We are entitled to wonder – Is this administration Carter Redux stumbling into Iran 2.0?
 Former Ambassador John Bolton: The president in way over his head.
 The London Telegraph: Wilileaks diplomatic cables reveal that, beginning in 2008, the Obama administration was working with activists to overthrow the Mubarak regime.
Apparently, history is not this president’s strong suit. In Tsarist Russian, Weimar Germany, the Shaw’s Iran, in latter day Venezuela and in a sorry series of banana republics, we have been offered the same lesson over and over again. A weak, nascent democratic startup staffed by naïve idealists is quickly gamed, then overwhelmed by thugs in the service of crooks, ideologues or both.
Trying to start a civilized democracy without the necessary, robust infrastructure is like inviting children from the suburbs to sell lemonade in a rough neighborhood controlled by drug dealers and infested with child abusers…without police protection. As the children are overwhelmed by thugs, we might hear a professorial voice over the loudspeaker: “Shame on you bad people”, but the thugs will neither hear nor heed.
My first instinct, on hearing the president’s somewhat contradictory statement yesterday, while the chaotic backdrop of the Cairo riots played out on CNN, was to mutter – I hope he knows what he is doing.
Then, after a moment’s reflection , I added– Since he probably does not know what he is doing, I hope to hell he is lucky.
This president has enjoyed a remarkable run of lucky breaks where national security and terrorism are concerned. I’m thinking particularly of the Times Square bomber (May 2010, Faisal Shahzad) and the Christmas 2009 airline attack by Umar Mutallab (the underwear bomber), either of which would have been heralded as a major jidad “victory” had they succeeded, but were aborted, not by homeland Security, but by the operation of sheer luck.
Luck has a way of running out.
It will be bad enough if our new president loses Afghanistan and then Pakistan to the Taliban. If he loses Egypt to militant Islam, there will be a major war, the reach and scale of which cannot be easily contained to the Middle East and the economic and moral cost of which will rival or exceed that of WWII.
It would be excusable if we were to learn that this administration was blindsided by the Egyptian eruption. After all (relying on reputable, but flawed intelligence), Bush II erroneously thought the stockpiles WMD’s were still being held by Saddam.
As to Egypt, the administration should have had an intelligence heads-up a few weeks ago. At the very latest – the impending crisis was obvious about the time Mubarak’s two sons boarded a place for England.
It would hardly be excusable if we were to learn that the administration’s fingerprints were all over the inception of the Egyptian uprising. I’m agnostic on that issue, but the London Telegraph story referenced above was troubling to say the least.
Two necessary baby steps on the path to democratic rule have been advocated by those who have carefully studied the problem of spreading the blessings of democracy to cultures for which there is no institutional tradition or memory of anything but a “thugocracy” or “kleptocracy”. [The forms and variations of these regimes are as manifold as are their cloaking ideologies)] The pre-democracy baby steps are:
(1) A professional military and
(2) A viable legal system.
By all accounts Egypt has (1). These days, this is what counts as good luck.
Mubarak, 82, is a survivor. And the Egyptian military and intelligence services are manifestly not in the hands of jihadists. The most recent report is that –
“Embattled Egyptian President Mubarak appointed on Saturday a former air force commander and aviation minister, Ahmed Shafiq, as the new prime minister, in efforts to stem popular rage against his autocratic regime. The move ensures that men with military links are in the top three political jobs.”
As the chaos in Egypt erupted, jihad-minded operatives have swarmed into Egypt like sharks converging on a bleeding swimmer. If they ever get power in Egypt, the very people rooting for regime change in order to get liberty will get prison.
It’s time for cautious reassurances from the White House, not hints of reckless revolutionary zeal. Progress towards a free social order in countries like Egypt requires patience, persistence, and sharp attention to the overriding dangers of Islamist fundamentalism. Threats of the withdrawal of economic support are best left to the back channels, where incentives and benchmarks can quietly and rationally discussed, not in a hurried presidential press conference.
Monday at 9 AM Pacific, Noon Eastern, I am posting an important article, Creativity and Survival. It will bear on this issue in the following way: We and many parts of the politically correct Western developed cultures, fail somehow to appreciate the value of our own legacy. We speak blithely of freedom but miss the even larger issue. “What is that?” you ask. Check this space Monday. The conversation continues….