Archive for February, 2011

Egypt, Iran and the Regional Civil War to Come

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Egypt, Iran and the Regional Civil War to Come

Posted at http://jaygaskill.com/CivilWarInIslam.htm

&

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Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

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Egypt, Iran and the Regional Civil War to Come

The Middle East is coming unglued. The turbulence smells a lot like the first stirrings of a regional civil war.  If my analysis is correct, the question we should be asking is — Who wins this struggle?  The fate of civilization may hang in the balance.

I fanatics prevail, a nuclear armed fundamentalist Islamic empire (don’t be confused by the term caliphate) will emerge.  The M*A*D balance of atomic Armageddon vs. détente of the Cold War will seem like a pleasant dream.  Substitute deterrence through Mutually Assured Destruction for mutually assured martyrdom and you will glimpse the scope and gravity of the risks that are just presenting themselves…even to the New York Times editorial staff.

Sadly, too few of our opinion leaders, and a vanishingly small cohort of the young Twitteration, have taken any well-taught courses that combine political science and the relevant history of the American and European experience in the 20th century.

It is all about the power of organization and the organization of power.

In times of social, economic and political turmoil, the first apparent victories go to a subgroup that is organized around one or two unifying ideas and whose leaders have created a clever organizational strategy.  But there always are parasitic or temporarily allied subgroups waiting to exploit the inevitable first opportunity to fill a leadership gap.   These groups tend to operate in a stealth mode in which a “front group” – often employing sincerely reasonable types – conceals a ruthless inner core.  These are the ruling-ideologues-in-waiting.  The difference between having one or two unifying ideas and a full on ideology is the capacity or lack thereof to inspire enduring commitment and the moral (immoral) capacity to ruthlessly cull the ranks of the apostates when the time comes.  This is why ideologues tend to win the ultimate victory.

The ruthless jihadist planners do not need a Marx or a Hitler to generate a faux-scientific ideology.  Theycome pre-equipped with an atavistic pre-scientific one.  The vision of a pan-Arab superpower is dying (because Iran is not Arab) in favor of a pan-Muslim Empire – in effect the Fourth Reich.  This has been bubbling under the surface for decades.  The unifying notion of a common enemy, the hated Jews and their tiny, unreasonably successful country, has not succeeded in producing the necessary sense of unity.  But the rapid achievement of unity-in-power will do the trick nicely.  All that is needed is for Egypt, Iran and Pakistan to unite, and the rest will follow like a catastrophic flood that follows the collapse of an aging dam.

We in the West do not have to accept the realistic plausibility of this dark vision to appreciate its immense persuasive power among the resentful and power-deprived Muslim males of the region.

The West has traded its colonial role as the carrier of modernity to the unwashed for survivor guilt.  As a result of that experience, the moral self confidence of the western democracies, taken as a whole, has collapsed.  This has effectively gutted the West’s effective will to tenaciously and intelligently respond to the rapidly escalating threat.  Taken collectively, the developed Western democracies are much like an old woman with a cane walking in a thug infested neighborhood.  Western culture has advanced osteoporosis of the spine.

There is a truly Western ideology with the power to inspire an effective response to this crisis.  Its roots are in the Renaissance.  Its core organizational structure was first manifest in the American constitutional system.  What remains is the simple task of connecting the dots.  The starting point is a concise, carefully thought out essay, CREATIVITY & SURVIVAL, 17 pages long, a PDF download linked at < http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf >.

We are the wave of the future, unless we allow ourselves to become so demoralized that we simply give up our legacy and shrink into the hedonistic bubble of comfortable denial.

This is well beyond liberal and conservative squabbles, but it requires the liberals to jettison the America-hating left and the conservatives to shun the isolationist right.  We can hope for an American Churchill, but we can make do with someone who is simply brazen enough to speak moral and practical truth to cupidity.

JBG

ARE YOU BORED WITH EGYPT YET?

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

ARE YOU BORED WITH EGYPT YET?

Print version as posted in HTM format, LINK:

http://jaygaskill.com/BoredWithEgypt.htm

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And

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All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

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The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

ARE YOU BORED WITH EGYPT YET?

YES, I AM STILL CLINGING TO HOPE.

An Exiled Muslim Cleric Takes the Stage in EGYPT

New York Times – 2-19-11

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/world/middleeast/19egypt.html?_r=1&hp

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric who is banned from the United States and Britain for supporting violence against Israel and American forces in Iraq, delivered his first public sermon here in 50 years on Friday, emerging as a powerful voice in the struggle to shape what kind of Egyptian state emerges from….

So it begins.

Think about how far we have come from the heady days of innocent idealism.

From

Investor’s Daily OP Ed

“Obama invited 10 Brotherhood leaders to hear his ‘New Beginning’ speech to the world’s Muslims in Cairo in mid-2009. In that speech, Obama snubbed Mubarak, adding that ‘people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind’ and ‘government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people.’

“You just can’t say such things in a country with thousands of political prisoners — and under an army-enforced state of emergency since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat — and not expect trouble.”

[…]

“Majority rule without liberty amounts to the tyranny of the majority — a chilling prospect in the Mideast. But it’s the only ‘democracy’ the Brotherhood will back.”

LINK – http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/562996/201102111907/Egypts-Flight.htm?

EGYPT’S MILITARY, AN ECONOMIC GIANT, NOW IN CHARGE

San Francisco Chronicle 2-13-11

[The Egyptian military] “owns companies that sell everything from fire extinguishers and medical equipment to laptops, televisions, sewing machines, refrigerators, pots and pans, butane gas bottles, bottled water and olive oil.

“Its holdings include vast tracts of land, including the Sharm el-Sheikh resort, where ex-President Hosni Mubarak now resides in one of his seaside palaces. Bread from its bakeries has helped head off food riots.
“In a September 2008 classified cable recently released by WikiLeaks, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey wrote, ‘We see the military’s role in the economy as a force that generally stifles free market reform by increasing direct government involvement in the markets.’ The cable noted ‘the military’s strong influence in Egypt’s economy,’ with military-owned companies, often run by retired generals, ‘particularly active in the water, olive oil, cement, construction, hotel and gasoline industries.’

“As for the civilian government’s privatization initiatives – headed by Mubarak’s son Gamal before he was ousted from his party post – they were viewed ‘as a threat to (the military’s) economic position, (which) therefore generally opposes economic reforms,’ according to the cable.

Business News

Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle Section D 7

LINK http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/13/BU1V1HLVP6.DTL&type=business

The overall effect of the Obama administration’s actions was to promote a military coup.  That action, dissolving parliament and nullifying the national constitution has opened a door through which an even worse tyranny can enter under the cover of legitimacy.  As I have argued from the beginning, the pathway to a real democracy in Egypt requires fruitful economic development, the rule of law, including constitutional continuity.  The economic fascism of the military, the real reason for the generals’ demand that Gamal Mubarak not be allowed to succeed his father, goes a long way to explain events.

All of that acknowledged, there is a solid basis for hope, provided that we in the West, and the key members of this administration achieve a balance between tough minded prudence and loopy idealism.

What this means is an about face in core attitudes and approaches, something already in play in Germany, France and the UK, but not yet in the USA:  We need a tough, unsentimental insistence on the outcome of a quasi-democratic process, instead of a giddy obsession with gesture and appearances.

In Egypt’s case, this means a hard-edged Kissingeresque realpolitik that leavens and adds spine to the West’s approach to change in the Middle East.  We cannot get to a peaceful balance in that region (yes, it teeters on the edge of a regional “civil war”), without a clear eyed objective, to wit: a freedom-friendly, version of Islamic rule, committed to creative change.

And here’s the rub: The only kind of Islamic rule that will work as an engine of creative change does not yet exist anywhere in the world. Among its features: (1) Economic liberalism as against theocratic or kleptocratic socialism; (2) A commitment to religious freedom that absolutely forbids force, violence, repression and intimidation of Christians, Jews and the softer versions of Islam such as the banned Sufi sects; (3) The recognition of the moral and juridical legitimacy of Israel, seen, not through the religious lens as the hated Jewish enclave, but through the lens of a fellow haven for creative economic, technological and cultural forces.

Without moral and practical clarity there is no progress.  Without a sense of history there is no balance.  Without moral and practical courage the forces of good will be rolled.

Where is that old, fire breathing liberal, Winston Churchill, when we need him?

JBG

The Great American Comeback

Friday, February 11th, 2011

By Jay B Gaskill

Author of Hemingway, Two & a Half Menhttp://jaygaskill.com/CelebratingEarnestly.pdf

DOT 2 DOT

As Published On

→The Dot to Dot Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.dot2dot

And

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

Otherwise,

The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

Print Version in HTM format — http://jaygaskill.com/BrokeredTrust.htm

STAGING THE

GREAT AMERICAN COMEBACK

An Exercise in Reality

By

Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

][ – ][ – ][

Once upon a time a great city, called Neverpay, thrived on an island in the shadow of a towering mountain.  The aboriginal founders called it Mt. Paymenow.

As time passed, geologists who studied Mt. Paymenow discovered some frightening features.  The towering mountain was unstable and eventually and inevitably was destined to fall and smother the entire city, burying every person and structure under a suffocating layer of debris  – not one living thing could survive.

Hearing these reports, some citizens of Neverpay chose to seek offshore refuges, hoping to survive the predicted Great Collapse.  But the geologists warned that the collapse of Mt. Paymenow would generate a huge wave that would swamp everything within rowing distance.  As the warnings of the geologists spread though the city, about half the population became fatalistic and the other half were consumed with panic.  Political paralysis ensued.

The day of reckoning drew closer and closer.

][ – ][ – ][

Unless the reader is severely metaphorically challenged, the broad outlines of the looming fiscal crisis facing the US are evident in this little fable.  The difference, of course, is that we have created the mountain of indebtedness that towers over the entire economy.  Therefore, we are still in a position to take it down.

In point of fact, the entire US debt, structural, long term, projected and immediate, so far exceeds our ability to pay, that any silver bullet solution looks like something constructed of that magic 22nd century substance, Unobtainium.  We are told that the US government has obligated itself to pay back the staggering sum of 14 trillion dollars.  But this sum is actually far lower than the actual amount, when all currently mandated entitlement spending is factored in.

“In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, Dr. Nouriel Roubini, one of the foremost economists monitoring the global financial and economic crisis, warns of  grave dangers facing the public budgetary imbalance of the United States. ‘The fiscal problem is very serious. The bond vigilantes have not yet woken up in the U.S. in the way they have in the Eurozone. Unless the U.S. addresses this fiscal problem, we’re going to see a train wreck.’

“Roubini in the past has supported the vast budget deficits of governments and monetary loosening of central banks as a painful but necessary measure by advanced economies to redress the damage resulting form the financial and economic collapse of 2008. Even then, he warned that there was no free lunch, and that policymakers would have to present a credible plan for withdrawing stimulus and monetary easing and curtailing their levels of public debt. Now, with a full-fledged sovereign debt crisis raging in Europe and the U.S. trapped with a structural mega-deficit, Roubini and other perceptive economists are clearly worried about the unsustainable budgetary imbalance of the U.S. federal government. Indeed, a day of reckoning is coming closer, with no cogent remedies on the horizon. It is becoming far more likely that a fiscal train wreck is a future destination for the U.S. economy, and that future may not be long delayed.”

LINK: http://www.globaleconomiccrisis.com/blog/archives/1280

But the scariest of these scenarios are unnecessarily dire because they lump together everything the USA owes, including our promises to the entitlement beneficiaries among us, all in one large pot.  When we project the consequences of inaction, the disaster looks both inevitable and catastrophic.   This is a bit like a picture of a race car heading down the side of a hill at 120 mph into a turn that cannot be made at a speed faster than 30 mph.

Only if we assume that the brakes are not applied soon enough, the predictions of disaster will be realized.  But we are not speed-crazed automatons.

Assuming someone wakes up in time to apply the brakes, a deeply sobering picture still remains – one analogous to the race drives, dazed and injured, abandoned by the roadside never to drive again.

This bind is all about the consequences of broken trust. Do we break out commitments all at once in a bankruptcy, dishonor them serially or allow the fallout to start a world war?

Did I use the term bankruptcy?  Of course there is no official mechanism for a sovereign bankruptcy on the scale of a superpower, but we have seen one in our lifetime.  The collapse of the Soviet Union was a de facto bankruptcy because the old sovereign ceased to be, voiding treaties, debts and other arrangements.  This, of course, did not mean that anyone would be willing to lend the new Russia a dime.  That we perceived such “help” to be in our national interest was a unique circumstance.  Would China continue to lend?  Would Europe?  Would the Saudi princes?

Or…do we suck it up and stage a comeback? Just because that is a no-brainer option, does not guarantee its timely adoption by the no-brains living inside the Beltway…

Just what would the Great American Comeback look like?  Imagine living in a world where the following measures are actually implemented over a five year period.

1.  We begin by sharply and candidly distinguishing between our structural, entitlement-driven fiscal reckoning, and the immediate hemorrhage, by agreeing to defer the former while committing without delay to begin hard-nosed implementation of a robust and realistic plan to accomplish the latter.

2.  The immediate hemorrhage (the fact that the US is currently borrowing half of its spending, while attempting to “monetize the outstanding indebtedness” with fed. fiat money) is so dramatically unsustainable, even over the next four fiscal years, that it must be fully staunched well before then. Only when that looming reality drives a working political consensus will there be hope for the Great American Comeback.

3.  Staunching the bleeding means arriving at a new plateau of serially balanced budgets, hopefully without adding crippling taxes that institutionalize the current low level of productive economic activity.  If we are not very careful we risk producing a chronic state of recession, bordering on a “new normal” in which we accept 8 to 10% unemployment as the best we can do.

4. Realistically, the required austerity measures will involve the wholesale slashing of entire sectors of government spending, or the across the board, pro-rata reduction of salaries and benefits, or a brutal combination of each.  Unless overall economic activity can somehow be increased, government revenues (adjusted for inflation) will not increase. If taxes are increased, there is a real existential threat that overall income-generating economic activities will be suppressed.  The taxation solution creates a classic “Catch 22” trap. To put it mildly, the problem requires an as-yet unrealized level of maturity on the part of policy makers inside the Beltway.

5. IF the federal government’s measures to staunch the arterial bleeding take hold, the government will need to quickly open up the private sector to investment, profit-making enterprises.  This is actually not difficult to implement on a policy level – the obstacles are entrenched ideological and political interests.  The reason that such a “capitalist opening” could happen at all is a psychological one.  The same sense of urgency and purpose that will finally generate the political climate for stemming the hemorrhage will also support a great reopening to capitalist expansion.  The policy measures are well known among free market economists:  During a time window long enough to lure investors to the table (ten years or more), we deliberately return to the regulatory atmosphere of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, allowing exceptions only for those clearly necessary measures to protect against fraud and non-speculative threats to public health.  Wide open exploitation of natural resources will be coupled with an export tax, the revenue from which will be taxed at a flat rate and diverted exclusively to US debt reduction.

6. But the task of staunching the hemorrhage will mean overcoming huge opposition from public sector unions.  The starting point will be across-the-board public sector salary reductions.  “But resignations will follow”, some warn: So much the better for the public fisc.  Top positions like POTUS, Agency and Department heads and members of congress will take a 40% cut in pay (leaving only the non-retirement benefits intact).  Nothing short of a step that dramatic will open the way for the other necessary measures.  All other federal employees, excepting active duty military, would then take a 20% cut.  Fierce union and interest group opposition is to be expected, but there will be opposition from conservatives as well, because (do the math) some tax increases will be also needed.  We should use the opportunity to move in the direction of a flatter, more stable income tax system, with a single iron clad commitment:  All new taxes must be applied to reduce the indebtedness.  One possible exception: To prevent further erosion in the military, we enact a carefully crafted War Tax, administered with complete and integrity to support actual combat readiness and strength.  As an overall firewall:  All tax increases will have a ten year sunset. Re-regulation will not occur in any instance without an economic impact statement and a 25 month sunset.

7.  Entitlement reform must begin as the austerity plan is implemented.  It necessarily will have several elements.  The overarching goal is to migrate as swiftly as practicable away from defined benefits packages to an available, funded-benefits system in which anyone who is a net aggregate recipient (thinking of the retirees who have already received more that they paid in) will receive means-tested benefits reductions.  For political and moral reasons, the Social Security piece should be staged such that current recipients 65 or older are not be forced to migrate to a different system.  The cleanest way to reform the drug entitlement piece is to tie co-payments to a mix of means-testing and a pro-rata increase in deductibles and co-pays, as available (i.e., not borrowed) government resources require.  The Medicare system is too complex to address in a few lines, but, again means-testing and a shift to a self-pay with a sliding scale deductible – reimbursement arrangement is clearly necessary

8. Overall, the best strategy to address the support load of an aging population is to work the problem from two ends.

(a)    Initiate a bottom-to-top revamping of the entire US employment system, using and changing incentives and disincentives to recruit as many as possible older citizens into economically productive activities, whether full time or part time. Total retirement should never be required before the age of 80, except as actual medical conditions dictate.  And the choice should not otherwise be between full time employment and no employment at all.  There are too many elements of this to summarize, but note the implications for age discrimination and pensions.

(b)   At the other end, the number of fresh, younger taxpaying economically productive workers in all fields needs to be ramped up.  This means that immigration policies need to be radically revamped.  A single criterion should dominate over all of the national origin, ethnic, political and social ones:  The in-migrant’s prospective economic contribution to the US economy and his or her demonstrated willingness to remain a law-abiding, well assimilated member of our polity.

9. The American people are still willing to endure considerable hardship whenever two conditions are met:  [1] Leaders endowed with credibility lay out the truth about the real situation and outline a plausible path out of the pit. [2] That same leadership cohort has unquestioned honesty and competence.  These criteria cannot be met by most of the talking heads in Washington, DC, let alone our POTUS.   Nevertheless, the truth-telling and the Comeback Plan need to be aired now.

10.  Life is never perfect and the best solutions are rarely even close to perfect.  Among the attitude adjustments needed to bring off the Great American Comeback are the attainment of confidence with humility, and the persistent pursuit of the attainable optimum instead of the divisive struggle for unattainable utopias.

[][][]

Some Related Articles by Jay B Gaskill

The Great Keynesian Collapse of 2008

http://jaygaskill.com/KeynsianCollapse.pdf

Lancing the Bubble http://jaygaskill.com/AmericanBubble.htm

BREAKOUT 1.0 http://jaygaskill.com/Breakout1.0.htm

BREAKOUT 2.0 http://jaygaskill.com/Breakout2.0.htm

BREAKOUT 3.0 http://jaygaskill.com/BREAKOUT3.0.htm

American Dream, American Nightmare http://jaygaskill.com/AmericanDreamAmericanNightmare.htm

Bernanke’s Gamble http://jaygaskill.com/BernankeGamble.htm

The Fiscal Trap is Real http://jaygaskill.com/BlackWeekendHeadsUp.htm

China and Paul Krugman http://jaygaskill.com/ChinaKrugmanGreatAdjustment.htm

CHINA INC.

http://jaygaskill.com/ChinaInc.htm

http://jaygaskill.com/ChinaInc2.htm

http://jaygaskill.com/China3.htm

Crash Warning http://jaygaskill.com/CrashWarning.htm

Also

Read “Creativity and Survival” at http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.htm

And Stay Tuned for the Sequel in MARCH

WHILE THE ADMINISTRATION TWITTERS, EGYPT TEETERS AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS

Monday, February 7th, 2011

DOT 2 DOT

As Published On

→The Dot to Dot Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.dot2dot

And

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

Otherwise,

The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

This piece is posted on the Policy Think Site at http://jaygaskill.com/PostTwitterPatedLeaders.htm

WHILE THE ADMINISTRATION TWITTERS,

EGYPT TEETERS AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS

Commentary

By

Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

Reading and sending tweets and texts doesn’t generate enough information (and – dare I say – wisdom) to save Western civilization in a time of crisis.

Our Twitterpated Administration may be nuancing itself into an epic disaster in the Middle East.

Let’s start with our peripatetic secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, a formidable personality whose Sisyphean assignments for this administration have stretched her to the limits of human capacity. Our SecState confessed in an interview yesterday that she just tumbled to the Egyptian constitutional problem last week.

See today’s New York Times, Warning Against Hasty Exit for Mubarak, where we learn that —

“Mr. Mubarak’s resignation now would set off a chain of events, Mrs. Clinton said. Under the Constitution — a document she conceded not having thought about before this week — the speaker of Parliament would step in as a caretaker president, followed by quick elections.” [!!!}

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/world/middleeast/07diplo.html?_r=1&ref=world

This is no small matter.  If President Mubarak is abruptly swept away without a stable successor, then power passes, under the Egyptian Constitution (the law of the land), to a parliamentary functionary from the president’s party, and new elections are required within 60 days.  This is a recipe for disaster.  The disingenuous-or-naïve (take your pick) opposition, led by the not-very-trustworthy figurehead, Mohamed ElBaradei[1], are pushing for an alternative that would have the entire country floating without a constitution for a year while the various forces in play sort things out, possibly generating a new constitution, possibly electing strong, rational new leaders, committed to all in the context of a simmering caldron of Islamic unrest.  This is another recipe for disaster, potentially an epic one if the ensuing controlled chaos slips its bounds and we are forced to witness a rerun of Iran’s transition to a the playground of lunatic mullahs.

We will have traded a brutal, autocratic ally that exercised a minimal, but admirable attention to women’s rights and religious freedom, to a brutal theocracy willing to upend the balance of peace in the entire region.

A fracture has appeared in the administration, one in which some voices can be heard over the president’s fogball ambiguities to sound the caution:  Hold on to Mr. Mubarak for the time being in order to assure constitutional continuity and the rule of law.

Mr. Obama’s special envoy to Egypt, Frank G Weisner, who recently met with Mr. Mubarak, essentially said the same publicly on Sunday (evidently without mentioning the constitutional continuity rationale), only to have his comments disavowed by the administration.
“The US state department has distanced itself from comments by a US special envoy, to the effect that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should stay in office during a power transition.” Spokesman Philip Crowley said Frank Wisner’s views were “his own, and not co-ordinated with the US government.” 2-4-2011

This remarkable outbreak of public incoherence was followed by some backpedaling damage control from Secretary Clinton who was finding the president’s – “We’re having it both ways” – stance hard to maintain, and even harder to explain.  As the NYT reports today, “While Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Wisner ‘does not speak for the administration or the government, she did not contradict much of his message.”  She might have added, but dared not, that Mrs. Clinton does not speak for the administration either.

In the fragile days after the adoption of the US constitution, Ben Franklin famously remarked that “This is a republic if we can keep it.”  We did.  The continuity of the rule of law is as important to Egypt in the 21st century as it was to America in the 17th century.

These days, our republic is reasonably secure, but our constitution is less so.  I am an admirer of Senator McCain’s grasp of national security imperatives but not of his grasp of the American constitution.  His co-sponsorship of the Senate resolution last Thursday calling for Mubarak to hand over power to a transitional government was an irresponsible exercise in symbolism.  It was of a piece with his constitutional malpractice in the McCain Feingold Campaign Reform act in 2002.  When Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority that struck down its unconstitutional provisions, “Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity. No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations,” he was restating mainstream first amendment law.  Justice Kennedy was articulating a First Amendment doctrine that the old liberals on the High Court, the First Amendment hawks like Justice William O Douglas, would have readily affirmed.  I fear that the McCain constitutional blind spot is a general condition – it has infected Foggy Bottom and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If Ben Franklin were alive today, I can imagine him reminding us, “We have a constitution, if we can keep it.”  Ultimately if the world’s first constitutional revolutionary republic cannot keep to the rule of law founded in a robust constitution, the moral authority of its principles and example  on the world stage will dissipate into irrelevance.

We can’t twitter our way back into the position of “Leader of the Free World”.

JBG

In February 1951, Ernest Hemingway finished his draft of The Old Man and the Sea. In today’s politically correct environment would Hemingway be recognized or reviled?  See Jay Gaskill’s “Celebrating Ernest” at http://www.jaygaskill.com/CelebratingEarnest.pdf .

Readers might also want to visit, Creativity and Survival, an important essay for our time, at http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf

And Thugology 101, at http://jaygaskill.com/THUGOLOGY101.pdf


[1] Aside from this former UN official’s reluctance (some say willful reluctance) to acknowledge the existence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, another caution has to be noted:  There are credible reports that agents of the Iranian regime are actively supporting him as Egypt’s next leader.

BROTHERS IN BLOOD: Unclear Intentions or Dangerous Complacency?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

DOT 2 DOT

As Published On

→The Dot to Dot Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.dot2dot

And

→The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2011 by Jay B. Gaskill

LINK TO THIS ARTICLE OR FORWARD IT TO OTHER READERS, AS YOU WISH.

Also feel free to PRINT IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE….

Otherwise,

The author’s permission to publish all or part of this article is needed.

License to print copies for use in group discussions is usually given on request.

For all permissions, comments or questions, please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

Read this article in htm format as posted on the Policy Think Site at his link:

http://jaygaskill.com/BrothersInBlood.htm

BROTHERS IN BLOOD:

Unclear Intentions or Dangerous Complacency?

Analysis and Commentary

By

Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

Militant Islam is a toxic assault on Western civilization so serious and multi-focal that, unchecked, it will eventually drive the West in to a corner from which only two options will present themselves:  suicide or general war.

In every such historic moment there are Churchillian voices that, if only they are heard and heeded, can avert the worst outcomes.  But the ambivalence and naiveté of the New York Times AND the seeming naiveté of this administration is a very dangerous sign.

Imagine, if you will, that the year is 1932 and the major newspaper of the day runs the following header:

As Hitler’s National Socialist Group rises, Its Intentions Are Unclear

Please compare today’s New York Times:

As Islamist Group Rises, Its Intentions Are Unclear

By Scott Shane

2/3/11

LINK:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/world/middleeast/04brotherhood.html?_r=1&ref=world

“We demand that this regime is overthrown, and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions,” the Brotherhood said in a statement”

Allow me to digress for a reality check.

The Muslim Brotherhood was formed by Al-Banna, a devout admirer of Adolf Hitler. Al-Banna strongly supported the new Nazi Party.  The Muslim Brotherhood became a secret arm of Nazi Intelligence. One goal of the Third Reich was to develop the Muslim Brotherhood as an army inside Egypt. The Nazi-Islamist nexus was well known at the time and ran deep.  Hundreds of thousands of Muslims fought for Nazi Germany in Waffen SS Divisions, serving in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Balkans, North Africa, Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, and the Middle East.

Now examine the New York Times’ take:

“The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is the oldest and largest Islamist movement in the world, with affiliates in most Muslim countries and adherents in Europe and the United States.  Its size and diversity, and the legal ban that has kept it from genuine political power in Egypt for decades, make it hard to characterize

“The Brotherhood includes both practical reformers and firebrand ideologues.

Which of those tendencies might rise to dominance in a new Egypt is under intense discussion inside the Obama administration, where officials say they may be willing to consult with the Brotherhood during a political transition.

“…Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “So if we’re talking about counterterrorism, engaging with the Brotherhood will advance our interests in the region (because of its competition with al Qaeda)”

“Mr. Hamid said the Muslim Brotherhood’s deep hostility to Israel — which reflects majority public opinion in Egypt — would pose difficulties for American policy. Its conservative views on the rights of women and intolerance of religious minorities are offensive by Western standards. But he said that the group was far from monolithic…”

Today’s “experts” on the “Brotherhood” seem to be divided along a convergent set of three fracture lines:

[a] Those who remember the communist party’s use of front groups and faux democratic initiatives as a strategic pose, and those who do not;

[b] Those who are strongly confident in the moral value of the essential tenets and principles that support and define modern western civilization and those who are ambivalent and confused about the stakes;

[c] Those who think that our civilization can survive by merely existing in a bubble, without an active and proactive defense.

Given the undisputable history of Islamic fundamentalism, the fact that the “brotherhood” has never been associated with any other ideology, and the Brotherhood’s own history (including its collaboration with Hitler and its support of the holocaust), I am compelled to conclude that Mr. Hamid’s comments belong in one or more of the following categories:

The deliberate dissimulation by a closet Islamist

The deluded product of a deeply misguided mind, infected by the marriage of multiculturalism and moral relativism

The product of a mind so saturated with naiveté that it hides a death wish – not for Mr. Hamid, but for Western civilization.

The New York Times, again —

“…the Brotherhood formally renounced violence as a means of achieving power in Egypt. The group did not, however, reject violence in other circumstances, and its leaders have endorsed acts of terrorism against Israel and against American troops in Iraq.

“But even among specialists, the degree of uncertainty about the Brotherhood’s future is striking. Several admitted they could not say for sure whether participation in government would have a moderating effect on the group, or whether moderation might prove to have been a convenient false front to be cast off if the group attained real power.

(My emphasis)

….and (surprise!) the Times’ piece concludes with ambivalence.

“Ms. Wickham, of Emory… admitted that after 20 years of studying the group, whose internal deliberations are secret, … found it difficult to predict what it might do after Mr. Mubarak left power. Is the Brotherhood willing to be one party among equals in Egyptian politics, or is it merely biding its time before seeking a monopoly?  The answer is elusive, Ms. Wickham said…”

ELUSIVE?

We can readily acknowledge the fact that the USA needs to be perceived as treading lightly here, but that is no excuse for equivocation about the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamic group strongly linked to extremist fundamentalists.

Democracy in a setting like Egypt cannot withstand a full-on attack by militant, authoritarian Islamists who are fanatically committed to achieving the vision of an all powerful theocracy by any means necessary.

Would we allow criminal gangs of drug dealers a “place at the table” in grade school politics?  To even hint, as this administration already has, that the USA wants to be in conversation with a ruthless opponent of Western democracy, a psychological clone of the mendacious Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is read as weakness.

In fact it is weakness: in moral awareness, in prudence and yes, in courage.

The projection of American ambivalence does nothing to strengthen the sober and rational forces within the Egyptian military who have – quite properly –  kept the ruthless forces of radical Islam under control…so far.

Not everyone gets to bring an allegedly “tamed” lion to a picnic that children will attend.  And the least reliable reassurances of good behavior will come from the beast itself or its handlers or apologists.

JBG

What are we in the West defending?  If you haven’t already done so, it is now time to download and read, Creativity & Survival, still posted at — http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf .

Egypt’s Future Depends on the Creative Imperative

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

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http://jaygaskill.com/WhyEgyptWhyNow.htm

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EGYPT’S FUTURE DEPENDS ON THE CREATIVE IMPERATIVE

Enter the Muslim Brotherhood

“The crowd initially included a mix of women, most of them veiled, and children. But as the marchers rolled through the streets, they shouted to the apartments above, “Come down, come down!” and “One, two, Egyptians where are you?” More men filed out of the buildings as the women and children fell away.”

Today’s New York Times

“Plugging in: There’s a lot riding on Egypt as an emerging high-tech market. ‘Well positioned for growth and thus ready to undertake country transformation,’ Cisco’s general manager there remarked on the company’s 10th anniversary in Egypt in 2009.”

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle – Bloomberg Business

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/31/BU1M1HFT11.DTL#ixzz1CjR3nIBf

Democracy in Egypt?

Don’t forget that Hitler[1] won an election.

“Why”, I was asked, “after 30 years of relative peace and stability, would Egyptians choose to rise up now?  After all, it was such a nice place to visit, was it not?”

The same was said of the Shaw’s Iran.

I believe I’ve found the answer in the unfortunate combination of four converging forces:

  1. Egypt is a bivalent society, poised on the edge of modernity but held in the grip of a backward substrate.  Growing resentment within that deeply ingrained cultural substrate is a pathology saturated with elements of malignent narcissism.
  2. A thin overlay of deeply naïve sophisticates, the hope of Egypt’s future, live in a protected bubble.
  3. The authoritarian security apparatus has failed to “upgrade” that cultural substrate, and has been working around the sensibilities of the naïve sophisticates in order to achieve security.
  4. A destabilizing event pattern emerged in the last few weeks, and it is actively being exploited by a hostile ideology (radical, fundamentalist Islam, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood) intent on exploiting the weaknesses in the Egyptan polity.  This is a major prize for them.

What did that mean?

1.  Okay, I might have used the term Islamic resentment.  Why do I say malignent narcissism?   Malignent narcissism refers to a dysfunction in which one’s chronic failures are externalized to the point that the successes of others are seen as the cause.  A drug addict recruits others into the addiction in order to validate his own condition.  A fired employee goes on a shooting rampage, not only against the boss, but also the other fellow employees whose continued job success is an affront.

Fundamentalist Islam is a barrier to modern economic development.  Sorry, I’m not able to tread lightly here.  While I acknowledge the individual exceptions, the generalization stands.  In spite of a steady influx of oil money, the Middle Eastern populations subject to the strict, fundamentalist form of Islam are poor, and will remain so until and unless their education equips them for functional modernity.  It is hard to argue that a repressive environment, including the subjugation of women, is the path to prosperity.[2]

Here’s the rub.  A truly devout fundamentalist Muslim is psychologically incapable of blaming his adherence to the word of Allah for the failure of his culture or nation.  Here’s the malign dynamic: External forces, particularly the culture and prosperity of the West – and those who ape the West, are held responsible for his failure, the failure of his Muslim friends and the problems of his country.  Anger and seething resentment follow.  This psychological dynamic also explains the attraction of an overarching Islamic super state, preferably equipped with nuclear weapons: It represents validation through power.

2. Egypt, like most partly developed countries has a productive subpopulation of educated people (in the Western sense), most of whom are plugged in to the rest of the world.  They are inherently predisposed (as you of I probably would be) to resent the brutal tactics of the security forces that allow them to live normal lives.  They tend to forget that the expectations and rules of behavior of their day-to-day existence are based on a precarious balance of power.  The naïve among them are easily persuaded that a giant wave of good feeling can sweep away oppression, and that a much better life will follow the elimination of the hated security apparatus on which their lives depend as surely as the dawn follows the night.  Few are sober enough to contemplate the reality: Democracy is the natural consequence of a civil society in which liberties are secure, not the means of bringing about that society.  The only functioning democracy in the Middle East (other than Israel) is Iraq, a result achieved via a bloody struggle and with the outside help of a superpower.  The only outside force that will come to the aid of the insurgents in Egypt are the agents of fundamentalist Islam; and the result of their “success” will shock and dismay those who were hoping for liberation…if they even survive.

3. Under general Mubarack’s leadership, security forces were only effective in keeping a lid on militant Islamist terror (a follower of fundamentalist Islam having assassinated Mubaraks’ predecessor, Anwar Sadat).  But no one in Mubarak’s administration did nearly enough to prepare the culture for modernity, and the economy has lagged behind its optimum performance because of governmental incompetence.

4.  What were the destabilizing event patterns I alluded to?  They include an earlier uprising in Tunisia that actually forced the ruler, Zine El Abidine, from office.  There were other – so far not successful – rumblings in Jordan and Algeria.  The Tunisian dictator faced unrest over rising food prices. The apparent flashpoint was an incident where a merchant set himself on fire after police seized his food cart. Two more suicides followed, and the elites finally joined the protest.  The fact that Abidine abandoned power under popular pressure caused the ripple effect.  Militant Islamists have swarmed to Egypt like sharks to a bleeding swimmer.  They will consume the naïve idealists if they are allowed to take over.

Here’s the Deal

The apparent darling of the opposition, Mohammed Elbaradei, should be remembered as the UN functionary who professed to doubt that Iran had any atom-bomb making plans.  He is either a useful fool, ready to be manipulated by the Iran sponsored jihad, or he is a willing stooge.  In either case, he is not to be trusted.

New York Times February 1, 2011

“The street protests were gearing up again, but with a notably different face. For the first time the Muslim Brotherhood stepped to the fore as the protest organizers called their most reliable foot soldiers as reinforcements.

“Though outlawed here because of its Islamist ideology, the Brotherhood is the only group in Egypt able to call out a large and disciplined network of experienced organizers, and their presence on Monday was unmistakable.

“Most of the week’s protests appeared to represent a nearly universal cross section of the public, coming together spontaneously with little leadership or direction. But as hundreds poured out of midday prayers at a mosque in the neighborhood of Mohandeseen and marched toward Tahrir Square on Monday, they were shepherded through the streets by seasoned organizers, often middle-aged men with beards or bruises on their foreheads from prayers. They arranged for rows of marchers holding hands to keep their cohorts packed together within single lanes of traffic. Others linked arms in rows as they marched.

“The crowd initially included a mix of women, most of them veiled, and children. But as the marchers rolled through the streets, they shouted to the apartments above, “Come down, come down!” and “One, two, Egyptians where are you?” More men filed out of the buildings as the women and children fell away.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/world/middleeast/01egypt.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=todayspaper

Unfortunately for the jihadists, the Egyptian army remains a popular institution.  Whatever economic problems Egypt is experiencing, a fundamentalist Islamist regime would doubtless make matters even worse, and we can be reasonably sure that the army’s leaders are aware of that.

But Egypt is experiencing 17% food price inflation against the backdrop of 10% overall inflation, and that but 40% of the population is living on the dole.  Not good.

On the bright side, the overall Egyptian economy is growing faster than the US.  Egypt is a mid-level oil producer, exporting petroleum, cotton and textiles, but has a chronic trade deficit.  Tourism and the Suez Canal traffic account for significant income.

For a host of reasons, the calls for “democracy” are premature in Egypt, but the need for economic progress is urgent.  A premature democracy can be dangerous.  Recall that Hitler won his first election. The more pertinent question (see “Creativity and Survival” posted yesterday at –http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.htm) is this: Where are the nodes of creativity and what can the government do to protect and nurture them through this crisis?

The thrust of US policy should be to press for a hard nosed crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist cousin of Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, and to bring about real economic reforms.  With an emphasis on stability, careful structural changes should be encouraged along a realistic timeline that would install the needed civil infrastructure (rule of law, legitimate avenues for dissent, protections for property, liberty and creative freedom) on which  a viable democratic republic can be built.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 1, 2011

“Google confirmed numerous media reports that its Middle East and North Africa head of marketing, Wael Ghonim, has been missing since Friday. ‘We care deeply about the safety of our employees,” a Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail, “but to protect their privacy, we don’t comment on them individually.’

“From his Twitter account (@Ghonim), it’s apparent that the Google executive was in Cairo, and participating in the demonstrations. ‘Heading to Tahrir square now. Sleeping on the streets of Cairo, trying to feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians. #Jan25,’ he tweeted on Jan. 25, by way of a proxy server.

“Plugging in: There’s a lot riding on Egypt as an emerging high-tech market. ‘Well positioned for growth and thus ready to undertake country transformation,’ Cisco’s general manager there remarked on the company’s 10th anniversary in Egypt in 2009.

By then, more than 11,000 Egyptian enrollees had passed through the Cisco Networking Academy, learning IT skills. Oracle and HP offer similar professional and business training courses. Intel’s “Teach Program” has worked with 80,000 Egyptian teachers on integrating technology in the classroom, according to the Santa Clara company.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/31/BU1M1HFT11.DTL#ixzz1CjHeMAPt

“Egypt is one of five countries – with Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia – in which the VC firm Global Technology and Innovation Partners says it will invest a total of $250 million and set up Plug and Play centers to “create a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem in each target country.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/31/BU1M1HFT11.DTL#ixzz1CjH6hA74

Where are the creative nodes in Egypt and how can they  be saved? The first goal is to protect them.  The primary tasks of the Egyptian Army and the responsible forces of governance in that country are to find, nurture and protect the creative nodes.   Democracy will come in due course.

Egypt’s future is the creative imperative.

[http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.htm]

Its future will depend on it.

JBG


[1] Hint: Hitler was an anti-creative force.  See my discussion at the end of this peace and yesterdays’ article on Creativity and Survival.

[2] These regimes are the death of creativity in general and of helpful creative innovation in particular.