Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cairo Spring

Robert Springborg, Foreign Policy "Game over: The chance for democracy in Egypt is lost" Feb 2nd

Gareth Porter, "The Illusive Quest for Dominance: Why Washington Clings to a Failed Middle East Strategy"

Juan Cole, "Saad’s Revolution"

‘ Saad Eddin Ibrahim has spoken out forcefully on human rights and democracy for decades, and he is finally being vindicated. But his message that the United States needs to support democracy in the Arab world and put aside its paranoia about Muslim fundamentalist movements may be unpalatable to Washington’s elites. ‘

Firedoglake,“No One Could Have Predicted the Housing Bubble Middle East Status Quo Would Crash” [via Corrente]

Ahdaf Soueif: The regime unleashes its thugs

Washingtonblog, "Why Did Mubarak's Thugs Ride In On Camels?"

Gary Farber, "De Nile Truly Is A River"

Steve Lendman, "Revolutionary Change in Egypt: Internal or Made in USA?" 1/31

Parvez Sharma, 'We are very much in the early stages of our revolution’ Feb 3rd

Helena Cobban, "Obama's know-nothings discuss Egypt" 1/28

Chris Floyd had several interesting posts up about recent events in Egypt but apparently hackers have removed them.

I've seen very little in the way of polling regarding the turmoil in Egypt. From the somewhat right-wing Rasmussen people there's this.

Juan Cole mentions another poll, here: "Why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979"

A recent Pew poll found that 59% of Egyptians favor democracy in almost all situations. And fully 60 percent are very or somewhat worried about the specter of religious extremism in their society. About 61% do not even think there is a struggle between modernizers and religion in Egypt.

Among the 31% who did see such a struggle, 59% favored religious forces and 21% favored the modernizers. Barry Rubin and Michael Totten misread this latter statistic to be true of all Egyptians. They are wrong. The statistic is not about Egyptians in general, but about the third of them who see a conflict between modernizers and religion. 59% of 31% is 18% of the whole Egyptian population who favor fundamentalists over modernizers. The rest either favor the modernizers or think it is a phony conflict. Not thinking that modernism and religiosity conflict is generally a liberal point of view.

Vermont's Bernie Sanders has an interactive poll on his Senate web site, here. Last I checked about 2,700 people had participated. I know it's not remotely scientific, but I found it interesting.

Regarding Gary Farber and Marc Lynch (whom Farber quotes extensively), I'm inclined to think they both make too many excuses for Obama-- although I doubt that if Obama actually took a more forthright stand in favor of a meaningful change to democratic government it would make much difference in terms of actual events. My sense of Obama is that he just cares about avoiding having people and events making him look bad, and at this point the US government's main rhetorical struggle is the attempt to seem relevant to events in the Middle East. I wonder if many Americans can see how our influence in the region has declined, and it's not about dems versus the GOP, any more than Iraq was about WMDs. At any rate I hope Robert Springborg is wrong and the street revolutionaries really have a chance to get rid of the government and replace it with something better. History suggests the odds against them are steep, not because Arabs "don't understand" democracy, but because outside forces tend to interfere if they can.

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At February 04, 2011 4:16 PM, Blogger JM said...

I wouldn't put too much faith in ol Chas as Helena does;

At February 05, 2011 7:03 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi JM,
First, thanks for the link. I read Max A's commentary, but it's not clear to me how he determines what Freeman's ulterior meaning is just from what he quotes, or how he can know that Freeman looks at things so cynically, as opposed to simply making an argument his audience will understand.

(I will admit I know next to nothing about Freeman, but I have a great deal of respect for Helena Cobban, whom I consider very knowledgeable and reliable.)

At February 07, 2011 11:44 AM, Blogger micah holmquist said...


Thanks for the links. I haven’t read them all. Robert Springborg’s FP piece is insightful, but I think he overstates the case. Yes, the maneuverings by the military have been effective, but this appears to still be a situation in flux and I would be hesitant to say with any great confidence that there will not be another big shift. Then again, the smart money probably says that Mubarak will stay in office until after the elections and that those elections will be relatively democratic but a number of political parties will be banned.

On another note, it is amazing how uncomfortable people in the U.S. are with something important happening in the world and the U.S. not being one of the two most influential parties. “What should we do?” they say. “What should we do?” How about dropping military aid and then doing nothing?

At February 09, 2011 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama is behaving toward Egypt in the mold of his two idols: Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. He's using Clinton's fake-empathy and process-maven meritocrat perspective, along with Reagan's Hooray for Capitalism, Big Business is Best Business! perspective. He's not sure whether to go all gung-ho on militarism (Reaganesque war/defense/security bucks!) or show some restraint and respect for process (Clintonian triangulation).

At February 09, 2011 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If the American economy were acknowledged among the hoi polloi as weaker (i.e., as bad as it actually is), he'd choose the Reagan route. He'd use the public anger about JAAAAAAABS and whip it into a jingoist frenzy. I don't think we're quite there yet, people are still a bit sluggish and hazy on how bad things truly are.

At February 10, 2011 10:44 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi Micah and Charles,

My impression is the administration is trying to finesse this so it sounds like they support democracy, etc without having to, you know, mean it.

At this point with Mubarak having refused to resign it seems the only way Obama can keep up the appearance of the US being relevant in the region is, ironically, by supporting the protesters and demanding Mubarak and co. step down-- but you know he is too much of a company man to do that.

At February 11, 2011 5:37 PM, Blogger micah holmquist said...

Any thoughts on what happened today? I can't decide if I should be cynical or optimistic.

At February 12, 2011 12:43 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Oh, be optimistic, Micah! Don't we deserve just once to dance in the streets for joy? No matter what happens next--and I'm not happy at the militry taking over--I rejoice that my brothrs and sisters have prevailed.


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