Friday, February 4, 2011

2 Great Posts From Frum on Egypt's 'Transitioning'

A Test for the New Egypt  February 3rd, 2011 by David Frum ~ FrumForum

The treaty with Israel contains more than just a promise not to go to war. It contains a series of very specific commitments about Israeli security:

1) It pledges Israeli ships may use the Suez Canal

2) It recognizes the Gulf of Aqaba as an international waterway, precluding Egypt from closing access to the port of Eilat.

3) It demilitarizes the Sinai.

4) It emplaces US military observers at strategic points in the Sinai

5) It provided for normalization of relations, as a consequence of which there is direct air travel between the two countries.

There’s a lot of heady talk in the US media right now, from both liberals and conservatives, about the possibilities in Cairo. We all share those hopes. But we all also ought to recognize that popular protests in the Middle East do not typically generate stable democratic regimes, and that even free elections can bring very nasty people to power, as happened in Gaza in 2005.

Here’s a special request for the US and international journalists doing such impressive work under such dangerous circumstances in Egypt today. When you talk to Egyptian opposition figures, do not ask – and do not accept – generalities about accepting “all of Egypt’s obligations.” Ask them specifically about the individual commitments to open the Canal and maintain normal friendly relations. If they hem and haw, ask them why. Whom are they afraid of offending? Not that questioning will change anything. But it could at least provide some valuable early warnings.


Does Anyone Really Trust the Muslim Brotherhood? FrumForum  February 3rd, 2011    David Frum

As readers have probably noted, I’m one of those less excited by – and more wary of – the protests in Egypt. I hold no brief for Hosni Mubarak, but worry greatly that the next regime could be a lot worse for the Egyptians themselves, for peace in the region, and for (no apology for considering these uppermost) the national security interests of the United States.

Those interests require: preserving control of the Egyptian army, security forces and Suez Canal away from the control of radical Islamist groups. Representation of Islamic parties in the Egyptian parliament is one thing. Executive power something very different. Happily the existing Egyptian constitution makes it possible to separate the two.

For those who do feel less cautious about the Egyptian revolutionary movement, please, please do consider this reality check by Barry Rubin of the Gloria Center in Israel:

Consider the following chart:

Who in the Middle East could the United States depend on five years ago to support its basic policy goals?

Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey

Who in the Middle East can the United States basically depend on today?

Israel, Iraq (?), Jordan (until next week?), Saudi Arabia

Who in the Middle East is likely to oppose basic U.S. policy goals today?

Egypt (soon), Gaza Strip (Hamas), Iran, Lebanon (Hizballah), Libya, Sudan, Syria. Turkey

Might there be a trend here?

Rubin continues:

But what really riles me is when Westerners write a sentence like this one:

“It’s incumbent on Islamists who are elected democratically to behave democratically.”

Please contemplate those dozen words. What if they don’t? What are you going to do about it after they are in power? What if they take your concessions but not your advice? The United States conditioned the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in Egypt’s next government on that group’s abandoning violence and supporting “democratic goals.” There is no chance that it will meet those conditions and also no chance that the United States would try to enforce them.

I have an idea: why don’t we wait until we have some reason to believe they will behave democratically before you put them into power?

Let’s remember a little detail here: You are all willing to ignore everything the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has said or done for decades. You have no idea of their proposals in parliament, do you? You have no idea of their recent platform, do you? You have no idea what the Brotherhood’s leader is saying in his speeches, do you? Nor do you take these things into account.

So how dare you tell me that the Brotherhood is or is about to become moderate when you cannot cite a single piece of evidence–well, ElBaradei’s word when he lies to you about these things–to prove your thesis. Not one. Don’t you realize that victory has made the Islamists arrogant. They are becoming more radical, not less so. And mainstream clerics in Egypt, for example, have also become increasingly more extremist, well before the latest crisis.

Frankly, the more these people talk like this about Islamists, the more I don’t believe them. If they had any real proof they would offer it. And their ignorance makes me suspect their conclusions.

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