Friday, January 28, 2011 122 Comments

Egypt: US foreign policy at the nadir

Egypt a century ago, under the firm and inspired hand of Lord Cromer, was a boomtown, a miracle and a paradise. A multicultural paradise, even, with Frenchmen and Brits and Greeks and Jews and Turks and Armenians - all of whom the Century of Fear would later send fleeing with a single suitcase. But as late as the '30s "Alex" was a city of the civilized world - a place where boho trustafarians, like Lawrence Durrell, would move as if to Prague, just because it was a fun cool cheap place to live. Architecture from this period can still be seen, chipped and obscured by smoke, behind the howling mobs and growling tanks in your YouTube clip.

There are many old Egypts. Stray bits of some survive. But somehow, now, Egypt has offended the gods. They have ordered her to pass through the fire - and slowly. In the last century she got a taste. In this she bids fair to endure the full ordeal. At full heat, even the pyramids will burn. There is nothing, nothing, that politics cannot reduce to ash.

For we have seen this movie before. When the student of history contemplates the "Jasmine Revolution," applauded deliriously by the entire "international community," by Americans right and left, Brahmins and rednecks, neocons and paleocons and progressives, post-Trotskyists, post-Maoists and post-Stalinists, not to mention every human being on Earth who has so much as heard of Egypt, all serenading pure chaos with gladiatorial bloodlust - CNN had become so boring lately - the student does not even need to set his time machine. The pattern is simply too familiar. The autopilot can see it. The pony knows his way back home.

The student is at once in Russia, February, 1917: the archetypal exported revolution. Whose results are familiar - though seldom ascribed to their obvious cause. Solzhenitsyn, in From Under the Rubble, put it best:
The intelligentsia proved incapable of taking action, quailed, and was lost in confusion; its party leaders readily abdicated the power and leadership which had seemed so desirable from a distance; and power, like a ball of fire, was tossed from hand to hand until it came into hands which caught it and were sufficiently hardened to withstand its white heat (they also, incidentally, belonged to the intelligentsia, but a special part of it). The intelligentsia had succeeded in rocking Russia with a cosmic explosion, but was unable to handle the debris.
Power, like a ball of fire! Solzhenitsyn will look pretty prescient when al-Zawahiri, or similar, catches his ball of fire. A Salafi is not quite the same thing as a Bolshevik, but history is never quite the same. What would you do, as an anonymous face in one of these mobs? Your hands would strain upward of their own volition, reaching for the fire. Will the liberals give it to you? They can promise it to you. But they are already sold to Hillary and Soros.

The reactor explodes. Power, radioactive, is everywhere. Everyone who can scrape up a piece of it will never have to scrape again. After the revolution, he will be a dignitary, his belly will swell, his children will be well-educated. Power! Who offers power, raw and clear like new whisky, smoking slightly with the devil's breath?

Granted, the greatness is gone. All the players in St. Petersburg - a great city in a great country - were great men. There is no greatness on CNN. But there is plenty of bathos, incompetence, barbarism, ignorance, bureaucracy, and involuntary black humor. When the devil was strolling around St. Petersburg, when he saw it was time for a change, as a student of history I can assure you these essential human qualities were all present in full quantity. Along with the greatness, which has, again, vanished.

In Egypt especially! But Hamlet can be played by pygmies, and history rhymes even as farce. Mubarak can play Nicholas II, Mohammed El-Baradei can appear in the role of Pavel Milyukov, Charles R. Crane can be performed by George Soros, and Hillary Clinton (who has as I write just knifed Mubarak in the back, a deed which can surprise no one over the age of three) does a marvelous Sir George Buchanan. All the details are different, of course; the thing is the same.

We find among the most perspicacious American commentators something extraordinary, an awareness of reality which approaches actual moral consciousness. The power conservatives at Powerline, for instance, write:
My guess is that Arab dictatorships, like autocracies elsewhere, will prove surprisingly brittle once they are challenged. What the current unrest will lead to is anyone's guess, but there is no reason to think that more popular input will lead to friendlier regimes. Instead, we may see more Irans and Gazas. Be that as it may, there is a certain relief in seeing the dam finally break and the ossified, archaic, anti-free enterprise ruling elites of the Arab world come tumbling down.
Here is the true arsonist's logic, approaching real mens rea - almost, but not quite, a conscience. Of course, if I throw a Molotov cocktail into this church, it will burn down. Lives may be lost. Lives will be lost! But, I mean, what a flammable building. Look - the whole thing is made entirely of wood. Even the siding. And it's such an ugly, cheap, common little building. And besides, those horrible snake-handling Pentecostalists...

On so many issues today, especially in foreign policy, this is the difference between the American liberal and the American conservative. The liberal delights in the fire - he hates the church, this church, any church, all churches. Once it is burned down, he thinks, it can be replaced by a modern, handicapped-accessible and well-stocked library. His reforming impulse is founded in cupidity, in the human lust for power, but above them he has built a charming little cottage of delusions and good intentions.

The conservative knows that burning the church is wrong. He knows that nothing will be built on the rubble, that it will remain a heap of charred bricks and snake corpses for years and perhaps decades. But he also knows that some liberal will burn the church if he doesn't; he, too, is human and delights in the sight of flame; and he's not a Pentecostalist. So he goes right along and flicks his Bic.

And in this way, "human rights imperialism" has spent the last two centuries doing its best and damnedest to reduce the entire planet to a charnel house, using this same old playbook to smash every genuinely independent locus of sovereignty which rules two sticks that can be rubbed together - from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Gladstone's "negation of God"), to Rhodesia and South Africa, to these boneheaded and criminal petty dictatorships of North Africa - themselves installed by American diplomacy, which 50 years ago so cleverly euchred North Africa out of French and British hands and handed it to the Bourguibas, Nassers, etc. Just sticking up for American interests, boss, same as always!

Last time I was in Naples, God seemed pretty absent. Evidently He did not, after all, come in with Garibaldi and the British navy. I haven't seen Him on any of these Youtube clips either. In His place, Hillary Clinton and her extensive staff seem more than happy to settle the destiny of these lands. Let's hope the State Department only rules Africa for another century, not two. There would be nothing left but the scorpions, and pretty miserable scorpions at that.

But what could be done differently? Is the State Department really guilty of supporting these demonstrations? Aren't they, rather, guilty of the opposite - of supporting the ruthless dictator, Mubarak? The truth is that every regime in the world today must be either pro-American, in which case its "support" from Foggy Bottom is existential and its State desk officer can pull its plug with a strongly worded memo, or anti-American - meaning that it has already been revolutionized and remains revolutionary, and State is its best friend, "engaging" it by any means necessary. After all, why would Americans need a State Department if everyone already loved America?

Thus, Washington can do nothing to undermine the dictator Assad, and the dictator Assad makes sure it stays that way. If this strikes you as an incentive for signing up with the axis of evil, you're not exactly wrong. Mubarak is no doubt kicking himself for not being evil enough, and signing up or at least flirting with the Iranians. But alas, it's almost certainly too late. Thus, the daily bread of the "international community" is destroying herbivorous autocracies, harmless to the American taxpayer, in order to create carnivorous ones which justify more diplomacy. And this, of course, with your tax dollar.

In case it isn't obvious how this policy could be changed, let me briefly juxtapose Secretary Clinton's paragraphs with the words that would emanate from Secretary Moldbug's office:
I would like to say something about the unfolding events in Egypt. We continue to monitor the situation very closely. We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces.
I would like to say something about the riots in Egypt. We are watching this on TV like everyone else, but we are deeply concerned about the threat to public order. Egypt is a foreign country, nowhere near America and of no economic or military importance to us. Its legitimate government for us - in the words of President Monroe - is the government de facto. At present there seems to be only one government operating in Egypt, the existing Mubarak regime. A stable, orderly world is the only interest of our foreign policy. We hope the Egyptian security forces can suppress the riots quickly and with minimum bloodshed.
At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully. As we have repeatedly said, we support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of expression, of association, and of assembly.
We call on the rioters to obey all official instructions, and return to home and/or work. The United States no longer practices democratic imperialism. We have returned to our historic foreign policy of continental neutrality. We do not believe that political power is a "human right." We are not the "leader of the free world" - free nations need no "leader." We do not export revolution, we do not operate satellite states or amuse ourselves with puppets, and we deeply regret having played this game in the past.
As a partner, we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political, and social reforms.
Not that our advice matters - since Egypt is a sovereign country, it can and should do whatever it has to do. But we believe it is imperative for any sovereign to avoid concessions in the face of force, whether foreign or domestic. If the rioters make unreasonable demands, their demands must be denied. If they make reasonable demands, these reforms must be withheld at least until the rebellion has failed and its participants thoroughly regret their actions, so that they appear as the gifts of the government and not the fruits of victorious rebellion.
We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications. These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.
We urge the Egyptian authorities to consolidate their security structure by arranging a legitimate succession for President Mubarak. We also suggest a titled nobility and a civil list, so the dignitaries of the ruling party can secure their financial futures and not have to steal so much. We also recommend indefinite separation from the global Internet, which Egypt is clearly not ready for, and severance of international cultural links such as NGOs, tourism, and educational exchanges. The policies of Bhutan might approach an example.

Egypt does not have a healthy relationship with the West. Egypt does not need our revolution; we don't need its terrorists. The government of Egypt, if it survives these riots, should end this bad marriage and focus on reconstructing a healthy traditional society, preferably one which funnels the talents of the best young Egyptians into constructive work rather than emigration or rebellion. Even trade should be restricted to the extent consistent with human nutrition.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 142 Comments

Your goverment in pictures, 1954

An authentic historical document:

Doesn't look much like what you learned in 9th-grade civics class? There's a reason for that. As you know, of course, dear UR reader, you've been rather pwned.

In terms of actual control over government decisions, the present state of representative democracy in USG and its satellites reminds the historical observer of nothing so much as monarchy in middle-to-late decline, nowhere near absolute but still not quite ceremonial. The British monarchs of the 18th and 19th centuries might be a fair comparison.

These so-called kings and queens, from Anne through Edward VII, retained prerogative authorities in theory and were in fact quite jealous of their theoretical powers, but had become convinced that they would lose both contest and authority in any serious conflict with ascendant Whiggery. (Edward VII, to be fair, was a real figure in foreign policy - or at least so Whitehall let it be known.) When they did impact the course of government, the royal interventions tended to be symbolic, informal, and above all negative - as all weak authority is. But in reality, power depends on both habit and confidence, and somewhere around 1936 it disappeared entirely. The celebrity monarch remains, chiefly to ensure the position is not actually filled.

But since the Great Wheel has no beginning or end, democracy too must go under the bus. Indeed in Europe it is already a speck in the rear-view mirror. The idea that spontaneous popular sentiment should influence public policy is, on the Continent and increasingly in England, a fringe belief. On its face it seems absurd, as of course it is - just as if Prince Charles were to demand his titular authority. As with anything, the capacity for government is the combination of aptitude and experience. Quite plainly, Prince Charles has neither the aptitude to rule, or the experience. His coup would therefore be a joke.

Just the same can be said of the modern democratic electorate. Across centuries of throne and altar, the People grew strong; their princes, sapped by luxury, flattery and philosophy, weak; the strong seized their chance; the People pulled their princes down. And grew weak in their turn. Now the course of empire proceeds without them - to an extent they can barely imagine. By far, the American voter is the strongest left. But this isn't saying a lot.

For a weak prince, too, may feel himself a King. His ministers butter him assiduously. "Yes, your Majesty." "Quite right, your Majesty." "Of course, your Majesty." "It will be done, your Majesty." Indeed, when I look at the Tea Party Republican of 2010, I think of the late Merovingians - like Clovis IV, 13-year-old "king of the Franks."

Take America back! Restore the Constitution! Dear Lord. The Constitution was dead before his parents were born, and the average tea partier, even the superlative tea partier, immersed to the gills in his reality show, knows the real Washington about as well as he knows the Tang Dynasty. In fact, he probably knows the Tang Dynasty better - he knows there's such a thing as the Tang Dynasty, and nor does he confuse it with the Wu-Tang Clan.

I once had a conversation with Larry Auster, perhaps America's most perspicacious nationalist today, in which Auster inadvertently revealed the fact that he believed the President could have a Foreign Service officer fired. Take over Washington! 13-year-old Clovis IV had a better chance of unseating the Mayors of the Palace. At least he knew who they were. Heck, if he'd called an emergency court meeting and just walked up to his Uncle Pepin and sliced him in the neck, the Merovingians might well be kings of the Franks to this day. Audacity conquers all.

Of course, Washington has no neck. It has a thousand necks, or maybe a hundred thousand. The picture above makes it look like there's a neck to slice. Perhaps in 1954 there almost was. It is no longer 1954. No state is incurable - but ours needs a trained surgeon and a full operating room, or perhaps an army with naval artillery support. Not an adolescent with a gilded dagger.

Why would they give Clovis IV an actual weapon? His voice cracking and his young balls swelled, he draws his royal sword for the first time, swears a terrible oath, and leaps at his obnoxious, conniving uncle - who simply smiles and presents his throat. The blade is made of gold foil. It folds up like a newspaper. Everyone laughs. The king of the Franks, scarlet-cheeked, rushes off to his chambers, cranks up a Def Leppard album and resumes his neurotic pimple excavation. History is not on his side.

But once, things were different. Once, men resisted. Once they had real swords.

There is a word in the American political vocabulary for the last struggles of meaningful representative democracy. The word is "McCarthyism." McCarthyism, in neutral language, is the irrational belief that unelected and/or extra-governmental officials should be responsible to elected officials. The question of McCarthyism was whether the American people, by electing a Congress, could hold such august, bipartisan, professional and apolitical agencies as the State Department responsible to their fickle, uninformed wills. The answer, as it turned out, was no. Clovis IV turned bright red, sulked and went to his room.

Of course, the actual actors in "McCarthyism" were not the politicians. No one could possibly confuse a McCarthy, a McCarran, a Mundt, for Pitts and Gladstones and Disraelis. Rather, the few, bold, doomed crusaders were the staffers of the "McCarthyist" investigating committees - the notorious HUAC, the little-known and far more effective McCarran Committee, and today's source (and my personal favorite) - the Reece Committee. These men were real warriors. You may know the name of the most notorious - Roy Cohn. Most are quite anonymous - like Rene Wormser, chief counsel of the Reece Committee, author of Foundations: Their Power and Influence.

Not that our warriors won, or had any chance of winning. They had subpoena power, however, not to mention genuine prewar educations. One of Wormser's assistants, Kathryn Casey, actually got to read the original minutes of the Carnegie Endowment from 1909, though she didn't get to copy them or take them home. Apparently the experience permanently affected her sanity - which should come as no surprise to the UR reader. The first half of the 20th century was, like the Elizabethan era, something of a golden age for conspiracy.

Needless to say, in 2010 the thought of Congress seriously investigating the State Department, let alone the Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, brings us straight back to Clovis IV. Repeating the work of the Reece Committee is not just inconceivable, but also useless. The fire has been burning quite nicely for well over 50 years; to drench the gasoline-soaked rags is not to extinguish the conflagration, let alone to rebuild the building. The tea partiers could abolish all these institutions tomorrow, not that they will, and not get the America of 1923 back.

But as students of history, we want to know how the flames started and spread. How fortunate for us that, 50 years ago, America elected a batch of know-nothing Republicans, who hired bitter, unhinged right-wing lawyers, who knew whose closet to subpoena for a skeleton or two. They knew they were walking through fire for nothing; they did; they got nothing for it. But we got their work.

The especially dedicated UR reader may enjoy the 4-volume Reece Committee transcripts - vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4. Many parts of these read like a movie script, chiefly due to the ridiculous and disruptive antics of Wayne Hays. I have been exceptionally busy and have not had time to read the whole thing, but you can. For a study of how the American postwar university, then the entire society, got gleichgeschaltet on the ideology of the great foundations - Foundationism, we might even call it - I recommend the testimony of Professors Rowe and Colegrove in volume 1. There is also Mr. Wormser's book linked above, a lucid and straightforward summary.