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No New Thing Under The Sun

I've seen several bloggers, both left and right, label the following passage from the SOTU noteworthy and perhaps somewhat surprising:

The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.
But in November 2003, Bush said:
By giving the Saudi people a greater role in their own society, the Saudi government can demonstrate true leadership in the region. The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.
It seems to me that any change in policy is likely to be as minor as the change in phrasing.

February 3, 2005 | Permalink

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» Time for Sauds to Straighten Up: from The Volokh Conspiracy

Count me among those who was pleased to hear President Bush call for political reform in Saudi Arabia last night.

The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the r... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 3, 2005 2:25:08 PM

Comments

I'm sure the phone calls to Saudi Arabia and Egypt were already placed before the SOTU: don't listen to the President: it's just for the consumption of the naive Americans at home.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Feb 3, 2005 2:26:52 AM

What are you talking about? Freedom is on the march in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. No children are being left behind. The clean skies have been initiated. My personal account has made me a millionaire. And marriage is still between a man and his dog. Or something like that...

Posted by: Green Dem | Feb 3, 2005 2:41:20 AM

It's not as though anything's changed in those countries. If it was true then it's true now. It does bespeak a certain intellectual aridity.

Posted by: bad Jim | Feb 3, 2005 3:44:57 AM

He went from "should" to "can" on Egypt. IF anything, that makes it less likely that he wants to confront the regime.

Posted by: markus | Feb 3, 2005 6:19:37 AM

Cut and paste baby!

Posted by: fnook | Feb 3, 2005 8:02:19 AM

Kind of humorous watching Matthew whine about Bush again.

Posted by: Al | Feb 3, 2005 9:05:23 AM

Good one Al.

Posted by: Toadmonster | Feb 3, 2005 9:07:14 AM

Kind of predictable watching Al avoid the point once again.

Posted by: Rob | Feb 3, 2005 9:11:13 AM

If you're saying Bush is not going to put the screws on the Saudis or the Egyptians, you're right. But that's not the strategy. The strategy is to try to create a sense of inevitability and possibility. Even if the language has not changed much, tweaking Egypt and the Saudis about democracy has different feel after a week dominated by images of Arab voters proudly displaying purple fingers, doesn't it? Ordinary Saudis and Egyptians see what is possible. And if a decent government in Iraq emerges and stabilizes in the next year or two, the 'apres moi le deluge' position of Mubarak will be thoroughly discredited.

That's the idea. It may not actually work, but I don't think unalloyed cynicism is appropriate.

Posted by: mw | Feb 3, 2005 9:22:32 AM

Even if the language has not changed much, tweaking Egypt and the Saudis about democracy has different feel after a week dominated by images of Arab voters proudly displaying purple fingers, doesn't it?

To whom? Not to the Egyptians and Saudis, I bet, especially since I'm guessing that the bombings during the election, and the continued unrest gets more attention there; I don't think, to them, Bush saying the same things he's said many times before, in between praising them for (mostly imagined) progress toward democracy while condemning Iran which, for all its faults, is far more democratic than either for its totalitarianism, seems any different than it always has.

To ill-informed members of the American public who don't pay much attention or have much memory of what Bush has said about those countries in the past? Yeah, maybe it seems susbtantive to them.

Posted by: cmdicely | Feb 3, 2005 9:56:32 AM

Judging from his environmental record, who knew Bush would turn out to be such a big fan of recycling?

Posted by: Scott | Feb 3, 2005 10:01:35 AM

Even if the language has not changed much, tweaking Egypt and the Saudis about democracy has different feel after a week dominated by images of Arab voters proudly displaying purple fingers, doesn't it?

Fuck no.

What sort of magical thinking horseshit is that? Why would people in Iraq voting be any different than people in Sweden voting? They also voted for a slate of candidates vetted by the U.S. while U.S. tanks prowled the streets.

Imagining for a second as I think you do that there would be some reason that seeing Arabs vote would be different from seeing anyone else vote,
Why would that be preferable in any way to say Lebanese elections which are leaned on by Syria to a far greater extent?

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 3, 2005 10:24:26 AM

that should be lesser extent.

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 3, 2005 10:25:09 AM

"Al": Kind of humorous watching Matthew whine about Bush again.

Hey, Zizka!

Matthew makes an interesting observation, although I'll note that a mention in the SOTU is quite a bit more visible that a mention in a randon mid-November 2003 speech.

Posted by: Al | Feb 3, 2005 10:35:01 AM

"although I'll note that a mention in the SOTU is quite a bit more visible that a mention in a randon mid-November 2003 speech."

Maybe, but the policy remains the same-- talk about Freedom and Democracy ad nauseam without actually confronting the most vile and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, a.k.a. Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Gary | Feb 3, 2005 10:45:36 AM

Al, the way to keep this kind of shit from happening is to adopt a policy of being consistently smarter than Stalker Al. You've been rather slow to pick up that message, and no one can tell anymore.

Posted by: John Emerson | Feb 3, 2005 11:09:42 AM

"Even if the language has not changed much, tweaking Egypt and the Saudis about democracy has different feel after a week dominated by images of Arab voters proudly displaying purple fingers, doesn't it?"

Fuck no.

What sort of magical thinking horseshit is that? Why would people in Iraq voting be any different than people in Sweden voting? They also voted for a slate of candidates vetted by the U.S. while U.S. tanks prowled the streets.

Why would people voting in Iraq be any different than people voting in Sweden? Are you really asking that? What planet are you from?

And can you describe the details to me of the U.S. 'vetting' process? Was that like the vetting process in Iran where the mullahs disqualify anyone they don't like? Can you give me specific examples of candidates or parties that were kept off the ballot by the U.S.?

And yes, U.S. forces patrolled...to protect voters from those who would otherwise drive suicide car bombs into their midst. Even Iraqi who would like the occupation to end as soon as feasible know *that*.

Taking the most cynical possible position at every turn here is just dumb -- politically dumb. At least in the U.S. It does *not* inspire or persuade people. It is not going to produce different results in upcoming elections.

Posted by: mw | Feb 3, 2005 11:13:02 AM

His speech writers need to be more original. How much do they get paid for saying the same basic things with the same basic terms? Maybe they have a Bush/Cheney-approved "word and phrase bank" to be used when describing each country.

Posted by: Deborah White | Feb 3, 2005 11:19:48 AM

Why would people voting in Iraq be any different than people voting in Sweden? Are you really asking that? What planet are you from?

No, I ask again, what is the difference? Exactly how dumb do you think the people who live in the Middle East are? You think they don't know what voting is and they need our help to teach them? As a matter of fact unless things magically get way, way, better for the people in Iraq it's going to make Saddam look like the lesser of two evils.

All the candidates were in fact vetted and told that they were acceptable only if they did not ask for an immediate withdrawl of U.S. troops.

We are so damn dumb. In what way at all does any of this differ from Chechen elections? When they go down we sit around and scoff at how any credible candidate could be elected in a military occupation and how the guy who is elected is obviously a collaborator and Russian stooge. It's so easy to see when it's someone else.

They did not have elections in East Timor before the Indonesians left for this obvious reason. They had an up or down on the Indonesians leaving first then had an election. That would be credible. This is nothing.

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 3, 2005 11:25:54 AM

All the candidates were in fact vetted and told that they were acceptable only if they did not ask for an immediate withdrawl of U.S. troops.

*snicker*

No WONDER there is a shortage of tin foil! Absynthe's cornered the market!

Posted by: Al | Feb 3, 2005 11:50:45 AM

Yeah. It came to me through my fillings.

Oh, wait. No it came through my goddamn car radio which was airing an interview with I believe the Washington Post Iraq guy who said he had been told that both by candidates and the U.S. military.

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 3, 2005 12:00:17 PM

Yeah. It came to me through my fillings.

Oh, wait. No it came through my goddamn car radio which was airing an interview with I believe the Washington Post Iraq guy who said he had been told that both by candidates and the U.S. military.


How can you tell the difference?

Posted by: Al | Feb 3, 2005 12:02:54 PM

Al, do you understand what "No timetable for withdrawal" means?

Remember that's the official position and it's not going to be changed by a bunch of Iraqis. That would no doubt embolden the terrorists right?

We are certainly not going to allow a bunch of Iraqis to endanger themselves by emboldening the terrorists are we?

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 3, 2005 12:11:07 PM

Whenever I say something several times, it's to hammer the message in. I believe that this is what President Bush is doing. Yes, they're probably working with catchphrases, but worthy ones that need repeating, even for the 95% of the population that doesn't have attention deficit disorder. Keep ON MESSAGE. Give the people hope, put moral pressure on the administrations.

Posted by: Dave | Feb 3, 2005 12:20:09 PM

One other cute point, if the National Assembly does get a wild hair up it's ass and go back on their deal they cut with the U.S. we still have a handpicked Supreme Court to strike down anything we don't like.

It's a farce.

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 3, 2005 12:22:20 PM

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