Thursday, February 3, 2005
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Speaking of Egypt...
This was one of the more interesting paragraphs in Bush's State of the Union:
The lines about Egypt and Saudi Arabia were nicely phrased, in that they represented a challenge to the regimes there.
Coincidentally enough, the Wall Street Journal has a front-pager by Karby Leggett on Egypt's economic reforms. From the opening, it appears that Egypt's latest prime minister is adopting a much more market-friendly posture:
Sounds good -- but what about democracy? Here's where things get sticky:
So, what does the U.S. do? Hope that the economic reforms trigger future political reforms, or apply more leverge on the Mubarak regime -- even if a more democratic government might not pursue such market-friendly policies?posted by Dan on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM
Speaking of leverage....is it an accident that Mubarak moved so quickly to volunteer Egypt as the host of the forthcoming Sharon/Abbas summit?
Obviously Egypt has domestic reasons for wanting to further an end to the interminable Palestinian crisis. But the more important Egypt is to the peace process, the harder it will be for Washington to pressure its government to make fundamental changes in Egyptian internal politics. Mubarak has not been in office for going on 24 years without learning a few things about leverage himself.posted by: Zathras on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Matt Yglesias --
So, what does the U.S. do? ...posted by Dan
I've often wondered why we don't stop the foreign aid to Egypt. Why not use it on Iraq or Afghanistan?posted by: WAmom on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Hmmm ... I think Egypt better open up some political space before these is some kind of huge backlash against privatization, inflation, and so forth. See Amy Chua for the details ...posted by: praktike on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Does Mubarek have a valid concern that mobocracy will prevail, or is that just a cover story for a Power monger? Without any observations either way, most people would guess the love of power prevails.posted by: Stephen on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Sounds like Mr. Mubarak is taking lessons from the Chinese: economic, not political, progress. "Too unstable right now..."posted by: beau on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Specifically mentioning Saudi Arabia and Eygpt's need for democratic reform was fantastic; since the inaugural address, I have been calling Bush a hypocrite for not taking our "allies" to task for their tyranny. Now, if Bush will renounce his family's longstanding, very profitable, and very intimate relationship with the Saudi royal family and that beacon of democracy Prince Bandar, he'll REALLY gain a convert in me and a lot of others who are not totally convinced of his sincerity.
And by the way: Why does Egypt still receive billions in U.S. "aid" every year, a large amount of which ends up in a dictator's personal account?posted by: DCInsider on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
More generally, it always disappoints me the
Jeff, i am shocked at the flirtation with fascism I hear sometimes. Even if you were correct, which you are not (prosperity follows democracy and the rule of law), it would still be morally repugnant. The Soviets tried such a course for 50+ years and it led only to death, poverty, and certainly no freedom at the end of the rainbow.posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
For the really slow: my concern is to maximize
Jeffposted by: Jeff Smith on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
" For the really slow: my concern is to maximize
That is a contradiction in terms. Orwellian, if you will. The pigs would be proud.posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Is Jeff invoking Plato? the rule of philosophers? I guess some people think of Plato as a direct predecessor of fascists.
I think there is reason to fear "illiberal democracy" in these countries, but that's not a good reason not to hold elections. The hope for a non-elected government to bring real liberty is unrealistic.posted by: Andrew Steele on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
The argument that, not only is self-determination not essential to liberty, but that it may be harmful I find fantastic (not in a good way). Self-determination is the _essence_ of liberty. Our American experience is based wholly on the premise that there can be no liberty without representation. That is the heart of who we are as a people, even before the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
I think part of the point is that voting != self-determination. Other rights, such as economic rights or equality before the law, are just as important to self-determination, yet neither of those is necessarily consistent (or inconsistent) with voting.posted by: asg on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Not to take sides in the whole elections-vs-liberty argument y'all seem to be having, but... remember a year and whenever ago when Sistani wanted elections and the Bush administration was against them? Those sure were the days.posted by: anno-nymous on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
I dont think anyone is arguing that voting is the end all of liberty. But I will argue it is (to some extent) more important than economic rights etc, if for the simple reason that without self-determination those rights will almost certainly erode anyway, while democracy in the long run generally addresses such ills. Hence democracy has almost always been the foundation for expandingly liberal societies and not vice versa. What kind of equality can one have before the law with a government not checked by the people? Absolute power corrupts absolutely, relying on tyrants to hand power to the people when such ambiguous goals as 'equality' are reached is a recipe for unending tyrany. No nation will ever reach perfect justice or liberty, and hence there will always be reason to put off the day. See Fidel Castro.posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
We ought to be careful about denouncing arguments people are not making.
Because voting is not the end of free government does not mean it is not essential to it. Because a state is prosperous does not mean that it is free.
Having said that, a couple of points. First, Americans have in fact tended to equate elections with freedom. Free elections are usually the American suggestion to resolve any crisis anywhere, even in places that have never held free elections before and where the most popular political figures include thugs, demagogues and aspiring dictators. We take for granted the many institutions in our society which support its structure of freedom as well as elections do -- the common law, independent courts, diffusion of executive power, private property rights. Even the fairest, most free election in a country new to free elections is only one step in the process of building a free society.
Second, it is unlikely that Egyptian President Mubarak either wants or will attempt to "follow the Chinese model" of promoting economic freedom while restricting political liberty in any but the most superficial way. The Chinese model incorporates not only two enduring institutions of political control -- the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army -- but an ancient political tradition that places great emphasis on voluntary deference to authority and control from the center. Egypt's regime is far more dependent on one man -- Mubarak, who is well past 70 -- than China's is. In theory, a movement toward democratization could face fewer obstacles in Egypt than in China, at least once Mubarak is gone, and Egypt's ability to transform its economic structure rapidly is probably less than China's was as well. A more pessimistic view is possible as well, of course; I'm just pointing out that the Chinese model doesn't necessarily apply to any country without large numbers of Chinese people.
The last point I would make concerns American policy and American public diplomacy in particular. We ought to be careful as we conduct this to do more than just sling words and slogans around. We know what "self-determination" means to us, for example -- the right to approve a school bond issue or send an aged Senator packing. But in Austria in 1938 "self-determination" meant the Anschluss; for many Palestinians today it means the right of Arabs to evict all the Jews from Israel. It's not in our interest to appear to endorse concepts we deplore. In fact, we might be better off starting our public diplomacy not with inspiring declarations about what ought to be, but instead with frank discussion of what is. We know we would prefer a tolerant if recognizably Islam-influenced democracy in Egypt, will seek to promote it, but will never tolerate an Egypt controlled by the Islamist terrorist element. We might as well say that.posted by: Zathras on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Yet everytime that argument has reared its head, voters have rejected Islamic fundamentalist rule overwhelmingly. Nowhere in the world is there a democratic government friendly to Islamofascism. It is one thing to argue that democracy without minority protections and universal justice is incomplete, it is quite another to say it is dangerous, and should be opposed if it threatens our interests. That is the kind of thinking that has led to half a century of our 'good thugs' turning into 'bad thugs'.
One last thought, its a fair question to ask me if I would support instant elections in every nation on earth at this moment, whatever the outcome.
Final, final thought: The Mullahs understand this and that is why they will not be disuaded from fielding nuclear weapons. They are an insurance policy.posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
I suppose that when I said we ought to be careful about denouncing arguments people are not making I should have added that we ought to at least hint at the arguments we are responding to. I just didn't think it was necessary.posted by: Zathras on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
Zathras did a good job of saying things I wanted
First, there are aspects of the US system of
Second, I do not think that political science
The point here is that neither of these is a
In my own view, voting serves two purposes.
Voting does not, other than at a very broad
Third, part of my frustration with voting types
That's my rant for this morning.
posted by: Jeff Smith on 02.03.05 at 11:03 AM [permalink]
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