Anyone who has ever stepped foot into a church basement knows the following:
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s called the Serenity Prayer, and it sums up the battle every alcoholic and addict has on his hands, and the only way he can handle it. As a recovering drunk I find myself saying that prayer a lot; it’s pretty much the only prayer I say in this agnostic phase of my life. I find living that prayer one of my greatest challenges. Like Don Quixote I see the romance of fighting windmills, but I’ve learned that in the end the windmills always win and all that I am left with is frustration and scars. In the past I turned to drink to take the sting out of those wounds, and church basements are full of people that have done the same which is why after 10 years of sobriety I still find myself chanting that prayer, more often than not through clenched teeth.
If he’s not, President Obama needs to be whispering the Serenity Prayer several times a day too. Take Egypt for example. When I read that the army was allowing protesters to sit on M1 tanks in Cairo, I knew that Mubarak was done and there wasn’t anything we could do to save him.
Change is happening in Egypt – and possibly the entire Arab World – and there’s pretty much nothing we can do about it. I’ve noticed that the media – including the Right-wing news sources – haven’t decided whether what is happening there is bad or good from the American perspective. Even Instapundit seems conflicted. Richard Fernandez’s piece portrays the revolt as a negative, whereas two links later a YNetNews piece discusses how a group of Israelis traveling in Egypt are being treated well by the protesters. I noticed that Fox News seemed schizoid in its reporting, veering between whether events in Egypt and Tunisia mirrored Iran in 1979 or Eastern Europe in 1989.
The truth is that at this point it is impossible to know. Joshuapundit believes that Obama’s cutting loose of Mubarak will usher another Iran seeing Obama’s actions mirroring Carter’s when he ended his support of the Shah. Haaretz, not the most right-wing paper in Israel, tends to agree. I’m not so sure of that. The Iranian opposition had a strong leader in the Ayatollah Khomeini. There had also not been a theocracy in the modern era, so clerics were viewed as less corrupt than government officials.
Neither is the case in Egypt. While the Muslim Brotherhood is backing the opposition leader Mohamed el Baradei, and the Iranian regime gleefully cheering on the protests, I’m wondering how much of this is classic Middle Eastern “backing the strong horse.” The Egyptian people have seen the failure of theocracy in Iran and I doubt that they would be so willing to throw off the yoke of oppression by a corrupt secular regime to replace it with a corrupt religious one. I doubt that I’m the only one who appreciates the irony of a regime backing the overthrow of another after crushing its own dissent less then two years ago. If anything the Iranians may be playing with fire by broadcasting the downfall of the Egyptian regime to its own people – who might just decide that they will have another crack at it themselves.
Regardless, at this point there is nothing that we can do about it. Looking backward it is clear to me that we were delusional in supporting a “democratically elected president” who had stayed in power for over 30 years. We have a history of propping up dictators in the Middle East, so in that respect Joshuapundit is correct and Obama is channeling Jimmy Carter. We prop them up with money, and they prop themselves up with anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda. We ignore this disconnect – and are then shocked when we get tangled up in the dictator’s messy exit. But at this point the die is cast and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mubarak is in exile by the time you read this.
The Obama administration cannot stop the change, but it can make it known that it welcomes a peaceful restoration of democracy expects the new regime to abide by the agreements of the previous regime. If, as many on the right suspect, the new regime tears up the peace accords with Israel, then the game is on. We will end aid to Egypt and isolate it just as we have Iran. We have to accept the loss of Mubarak, but we must have the courage to confront the new leadership and dangle carrots and sticks to change the course of events in Egypt in a way we prefer.
Most importantly, we have to accept that our tolerance of anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda has brainwashed entire generations of people to kill us and our allies. It might have bought us 30 years of peace in Egypt, but at a very high price in the long-term. The Soviets or Chinese would never have accepted such a bargain – which is why even 2 decades after its demise, the Soviet Union’s brand of socialism lives on in American academia.
I just hope that the Obama administration has the wisdom to know the difference between what it can change, and what it cannot – or at the very least starts praying.