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Do something; do anything.... UPDATE

...or maybe do nothing.

Fast-moving events in Egypt have been front page headlines (and the New York Times has done a great job with its daily coverage; bravo David Kirpatrick and Kareem Fahim).

The Obama administration has been somewhat less fast-moving. There are desultory discussions about whether the Egyptian military staged a coup requiring the U.S. to cut aid along with questions asking if this is any way to run a democracy. On Friday, July 5, in the midst of the crisis, President Obama played golf (and Congress men and women probably did the same or equivalent). Secretary of State John Kerry was caught out sailing on July 4. Is this any way for the indispensible nation to behave?

I'm inclined to find the U.S. hanging back on Egypt refreshing. (I bracket the question of what the CIA et al may be doing!) Here's the Washington story in the Times (July 6).

For those following the crisis, Juan Cole looks at the divisions among Middle Eastern governments over the Egyptian coup: Though concluding that they are all over the place, he points to two main contingents: "Those who would want to be rescued from an ascendant Muslim Brotherhood in their own country– the GCC, Iraq and Syria — tended to support Adly Mansour and Gen. al-Sisi. Countries whose rulers saw themselves as participating in Morsi’s brand of democratic fundamentalism–Turkey and Tunisia– angrily denounced the events as an illegitimate coup."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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If, heaven help us, the situation in Egypt descends into violence, and even civil war, will we stand on the side of liberalism (i.e., secularism against political and cultural Islam) or on the side of democracy (i.e. Morsi and his people who did, after all, win the vote)? I suppose in real life we'll twist and turn in order to avoid that choice. I'm pretty sure that's what I'd do.

In the meantime, our liberal representative here in Vermont (Peter Welch) has teamed up with a bipartisan group including, mirabile dictu, Michelle Bachmann, to try to have no aid to Syria without a congressional authorization.

To do what most people would want the US to do will require (1) tax increases and, eventually (2) reintroduction of the draft.

Are you folks ready to rumble?

Will our failed interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan underline the enormous difficulties in intevening in cultures for which we seem to have little understanding and no affinity. Even our diplomats who presumably speak the language and have studied the culture are striking out. Ann Patterson in Egypt being the current example.

Margaret, is the Israeli government foursquare with the Egyptian military in all this?  I.e. delighted about recent events?

Foursquare? I don't know. I have read that the Egyptian military will observe the peace treaty with Israel (for which they receive billions from the U.S.; they are the second largest recipient of aid after Israel, which is why threats to end the aid are highly problematic...and unlikely to go anywhere). The Egyptians have closed the Rafah crossing to Gaza which might draw Hamas into the Morsi fight (according to Haaretz; story here).

I am wondering if the Israelis are standing back from both Syria and Egypt because if Arabs are fighting one another they can't be fighting Israel as well. In the meantime, the settlements grow larger, and the Palestinian "state" grows smaller. If I were a Palestinian in Gaza or the West Bank, I'd might be thinking with Arab friends like these, who needs enemies.

Jim Pauwels: A more direct answer to your question at AFP: "According to a senior US official quoted by Haaretz newspaper, Israel's top political echelon had engaged in "marathon phone calls" with Washington over the weekend, warning that any suspension of aid could impact on Israel's security and even undermine its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and Israel's National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror consulted with his US counterpart, Susan Rice, he said.

"The Israelis warned that cutting military aid to Egypt would likely impact negatively on Israel's security, especially given the possibility of further security deterioration in Sinai. They also warned that halting the aid could undermine Israel's peace treaty with Egypt," the paper said.

"US aid to Egypt, which began as a direct result of the treaty, has continued uninterrupted since 1979, and Israel fears any chance in US policy could undermine the Egyptian army's commitment to the treaty."

So long as the U.S. automatically supports Israel no matter how it behaves the Muslim countries are going to hate us, and with some reason.  We then become the whipping boy for Muslims frustrated with their own dysfunctional governments, the terrorist groups flourish and our influence for good in the region is practically nil.  

We won't win anything anytime anywhere in the Middle East until we show that we are not automatic supporters of Israel.

Both your points well taken: today's Times gives an account of the rivalries among Arab countries over Egypt, Syria, and Iran. The Times story.

Look at this Ha'aretz story about Israel's newly named ambassador, Ron Dermer, to the U.S.; former U.S. citizen, Romney supporter, and Neocon. Talk about sticking it to Obama. Oh yes, he's opposed to a Palestinian state. Why are we enablers (excuse the psychobabble) for such egregious behavior by Netanyahu who appointed him?  Here is Ha'aretz.  Mainstream U.S. Jewish organizations are said to welcome his appointment. Again Haaretz.

As in this country the most cogent issue is the economy. And food. Morsi seemed to break some laws. That is where the focus should be. In a new democracy in Egypt is there any proviso for impeachment or the like? People fear the law of the jungle which appears to be going on in Afghanistan and to some extent Pakistan. Democracy cannot be the option at any cost. Look at India which allows horrific treatment of the disadvantaged. That is not a democracy. US intervention is no option. The article Peggy  references tells of "checkbook diplomacy" by the Saudis and Qatar. The US is always using checkbook diplomacy. Is that the model for a democracy. American hypocrisy can be repulsive. Especially now that the one percent gains disproportianately while too many people are barely making it with two or three jobs.  (and renovating 187 million dollar Cathedrals).

Today's NY Times reports that the bureacracy in Egypt made things difficult, like electricity and fuel,  so that Morsi would fail. Now things are suddenly better. The US is great because it was and still is a land of opportunity. Yet it took a hundred years after the Civil War for Afro-Americans to gain their rights. In so many ways justice is available in the courts only if you can pay for it. Many neocons prefer Mosbarek type rule to democracy. "Benevolent" dictatorship, of cours.

So democracy in Egypt is not over. Lesson might have been learn for the next round.

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