – in addition to the leucocytes, various components of my blood were now out of balance owing to dehydration – and I was sent to a room in the urology wing, where I was immediately administered intravenous antibiotics and fluids.

However, this blog entry is not about Israeli medicine or my brush with death owing to an e. coli infection, which, had it been left untreated, would have resulted in sepsis within hours. Rather, this blog entry is about the room, consisting of four beds, which I shared over the course of my hospital stay with Israeli Arabs, a young Ethiopian Jew, a Russian immigrant, and a "sabra" with a knitted kippa (a native born religious Jew).

There were no beds reserved for one religion or another, there was no discrimination based upon skin color, the bathroom facilities were not segregated, and the medical care, administered by both Arabs and Jews, was the same for all patients.

I shared food and conversation with everyone in the room, and the other patients' families, when passing my bed, always smiled and wished me a swift recovery. We talked about business and aspirations: Among the Israeli Arabs, one was anxious to expand his "door" business; another was busy around the clock with his family construction company; a third sought to create a community center in his village celebrating its heritage. Several days after the man working with doors was released, he returned to the urology wing to visit and see if I was on the mend.

Although Israel is far from perfect and suffers from societal tension and discrimination – how could it be otherwise given its brief tumultuous history and numerous wars - it is not apartheid. Rioting among Israeli Arabs? Sorry, but they are too busy living their lives, pursuing their education and careers, and raising their families. Moreover, there is an understanding and respect among most Israeli Arabs and Jews that interlopers such as Carter and his ilk could never understand.

Advice to Carter? Why should he take my advice? Following this brush with mortality, which ultimately catches up with all of us, I was asked to relay the following message to the former American president:

"Jimmy, a warm reception is being readied for you in a new, rapidly expanding enclave of hell that is reserved for narcissists. See you soon!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

JG Caesarea Middle East IQ Test, Question No. 5: "What Do President Obama and Chauncey Gardiner Have in Common?"

Are you more intelligent than President Obama?

No, you still can't reply in the affirmative inasmuch as you tried answering Questions 1-4 of the patented JG Caesarea Middle East IQ Test and failed miserably. Well, here's your chance once again to redeem yourself. Yesterday, I called President Obama and asked him question no. 5, and he reached the wrong answer, so if you respond correctly, you can announce to the entire world, "I'm smarter than the president of the United States!"

Ready? Excited? Let's begin . . .

You've certainly seen the movie "Being There", starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas, which was adapted from Jerzy Kosinski's 1971 novella.

You've also witnessed President Obama's human rights record since his inauguration and his unwillingness to confront dictators in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

So are you ready for the JG Caesarea Middle East IQ Test, Question No. 5? Here it comes:

What Do President Obama and Chauncey Gardiner Have in Common?

As in the past, you have 10 seconds to respond. Not enough time? You think I care? . . . . Finished writing? Pencils down!

What? You answered that they both never received Oscars? Peculiar! That's exactly the same answer I received from Obama. Did you also call him this morning and ask for the question? Were you trying to cheat? I like that, but as in prior exams, it doesn't earn you points.

The correct answer to Question No. 5?:

Both President Obama and Chauncey Gardiner "like to watch".

You still think your "Oscar" answer was correct? Rubbish! After all, JG Caesarea predicts that Obama will ultimately be awarded an Oscar. What's that you say? He's not an actor? Well, Obama never brought peace anywhere on the globe, yet he was still awarded a Nobel Prize, and JG Caesarea promises you that an Oscar will ultimately grace his mantel.

So now you have failed to answer correctly the first five questions of the patented JG Middle East IQ Test. Sorry, did I hear you correctly? Is there something else you can give me to earn a passing score? Sorry, the patented JG Middle East IQ Test remains incorruptible, unless maybe . . .

You're obviously growing wise to the ways of the Middle East, and it shows initiative on your part, but let's not go down that route for now. Answer correctly Question No. 6 in the not too distant future, and you will be able to declare once and for all that you are smarter than President Obama!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kristof's "What Egypt Can Teach America": Thanks, Nicholas, But How About an Eye Examination?

Nicholas Kristof in a New York Times op-ed entitled "What Egypt Can Teach America" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/opinion/13kristof.html?hp), blames Obama for having been "wishy-washy" with respect to events in Egypt. Needless to say, Kristof also finds a way to blame Israel for American tolerance of corrupt Middle East autocrats:

"We supported corrupt autocrats as long as they kept oil flowing and weren’t too aggressive toward Israel."

Nicholas, with all due respect, let's examine several of the issues that you have failed to address:

1. The bottom line is that power in Egypt now resides in the army, and although the army's behavior was gentle, we are still looking at a military coup. A deal had been made on Wednesday with the Egyptian army for Mubarak to step down, which was known to Washington, giving rise to expectations - and leaks - that Mubarak would announce his resignation on Thursday. Mubarak unexpectedly backed out of the deal, causing surprise and embarrassment to all involved in "brokering" this arrangement. Again, the bottom line is that power now resides in the military, and we will need to see how fast they relinquish it.

2. While reporting from Tahrir Square, did you interview members of the Muslim Brotherhood? They were there, although they arrived belatedly. No mention in your columns that 82% of Egyptian Muslims favor stoning people who commit adultery; 77% favor whipping/ cutting off of hands for theft and robbery; and 84% favor the death penalty for people who abandon Islam. Some 95% of Egypt's Muslims believe that it is good that Islam plays a large role in politics. Is this fertile ground for democracy?

3. I don't recall you ever addressing in a meaningful way in your column the horrifying outrages perpetrated against Egypt's Copts over many years? Do you hold yourself to blame for not examining this brutal persecution? Do you believe that it will now disappear? You blame Obama for being slow in responding, but where were your columns concerning the Copts?

4. Bedouins in Sinai are now revolting against Egyptian rule - again, something that is not mentioned in your column. Should they be granted independence?

5. For that matter, I do not recall your column addressing the failure to provide the Middle East's 35 million Kurds, who reside in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, with freedom. How do you blame Obama, when your columns never relate to the oppression of this people?

6. Why have your columns to the best of my recollection never mentioned the brutal oppression of Iran's Baha'is?

7. The overwhelming majority of wars in the Middle East have not involved Israel, and yet you seem to think that the interests of Israel dictate U.S. policy. Were you influenced by the placards at Tahrir Square with pictures of Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead? Peculiar how your recent columns never mentioned that both the protesters and Mubarak's supporters were busy blaming the Jews and Israel.

8. Your column never mentioned Egypt's annual population growth rate of some 2.0%. Given this explosive rate of population growth, the chances that Egypt will emerge from its poverty are almost nil, even if Mubarak and other wealthy Egyptians are forced to repatriate their assets. Is Israel also to blame for this birth rate, which guarantees future economic and political instability?

In short, don't blame Obama. The Middle East is anything but black and white, and there are many issues that you have also chosen to ignore. Meanwhile, the Egyptian army today surrounded and fought with the remaining protesters in Tahrir Square, took down their tents, and arrested more than 30 protest leaders in a tribute to nascent Egyptian democracy.

Obama Welcomes Egypt's "Transition": A "Transition" to What?

Speaking from the White House yesterday, President Obama stated:

"There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning.

. . . .

For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49KdytP9yk

"Change"? "Transition"? "Genuine democracy"? Yeah, right, in a country where 95% of its Muslims believe that it is good that Islam plays a large role in politics (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/).

Mubarak also disagrees with Obama. In a telephone discussion with Israeli Member of Knesset Benjamin Ben-Eliezer on Thursday, Mubarak took issue with Obama's optimism:

"He had very tough things to say about the United States," said Ben-Eliezer, a member of the Labor Party who has held talks with Mubarak on numerous occasions while serving in various Israeli coalition governments.

"He gave me a lesson in democracy and said: 'We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that's the fate of the Middle East,'" Ben-Eliezer said.

"'They may be talking about democracy but they don't know what they're talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam,'" he quoted Mubarak as saying.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/mubarak-slammed-u-s-in-phone-call-with-israeli-mk-before-resignation-1.342831

Who is right, Obama or Mubarak? Is Egypt fertile ground for democracy? You need only read my earlier blog items concerning Egypt's swelling population, poverty, illiteracy and majority views which demand stoning for adultery and death for apostasy, in order to understand my expectations.

Obama has lost Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood, and although it may not occur overnight, it's coming. He has lost Lebanon to Hezbollah. He is losing Jordan. He failed to seize the opportunity to encourage meaningful "change" in Iran, and he is apt to lose the Gulf States as well.

We are witnessing indecision and naivete from the White House, which I have never seen in my lifetime. "History taking place", or perhaps the "perfect storm"?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: "Democracy" to Be Proclaimed When Worshipers Stream from the Mosques

On Friday in Egypt it all comes to a head: Pouring out of the mosques, riled by religious invective, thousands of angry Cairenes will take to the streets seeking Mubarak's head, and if you believe the pundits from The New York Times, CNN and Al Jazeera, we are about to witness the birth of democracy on the Nile.

But wait! Isn't there something a bit peculiar about this, or even a contradiction in terms? Cairenes pouring out of the mosques to proclaim "democracy"?

With Obama's tacit approval (and Ahmadinejad's express approval, see: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/164699.html), the coup might come, but if there will be any "democracy" at all, it will not be of the kind that you are familiar with in the United States. It will be a theocracy, soon to be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood or worse, and with an end to tourism, reduced American aid, and a spiraling birth rate, Egypt's poverty and unemployment will soon reach frightening levels.

Let's see how it plays out between the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Let's also see what ultimately becomes of Egypt's Copts.

Seeking a humorous twist to this tragedy? Listen to Sandy Cash's marvelous "Egyptian Revolution Blues": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqiGmodx33A

And as might be expected, both the protesters and Mubarak's loyalists are - you guessed it - blaming the Jews . . .

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Friedman's "Up With Egypt": What Tom Forgot to Tell You . . .

. . . and what The New York Times refused to post in response to Friedman:

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Up With Egypt" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/opinion/09friedman.html), Thomas Friedman, writing from Cairo, attempts to make the case that the protests in Egypt derive from poverty, and that this poverty results "from a system in which a few people have gotten fantastically rich, in giant villas, and everyone else has stagnated." Friedman proceeds to compare the calm in China with the current chaos in Egypt:

"China deprives its people of political rights, but at least it gives them a rising standard of living. Egypt deprived its people of political rights and gave them a declining standard of living.

That is why this revolt is primarily about a people fed up with being left behind in a world where they can so clearly see how far others have vaulted ahead. "

What Tom forgets to mention (numbers from the CIA World Factbook):

China's population growth rate:
0.494% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 153

Egypt's population growth rate:
1.997% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58

"Small" difference, huh, Tom? With or without Mubarak, there is no way for Egypt to emerge from its crushing poverty until the birth rate in that country comes down.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Egypt: Mubarak Makes Monkeys Out of Hillary and Obama

Over the past week, Obama had sought to arrange for Mubarak's immediate resignation (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/world/middleeast/04diplomacy.html?_r=1), something he could never bring himself to request of Ahmadinejad during the height of the 2009 rioting in Iran. As reported by Yahoo News on Sunday:

"Obama spoke Saturday to several foreign leaders about the unrest in Egypt and underscored the need for 'an orderly, peaceful transition, beginning now,' the White House said in a statement."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110206/wl_mideast_afp/egyptpoliticsunrest_11

And on Sunday, as reported by National Public Radio from Germany, Hillary also got into the act, tacitly acknowledging White House acceptance of the Muslim Brotherhood as a negotiating partner:

"Today we learned the Muslim Brotherhood decided to participate, which suggests they at least are now involved in the dialogue that we have encouraged. We're going to wait and see how this develops, but we've been very clear about what we expect."

Well, whatever the White House had "been very clear" in expecting, Obama is now furiously backtracking. As reported by CNN, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated on Monday:

"This is a process that is going to be at times bumpy, because when for 28 years you have had one leader, without ... really a robust opposition, it's going to take some time to work this stuff out."

. . . .

The process has to be dynamic, and we have to see the government take part in a meaningful way and outline a series of steps and a timeline that the Egyptian people are comfortable with."

http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/02/07/us.egypt/index.html?hpt=T1

Why the change of heart? Is it because the fury witnessed in Tahrir Square might subside, as hoped for by Mubarak? After witnessing chaos envelop their economy, are a majority of Egyptians seeking a return to normalcy? Note the following quotation from Amre Moussa, as reported today by CNN:

"But some leading Egyptian figures say Mubarak should be allowed to remain in office. Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa, who visited the Tahrir Square protest last week, told CNN that the 82-year-old president should be allowed a 'dignified exit' in September.

'I believe that the president should stay until the end of his mandate. The consensus is growing on this point because of certain constitutional considerations,' Moussa told CNN on Monday."

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/02/07/egypt.protests/index.html?hpt=T2

Mubarak has made monkeys of Hillary and Obama, and the current administration, renowned for its vacillation and indecision, has brought U.S. overseas credibility to a new nadir.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Douthat's "Obama the Realist": Or Why I Am Not a Conservative

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Obama the Realist" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/opinion/07douthat.html), Ross Douthat writes of the current unrest in Egypt:

"This is a situation that calls for great caution, rather than grand idealistic gestures. And it calls for a certain measure of relief, from the American public, that this liberal president’s foreign policy instincts have turned out to be so temperamentally conservative."

And so we learn that to do nothing is "temperamentally conservative":

• To ignore human rights abuses in China;
• To ignore human rights abuses in Myanmar;
• To cede a democratic Lebanon to Iran and Syria;
• To ignore North Korean aggression;
• To ignore suffering in Darfur;
• To ignore genocide in the Congo;
• To ignore Iranians who took to the streets, seeking freedom;
• To keep the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

This is not foreign policy. This is the absence of foreign policy. This is not realism. This is bumbling. This is the consequence of electing a very young senator without foreign policy experience of any kind, who ran a slick campaign, but who is unable to translate photogenic posturing before teleprompters into a leadership role on the world stage.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nicholas Kristof: "Should We Worry about Egypt Becoming Democratic?"; Alfred E. Neuman: "What, Me Worry?"

In his New York Times column "On the Ground", Nicholas Kristof has published a new entry, "Should We Worry about Egypt Becoming Democratic" (http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/05/should-we-worry-about-egypt-becoming-democratic/). Kristof responds to his own question: "My answer is: No." Regrettably, my experience has taught me not to view life in terms of black and white, and I have submitted the following response to Nicholas:

Should we worry about Egypt becoming Democratic?

Indeed, if Egyptians are not worried, why should we worry? According to a study released by the Pew Research Center on December 2, 2010 (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/): 82% of Egyptian Muslims favor stoning people who commit adultery; 77% favor whipping/cutting off of hands for theft and robbery; and 84% favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion. Nicholas, do you dispute these numbers, or do you not find them worrying? Are you of the opinion that these beliefs will disappear when "democracy" comes to Egypt?

Query for Nicholas: You write in your op-ed "Militants, Women and Tahrir Sq.", " I constantly asked . . . Coptic Christians whether a democratic Egypt might end up a more oppressive country. They invariably said no — and looked so reproachfully at me for doubting democracy that I sometimes retreated in embarrassment." Do you speak fluent Arabic? Did you speak to the Copts in English or Arabic? Was this a scientific poll you conducted? Did you inquire among Copts in their churches and communities, or did you primarily ask questions among the protesters? Why did you not mention in your column the murder of 21 Copts, who were coming out of a church in Alexandria, one month ago?

Further query: Why are you not reporting the attitudes of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood? In the 2005 elections, the Brotherhood's candidates, who ran as independents due to the Brotherhood's illegality as a political party, won 88 parliament seats (almost 20% of the total of 454 seats) to form the largest opposition bloc. According to an article by Hamza Hendawi of the Associated Press appearing in Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110204/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_218):

"The Brotherhood has rushed to take a stronger role in the unprecedented protests that erupted 10 days ago, led by more secular young activists demanding the ouster of Mubarak. The Brotherhood's strength was on display in the pitched battles in Wednesday and Thursday against government supporters who attacked the protesters' camp in Cairo's central Tahrir Square before they were driven from the square by the pro-democracy forces.

Brothers — distinguishable by their close-cropped beards — dominated the front lines, often lining up to pray for 'victory or martyrdom,' before throwing themselves into the fray, hurling stones, sticks and firebombs at the attackers while shouting 'God is great.'

Amr Said, a 41-year-old chemist who said he is a Brotherhood supporter, told The Associated Press in Tahrir Square Friday morning that 'our instructions are not to assume a role that is too visible at the moment, and to get along with all other groups including and leftist and liberals.

'We also refrain from making our typically brotherhood chants and when one of us does, we quickly shut him up,' he said."

Nicholas, isn't it important also to report what supporters of the Brotherhood are thinking and saying? It's not hard to find them at Tahrir Square.

Will those fervent advocates of democracy and free speech at The New York Times post this comment? Let's wait and see.

Incidentally, as I observed in my prior blog entry, Roger Cohen yesterday wrote in an op-ed from Cairo entitled "We the Egyptian People" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/05/opinion/05iht-edcohen05.html?hp):

"Islamic parties can run thriving economies and democracies like Turkey’s".

Compare Egypt with Turkey? Yeah, right. As astutely observed by David Horovitz in a Jerusalem Post article entitled "Dangerously underestimating the Muslim Brotherhood
" (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=206969):

"[N]umerous “experts” in both the US print and electronic media over the past week have been concertedly representing the Muslim Brotherhood as benign, hapless, not particularly popular, or all three of the above.

Far from benign, the Brotherhood is committed to death-cult jihad in the cause of widened Islamist rule, was the progenitor of Hamas and central to Islamist radicalization among the Palestinians. And its popularity was evident in that impressive 2005 parliamentary performance, achieved, it should be stressed, despite the Mubarak-orchestrated unfavorable circumstances.

. . . .

Experiences elsewhere have demonstrated the patience that Islamist organizations can exercise, building and gaining power and influence over years, over decades. Yet the absence of the Brotherhood from the protest frontlines for a matter of mere days – an astute tactic to ensure the watching world was not alienated and to maximize domestic support for the uprising – was apparently widely misread as proof of its irrelevance.

A much-cited – though not always accurately – Pew Research Center of Muslim attitudes, published only two months ago, indicates how frighteningly fertile the ground is for the Islamists in Egypt: 82% of Egyptian Muslims favor stoning people who commit adultery; 77% favor whipping/ cutting off of hands for theft and robbery; and 84% favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion, it found. By way of comparison, the comparable percentages in Turkey, even as it submits to growing Islamist influence, were just 16%, 13% and 5% respectively."

Worry about Egypt becoming democratic? In the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?"

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mohamed ElBaradei: A Modern-Day Ataturk or a Modern-Day Kerensky?

Yesterday, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Hosni Mubarak Agonistes" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/opinion/04iht-edcohen04.html), Roger Cohen wrote:

"Already we hear the predictable warnings from Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu: This could be Iran 1979, a revolution for freedom that installs the Islamists. But this is not 1979, and Egypt’s Facebook-adept youth are not lining up behind the Muslim Brotherhood, itself scarcely a band of fanatics."

The Muslim Brotherhood is "scarcely a band of fanatics"? Consider the following excerpts from an interview with Muhammad Ghanem, Muslim Brotherhood representative in London, which aired on Al-Alam TV on January 30, 2011:

"I don't want to speak ill of anyone, but Hosni Mubarak will not hesitate to kill the entire Egyptian people in order to remain in power. This is a maneuver of which we must beware. Hosni Mubarak is trying to stabilize his position. He is in Sharm Al-Sheik, protected by the Zionists, by the state of Israel. There is a helicopter ready to fly him to Israel.

. . . .

I am absolutely certain that this revolution will not die, and that the next step must be one of civil disobedience. This civil disobedience will generate strife among the Egyptians. This disobedience must include halting passage through the Suez Canal, stopping the supply of petroleum and natural gas to Israel, and preparing for war with Israel."

http://m.memri.org/14500/show/dabaeba7e528a6b6a7ab7792df08e455&t=20320d97cb30b6845cb6422bedb5dfbe

Heck, shut down the Suez Canal and war with Israel? Nothing at all "fanatic" about that.

Today, in an op-ed from Cairo entitled "We the Egyptian People" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/05/opinion/05iht-edcohen05.html?hp), Cohen interviews the "managing director of a publishing company" (another very representative example of the Egyptian populace) and continues to spout twaddle:

"Islamic parties can run thriving economies and democracies like Turkey’s".

No mention of course of the "democratic" takeover of Gaza by Hamas. No mention of course of the "democratic" takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Cohen would like to make the case that ElBaradei is a modern-day Ataturk? No way, Jose! On the other hand, he could well prove to be a modern-day Kerensky.

Alexander Kerensky, whose goal was to bring a Western-style constitutional democracy to Russia, helped lead the February Revolution of 1917 against the czar, but the Kerensky government was toppled by the Bolshevik's October Revolution of 1917.

Like the Bolsheviks in 1917, the Muslim Brotherhood, anything but stupid, is biding its time. Even should there be elections in Egypt, unemployment, illiteracy, a spiraling birth rate, and the prevalence of intolerance (as noted in my prior blog entry, the Pew Research Center, http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/, has determined that three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt favor stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery, and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion) spell an early demise to democracy.

Even if ElBaradei is able to oversee a transitional government in Egypt, it will be years before tourism returns to Egypt, unemployment will not improve, and my guess is that he will ultimately again be destined for exile - much like Alexander Kerensky, who died in New York City in 1970.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Hosni Mubarak Agonistes": More Blather, This Time from Cairo

Guess who's in Cairo? Yes, that's right, Roger Cohen, the same pundit who repeatedly lectured us from Tehran in 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian", and who is now intent upon singing praises to nascent Egyptian democracy. In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Hosni Mubarak Agonistes" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/opinion/04iht-edcohen04.html), Cohen writes today:

"Already we hear the predictable warnings from Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu: This could be Iran 1979, a revolution for freedom that installs the Islamists. But this is not 1979, and Egypt’s Facebook-adept youth are not lining up behind the Muslim Brotherhood, itself scarcely a band of fanatics."

Thanks for the reassurances, Roger. But consider the following statistics released by the Pew Research Center on December 2, 2010 (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/):

"At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion."

Note also that according to this survey report, 95% of Egyptian Muslims believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics.

Perhaps Cohen takes comfort in the fact that according to this survey report, "only" 20% of Egyptians have a favorable view of al-Qaeda.

So do we again place our faith in Cohen, who repeatedly told us in 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian", or do we take the view that events in Egypt are apt to unfold in a manner less sanguine than that which Cohen has in mind?

As stated in earlier blog entries, we have a "lose-lose" situation in the making here, whose tragic outcome is only being compounded by the naive blundering of the Obama administration.

[Here's an article by Hamza Hendawi of the Associated Press appearing in Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110204/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_218) concerning the furtive involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Tahrir Square protests that goes unmentioned by both Roger Cohen and Nicholas Kristof:

"The Brotherhood has rushed to take a stronger role in the unprecedented protests that erupted 10 days ago, led by more secular young activists demanding the ouster of Mubarak. The Brotherhood's strength was on display in the pitched battles in Wednesday and Thursday against government supporters who attacked the protesters' camp in Cairo's central Tahrir Square before they were driven from the square by the pro-democracy forces.

Brothers — distinguishable by their close-cropped beards — dominated the front lines, often lining up to pray for 'victory or martyrdom,' before throwing themselves into the fray, hurling stones, sticks and firebombs at the attackers while shouting 'God is great.'

Amr Said, a 41-year-old chemist who said he is a Brotherhood supporter, told The Associated Press in Tahrir Square Friday morning that 'our instructions are not to assume a role that is too visible at the moment, and to get along with all other groups including and leftist and liberals.

'We also refrain from making our typically brotherhood chants and when one of us does, we quickly shut him up,' he said."

Meanwhile, Cohen and Kristof busy themselves by interviewing the lawyers, doctors and students. Is it because they are among the few demonstrators who speak English? . . .]

Nicholas Kristof's "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Sq.": The Guys in the White Hats Against the Guys in the Black Hats

In a new New York Times op-ed written from Tahrir Square, entitled "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Sq." (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/opinion/03kristof.html?hp), Nicholas Kristof creates a soap opera involving the good guys versus the bad guys, with a couple of fearless heroines thrown into the act:

"Pro-government thugs at Tahrir Square used clubs, machetes, swords and straight razors on Wednesday to try to crush Egypt’s democracy movement. . . . Then along came two middle-age sisters, Amal and Minna, walking toward the square to join the pro-democracy movement. . . . [S]ide by side with the ugliest of humanity, you find the best. The two sisters stood their ground. They explained calmly to the mob why they favored democratic reform and listened patiently to the screams of the pro-Mubarak mob.

. . . .

The road to stability in Egypt requires Mr. Mubarak’s departure, immediately.

But for me, when I remember this sickening and bloody day, I’ll conjure not only the brutality that Mr. Mubarak seems to have sponsored but also the courage and grace of those Egyptians who risked their lives as they sought to reclaim their country. . . . Above all, I’ll be inspired by those two sisters standing up to Mr. Mubarak’s hoodlums. If they, armed only with their principles, can stand up to Mr. Mubarak’s thuggery, can’t we all do the same?"

My goodness, how simple it all is! A New York Times op-ed writer can waltz into Egypt and within hours present us with a fairytale involving black and white, good and evil: Mubarak goes, and Egypt will be on "the road to stability". Does it remind you of what Roger Cohen would have had us believe in Iran in 2009?

Kristof would today have us believe that all the protesters in Tahrir Square represent the forces of democracy. Sorry, Nicholas, but it just isn't the case. Many are frustrated by unyielding poverty and an absence of economic hope. Will Mubarak's "immediate departure" cure these ills, despite population growth of some 2% each year? Not a chance.

And although the anti-democratic Muslim Brotherhood, also in the opposition's camp, has yet to make its voice heard, they are out there and waiting, as are their constituents: tens of millions of illiterate, unemployed Egyptians, who couldn't care a fig about democracy.

Kristof's optimistic spin notwithstanding, it's not going to be pretty. You've heard of a win-win situation? Well, here is a lose-lose situation. Thanks anyway for the fairytale, Nicholas, which made my morning.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"B.E., Before Egypt. A.E., After Egypt.": Tom Friedman Takes a Vacation from Middle East Reality

Writing from Ramallah, Thomas Friedman majestically declares in a New York Times op-ed entitled "B.E., Before Egypt. A.E., After Egypt." (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/opinion/02friedman.html):

"Today, I believe President Obama should put his own peace plan on the table, bridging the Israeli and Palestinian positions, and demand that the two sides negotiate on it without any preconditions."

Sadly, timing is everything in the Middle East, and Friedman's proposition ignores facts on the ground.

If we are talking about a peace between the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and Israel, Friedman fails to acknowledge that President Abbas was elected to serve until January 2009, but unilaterally extended his term for another year and continues in office without an election. Abbas is carefully scrutinizing events in Egypt and Jordan, and nervously watching for signs of unrest in Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron and Nablus. Embarrassed by the publication by Al Jezeera of Palestinian Authority concessions, Abbas is currently in no position to negotiate with Israel, notwithstanding economic growth and stability in the West Bank.

If we are talking about a peace between Hamas in Gaza and Israel, Hamas's charter continues to call for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis) and rejects any negotiated solution with Israel. On Monday night, aware that the world has suddenly recognized that Israel is not the source of instability in Egypt, Hamas sought to create "linkage" by firing Grad missiles and mortar shells at Israeli civilian targets and hoping for a reprisal. Israel, however, was not sucked into this attempt to escalate tensions.

In short, this is a very stylish piece of writing from Mr. Friedman, but it fails to entertain realities. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians will come, but everything has its time.

[This from the Jerusalem Post: "MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) criticized the US on Wednesday, saying 'the Americans brought disaster to the Middle East by calling for [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak to leave his country.' Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio that 'We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians quickly, before the masters from Washington force a solution on us [in the issue].'" (http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=206329)]