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Tuesday, February 15, 2011


No, You're Not Hallucinating . . . Even If You're Stoned-Drunk Reading This, or Maybe a Schizo-Paranoid Confined to a Padded Cell for the Criminally Insane

After a good three-month pause---used mainly for a bugged-out rest and some mental retooling  ---- prof bug has returned to blog-action with yesterday's post.  Its subject, assuming you haven't read it yet?  Well, whatever you might have hoped for, that initial post adoesn't deal with the recent mass anti-autocratic demonstrations and governmental changes in Egypt or Tunisia . . . not to mention the political and diplomatic fall-out for US policies in the Middle East. 

The chief reason for dealing with China and its trade relations with the USA, instead of the Middle East?  Bluntly put, monumental as these events have proved to be, prof bug has no more knowledge of what has been dramatically unfolding in some of the Arab countries the last few weeks --- never mind what is likely going to happen in the coming year in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere --- than what he has read in the NYT or at some blogs by specialists or been broadcast on CNN or National Public Radio . . . plus, in his case, the televised daily by the French deuxieme channel.

Some Clarifying Comments:

1) A very good web site for a range of different views on world events, including the tumultuous changes afoot in Tunisia and Egypt and maybe soon elsewhere in the Middle East, can be found here:  

2) Careful though. 

The journalists and other commentators on world affairs --- at any rate on controversial issues involving any topic, including the roiling events the last few weeks in Egypt and their far-flung implications for regional politics and security --- tend, in the main, to speak with claims to more solid knowledge than they really possess. Expert professors specializing in a certain region or topics in it aren't much of an exception.  Scholars or journalists alike all bring biases to their public views.  Then, too, the turbulent developments in the Middle East were unforeseen and are continuing to unpack with tumult and unpredictability. 

Click on the "continue" button just below.

 Needless to say, these pundits aren't all equal in over-selling their knowledge, not to forget their self-proclaimed powers of sorcerer fortune telling.  

Some of these pundits, to clarify, have more background expertise than others.  Some are brighter than others.  Once in awhile, too, a few specialists may have better information at their disposal than the others.  Even so, no one can predict with any reliable guidance what Egypt will be like in a year or two from now, politically speaking or in their diplomacy with Israel, the USA, and other Arab countries.  Or, come to that, what the jarring political topsy-turvy there will entail for the domestically for those Middle East countries. 

Then, too, nobody really knows --- except maybe the current self-chosen heads of the Muslim Brotherhood --- what that radical Islamist group, banned in Egypt and ruthlessly clamped down on for decades, would work to see installed in a post-autocratic regime, or for that matter what their power to influence key domestic and diplomatic policies will be.  No surprise really.  The few top-dog Islamists themselves may be divided among themselves on their future agenda, so rapidly have the political changes in Egypt erupted with unforeseen force . . . with the leaders virtually all in exile or in jail.  Those, anyway, who are still alive. 

3) One exception about any predictions, and it alone, rears up here.  (Note: the next three paragraphs were written on February 12, 2010 --- two days before the Egyptian military announced its intent to adhere to the peace treaty with Israel and sought to reassure the other Arab states and then USA that it would not alter its diplomatic and military relations with them.)

Clearly, crucial power in the country lies with the Egyptian military --- which is something of a caste-like organization in its officer corps, with certain families able to ensure that their sons can rise into the officer corps and for that matter rise quickly up the ranks.  But note.  Even so, armed by the US for decades as the Egyptian military has been --- the army, the navy, the air force, and special forces ---its senior and mid-level officers will very likely be keen to continue that relationship.  Enter what most left-wing commentators have said about such "nefarious" arming and influence in the Egyptian military for almost four decades now.  They have been largely wrong.  Events alone that last 18 or 19 days have shown that.  You see, most of Egypt's senior and mid-led officers have been partly trained in the USA.  During such training, they have been carefully taught what a professional military missions should be: not to prop up dictatorships or act as the government's policing agency or use their power and influence for self-enrichment (though that certainly goes on at the top), but to protect their country and society from enemies abroad or at home. 

4) Want some likely evidence of effective American influence? 

Then think of the public announcement by the military leadership that it wouldn't suppress the demonstrations.  Or of the more recent pressure that the leadership clearly exerted on Mubarak to leave office (why would Mubarak, who rose to power through the military, have resigned suddenly resigned otherwise?). And you can add to these suppositions something else: American military leaders who directly knew their counterparts in Egypt were no doubt in contact with them, reflecting the White House's views about the need for dramatic political change in Egypt once the demonstrations weren't crushed.  Nor is that all. 

The Democracy-Push in American Foreign Policy Continues Strongly

Consider the Record 

President Obama himself  has spoken out three or four times on the need not just for a peaceful political transition in Egypt, but a democratic one as well --- just as he spoke out in strongly to that effect in Cairo itself during a visit in June 2009 to Egypt.  Nothing new here.  Despite what you have heard or read uttered by numerous left-wing pundits and posters in the media or on the Internet, American foreign policy since the cold war ended in 1990-91 has pushed strongly for democratic development in the world where it seemed likely. 

* Think of Bill Clinton's presidency. 

The White House succeeded in encouraging it militarily in Yugoslavia and diplomatically and economically in the former European countries that had been regions of Soviet rule for decades --- whether formally part of the Soviet Union or its satellites in East Europe.  Among other things to that end, the Clinton White House ignored the fretful worriers in our country and Europe and supported steadfastly an extension of NATO to all those countries . . . provided they, for their part, qualified for membership by instituting democratic politics and a market-oriented economy.   Eventually, the EU itself extended membership to these countries as well. 

* Similarly, for all the groans and grievances uttered by the political left here and abroad, globalization --- including more and more free movements in trade and capital --- coincided with the rapid expansion  of democracy in Pacific Asia, starting with the Philippines in the  1980, then in South Korea and Taiwan a decade earlier (and of course earlier in Japan) --- has encouraged a shift to democratic politics, however flawed and corrupt, in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia since the financial and economic Asia crisis of 1997-98. 

* Click here for The Economist's Democratic Index of the world's countries for 2010. 

It uses, like Freedom House a variety of criteria to rank countries, though where Freedom House uses three categories of political systems (free, partly free, unfree), the Democratic Index uses four categories. 

The first two cover 79 countries that are either fully democratic or flawed democracies.  The third category refers to hybrid-systems, partly democratic and partly authoritarian despite elections --- Russia a good example.  And the remaining categories covers outright authoritarian regimes, which no longer include Tunisia or Egypt even though we have no idea what their rankings will be a year or two from now.

* Then, too, starting with the Carter Human Rights initiative of the late 1970s, followed by the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations pushing for democratic elections in Chile, Paraguay, and Nicaragua and the rest of Central America (not to forget Philippines in the 1980s too), all of Latin America is virtually democratic for the first time in history except for Communist  Cuba (authoritarian) and two countries in Central America and two in South America (all four listed as "hybrid").  

*Enter the Bush-Jr. era. 

Despite an astonishingly feckless pig-headed "best case" strategy for invading and occupying Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration has encouraged the emergence of a "hybrid" regime with democratic elections there --- its political development over the next decade uncertain, just as it did in Lebanon later on and in Ukraine and Georgia in those two former Soviet Republics.  Afghanistan?  It ranks in the Democratic Index as an authoritarian system, with its future still uncertain too as war still rages there. 

And now, with Tunisia and Egypt experiencing peaceful revolutions whose political outcomes are still unknown --- each likely to emerge as a flawed democracy or a hybrid system this year --- a democratic ferment is afoot in in the Obama era in the remaining bastion of authoritarian regimes: the Arab world.   Remember too.  Without Facebook and Twitter, both developed by Americans in the private sphere, those revolutions would not likely have occurred, not to overlook how they have helped spread the ferment even to countries with ironclad censorship as in clerical Iran.