Monthly Archives: February 2011

Gleanings, 28.02.11

Charles Moore: What happens after we stop watching these revolutions (MUST READ)

It is often said that anti-Israeli feeling is growing in the West because Israel does not, despite its claims, live by Western values. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is the case: Israel, because of the constant threat to its existence, reminds us of the high cost of defending our freedoms. And that, to Western wishful thinkers, is intensely irritating.

Caroline Glick: The West’s proxy war against the Jews (MUST READ)

But the situation is different today. By waging its war against Israel through Palestinian proxies, the West threatens itself. The Nazi propaganda recycled by the Soviets which has enslaved the peoples of Europe and much of America’s intellectual elite has not only turned them into willing participants in the new war against the Jews. It has turned them into instruments for their own destruction.

Peter Wehner: Barack Obama’s Moral Concession to Evil

On a more fundamental level, what the Obama administration did was create quite a dangerous precedent. It has now signaled to the most malevolent regimes in the world that the way to delay (or perhaps even avoid) American condemnation, let alone American action, is to threaten the lives of American citizens. The message sent to, and surely the message received by, despots around the world is this: If you want to neuter America, threaten to harm its citizens. Mr. Obama will bend like red-hot steel pulled from a furnace.

Todd Gitlin: Perils of Public Intellectualizing

“In theory,” this prominent scholar continued, “Libya has self-government without a state.  Gaddafi’s economic theory holds that everyone should receive the fruits of their labour.” He got “the strong sense that” Qaddafi’s reform impulse was “authentic and that there is a lot of motive power behind it.” …

It’s just as well that I spark my first Brainstorm with this cautionary tale about smart people spouting appalling nonsense.  In a chaotic world, we lunge around for wisdom, and take credentials seriously. Big-thinking theoretical brains can be the most treacherous. One reason why brains have gotten a bad rap is that smart people can be so fatuous, idiotic, and clueless.

James Kirchik: Rumor Debunked

But the events in Egypt have laid bare a stark divide between neoconservatives and the Israeli elite: While the former are ecstatic about the fall of Mubarak and the prospect of a democratic Egypt, the latter are waryat best. “Supporting democracy is part of the genetic code of Americans,” says Martin Kramer, a senior fellow at Jerusalem’s Shalem Center. “Israelis,” on the other hand, “like the status quo.”

Boaz Ganor: The revolutions and US euphoria

It’s possible that Talhami’s right and social scientists can’t identify changes in political processes, but once these changes have taken place, we may not simply ignore historic precedents. Ayatollah Khomeini’s democratic precedent in Iran, Hezbollah’s democracy in Lebanon and Hamas’s democracy in Gaza leave very little room for doubt.

History repeats itself.

Martin Kramer: Dumbest things written by Western intellectuals who did junkets to Libya (close competition):

• 3d place: The shores of Tripoli by Stephen Walt “Libya doesn’t feel like other police states that I have visited.”

• 2d place: My chat with the colonel by Anthony Giddens “As one-party states go, Liby…a is not especially repressive. Gadafy seems genuinely popular.”

• 1st place: No Democratic Dominoes in the Middle East by Benjamin Barber

“Libya has a tradition of participatory local governance because of Qadaffi’s long interest in participatory democracy and peoples’ committees. Moreover, he is not detested in the way that Mubarak has been detested and rules by means other than fear.”

Fisking Kristof on Arab Capacity for Democracy

I have watched Nicholas Kristof go from brave denouncer of Darfurian genocide and defender of women the globe over, into a politically correct useful idiot. It’s hard to find a better poster boy for the bizarre way in which intelligent, courageous people can end up spouting drivel as a result of LCE-itis (not). But today’s column is more than I can bear, so here’s a fisking of today’s most valuable idiot of the day (heavy competition).

Unfit for Democracy?
February 26, 2011

Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people — Arabs, Chinese and Africans — are incompatible with democracy. Many around the world fret that “people power” will likely result in Somalia-style chaos, Iraq-style civil war or Iran-style oppression.

That narrative has been nourished by Westerners and, more sadly, by some Arab, Chinese and African leaders. So with much of the Middle East in an uproar today, let’s tackle a politically incorrect question head-on: Are Arabs too politically immature to handle democracy?

This issue is politically incorrect, but – surprise! – the answer will be hopelessly politically correct. So before we go into Kristof’s breathless (and superficial) analysis, let’s briefly review the basic elements necessary for a successful democratic experiment. Imnsho, there are at least four critical issues that are necessary cultural changes that must precede a democratic experiment in order for it to work:

1) the principle of equality before the law: unless there is a strong and independent judiciary, based on a widespread cultural commitment to the idea that everyone is “equal before the law” (i.e., everyone should be subject to the same laws and penalties and have the same protection from abuse of the law).

2) the capacity for self-criticism: it’s one thing to demand freedom of speech for yourself, it’s quite another to grant that freedom to people who say things you don’t like. The ability to allow others freedom of speech, to be willing to admit public criticism, to even admit mistakes and wrongdoing publicly, is a critical dimension of any kind of “transparency” in the exercise of power.

3) the ability to allow women freedom: honor-killings, clitoridectomies, banishing of women from public space, insistence on the veil/burka/niqab, all of these reflect a male-chavinist control mania that is both symptom and factor in the inability to sustain a society committed to freedom.

4) positive-sum instincts: these include such things as an ability to trust others as well as to be trustworthy, to avoid conspiracy theories unless the evidence is very strong, to view another’s success as a good thing, rather than as a loss for oneself.

This concern is the subtext for much anxiety today, from Washington to Riyadh. And there’s no question that there are perils: the overthrow of the shah in Iran, of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, of Tito in Yugoslavia, all led to new oppression and bloodshed.

Congolese celebrated the eviction of their longtime dictator in 1997, but the civil war since has been the most lethal conflict since World War II. If Libya becomes another Congo, if Bahrain becomes an Iranian satellite, if Egypt becomes controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood — well, in those circumstances ordinary citizens might end up pining for former oppressors.

And, of course, all that I’ve outlined above apply to each of these places. But ask Kristof and I’ll bet he thinks the odds are long that these unpleasant outcomes will occur, when my guess is, the odds are highest that they will.

“Before the revolution, we were slaves, and now we are the slaves of former slaves,” Lu Xun, the great Chinese writer, declared after the toppling of the Qing dynasty. Is that the future of the Middle East?

After this brief and superficial acknowledgment of a possible “problem” with thinking that revolution leads directly to democracy, Kristof will now dive headlong into his optimism.

Gleanings, 27.02.11

Niall Ferguson: Un-American Revolutions (MUST READ)

The Obama administration was elected by a great many Americans who regretted the costs of [Bush] policy. Yet in place of the Bush doctrine came … nothing. Obama’s obsequious 2009 speech in Cairo offered a feeble hand of friendship to the Muslim world. But to whom was it extended? To the tyrants? Or to their subject peoples? Obama apparently hoped he, too, could have it both ways, even shaking hands with the odious Muammar Gaddafi.

The correct strategy—which, incidentally, John McCain would have actively pursued had he been elected in 2008—was twofold. First, we should have tried to repeat the successes of the pre-1989 period, when we practiced what we preached in Central and Eastern Europe by actively supporting those individuals and movements who aspired to replace the communist puppet regimes with democracies … The second part of our strategy should have been to exploit the divisions within the Islamist movement. These are very deep, most obviously because Shiite Iran has an altogether different vision of an Islamicized Middle East than, say, Wahhabi Al Qaeda. As I write, the Iranians have made their most brazen move yet by sending two warships through the Suez Canal into the eastern Mediterranean. This should not worry only Israel. It should also worry Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who dreams of a revived Ottoman Empire as the dominant power in the region.

Barry Rubin: Egypt’s Future Starts Coming Into Focus: There’s Good News and Bad News (MUST READ)

It makes me want to paraphrase an ancient Greek saying in this way: Those whom the gods would destroy they first make define their enemies as well-intentioned moderates.

NGO Monitor:  HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson Must Resign Over Libya Cover-up

“Human Rights Watch, and specifically MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson, has soft-peddled Qaddafi’s oppressive acts and offered no help to the Libyan people,” says Anne Herzberg, legal advisor for NGO Monitor, a research institution that tracks NGOs. “Whitson was well aware of the atrocities committed by the Qaddafi regime, but she chose to present the façade that Qaddafi’s son was prepared to implement ‘reforms.’ The events in Libya over the past weeks reveal Whitson’s gross incompetence. She has failed to retract her previously misleading statements. She cannot continue to head the MENA division, and we call for her immediate resignation.”

Nick Cohen: Our absurd obsession with Israel is laid bare

The European Union, which did so much to export democracy and the rule of law to former communist dictatorships of eastern Europe, has played a miserable role in the Middle East. It pours in aid but never demands democratisation or restrictions on police powers in return. That will have to change if the promise of the past month is to be realised. If it is to help with democracy-building, Europe will need to remind itself as much as the recipients of its money that you can never build free societies on the racist conspiracy theories of the Nazis and the tsars. They are and always have been the tunes that tyrants sing.

[Read the many comments. Amazing.]

Jerusalem Post: Arab League boss Moussa to run for Egypt president

Moussa enjoys wide popularity in Egypt, largely because of his scathing criticism of Israel, a country seen by most Egyptians as an enemy.

Guardian: Middle East unrest spreads to Oman

Riot police have clashed with pro-democracy demonstrators in the seaside town of Sohar, 120 miles (200km) northwest of the capital, Muscat. At least one person was killed as security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets. Oman’s state-run news agency said protesters set fire to cars, houses, a police station and the governor’s residence.

Fouad Ajami, Massimo d’Azeglio, 1848, and Optimism about the Arab revolutions

Fouad Ajami, whose writings on the Arab world have been lucid and honest (and therefore earned him accusations of betraying the Arab cause by such stalwarts of honor-shame culture as Edward Said), has written a curious op-ed on the situation today. I quote his final passage and append my own passages on the 1848 revolutions in Europe to which he compares this moment.

Fouad Ajami, How the Arabs Turned Shame Into Liberty

So now, emancipated from the prison, they will make their own world and commit their own errors. The closest historical analogy is the revolutions of 1848, the Springtime of the People in Europe. That revolution erupted in France, then hit the Italian states and German principalities, and eventually reached the remote outposts of the Austrian empire. Some 50 local and national uprisings, all in the name of liberty.

Massimo d’Azeglio, a Piedmontese aristocrat who was energized by the spirit of those times, wrote what for me are the most arresting words about liberty’s promise and its perils: “The gift of liberty is like that of a horse, handsome, strong and high-spirited. In some it arouses a wish to ride; in many others, on the contrary, it increases the urge to walk.” For decades, Arabs walked and cowered in fear. Now they seem eager to take freedom’s ride. Wisely, they are paying no heed to those who wish to speak to them of liberty’s risks.

This is a lot of wishful thinking here. The 1848 revolutions were failures across the board, and Europe was far more “advanced” when it came to a democratic culture (equality before the law, free press, public sphere) than the Arab world today. Here’s what I wrote on the subject of 1848 in my upcoming book (Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience, July, 2011, Oxford U. Press), from Chapter 10: “Egalitarian Millennialism: Marx the Rooster.”

1848: Apocalyptic Moment, Millennial Wave

The question is, as with all millennial movements that want to spread: when and how will the apocalyptic transition shift gears from hell to heaven? For Marx, and most millennial modernists, that meant revolution. And the evidence suggests that, whatever earlier false alarms he might have experienced, the first major moment that Marx believed marked that great and final revolution was 1848, a moment that coincided with his own rise to prominence in the revolutionary ranks and his publication of the Communist Manifesto.

Gleanings, 26.02.11

Lee Smith: A Weak Horse in the White House

While many have wondered whether the recent Arab uprisings are more like the Iranian revolution or the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Obama administration could profit most by turning the analogy on itself. There’s been speculation that the White House is reluctant to take steps against Qaddafi lest he ransom American citizens still in Libya. That suggests that Obama has misunderstood the lessons from Tehran 1979: To have American hostages taken is not a political liability for the president, rather it is a direct challenge to U.S. power and prestige. The political fallout comes only if the president fails the test, as Carter did. Today we have a commander in chief who is silent when the Muslim masses he once reached out to are being slaughtered, because he is scared that for all the power his country wields he cannot protect American citizens or advance U.S. interests. He will be judged harshly.

Robert Kaplan: Arab democracy and the return of the Mediterranean world

The political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that the United States essentially inherited its political system from England and, thus, America’s periodic political upheavals had to do with taming authority rather than creating it from scratch. The Arab world now has the opposite challenge: It must create from the dust of tyrannies legitimate political orders. It is less democracy than the crisis of central authority that will dominate the next phase of Middle Eastern history.

DEBKAFile: Middle East oil war spreads. First demos in Saudi Arabia, Iraq refinery blasted

Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji, 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, was blown up early Saturday, Feb. 26, by an Al Qaeda cell activated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades, debkafile’s Middle East sources report. Tehran is using the Middle East turbulence to generate fuel shortages in Iraq and boost oil prices worldwide.

Thursday night, Feb. 24, saw the first signs of unrest in Saudi Arabia with demonstrations by young people demanding reforms of the kingdom’s system of government and by Shiites living and working in the kingdom’s oil-rich eastern regions. They demonstrated at Awwamiya in Qatif in solidarity with the protests in Libya and Bahrain.

Iran is the biggest beneficiary of soaring prices. In 2010, sanctions slashed Iran’s oil revenue from $120 billion to $80 billion, i.e. 6.6 billion a month, whereas in February, 2011, it shot up to $10 billion as a result of Middle East unrest.

Melanie Phillips: The debauching of the LSE

The Times (£) reports that half the board of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, which has received money from Libya among other Arab dictatorships, has called for a boycott of Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.

Thus not just the LSE but swathes of the British academy have debauched the very notion of education, having lent themselves to libelling, delegitimising and demonising the victim of genocidal aggression in the Middle East while pocketing funding from the Arab world from which this poison unremittingly pours. This gross corruption of academic standards, and with it the mindset of the intelligentsia, sits at the very heart of the British derangement over Israel. It is truly a disgusting spectacle.

Lee Smith (FB): The Dictator Wears Prada: Anna WIntour and the Banality of Evil

Poor Anna Wintour. It’s going to be a very good month for her enemies, because the latest issue of Vogue shows the rail-thin cultural icon and style arbiter to be well behind the curve on the biggest international fashion trend of the year. Arab democracy is in, and what’s out are Arab dictators—Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Qaddafi are just so, well, 2010. But in the March 2011 Vogue, Joan Juliet Buck pens a jaw-droppingly unctuous profile of the woman behind the tyrant who runs Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s glam wife Asma.

AYALON: The death of ‘linkage’
Palestinian issue was never the key to stability

The last few weeks and months have finally proven the fallacy of one of the most mistaken theories about development and peace in the Middle East. For a number of years, foreign officials, experts and commentators have claimed that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved, then there would be peace in the Middle East. This was coined “linkage.”

Former President Jimmy Carter was once asked, “Is the linkage policy right?” He replied, “I don’t think it’s about a linkage policy, but a linkage fact. … Without doubt, the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem.” Another enthusiast of linkage is former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single most combustible and galvanizing issue in the Arab world.”

Diaa Haddid, Gaza’s Islamist rulers hounding secular community
Friday, February 25, 2011; 3:31 AM
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — After nearly four years of Hamas rule, the Gaza Strip’s small secular community is in tatters, decimated by the militant group’s campaign to impose its strict version of Islam in the coastal territory.

Hamas has bullied men and women to dress modestly, tried to keep the sexes from mingling in public and sparked a flight of secular university students and educated professionals. Most recently, it has confiscated novels it deems offensive to Islam from a bookshop and banned Gaza’s handful of male hairdressers from styling women’s hair.

The Hamas push toward religious fundamentalism is especially striking at a time of great change in the Middle East. With the Iranian-backed group firmly entrenched in power, Gaza seems unlikely to experience the type of pro-democracy unrest that has swept through much of the region.

Gleanings, 25.02.11

Caroline Glick: Playing Israel’s good hand (MUST READ)

THE PALESTINIANS’ expressed willingness to forgo their assistance from the US is no doubt a bluff. And Congress would do well to call their bluff and cancel US assistance to the PA. Yet their behavior presents Israel with an important lesson about the fundamentals of diplomacy that appear lost on our leaders. The Palestinians understand the rules of diplomacy far better than Israel does. Israel believes that diplomacy is about getting other governments to be nice to us. Palestinians understand that diplomacy is a nonviolent means of weakening your enemies and expanding your own power. They also understand that the starting point for any effective diplomatic strategy is a reality-based assessment of other government’s interests.

CHARLES A. KUPCHAN: Be Careful What You Wish For (MUST READ)

This track record makes clear that the more democratic the Middle East becomes, the greater the role that Islam — even if a moderate brand — will play in its politics. This outcome is neither good nor bad; it is simply a reality in a part of the world where politics and religion are intertwined. Nonetheless, Western observers and policy makers had better stop operating under the illusion that the spread of democracy to the Middle East also means the spread of Western values.

Bernard Lewis: A mass expression of outrage against injustice (MUST READ)

But I can imagine a situation in which the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations of the same kind obtain control of much of the Arab world. It’s not impossible. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but it’s not unlikely. And if that happens, they would gradually sink back into medieval squalor.

I would view [elections now] with mistrust and apprehension. If there’s a genuinely free election – assuming that such a thing could happen – the religious parties have an immediate advantage. First, they have a network of communication through the preacher and the mosque which no other political tendency can hope to equal. Second, they use familiar language. The language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses.

Christopher Hitchens: Is Barack Obama Secretly Swiss?

This is not merely a matter of the synchronizing of announcements. The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting—and perhaps helping to bring about—American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.

Times of Trenton: Americanization of Islam (or Islamization of America?)

As religious scholar Yvonne Haddad has watched Islam become the fastest growing religion in the United States, she sees the opportunity for broader acceptance in American society without other religions sacrificing their identity. “Islam is becoming an American religion,” Haddad, an expert in the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University told students and faculty at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School on Wednesday … Today, you still have a division between the Judeo-Christian America and the multicultural America,” Haddad said. What you see today are Muslims who are advocating for pluralism, because Islam is pluralistic. The Koran says that it is God’s will that there will be differences between people. Pluralism is the essence of Islam.”

C. H. Smith: Egypt, Libya et al.: Demographics, the Oil Curse and Post-Colonial Karma (MUST READ)

To reach an integrated understanding of current events in the Mideast and North Africa, we must place them in these broad contexts: 1. Demographics. These nations have experienced the usual population explosion which accompanies reduced opportunities for women, and as a result the majority of citizens are young, better educated than their elders, and unemployed, underemployed or scratching out a living in the informal economy. 2. The oil curse, or more generally, the resource curse, since it works just as well with diamonds, gold, etc. 3. Post-colonial Karma. Most of the “developing” world is still working through the consequences of 19th century Imperial/colonial domination–the “karma” of post-colonialism. Even the rare exceptions which avoided direct Imperial control such as Thailand were still shaped by the carving up of the globe by European Empires in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Andrew C. McCarthy: Who Attacked Lara Logan, and Why? (MUST READ)

Except it doesn’t happen in Madison. It happens in Egypt. It happened in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, in the riots that led to Suharto’s fall — as Sharon Lapkin recounts, human-rights groups interviewed more than 100 women who had been captured and gang raped, including many Chinese women, who were told this was their fate as non-Muslims. It happens in Muslim countries and in the Muslim enclaves of Europe and Australia, perpetrated by Islamic supremacists acting on a sense of entitlement derived from their scriptures, fueled by the rage of their jihad, and enabled by the deafening silence of the media.

Omri Ceren: Susan Rice Skips UN Meeting on Libya, Goes to Sustainability Conference Instead

At great personal risk to himself and his family, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, pushed the UN Security Council to take up the violence in his home country. … The dramatic event prompted the first UN meeting of the 15 member Security Council on the uprisings sweeping across the region since the beginning of Tunisia’s revolution. … The United States was represented by Foreign Service officer and Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo. … Rice, skipped the Libya meeting and instead flew to South Africa to attend a UN panel discussion on global sustainability.

The Global Post: Indonesia: religion and rule of law

The state’s failure to prevent two back-to-back attacks on religious minorities signals a rise in intolerance and impunity.

Thomas Hayden: Now Pakistan: Another Domino About to Fall?

According to AP, the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency is ready to split with the CIA because of frustration over what it calls heavy-handed pressure and its anger over what it believes is a covert U.S. operation involving hundreds of contract spies, according to an internal document obtained by AP. This could seriously damage the U.S war effort in Afghanistan, limit a program targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents along the Pakistan frontier, and restrict Washington’s access to information in the nuclear-armed country.

Gleanings, 24.02.11

Elliott Abrams: Who’s the Superpower? Lessons from Libya (MUST READ)

China is sending a warship, among other planes and ships, to evacuate its citizens from Libya. According to the report, “The PLA Navy has just dispatched Xuzhou, a Type 054 Jiangkai-II class missile frigate, from the ongoing seventh PLAN anti-piracy task force deployment off Somalia to steam to Libyan coast to provide support and protection for the ongoing evacuation mission there.”

In recent days, the White House has been saying that the United States had to watch its words and actions because American citizens were at risk in Libya.  So instead of acting, we are building a diplomatic coalition. China has taken a different tack: to use power.  Instead of biting their tongue, the Chinese appear to be making it clear to the Qadhafi regime that no danger to Chinese workers will be tolerated.

Benjamin Kerstein: Peter Beinart’s Liberal Fantasies (MUST READ)

The intoxicating power of revolutionary change is very real, and can overwhelm even the most cynical personality. It becomes problematic, however, when people become so addicted to it that, like any run-of-the-mill alcoholic, the suggestion that they might have a problem throws them into a defensive rage. The reaction toward Israel’s cautious skepticism in regard to the Egyptian revolution provides a case study in the phenomenon, with many apparently intelligent and worldly journalists throwing themselves into spasms of inchoate fear and loathing at the Israelis’ refusal to jump on the happy bandwagon. What this has revealed is not so much the childlike naïveté lurking beneath the sophisticated exterior of many commentators, but also their tendency to abandon their own intelligence whenever Israel is involved.

Victor Davis Hanson: A New America in a New World Order
Are we inept or calculating in piling up over $4 trillion in debt in just 36 months and lowering America’s global profile? If the goal of the present American administration is to turn the United States into something envisioned on university campuses, the editorial page of the New York Times, and breezy synopses on NPR, then it is right on schedule. But what would that new America look like?
An enormous public sector, guided by an elite European-like technocracy overseeing henchmen in public unions, would ensure spread-the-wealth redistribution, more regulation, and an ideology of equality of result that reminds us that at some point (the new financial Mason-Dixon line of $250,000 in annual income?) we have made enough money at someone else’s expense. Abroad, it might mean a new America analogous to France or Germany, which from time to time would chest-pound about current crises, but would risk nothing while calibrating the post-facto humanitarian rhetoric to match realities on the ground.

Barry Rubin: Egypt’s Revolution: The More They Reassure Us, The More We Worry (MUST READ)
I think I was the first person to warn that the Egyptian revolution wasn’t all roses but also had a dangerous amount of thorns. And the more Western governments and media reassure us, the more we worry. Why? Because it shows they have no idea what they are facing and no idea of what they are doing.

CAMERA: A New Low: New York Times Running Interference for Yusuf Qaradawi

For the past several weeks, The New York Times has been running interference for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization set to play a significant role in Egyptian politics after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. In addition to publishing commentaries by two apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan and Essam El-Errian, on its op-ed page, the Times has published a news story that depicts the group’s spiritual leader, Yusuf Qaradawi, as “committed to pluralism and democracy.”

Ari Shavit: U.S. should direct Mideast storm of change toward Iran

In the past decade, the United States dismantled Iraq, took Egypt apart and lost Turkey. In doing so, it broke down the Sunni buffer against Iran. These days Washington is dismantling Bahrain, undermining Jordan and endangering Saudi Arabia – thereby turning Iran into the leading regional power. Unless the American policy changes, the result could be a geostrategic disaster.

Jerry Bowyer: Democracy, The God That Failed
This is why revolutions so seldom make things any better; they change governments but don’t change people. A revolution exchanges one group of rulers for another, without exchanging one group of rules for another. History is strewn with the corpses of stillborn liberal democracies starting with France in 1789, which attempted to imitate the United States experiment in self-government without supplying the spiritual, cultural and legal foundation that ensured its success.

PowerLine: More slush from the limp
Mr. President, it’s good to know you’re on message with the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. And what a relief to hear that you’re sending Secretary Clinton over to Geneva to lead the charge at the United Nations Human Rights Council. That is a masterstroke. Oh, man, you are lame. And just about everybody knows it but you.

Does the Administration Have A Policy on the Middle East?
In today’s press briefing, reporters asked press secretary Jay Carney whether the Obama administration has any identifiable policy with regard to events in the Middle East … My favorite answer is, “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘plans.'” I think a fair paraphrase of the colloquy is that the administration doesn’t have a policy. Nor, apparently, does it have any plan for what to do if the current unrest spreads to additional countries, as seems possible.

Yasmine El Rashidi: ‘The Revolution Is Not Yet Over’
The layers of checkpoints that we had navigated daily during the revolt had been reduced to just two entry points—the men on one side, the women on the other—marked by a few tanks and a handful of soldiers and civilian volunteers. At the women’s entrance, we got just one body tap-down and one bag check. No request for IDs. Three of the four women volunteers manning the entrance were young and veiled—Muslim Brother girls (the well-organized Brothers had long taken a lead in staffing the checkpoints).

Where Is The Outrage Now?
by Khaled Abu Toameh
February 25, 2011 at 5:00 am

Obama and many others in the international community have been quicker in condemning settlement construction in Israel than atrocities by Arab dictators against innocent civilians.

Has retired South African judge Richard Goldstone considered the possibility of heading a special commission of inquiry to look into the war crimes that are being perpetrated against Libyans and other Arabs?

Settlements may be a problem, but they are not more dangerous than the massacres that are being perpetrated against Arabs. It took President Barack Obama nine days to condemn Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s massacres in Libya as “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”

It took the UN Security Council more than a week to hold a closed-door meeting and issue a tempered statement condemning the violence in Libya and calling for its immediate end and for those responsible to be held accountable.

This is the same Security Council that one week earlier held a special and open session to condemn construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Fourteen out of fifteen members of the council voted in support of the anti-settlement resolution, which was vetoed by the US. The same members, however, saw no need to hold a vote on the slaughtering of thousands of Libyans by Gaddafi.

NPR’s coverage

I’m back in the USA briefly, and listening once again to NPR on my car radio. The words “pro-democracy demonstrators” comes so trippingly off their announcers’ tongues. You’d have no idea that this was, to say the least, a contested term.

Our MSNM and their LCE has literally made the US unequipped to deal with the world.

Gleanings, 23.02.11

Lee Smith: Stateless (MUST READ)

Things have been trending badly for Israel for some time now, but Hosni Mubarak losing control of Egypt makes the Jewish state untenable. That’s right: Israel is no longer feasible. I don’t mean that in the manner the international left usually does—that nationalism is passé and we must move on to higher forms of communal existence. I mean it in the old-fashioned way of nations and peoples who are vanquished when the balance of power tips against them. And I mean it strategically—a tiny country with a Jewish majority of 6 million can’t survive surrounded by enemies and forsaken by its superpower ally.

Martin Kramer: Marwan Musasher cuts the number of Arab moderates, drastically: “Moderation is a Western construct that when used in describing the Arab world, focuses on a single issue—the Arab-Israeli peace conflict… I am proposing a new definition for Arab moderation that cuts across all issues of concern to Arab citizens and includes aspects like reform in addition to peace, rather than focusing on only one issue.”

Philip Carl Salzman There is a third consideration: religion. How many “moderate” Arab states keep religion and governance separate? I won’t even ask how many are secular. And what percentage of the populations in these countries favour separation of church and state?

Barry Rubin: Egypt: The Most Moderate Democracy Advocate Speaks And Says A Lot

As I said, Sandmonkey is a good guy. He is among the most moderate one-hundreth of one percent of the Egypt people. (I didn’t pick that statistic at random.) That’s another factor that doesn’t make me feel so reassured.

Kevin Myers: Little hope of democracy as Arab despots overthrown

Short-term good seldom results from revolutions. It certainly does not result from revolutions in Muslim societies in which the local imam is usually the font of both civic and criminal law, and where tolerance of others is merely conditional … Had the US journalist Lara Logan been grabbed and sexually violated by a mob of Israeli men, feminists across the world would rightly have been protesting. But she was instead the victim of a frenzied sex attack in Cairo by a score of Arabs, and there is accordingly silence. In an ever-changing world, some things never change: and to the western liberal mind, the only real villains in the Middle East can only ever be Jewish.

ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE: Gullible amnesia

“The Yuppie Revolution in Egypt is Over, the Islamist Revolution Has Begun,” captured the essence of Egypt’s 18-day upheaval. It was what Cornell Law School’s William A. Jacobson’s blog called a “Legal Insurrection.” The Muslim Brotherhood’s greatest asset: Gullible Westerners on both sides of the Atlantic.

Asaf Romirowsky: Why Israel Worries About Jordan

The rise of the Brotherhood would mean instability for Jordan. But it would also mean instability for Israel. The Brothers flatly rejected the 1994 peace treaty with Israel and have questioned it ever since. However, the gravest danger could be the Brotherhood’s exploitation of Jordan’s Palestinians, estimated at 70% of the population … One feared scenario for Israel, and a clear indicator that the monarchy would be losing its grip, is one in which King Abdullah allows the Brotherhood, together with its Palestinian supporters, to have a controlling stake in Jordan’s governance. This would create a joint Palestinian-Brotherhood stronghold in Jordan.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Sheikh Qaradawi Seeks Total War

Mark Gardner and Dave Rich did yeoman’s work not long ago, analyzing the Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi’s 2003 book, Fatawa Min Ajl Falastin, or Fatwas on Palestine, and came to the conclusion that this putatively moderate Islamic cleric argues clearly and consistently that hatred of Israel and Jews is Islamically sanctioned, and that the destruction of Israel is mandated by God…

Gleanings, 22.02.11

Benny Morris: Losing the Middle East (MUST READ)

Prediction is always risky or plain silly, but my guess is that when the dust settles, which it will, in a month or two or three’s time, one will see that Western—and Israeli—interests in the Middle East will have been substantially undermined and anti-Western—and anti-Israeli—interests substantially bolstered. Similarly, one will see that the regimes which are, by nature and tradition very brutal, such as Iran’s, Syria’s and possibly Libya’s, will weather the storm whereas those which are softer, more inclined to measures of liberalisation, partly because of attentiveness to messages from Washington, will either have fallen or will have given ground, and a large measure of power, to anti-Western, often Islamist, elements within each country.

George Friedman: Revolution and the Muslim World

If I were to guess at this point, I would guess that we are facing 1848. The Muslim world will not experience massive regime change as in 1989, but neither will the effects be as ephemeral as 1968. Like 1848, this revolution will fail to transform the Muslim world or even just the Arab world. But it will plant seeds that will germinate in the coming decades. I think those seeds will be democratic, but not necessarily liberal. In other words, the democracies that eventually arise will produce regimes that will take their bearings from their own culture, which means Islam.

Daniel Korski and Ben Judah: The West’s Middle East pillars of sand

The three pillars upon which Western influence in the Middle East was built – a strong military presence, commercial ties, and a string of dollar-dependent states – are crumbling. As a result, the region that emerges in the weeks and months ahead may become much harder for the West to influence.

Caroline Glick: Obama’s devastatingly mixed signals

BUT BEYOND the basic falseness of Rice’s statement, her condemnation of her own vote to veto the resolution, and Clinton’s similar statements, serve to send a series of messages to the states in the region that are devastating to America’s regional posture.

Elder of Zion: Muslim Brotherhood wants to build a satellite channel
The problem is that no Egyptian pro-freedom group could possibly hope to match the expected media onslaught from the Islamists. Even worse – no Western powers are even thinking in this direction.

Brian Fairchild: Egypt and Tunisia: Triumphs for the American Muslim Brotherhood

Out of all the people in the world, secular or religious, that could have been invited to lead prayers at the epicenter of the Egyptian revolution, the man selected and embraced was the banned jihad-mongering leader of the illegal Salafi-Jihadi Muslim Brotherhood.

If that isn’t bad enough, it just so happens that Yusuf al-Qaradawi — banned from entering the United States in 1999 because of his support for suicide bombings — is the esteemed chairman-in-absentia of the Muslim American Society’s Islamic American University.

IPT: Administration Deliberately Vague on Brotherhood
Statements by senior policy officials to the media and before congressional committees since Mubarak’s Feb. 11 resignation show that the Obama administration does not consider the Brotherhood to be an extremist organization, despite its written commitment to creating an Islamic state and its leadership’s history of threats and hate speech … Brotherhood officials, meanwhile, are more openly expressing their intentions for Egypt’s future. Kamal Helbawy, a leader of the group’s older guard, told Iranian media that the Egyptian revolution was an Islamic one. He also indicated the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel was not something the Brotherhood accepts. “People of Egypt cannot accept an agreement which is based on injustice and has ignored the rights of Palestinians.”

Uri Goldflam: Thomas Friedman Sets Up Israel to Take the Blame for Egpytian Attitudes – New Post by Uri Goldflam
Once again, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has crossed all boundaries. In “Postcard From Cairo, Part 2” (Feb. 13), Friedman blasts the Israeli government for being “out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven.”  Beyond the name-calling, Friedman’s piece is strewn with half truths and selected facts, disconnected from context and reality.

Gleanings, 21.02.11

Dan Eldar: Israel could be the one thing all Egyptians agree on (MUST READ)

Hostility to Israel, which is deeply ingrained in the Egyptian consciousness and supported by a growing identification with Islam, could become a bond between the various opposition elements and the army.

Aluf Benn: Egypt is no longer committed to an alliance with Israel against Iran (MUST READ)
There is growing concern in Israel that Egypt will become a hostile front, adding to the feeling of international isolation which has only intensified since Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister.

Caroline Glick (video): Future Peace with Egypt is Imperilled (MUST WATCH)
As Israel moves into the uncharted territory of managing its relations with the post-Mubarak Egypt, it is imperative that our leaders understand the lessons of the past.

Elder of Zion: Islamists 1, young secular Egyptians 0
Thomas Friedman, Roger Cohen and the reality

J. E. Dyer: Iranian Warships Having an Outsize Impact (MUST READ)
The big shift here is in political perceptions of power. The important facts are that revolutionary, terror-sponsoring Iran — under U.S., EU, and UN sanctions — feels free to conduct this deployment, and Syria feels free to cooperate in it. Egypt’s interim rulers apparently saw no reason to block the Suez transit, in spite of the Egyptians’ very recent concern over Iranian-backed terrorists and insurgents operating on their territory. Saudi Arabia, for its part, considered it prudent to host the Iranian warships last week — in spite of the Saudis’ own conviction that Iran has been aiding rebel groups that threaten Saudi territory.

Jeff Jacoby: No rights for women, no freedom in a nation PERHAPS THE most shocking thing about the despicable sexual attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is that to those who know Egypt, it wasn’t shocking at all … If there is no liberation for women, there is no liberation.

Martin Kramer: Is it surprising that the cultish pseudo-field of ‘genocide studies’ has become one more arena for defaming Israel? Not in the least. Genocide Scholars Battle Over How To Characterize Israel’s Actions by Gal Beckerman | Forward

Gleanings, 20.02.11

Dan Eldar: Israel could be the one thing all Egyptians agree on (MUST READ)

Hostility to Israel, which is deeply ingrained in the Egyptian consciousness and supported by a growing identification with Islam, could become a bond between the various opposition elements and the army.

Aluf Benn: Egypt is no longer committed to an alliance with Israel against Iran (MUST READ)

There is growing concern in Israel that Egypt will become a hostile front, adding to the feeling of international isolation which has only intensified since Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister.

Caroline Glick (video): Future Peace with Egypt is Imperilled (MUST WATCH)

As Israel moves into the uncharted territory of managing its relations with the post-Mubarak Egypt, it is imperative that our leaders understand the lessons of the past.

Elder of Zion: Islamists 1, young secular Egyptians 0

Thomas Friedman, Roger Cohen and the reality

J. E. Dyer: Iranian Warships Having an Outsize Impact (MUST READ)

The big shift here is in political perceptions of power. The important facts are that revolutionary, terror-sponsoring Iran — under U.S., EU, and UN sanctions — feels free to conduct this deployment, and Syria feels free to cooperate in it. Egypt’s interim rulers apparently saw no reason to block the Suez transit, in spite of the Egyptians’ very recent concern over Iranian-backed terrorists and insurgents operating on their territory. Saudi Arabia, for its part, considered it prudent to host the Iranian warships last week — in spite of the Saudis’ own conviction that Iran has been aiding rebel groups that threaten Saudi territory.

Jeff Jacoby: No rights for women, no freedom in a nation

PERHAPS THE most shocking thing about the despicable sexual attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is that to those who know Egypt, it wasn’t shocking at all … If there is no liberation for women, there is no liberation.

Martin Kramer: Is it surprising that the cultish pseudo-field of ‘genocide studies’ has become one more arena for defaming Israel? Not in the least. Genocide Scholars Battle Over How To Characterize Israel’s Actions by Gal Beckerman | Forward

Gleanings 19/02/11

Elliott Abrams: How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People (MUST READ)

The Obama Administration cast its first veto in the United Nations on Friday, February 18, killing a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlement activity.  Its poor handling of the entire episode has left just about everyone angry at the United States , and is therefore a manifest failure of American diplomacy.

Lawrence Solomon: The next oil crisis

The next oil crisis won’t resemble the last. Where once the West could count on most of the Middle East’s oil exporters to rally to its support in times of crisis, today the West can count on none. Where once all in the Middle East understood that American military power would keep the sea lanes open at all costs, today most in the Middle East see the U.S. as a declining, largely impotent power. When the next oil crisis hits, the West will no longer be able to count on the co-operation of Middle East nations to limit anarchy in oil markets and economic convulsions at home.

Steven Plaut: The Grand ‘End Of Conflict’ Delusion (MUST READ)

An Israeli politician with an ounce of common sense would understand that the Arabs’ refusal even to pay lip service to the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state nullifies the dubious promise of extracting a grand End of Conflict Proclamation from them.

CAMERA: Tariq Ramadan, Your Grandfather Was a Colonialist

“Or if they mean by “patriotism” the conquest of countries and lordship over the earth, Islam has already ordained that, and has sent out the conquerors to carry out the most gracious of colonizations and the most blessed of conquests. This is what He, the Almighty, says: “Fight them till there is no longer discord, and the religion is God’s” [Q.2.193].”

The Yankee Sage: Islamism Emerging from the Shadows in Tunisia

Power abhors a vacuum, and in most of the “post-authoritarian” Middle East, the best organized are the Islamists.

PowerLine: David Ignatius strikes again

David Ignatius is the prominent Washington Post columnist who specializes in foreign affairs. He writes highly regarded espionage novels in his spare time. And he is full of bonhomie toward some of the world’s foremost terrorists and murderers.

Selected Readings, February 16

oao’s daily roundup:

Omri Ceren: What More Must Obama Do to Prove to Prove Anti-Israel Realignment?

There’s an argument to be made that dispatching Ross to J Street’s confab is a bad and unseemly idea, that it will look like the White House is forcing a respected diplomat to shuffle into a Canossa filled with feverish partisans, that it will feed the perception of a renewed White House public-relations offensive against the Israel, that it will reignite questions about whether the Obama administration owes favors to a lobby backed by obscure foreign donors.

Martin Kramer: So in “free” Tunisia, this Tunisian mob is “free” to hold an antisemitic demonstration outside the Grand Synagogue in Tunis, changing “Allahu Akbar” and “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” Filmed last Friday, so it’s reported―presumably after prayers. Who were those analysts who said Islamists in Tunisia were nowhere to be seen? Found ’em! March on Tunis Synagogue | YouTube

Bret Stephens: In 1979, Western thinkers were quick to call the Ayatollah Khomeini ‘moderate’ and ‘progressive.’ (MUST READ)

But that doesn’t mean the Brothers don’t have an idea of what they’re aiming for. “We think highly of a country whose president is important, courageous and has a vision, which he presents in the U.N., in Geneva, and everywhere,” the Brotherhood’s Kamal al-Hilbawi told Iran’s Al-Alam TV earlier this month, referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust and 9/11 denials. “We think highly of a country . . . that confronts Western hegemony, and is scientifically and technologically advanced. Unfortunately, these characteristics can be found only in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I hope that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia will be like that.”

McClathcy: Egypt’s opposition fights itself as army tightens control

Three days after Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, Egypt’s political opposition was bitterly divided over its next moves as the army expanded its near-total control over the country with no overt signs that it’s included anti-government protesters in its decision-making.

A major meeting of opposition leaders and protesters on Monday quickly devolved into arguments and diatribes, underscoring how difficult it will be for the diverse, leaderless revolutionary movement to coalesce around a political platform before elections that Egypt’s military caretakers have pledged to hold.

Charles Levinson: ‘Brothers’ in Egypt Present Two Faces

The Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Egyptian Islamist opposition group is plagued by rifts between young and old, reformist and hard-liner, and between big city deal-making politicians, and conservative rural preachers.

Michael Mandelbaum: Can Egypt Become a True Democracy?

But will the political transition ultimately lead to democracy? We cannot know with certainty, but, based on the history of democratic government, and the experiences of other countries … we can identify the obstacles that Egypt faces, as well as the advantages it enjoys, in building political democracy … Elections without liberty do not constitute genuine democracy, and here Egypt faces a serious challenge: its best-organized group, the Muslim Brotherhood, rejects religious liberty and individual rights, especially the rights of women. The Brotherhood’s offshoot, the Palestinian movement Hamas, has established in the Gaza Strip a brutal, intolerant dictatorship.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton on Egypt: ‘Everyone, Including the Muslim Brotherhood, Must Be Involved’

Catherine Ashton, 54, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, discusses the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the need for elections within a matter of weeks and how Europe’s own experience following the Cold War could help.

Jonathan Spyer: Lebanon and the limits of protest

Experience suggests the pro-Iran camp can continue to happily observe pro-US regimes in the region tear themselves apart.

Selected Readings, February 14

Jonathan Schanzer: The End of the Erekat Era

The end of the Erekat era underscores an unfortunate axiom of Middle East diplomacy: Palestinian leaders won’t take risks for peace. They won’t tell their population that compromise is necessary to bring an end to the conflict and start the hard work of building a state. Instead, they feed their people a steady diet of anti- Zionist conspiracy theories, blame Israel for all their ills, and pump them full of hate for its allies – like America. This is the ultranationalist narrative that has endured for decades.

Martin Kramer: Ayman Nour, former darling of the liberal opposition in Egypt, says Egypt must respect agreements, but “as for Camp David―this is a unique issue with unique aspects―the people will decide on this matter.… For all intents and purposes, Camp David is over, because it is an old treaty and its terms must be improved in a way that will correspond with Egypt’s interests.” The pandering to the Brotherhood begins. Egyptian opposition figure: Revise Israel peace treaty | Ynet

Barry Rubin: What Is the Real Meaning of Egypt’s Revolution?

“The People Toppled the Government,” is al-Ahram’s headline, and the general interpretation of the Egyptian revolution around the world. That’s true but only partly true. Mubarak’s pedestal was shaken by the people but he was pushed off it by the army and the establishment … The revolution in Egypt succeeded because the army didn’t want President Husni Mubarak any more … conclusions that the usual rules of Middle East politics have disappeared is greatly exaggerated … The Muslim Brotherhood will continue to maneuver patiently for power. The military will set limits and implement them. All the radical dictatorships and movements that hate America,the West, Israel, and real democracy are still working all-out (and far more cleverly than their Western opponents) around the clock. If one side is sophisticated and realistic while the other engages in fantasies, who do you expect to win? And those roles are precisely the opposite of what Western hubris thinks.

Victor Davis Hanson: Cairo Ironies: Same Cast of American Characters, Different Play

We can glean from all this that there is no official policy spokesperson. We can also conclude that the administration’s private conversations with Egyptian officials will be explained to the press in a way that makes Obama, Biden, and Clinton seem decisive, wise, and formidable — and increasingly unreliable to their Egyptian counterparts. And we will be told that the Obama administration — which on coming into office jettisoned the entire Bush approach to human rights in the Middle East (“reset”) as hopelessly neoconservative — was all along a strong promoter of freedom and consensual government and is in some way to be credited for the protests (but only if they do not descend into permanent chaos). What is going on here?

Samuel Tadros: The Story of the Egyptian Revolution

So where are we today? Well the answer is still not clear, yet a couple of conclusions are evident.

1. The Gamal inheritance scenario is finished.

2. Mubarak will not run for another Presidential term. His term ends in October and either he will serve the rest of his term or will resign once things cool down for health reasons, which are real. He is dying.

3. The army is in control now. We are heading back to the “golden age” of army rule. The “kids” are no longer in charge. The “men” are.

4. Until the economy fails again, the neo-liberal economic policies are over. Forget about an open economy for some time.

Immediately the task of the army is to stabilize the situation and enforce order. The security forces have been ordered to reappear in the streets starting tonight. The next task will be to deal with the political activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which now dominates the scene. It is anyone’s guess how that will be done, but in a couple of days the Egyptians will probably be begging the army to shoot them. Third stage will be to return to normal life again with people going back to their jobs and somehow food being made available. Later on however will come the political questions.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Arab Dictators and Radical Islam

For decades, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Arab dictators used to tell Americans and Europeans that if they did not support them, the result would be Muslim extremists coming to power.

This is why these dictators never took drastic measures against Islamic fundamentalist groups in their countries. Even though Egypt and some Arab countries occasionally cracked down on these groups, they always made sure that the Islamists would stay around.

This pattern gave the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to grow and win over more supporters, as the local people became more and more disgusted both with their dictators and the Western governments who supported them

Instead of focusing their attention on the Islamists, Arab dictators chose to chase secular reformists, liberals, democrats, newspaper editors and human rights activists; by suppressing the emergence of these people, the Arab dictatorships paved the way for the rise of radical extremists.

This is the reason the Islamist groups in the Arab countries are much more organized than the pro-democracy Facebook youth who launched the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Joshua Stacher: Egypt’s Democratic Mirage

By playing the role of both arsonist and firefighter, the Egyptian government has forced protesters fleeing the regime to seek refuge with the regime. In so doing, has the government ensured its survival?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Muslim Brotherhood will likely win next poll

The secular democratic and human rights groups in Egypt and in the rest of the Arab world show little sign of understanding these facts of political life. The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, gets at least three out of four. True, they have never been in office. But they have a political program and a vision not only until the next elections, but in their view until the hereafter. And they are very good at reminding Egyptians of why the other party’s policies will be ungodly and therefore catastrophic for Egypt. Above all, they have succeeded in embedding themselves in Egyptian society in ways that could prove crucial.

Selected Readings February 13, 2011


I’ll be trying, with oao’s help to put up a list of good links daily. Anyone who wants to send me links to include, by all means. (And if you want to add a paragraph of introduction, I’d appreciate it.)

Niall Ferguson: Wanted: A Grand Strategy for America (MUST READ)

Spengler: Chinese weather on Tahrir Square (MUST READ)

Yoram Ettinger: Impact of Mideast Turmoil on Israel’s Security Requirements

Little Green Footballs: Egyptian Protestors Hate on Israel

“CrossTalk”: The Great and Small Satan

Roya Hakakian: Egypt Through the Lens of Iran’s 1979 Revolution

The Telegraph: Arab Revolutions and European Future

John Rosenthal, Mubarak and Anti-Semitism: A Boomerang Effect?
American pundits say that the deposed Egyptian president fomented anti-Semitism in Egyptian society. But on closer examination, the charges again reveal that it was the anti-Semitism of the opposition that toppled him.

The Supernova of 1006: Chinese vs. Monotheist responses

I just gave a lecture here at the Internationale Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschungen (IKGF) in Erlangen. The scholars here are a wonderful combination of Sinologist (primarily Chinese religion) and Western medievalists.

In preparing my talk on the year 1000, I went back to an astronomical incident seen round the world, which had an enormous impact on Arab Islam and Christendom, and, with the help of my Sinologist colleagues here, found the contrast with how it affected China quite instructive — the Supernova of May 1006.

Put briefly, the spectacular celestial phenomenon triggered feverish apocalyptic expectation – what, in my book, I call an “apocalyptic moment” – both among Muslims and Christians, while in China, a wisely advised emperor managed to calm his people.

Let’s begin with the incident, starting with a definition of a supernova.

A supernova (plural supernovae) is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short interval a supernova can radiate as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire life span. The explosion expels much or all of a star’s material at a velocity of up to 30,000 km/s (10% of the speed of light), driving a shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium. This shock wave sweeps up an expanding shell of gas and dust called a supernova remnant.

In May of 1006, the most spectacular Supernova ever to be visible from earth occurred 2,700 light years away from earth. It was the brightest apparent magnitude stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated -7.5 visual magnitude. A thousand years later, the Hubble Telescope photographed the still-expanding shock-wave created by this explosion.

This picture represents the shock-wave of gases emanating from the explosion in all directions, 1000 years after the explosion.

Arab economy and political culture: Insights into Egypt in turmoil

Spengler (aka David Goodman) has an insightful piece about the nature of Egypt, and more broadly the Arab world, which is well worth considering when thinking about the current turmoil. (Bold mine, comments interspersed.)

Food and failed Arab states Spengler
Even Islamists have to eat. It is unclear whether President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will survive, or whether his nationalist regime will be replaced by an Islamist, democratic, or authoritarian state. What is certain is that it will be a failed state. Amid the speculation about the shape of Arab politics to come, a handful of observers, for example economist Nourel Roubini, have pointed to the obvious: Wheat prices have almost doubled in the past year.
Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, beholden to foreign providers for nearly half its total food consumption. Half of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day. Food comprises almost half the country’s consumer price index, and much more than half of spending for the poorer half of the country. This will get worse, not better.

This explains why when the border between Gaza and Egypt was briefly open, one of the main imports to Gaza was “brides” hoping to live a better life.

Not the destitute, to be sure, but the aspiring and frustrated young, confronted the riot police and army on the streets of Egyptian cities last week. The uprising in Egypt and Tunisia were not food riots; only in Jordan have demonstrators made food the main issue. Rather, the jump in food prices was the wheat-stalk that broke the camel’s back. The regime’s weakness, in turn, reflects the dysfunctional character of the country. 35% of all Egyptians, and 45% of Egyptian women can’t read.
Nine out of ten Egyptian women suffer genital mutilation. US President Barack Obama said Jan. 29, “The right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny … are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” Does Obama think that genital mutilation is a human rights violation?

If he follows the more radical post-modern feminists (the “other” is always right) then, no, it’s a violation of human rights to oppose it, and Ayan Hirsi Ali is a neo-con reactionary. But I suspect it’s a different calculus… the same “realpolitik” that has him push Mubarak out, when he said nothing about the contested elections in Iran. Pressure your friends, show deference to your enemies to show that you’re not a “my side right or wrong” kind of person.