Monday, January 31, 2011

On Egypt

My explanation for all the brouhaha: it's just a slow news week and the major dailies have nothing better to talk about just now. (See, I got sucked into it, too.)

If there's an op-ed explaining why we should care what happens in Egypt I haven't seen it yet, and I read 12 major publications daily.

They have little oil and no nuclear weapons. They haven't been a friend of the U.S. when it counts for many years, if ever. (Even granting the dubious proposition that countries can have 'friends' rather than just strategic, and ever-shifting, alliances.)

What's the worst that could happen? Are they going to export still more jihad to the U.S. or Afghanistan or Iraq? As if Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan don't already have that covered? Could even an Islamic theocracy block the Suez Canal for more than a day, without the government being blasted to rubble?

(Aside: by international treaty the Canal is open to all in peace and war and the other thugs in the region use it, too. And if they did block it, wouldn't that be a great excuse to blast an Islamic theocracy away? Not that we would do it, but the Russkies would, without hesitation.)

Sincere best of luck to those in Egypt who want freedom, all five of them. The rest are no concern of ours.

[Update 2/2/2011]

Daniel Pipes, who knows a thing or two about the Middle East, offers some helpful background and perspective.

P.S. Kind of interesting how Obama did nothing whatever to support the clear call for freedom in Iran when the moment came. Now, when no one knows what the hell the Egyptian people want, but an Islamic theocracy is the odds on favorite, he's all over it. The guy is a true Anti.

P.P.S. Happy to eat my words if someone can clue me in why all this is important.


Anonymous said...

Economically: "Middle East has two thirds of world oil reserves and almost half of the gas reserves. So political instability there impacts global economies/markets." - Nouriel Roubini

If Egypt becomes allied with Iran, it could embolden them to attack Israel. Even if not, it will lead to a deterioration of the current more relatively Western-friendly 'moderate' Egypt into an anti-West, anti-Israel one. As ties break down between the West and Middle East, and the anti-West alliance grows stronger, this could encourage more Middle Eastern nations to become more aligned with such an alliance. Imagine 80% of the Middle East, destroying Israel, and turned entirely against the West; that could affect global stability.

Jeff Perren said...

Valid points, but how relevant?

Egypt has none of those reserves, so Roubini's point is beside the point here.

Egypt - and every other Middle Eastern country (except Israel) - is already effectively allied with Iran. They're all Muslim, they all hate the U.S. and Israel, and they all support (and/or practice) Islamic theocracy. The relative degree of Egyptian 'friendliness' is, so far as I've observed over the past 30 years, minimal, expensive, and of no practical value.

Besides, once the Nazis had Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France, did it matter much that they conquered Belgium (except to the Belgians, of course)?

Jeff Wood said...

As I understand it, Egypt is fundamentally broke. Today I read that since the peace deal between Israel and Egypt, you in the US have been keeping the country solvent. Do you, in effect, pay for their army?

I buy Egyptian potatoes, and recall other vegetables and fruit from there can be found in European shops.

In the last fifteen years a decent tourist industry has grown up. It survived massacres by Islamists, but I suspect it will suffer for some time now.

I don't recall there is much else, but two thousand years ago the country was the breadbasket of the Mediterranean.

Nasser's army was paid for by the Soviets. Not sure that Egypt today is much of a threat to Israel, unless the Saudis decide to replace the USSR and the US. Unlikely.

Jeff Perren said...

About $1.5B annually (over $28B since 1975), according to what I read.

I can envision Iran stepping up to the plate with the cash if the Muslim Brotherhood (or even El Baradei) gets a large role in the future government.

Bad as that would be, as I said in the post, I can't see that one more Iran, Jr would make much difference since they have no oil or nukes. Once the Nazis conquered Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France, did it make much difference that they took Belgium (except to the Belgians, of course)?

Jeff Wood said...

An interesting reference, Jeff: so, you keep the Egyptian Army operating.

The Army will try to be conscious of every nuance of White House policy (and good luck with that).

If I heard correctly that President Obama is nonchalant about the Muslim Brotherhood being involved in government - preparatory I suppose to an Islamist takeover, if they can manage it - it seems to me that the Army is in a spot.

It is interesting that the Army is suddenly fairly gentle with the demonstrators, even apparently protecting them from government thugs. I am not at all sure what it means.

Jeff Perren said...

"I am not at all sure what it means."

Me either.

Michael said...

completely off topic, Jeff I was reading in an old post of yours about how environmentalism (the political movement) is undergirded by a more fundamentally irrational view called viro-paganism, an ancient religion (think Druids) newly reborn at the end of the 19th century.

would it be possible to expand on that in a future post? thanks

Jeff Perren said...

Sure, Michael; I love requests!

When I have some spare time, I'll dig out an article I wrote a couple of years ago for Free Radical magazine and post the relevant portion(s).