Egypt and Obama

(Warning: I have had a drink or two)

So I watched Obama’s statement.

As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.

The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights and the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms they seek.

This is such a typical Obama speech: Sounds great, full of platitudes, but when you stop to think about it for two seconds, ultimately meaningless. (And no, I do not think he is secretly a Muslim bent on destroying America.)

Somehow, if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams etc. were alive today, I do not think their first concern would be restoring access to Facebook.

Suppose for a moment that “preventing injury and loss of life” was the “first concern” of the colonial leadership in 1776. I wonder what the result would have been?

The very definition of a government involves committing acts of violence to uphold its laws. I mean, why do police carry guns? So they can point them at people. The relevant question is not whether a government can or should use violence. The relevant question is whether a government — and by inference, its use of violence — is legitimate.

We either recognize Mubarak’s regime as legitimate, or we do not. If his government is legitimate, then it has not only the right but the responsibility to enforce its laws, through violence if necessary. If it is not legitimate, the protesters have not only the right but the responsibility to replace it, through violence if necessary. Such has it always been.

Obama must answer the question: Is Mubarak’s regime legitimate in the eyes of the United States? This is a yes or no question. I might disagree with his answer, but at least I could view it with something other than utter contempt.

Either we stand with the protesters, or we stand with Mubarak. This “condemning the violence” crap is not a position; it’s a cop-out.

11 comments to Egypt and Obama

  • “Somehow, if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams etc. were alive today, I do not think their first concern would be restoring access to Facebook” – definitely the quote of the day. You’re on fire tonight.

  • srolle

    KD, you too?

    clearly, the best play is to not pick a side at all. geopolitically the desired geopolitical result is to be close allies with the egyptian state. We are currently very close allies with the egyptian state. Backing the revolt would be disastrous to our relationship with mubarak, if it ultimately fails. The benefits of backing a successful revolt seem illusory to me. who are you even backing, exactly? do you get a government that is hostile to US fp goals? would they even care to thank you after victory? Backing mubarak makes very little sense, because we already have the desired relationship with egypt. there is little to gain. if the revolt is put down, we are still close allies. If the revolt succeeds, clearly we would have wished to not to have backed mubarak.

    no play is the best play, and i’m happy our leaders are smart enough to realize it.

  • “Somehow, if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams etc. were alive today, I do not think their first concern would be restoring access to Facebook”

    Not sure about Washington and Adams, but one of Jefferson’s more famous remarks was that he would rather have a free press and no government, than government and no free press.

    In other words, I think getting the modern day equivalent of a free press (the internet) back up in running in Egypt would have very much been one of his top priorities.

    Other than that small quibble, I couldn’t agree more with your post.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jake Kaldenbaugh, Paco Bell. Paco Bell said: He gets it: http://self-evident.org/?p=886 […]

  • Is it really necessary that the government take a standgovernment take a stand on this matter?

  • Nemo

    Simon —

    Given the United States’ role in the region, and specifically our sending of $1.3 billion per year in (mostly military) aid to the Mubarak regime…

    …I would say “yes”.

  • Carbon

    The answer to Bond Girl’s puzzlement is featured on the opinion page of today’s (Feb 2, 2010) NYTimes. It is entitled, “Isreal, Alone Again?”

  • doug

    Your CSC degree is showing. Impeccable logic, but your analysis doesn’t include the political component, which is anything but logical. He really doens’t have to answer your question. Sorry.

    In my first job after my CSC ’72 degree, I shared an office with CSC MIT ’72 guy, who was quite nice.

  • “Somehow, if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams etc. were alive today, I do not think their first concern would be restoring access to Facebook.”

    Ah, but you’re incorrect here because were these men alive today they would be subjected to the same 24 hour news cycle and the same campaign finance system as the intelligent men of our time. Thomas Jefferson would find himself limited to the same 140 bytes or less to stay relevant in the mind of the public as the current administration. For reference, please see your earlier post on CNN’s fall from grace. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the people we have in Congress are secretly intelligent, sincere, accomplished people who are just working in a broken system. I would wager that an anonymous poll would show 100% of them to believe that ethanol is bull feces. Yet ethanol is what you buy for your car in the midwest. If the system can break Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, could it have broken George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Either yes or they wouldn’t have been invited to craft any meaningful pieces of legislation and we would have never heard of them. That’s the same as a yes!

  • sixounces

    To understand the situation, you must understand Egypt. Egypt was controlled by Great Britain and their puppet monarch. The Egyptian Revolution was staged by members of the Free Officers Movement, which included both Nasser and Sadat. Ever since then, Egypt has been essentially controlled by their military. Every permanent leader has been a military officer. Mubarak was the Air Chief Marshall.

    Under the Egyptian “Constitution”, the military answers only to the President. That’s convenient since they choose him. The President can dissolve the People’s Assembly. The People’s Assembly can impeach the President, but the reality is that this could never happen.

    If Mubarak were a dictator, then why didn’t those soldiers fire those guns?

    The answer is that the military didn’t want to fire those guns. They were allowing the people to let off steam. The military had already decided that Mubarak would go and his son would not be the next President. They waited for the right opportunity, and then announced that Mubarak had an announcement to make.

    The people respect and admire the military – heroes of the Revolution and the war against the Israelis. But their purpose isn’t to protect against non-existent enemies. They are there to maintain domestic stability. In prior periods of unrest, the military cracked down brutally on communists and the Muslim Brotherhood. The people KNOW not to push the military too far. The protests were not directed toward Mubarak or Obama or the UN, but rather at the Egyptian military.

    The outcome of this was a fait accompli. The military postured itself to be seen as heroes yet again. Suleiman is a Lieutenant General. They will soon pass out food and some apparent freedoms, but remain firmly in control.

    The US news media exploited this for viewership. Various pundits and interest groups projected their own viewpoints on the situation. There was never any chance of liberal democratic opposition reforming that country. There was never any chance of the Muslim Brotherhood taking control and creating a muslim theocracy – no chance whatsoever. Everyone who speculated about the most optimistic and pessimistic outcomes were both ignorant of Egypt and either playing cheerleader or doomsayer.

    I have some experience working with and training Egyptian soldiers, and I have Egyptian friends, but there’s nothing about this apparent “crisis” that couldn’t be understood with 20 minutes of reading the Wikipedia entry on Modern Egypt and the Egyptian Military.

    As far as Obama goes, his speeches were balloon juice. He either didn’t understand the situation at all, or he “called for a peaceful solution” knowing in advance that that outcome had already been decided by the Egyptian military. It’s easy to appear powerful and prescient when the game has a pre-determined outcome.

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