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Credit Where Due!

I clicked over to The Corner to see who was complaining about liberal bloggers failing to acknowledge the weekend's positive developments in Egypt, and what did I find? Not only is nobody complaining, virtually nobody is acknowledging the weekend's positive developments in Egypt! All you get is Jonah Goldberg quoting Jackson Diehl. Look, people, get excited! Yes, it's but a tentative step and things could still all work out poorly, but still, this is a pretty unambiguous success for Bush's second term freedom kick. It's also a stunning refutation of those of us who argued that he'd never follow through on his lofty rhetoric. Give the man some props.

And not just to poke fun, but it's actually important that props be given. Bush has, historically, gotten a lot of praise for his lofty rhetoric. He's also been rather diffident about actually doing something about it. But he decided to go do something. Test the waters, so to speak. If doing the right thing winds up just being met with stony silence, then there's little reason to think it'll be the start of a trend. But it should start a trend....

The Weekly Standard likewise has no Egypt coverage. What's happened to the right? Are you all on Mubarak's payroll?

February 28, 2005 | Permalink

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Tracked on Feb 28, 2005 9:00:40 PM

» What Is Going On In the Blogosphere? from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
Juan Cole has, don seatbelts please, written the phrase "positive delevelopment" (ya gotta scroll to the bottom to spot this rarest of birds). Matthew Yglesias is wondering why, er, conservatives aren't more excited about Egypt. There's always somethin... [Read More]

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» What Is Going On In the Blogosphere? from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
Juan Cole has, don seatbelts please, written the phrase "positive delevelopment" (ya gotta scroll to the bottom to spot this rarest of birds). Matthew Yglesias is wondering why, er, conservatives aren't more excited about Egypt. There's always somethin... [Read More]

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Comments

I think democracy is generally a good thing. But I'm still not convinced in any way that democracy is the antidote to terrorism. Again, the IRA, Basques, Timothy McVeigh -- all operate(d) in democracies.

I bet -- if I had more free time -- I could make a more compelling argument that working on the economic prosperity of Egypt would do more diffuse radical fundamentalism than promoting democracy.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Feb 28, 2005 1:46:35 PM

Sheesh. It's an embarrassment when the likes of Yglesias and Drum are out-performing NRO and Weekly Standard in covering the march of freedom in the ME. Even Oxblog has but 4 words and 1 link about Egypt. (To be fair, Adesnik is still covering Bush/Putin, so maybe he just hasn't read the weekend's papers.) Yikes!

Posted by: Al | Feb 28, 2005 1:48:54 PM

Look, Matt, I don't mean to be a total dick; maybe I'm going through a dicky stage or something...

This is an almost identical post to your post below "Egypt Again." You seem to be trying to pull a do-over and to be engaged in a little bit of framing. I think the discussion was had out as far as it can go down on that thread.

The bottom line is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You have to take what comes out of this WH with a grain of salt. I hope democracy advances in Egypt, but we tolerated one-party rule in Mexico forever, and yes, they had elections all along while they had one-party rule.

We need to see what kind of democracy is going to come out of this state. You shouldn't jump the gun. Be sensible.

Posted by: Swan | Feb 28, 2005 2:14:23 PM

I'm guessing it's a case of being careful what they wish for. It sure sounded great when it made their guy sound like a man of history, but now they have to face the prospects of upsetting the status quo in a region whose overt anti-Americanism is just the tip of a very large iceberg of suppressed rage.

Posted by: pickabone | Feb 28, 2005 2:14:30 PM

I actually have seen a fair bit of triumphalism in certain quarters. I have a hunch that the WS and the NRO haven't actually thought about Egypt much, though. Too bad; it's an important country.

Posted by: praktike | Feb 28, 2005 2:23:04 PM

If your big foreign aid benefactor is complaining like this, you have to go thru the motions to get him to shut up.

Posted by: Bob H | Feb 28, 2005 2:24:10 PM

I can give you the reason they are not blogging about it one word: Algeria.

Posted by: mkultra | Feb 28, 2005 2:40:04 PM

The WSJ's editorial page did trumpet it, referring to the Egypt Domino. Then again, their major complaint against Mubarak seems to be that he hasn't cracked down on anti-American and anti-Israeli messages in the mosques. It is unclear why a democracy would to any better at that ..

Posted by: erg | Feb 28, 2005 2:50:50 PM

Yes, but it never seemed to me that most conservatives were serious about democracy promotion anyway. I can't remember a single instance of Bush using the word 'democracy' before the war; it was all about WMD, Al-Qaida, and preventing another 9/11. The whole 'spreading freedom' rationale only became central after the other rationales were exposed as false.

And what exactly has Bush done in his second term to promote democracy besides rhetoric? Even if one holds that a partial catalyst for these events were the Iraqi elections, those were basically forced on Bush by Sistani.

It should be noted that the popular protests and the resignation of the government Lebanon are a huge deal, and potentially transformative. However my understanding of Mubarak's proposed reform in Egypt is that presidential candidates will have to have backing in the parliament, which is controlled by Mubarak anyway. So that seems like it's mostly hype.

Posted by: RC | Feb 28, 2005 2:57:12 PM

I can't remember a single instance of Bush using the word 'democracy' before the war;

cmon...

" If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time."

Posted by: Argyll | Feb 28, 2005 3:02:04 PM

those were basically forced on Bush by Sistani.

Sistani is puppet on Mondays and thursdays. Puppeteer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Bush is inflexible ideologue even days, pliable patsy on odd days.

"The whole 'spreading freedom' rationale only became central after the other rationales were exposed as false."

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020912-1.html

Mentions human rights, democracy again and again. This is not an atypical speech. What speeches were you people watching anyway? Find me ONE containing no reference to human rights or democracy.

Posted by: Argyll | Feb 28, 2005 3:07:37 PM

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030226-11.html

The nation of Iraq -- with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people -- is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.

Posted by: Argyll | Feb 28, 2005 3:11:47 PM

The overwhelming story before the war was WMD, 9/11, Al Qaeda etc etc. Saddam Hussein's human rights record was mentioned, but it was never, ever a prime justification for the war.

Democracy was mentioned pretty late in the game -- indeed post-war Iraq wasn't even mentioned till very late.

Posted by: erg | Feb 28, 2005 3:37:06 PM

Argyll,
The speeches Bush gave before the UN and the AEI which you cite were two of his better ones in terms of democracy promotion. But in the main it seemed to me that the run-up to the war consisted of a lot of scare-mongering with a sprinkling of vague talk about 'freedom' that could have been interpreted different ways. There was a lot of talk about human rights violations under Saddam's regime, but that was chiefly for the cause of demonstrating that Saddam was a bad guy.

Even in very the speech you site, Bush talked about Iraq 'moving toward democracy'. That in itself was a fairly ambiguous statement. He seemed to be leaving himself a lot of wiggle room there. Why just 'moving towards' democracy? Why was there never any sort of plan as to how this transition to democracy would occur in the post-war period? It just never seemed sincere to me. It seemed like mostly lip service. And I do believe that all of the failures of post-war period bear this out.

The thing about Sistani and the elections is just a plain fact....Paul Bremer fought against having the elections that just occurred. His plan was to have elections only after the constitution had been written. It was only the large protests called by Sistani that forced him to change course.

Posted by: RC | Feb 28, 2005 3:56:11 PM

Perhaps they see the intellectual problem: Egypt is a single-party mideast state - allegedly trending towards democracy - for the sum total of 1.5 billion / year in US aid; while Iraq was a single-party mideast state - now trending towards complete chaos - to the tune of 300 billion (and growing). Somebody didn't get their money's worth!

Posted by: bink | Feb 28, 2005 4:14:35 PM

There was a lot of talk about human rights violations under Saddam's regime, but that was chiefly for the cause of demonstrating that Saddam was a bad guy.

lol. What other purpose might it have meant to serve?

Look, no matter how vague you found the references Bush made in his many pre-war speeches on Iraq (including the most important one at the UN cited above) he did indeed mention the enslavement of the Iraqi people again and again, and the prospect of a democratic Iraq in every last speech and policy document on the topic. As did Wolfowitz and the entire cast of characters at AEI. It is in fact is the defining position of neoconservatism (spreading democracy as a foil to substate terrorism), is it not?

Posted by: Argyll | Feb 28, 2005 4:38:56 PM

Mubarak controls the media in the country, the only viable candidate is sitting in a prison cell, and everyone in Egypt knows Gamal Mubarak will succeed his father. Don't get your hopes up. Egypt is a dictatorship, not a democracy. Too bad the US gives them so much money. Aren't we the shining star in the vast sky of democracy!

Posted by: paddy | Feb 28, 2005 4:53:40 PM

It is in fact is the defining position of neoconservatism (spreading democracy as a foil to substate terrorism), is it not?

I would agree with you, Argyll, that "spreading democracy" is/was a grand neocon strategy -- except when it came to selling the war to the American people. They instintively knew that Americans would not buy off on such a risky and expensive adventure as a war in the ME, just in the name of spreading democracy or freeing the long-suffering Iraqis. And I think that's the root behind the argument here. People remember the loud, shrill "mushroom cloud smoking gun" bullshit because that's what was amplified. Most Americans didn't give a shit about the old idealism, because they instinctively distrust it -- or at least they used to when Clinton was president.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Feb 28, 2005 4:57:47 PM

OK, Argyll, so one more time: Why aren't your fellow brownshirts crowing about it?

Posted by: Riesz Fischer | Feb 28, 2005 5:02:38 PM

An administration that really cared about human rights would not seek to legitimate torture, as this one did. Likewise, if it actually cared about democracy it would have gone to war with a serious plan of how to achieve it, and then not try to delay elections after the war.

On neoconservatism, of course that's an ideology that goes back long before 9/11 and the current 'war on terror'. Originally it revolved around staunch anti-communism and support of Israel. Support for democracy was somewhat peripheral. The neocons were happy to support authoritarian non-democratic regimes if they were anti-communist.
With regard to Iraq, I think some of the neocons (William Kristol comes to mind) seem fairly sincere about promoting democracy. But I don't think that was really the case with Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, and their ilk. Remember the little episode where they the necons in the Pentagon had Chalabi flown into Iraq at the end of the war? I think they wanted to get rid of Saddam and install Chalabi (or someone else friendly to them) in power because that would serve America's interests. If a democracy eventually resulted, that would be nice, but that wasn't central to their thinking.

Posted by: RC | Feb 28, 2005 5:17:42 PM

This isn't going to sound too pleasant, but maybe I've picked up a bad habit of hiding the ball, and I should drop the habit.

I think we're hitting a sort of watershed / threshold point in history. There's a crisis because there's a lot of good political theory and philosophy out there that can help us get past the place where we are to the place that we need to be, but the institutions of and incentives upon people inherent to the structure of liberal Western society as it's come to be keep the knowledge (knowledge- which is coming into being as *the* medium of the future and *the* means of production) from being integrated and applied efficiently. We're basically a confused society. Even the people who *should* be smart enough to figure out what's going on and to take us to the next level are too distracted to get us the theoretical knowledge we need to progress actually applied to society. Intellectuals are making a lot of bad mistakes now in how they arrange their priorities, and in how they understand the world.

I think we're looking at a lot of failed states or soon-to-be failed states where Bush has left his imprimatur, and on the periphery. I think we're looking at a very bad war within our lifetimes, as well.

The problem is that what Bush et al are practicing is a very refined incarnation of very old-style realpolitik, the Machiavelli stuff. The problem is that it's out-of-date. This came about because institutions dealing in knowledge weren't efficient enough to develop and get the new paradigm to the ruling class before this very vibrant group of the old type came into full power. Now we have to deal with the consequences of the medeival politcal approach applied to the modern world-stage and with modern equipment. But it's not viable. It may seem very common-sense to those who espouse it, but that's only because what's new is on the horizon- it's easy not to have faith in what you haven't seen before. What's to come is actually more viable that what has come, the only problem is, will the new idea get to come to fruition or will it get crushed. If it presents itself in a self-contained, complete form quickly enough, it's superiority over the so-called "neocon" paradigm would be self-evident and that "realpolitik" thing would get subsumed, no sweat.

Can a point come at which human society has developed so far that it's actually developed institutions that retard anymore progress? I don't know. We only know what's come before, not what will come. So the future could go either way. We've seen considerable progress so far, but I guess in the end there's no reason why it absolutely *has* to keep going that way.

Posted by: Swan | Feb 28, 2005 5:31:20 PM

Whoa, I think I just experienced a catharsis...


Anyway, neocons are nothing new. It's just Machiavelli / so-called realpolitik, all that. The stuff about democracy is a farce. You can't go around in life taking everything at face value. Look at this stuff in Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Egypt. There's a lot going on behind-the-scenes that we don't see. This isn't Mother Goose, it's Karl Rove, and Rove = the Godfather, or = Machiavelli.

In everyday life, w/ common people, you've got incentives on you to be honest. But that's not how things work w/ other environments, for example w/ politics and w/ crime. In such places, cultures have developed where people think that pretenses have to be employed just to keep their heads above water. you can't take everything at face value. You have to look at actions & divine, "what's the policy behind this? What are the ends?"

I think it's very interesting what Bush has been doing over the past few days. But I'm not sure that the neocons aren't going to end up feeling the same kind of disappointment as what they must have felt when they realized that their vision for a new kind of military didn't exactly play out the way they hoped it would in Iraq.

I think the pressure that's showed itself now is, appearances haven't mathced expectations or promises. They realize this and say, "waitasec. This isn't all looking like we said our plan was going to make the world look... We've got to backtrack now & call in a few favors. We've got to get some people to help us look like we're succeeding- if you look like you're succeeding, you will succeed."

And so- Bush takes a saunter around Russia, and Egypt, Europe, and there are some private conversations. And maybe he gets some to donate him some figleafs, for his time.

Posted by: Swan | Feb 28, 2005 5:42:18 PM

RC wrote:

Yes, but it never seemed to me that most conservatives were serious about democracy promotion anyway. I can't remember a single instance of Bush using the word 'democracy' before the war; it was all about WMD, Al-Qaida, and preventing another 9/11. The whole 'spreading freedom' rationale only became central after the other rationales were exposed as false.

Umm ...

How about the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq ... perhaps you've heard of it?

"Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime; "

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html

Posted by: Mike G in San Diego | Feb 28, 2005 5:59:36 PM

RC wrote:

Yes, but it never seemed to me that most conservatives were serious about democracy promotion anyway. I can't remember a single instance of Bush using the word 'democracy' before the war; it was all about WMD, Al-Qaida, and preventing another 9/11. The whole 'spreading freedom' rationale only became central after the other rationales were exposed as false.

Umm ...

How about the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq ... perhaps you've heard of it?

"Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime; "

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html

Posted by: Mike G in San Diego | Feb 28, 2005 5:59:37 PM

OK, Argyll, so one more time: Why aren't your fellow brownshirts crowing about it?

Man, is stating the obvious all it takes to get labeled a brownshirt? sheesh...

Riesz, my guess is that crowing in this case is premature. But in any case some crowing has indeed occurred, as in the WSJ piece mentioned above, but also on blogs like lgf and belgravia dispatch. I do think it's a bit funny that matt imagines absence of bloggy props even from bill kristol might affect bush policy one way or the other.

Posted by: Argyll | Feb 28, 2005 6:02:24 PM

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