In Egypt, Skeptics Vindicated

Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt
by Michael Slackman @ the New York Times

CAIRO — In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

At the Times, of course, reporters still hold out hope that the Muslim Brotherhood will help usher in a tolerant, pluralistic democracy. The rest of us know better, though. We may indeed end up with a “one person, one vote, one time” scenario when all is said and done.

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Single Issues that Define Presidents

I think a simple way of determining whether a president should be viewed kindly or with scorn…whether they were effective leaders or not…is to figure out what the people think of when they think of a president – what one issue do they tie to each man on the international front…and on the economic front?

For example, if you go back and look at poll results from the last six presidents…you’ll find that it looks something like this (name: national issue / international issue):

Jimmy Carter: Tax hikes and the rise of entitlement spending / Energy Crisis
Reagan: Trickle-down Economics / The downfall of Communist Russia
Bush Sr: Read my lips (oops) / Desert Storm
Clinton: Balanced Budget (including Welfare Reform) / Kosovo and Milosovich
Dubya: No Child Left Behind and Education Vouchers / Operational Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terror
Obama: Obamacare / …um…I guess he’ll be defined by his dealings with Egypt?

On this spectrum…do we see anything that is an unquestionable good thing?

Reagan’s destruction of Russia (granted…this was on the back of other presidents and following a course first laid out by Truman)…his successful negotiation of the international waters…should be considered a fantastic victory. Clinton’s reform of the budget was also a great victory by modern standards. I’m not just singling out GOP leaders here…I think Clinton’s economic policy was well informed…I actually think that, on the whole, he did a very good job listening to the GOP controlled House Appropriations and Senate Appropriations committees and putting sensible measures in place to fix the budget. It got broken again later, but for a short time…he did something really well.

Are there any unquestioned failures on that list?

Well, whether you think OIF was justified or not, I think we can all agree that Bush Jr. was a diplomatic failure…that he couldn’t convince the western governments of the threat posed by dictators who kill hundreds of thousands of their own people speaks to his poor communication skill. And what’s worse…that he began OIF with a tremendous public support that vanished a year later because the war was run so poorly speaks to his failure as a strategist and his failure to convince his own people that this war was just.

I would also declare Carter’s economic policies an unquestioned failure. The energy crisis was almost entirely his fault with his idiotic price controls. His high tax rates whipped Americans into a sense of frustration and hopelessness that only Reagan could break. Well…that and the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team.

And I think we can generally agree that Bush Sr. was a LOUSY economist, unlike Reagan.

And then we come to Obamacare…the bill sponsored by a man so vain and egotistical that it had to carry his name. The bill that may be about to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…it’ll be a close vote (and that, by itself, is a bad sign…LOL). The bill that has already been voted down by a new Congress. The bill that currently has an approval rating of 28%. OUCH!

It’s too early to declare it an UNQUESTIONED failure…but it will be quite a statement if Obama’s first term is marked only by a bill that turns out to be as big a failure as it currently appears. And an even bigger statement if that bill continues to bear his name into history. Some would call that the very definition of failure as a leader and as a man. Maybe they should change that annoying Google link between George W. Bush and failure.

Egypt

So – if you’ve been reading the news lately, then you know that Egypt is in the process of burning to the ground right now. Certain leftists on Live Journal would like for me to celebrate this “popular uprising” against Mubarak as an expression of the very “democracy” that we hawks champion, but I’m afraid I can’t do that without pointing out the ways this could go horribly, horribly wrong.

Consider what a recent Pew poll discovered about the Muslim majority in Egypt. While that majority favors “democratic government” (59%), they also support:

  • Gender segregation in the workplace (54%).
  • Stoning as a punishment for adultery (82%).
  • Whipping/cutting off hands for theft (77%).
  • The death penalty for leaving the Muslim religion (84%).

The ballot box does not a liberal democracy make. This is something that the international left repeatedly fails to grok. Over and over again, said leftists have claimed that duly elected socialists are “democratic” even when those socialists are guilty of numerous human rights abuses (see also: Hugo Chavez). But democracy is not established by the mere act of voting. Voting is just a surface feature of liberal democracy. Liberal democracy is a complex system comprised of the following obligatory elements:

  • The rule of law, not men.
  • The separation of powers (so that no one person or group has absolute control).
  • Checks and balances (so that, again, power is not concentrated in one person or group).
  • Respect for the rights of minority populations.

If a government fails to reflect these four key principles, it doesn’t matter whether it was “elected.” It’s still not a democracy.

I honestly want Egyptian small-l liberals to succeed in overthrowing Mubarak and installing a truly democratic goverment. The moralist in me believes we shouldn’t tolerate Mubarak’s thugocracy for another minute. But if, after ousting Mubarak from power, the Egyptian electorate then proceeds to vote for the full enforcement of sharia, that will not be a victory for democracy. If the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to participate in a future election and wins, that will not be a victory for democracy. That will be the worst case scenario.

WikiLeaks

Secret Cables, the State Department, and the Danger of WikiLeaks
by Philip Terzian @ the Weekly Standard Blog

But in the wake of this latest document dump from WikiLeaks, it ought to be understood that security classification is not intended to hide facts from the public, or conceal wrongdoing, but to allow government officials—posted overseas, in the executive branch, on active service—to speak with candor. This applies to diplomats reporting from their posts or lawyers responding to an inquiry from the president.

The greatest danger of episodes like this is not the “damage” that might be done to foreign policy—which is minimal, since everybody knows that friendly governments gossip about one another, have occasional spats, and negotiate on many fronts—but to free and unfettered communication on matters of war and peace, life and death. If an ambassador or military officer knows that his honest answers to questions from superiors will soon be in the public domain, he will begin to furnish dishonest answers—or no answers at all. How any news organization can conclude that this is in the public interest is beyond me.

That is why it is important to regard the actions of people like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and his informants as dangerous to our democracy. There is a cult of the “whistleblower” in the American media; but whistleblowers have motives, and their motives are often grounded in hostility to American policy, or the national interests of the United States. These are not people to be celebrated or indulged, but to be called to account for their crimes.

I don’t know exactly where my father works, though he has told us that his office is “somewhere in the vicinity of Tyson’s Corner.” I don’t know exactly what he does, though I can guess it has something to do with the War on Terror. When Dad is at work, we can’t call him on the phone because his office has no outside line — and we can’t send him an email because his office has no outside internet.

This is not a new experience for our family. When Dad was an active duty submarine officer, he often went on deployments that he couldn’t discuss. And this was a state of affairs that we readily accepted. Why? Because we understood that successful military operations often depend on secrecy. Loose lips sink ships.

Our military in particular needs to have secrets. Radical libertarians and radical leftists make a potentially deadly mistake when they conflate “secret” with “nefarious.” If we announce every single military maneuver we plan to make beforehand, we will lose whatever war we happen to be fighting.

Assange needs to be extradited and brought up on criminal charges. Moreover, the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets should cease giving this anti-American a public stage. Plug the leak!