Accepting the Change in Egypt

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.

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  1. Tony [ligneus]:

    I think you’re right. At first I thought Uh Oh, here we go again, Jimmy Carter redux, but I don’t think the military would take kindly to receiving direction from Iran, unless of course they have been extensively infiltrated by the MB

  2. Scott Kirwin:

    I hope I am because the Right seems to have gone negative on the whole thing. I think it’s way too early, like trying to predict where the fragments of a grenade will hit a nanosecond after it explodes.
    Having lived through 1979, I have a nasty feeling in the pit of my gut about the whole thing, but remind myself that I am not a soothsayer. Besides, there’s nothing that we can do about it.

    What we can do is to recognize that our politically correct philosophy – that all cultures are equal and that some are more equal than others – has gotten us into a big mess. The entire Middle East needs to be “de-nazified” – and the only way that will happen is for the Islamic fascists to be defeated by a culturally-confident superior.

  3. Watcher of Weasels » Watcher’s Council Nominations – Walk Like An Egyptian Edition:

    [...] The Razor – Accepting the Change In Egypt [...]

  4. SnoopyTheGoon:

    Great post, if I may say so (it could be easily interpreted as bias in the circs).


  5. Rob Miller:

    Hello Scott,

    First of all, thanks for the link. Here, perhaps, is some food for thought.

    On average, the Iranian people were and are far more educated and sophisticated than the Egyptians. Talk to people who were there during the Revolution and later went into exile. In 1979, few of them thought they were rebelling to put a repressive theocracy in place. Khomeini was a cleric respected for his anti-Shah stance, but he was not any kind of designated leader of the resistance except to his own followers.

    But those followers were dedicated, well organized and ruthless,(just like the =Muslim Brotherhood) and when it came time to push Bakhtiar and the secular moderates out of the way, they were easily able to do so.

    Also, they had Islam on their side, as does the Brotherhood. Islam conditions people to mindless obedience and its impact, even on people who might not seem particularly devout is not to be underestimated. Again, talk to people who were there, particularly non-Muslims. They’ll tell you about the change that occurred in people they had known all their lives.

    As for the military, remember that the Iranian military was also thought of as rational actors who were pro-American, US trained and would keep things from getting out of hand.The same nonsense about finding a general who could front a military regime was being worked on by the Carter Administration as is being bandied about by the Obama Administration today.What happened is that the military high command made a devil’s bargain with the Islamists to step aside in order to keep their prerogatives.

    Afterwards, many were murdered, some fled into exile, and others accommodated themselves to the new regime.

    Another point to consider is that Egypt, unlike Iran , has no oil. No matter who is in charge, the basic problems of unemployment, high food prices,inflation, corruption and squalor are not going to change overly much.

    The Mullahs could use some of the oil money for subsidies on staples. Egypt is not going to have that option, and Islam and repression that will make Mubarak seem benign are going to be the only way the new regime will have keep things in line. They will also need a scapegoat, and Israel and the Jews are already in place for the role thanks to the Qu’ran and generations of government funded anti-Semitic propaganda.


  6. Scott Kirwin:

    All revolutions are not Iranian just like all wars America gets involved with do not turn into Vietnam. History is not binary; there are more options than the status quo (which is favorable to the US) and change (which is disadvantageous to the US).

    But I will readily admit that while watching events over there it is difficult to believe as much at this point.

  7. Bookworm Room » Staggeringly good submissions at the Watcher’s Council:

    [...] The Razor – Accepting the Change In Egypt [...]

  8. Watcher of Weasels » The Council has Spoken:

    [...] Second place with 2 votes – The Razor-Accepting the Change In Egypt [...]

  9. Bookworm Room » I wasn’t expecting that — WoW for 2/4/11:

    [...] Second place with 2 votes – The Razor-Accepting the Change In Egypt [...]

  10. G:

    Great post, would like to point out an additional big difference between Egypt 2011 and Iran 1979: Money. Heaps of Oil money, which Iran had and allowed the post-revolution Iranian regime to pursue their extreme policies with complete disregard to the powers that be while still giving the masses something for their trouble.

    Egypt does not have this luxury. The economic challenges they face are immense and and I wouldn’t count on the patience of the crowds expecting things to magically improve once Mubarak is out.

    That may have more of a “moderating” effect then any Ideology and beliefs Mubarak’s replacement holds.


  11. Tony [ligneus]:

    I haven’t so much changed my mind on this as given up on certain possibilities, it comes down to whether Obama is one of the enemy, a Manchurian candidate if you will, or is an idiot. My take is that he is both. See ‘Obama Well Knows What Chaos He Has Unleashed’ from American Thinker.

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