“You Turned Your Back on the Egyptians” – Slate


"Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: The dilemma between the former president and the people originated from [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] concept of the state, the ideology that they adopted for building a country which is based on restoring the Islamic religious empire.
That’s what made [former President Mohammed Morsi] not a president for all Egyptians, but a president representing his followers and supporters.
"  Slate


This interview with the regrettable Lally Weymouth is revealing of several things under recent discussion here. 

– Sisi is not at all "afraid" of the United States.  This is a measure of how much the world has changed in the last ten years or so.  Before the post 9/11 era no Egyptian general acting as chief of staff, minister of defense or head dog catcher would have dared to defy the US in the way that Sisi has done in this article.  This is now truly a multi-polar world.  There are many players of which the US is only one.  There are many sources of funding for Sisi's armed forces.  The Egyptian armed forces are now equipped with American gear, so a transition would be painful but it might be worth it.  The Egyptians did not pay for the equipment.  We gave them credits with which to buy it.

– Sisi knows that the US abandoned Husni Mubarak to his fate.  Sisi does not wish to be in a position in which the US can abandon him to a similar fate.  To that end he is determined to follow a course in which he is not dependent on the US.  Feckless treachery in abandoning one's clients carries a price.

– Political Islamism is seen by Egyptian liberals, Christians and the officer corps as a specific threat to modern Egypt.  The romance carried on by Washington with Islamists in Egypt contributed greatly to the decline of American influence there.  There are too many naive "kids" in positions of influence in American government.

– International power exercised by states, rests not so much on exerted power as on perceived potential power.  Power translates into deterrance and deference on the international scene when there is a belief in the resoluteness of the major powers.  In other words, you must be perceived to be a resolute, strong actor in order to be obeyed.  You must also be perceived to be successful on the international scene.  Since the fall of the USSR the United States has come to be seen as a naive and ineffective actor.  That perception has now reached a point in which people like Sisi defy the US.  Syria?  US policy in Syria is a joke.  "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing."  pl 



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34 Responses to “You Turned Your Back on the Egyptians” – Slate

  1. Peter C says:

    It appears that the U.S. State Department’s only effective thing it does these days is issue visas and burn lots of Aviation fuel.

  2. oofda says:

    The U.S. media is no help either. Last week, General al-Sisi, at Egypt’s West Point graduation, made an address that was broadcast nation-wide. The Egyptian Army, he stated, depends on the will of the people. He asked the people of Egypt to demonstrate positively the next day if they agreed with what the Army did and was doing. The next day, over 30 million people marched in the streets in support of the Army’s action. The NY Times, as well as the rest of the media here, virtually ignored this, and even mocked the action. The Egyptian Army, according to officers that I know, saw this as a positive affirmation and were elated at the response.

  3. vymtha says:

    Hillary Clinton is proven right. It is a multipolar world after the 9/11 attacks. She said so in some of her speeches. She has to form coalitions before doing anything, like the Libyan warfront and the Iranian sanctions. She managed to urge both Russia and China to abstain from the two issues.

  4. bth says:

    At this point what does Sisi want from the US?

  5. Bill H says:

    Depends on your definition of “effective.”

  6. turcopolier says:

    I think he wants us to accept the world as it is. pl

  7. Nancy K says:

    From a US point of view, is it foolish or intelligent to accept the world as it is? I ask this question in seriousness. I feel we should accept it as it is but I realize when it comes to national security I am horribly naïve.

  8. Didgeri says:

    “There are many players of which the US is only one. There are many sources of funding for Sisi’s armed forces.”
    My understanding is that the Egyptian armed forces are heavily dependent on US equipment and maintenance. Replacing that with hardware/services from another patron would be a serious challenge for them, would it not?

  9. bth says:

    I was afraid of that. It would be easier if he just asked for money from us.

  10. JohnH says:

    30 million? Did they count people shopping, going to work, to school and to cafes?
    Crowd inflation seems to be the rage these days in Egypt.

  11. turcopolier says:

    Yes, but it might be worth it. they did not pay for all that anyway. pl

  12. turcopolier says:

    Nancy K
    IMO we would be safer if we restricted ourselves to real threats rather than “crusading” for revolution. pl

  13. Russ says:

    It seems the US has in modern times considered religion as an ally (except maybe for the theology of liberation). During the cold war one always heard of the fight against godless communism. Islam was seen as an ally in that fight. But it seems that Egypt is more adopting Islamic culture (in distancing itself from the West) rather than wishing central control by an Islamic authority. Maybe the US is not distinguishing between the two.

  14. It would seem that Edmund Burke got it right when he surmised the French Revolution was not what it seemed. Apparently our understanding of history is either naive or non-existent.

  15. turcopolier says:

    Hank Foresman
    “Apparently our understanding of history is either naive or non-existent.” Mine is pretty good. I called this. BTW, the Syrian rebels are also dangerous fanatics. pl

  16. VietnamVet says:

    You wrote “United States has come to be seen as a naive and ineffective…”
    America’s policies have not changed significantly since 9/11. Western governments have established forward operating bases (lily pads and/or drone airfields) and spread war from Mali to the Philippines. It is not a coincidence that this is also the boundaries of Islam.
    The intent is to turn Muslims into 21st century scapegoats. “Kill them all and let Allah sort them out.”
    The big problem is that the underlying neoliberal ideology “Greed is good. Government is evil” is incompatible with the mass mobilization and sacrifice needed to win wars. The USA is now run by plutocrats who have no intention of winning. Tax the rich to pay for the wars will never happen. Death is a profit creator.
    There will be blow back. Over thousand Jihadists broke of jail in Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan last week.
    This all makes one wish for the days of containment and the bright shining light on the hill.

  17. turcopolier says:

    1- You are talking tactics and equipment. We can beat them there but they are beating us at the strategic level. We refuse to engage the jihadi menace at the strategic level by contesting their ideology. Instead we support Islamic fanatics in places like Egypt and Syria by thinking that our values attract them. They do not. They have all the time in the world and believe God is on their side. 2- Fanatic Muslims as a group had not engaged the US since the early days in the Phillippines. Now they believe they are our enemy, an enemy that we refuse to acknowledge and instead spout vacuous talk about “terrorists,” “extremists,” etc. We are not using them as scapegoats. We don’t seem to understand that the Islamists perceive us as an existential enemy no matter what we do. The anti-Mursi crowd are mostly Muslims as well. what is the matter with them as allies? pl

  18. You did call it. I was using “our” in the collective sense of the national leadership.

  19. Bobo says:

    If this period of radical jihadism we are in has historical aspects then are we still on the upslope or the downslope of the curve. I grant you that only King Solomon could provide us an accurate answer but it certainly would be appreciated if you could give us your thoughts.

  20. VietnamVet says:

    I do not disagree with you.
    Jihadists pose a threat; but, clearly not enough of one to raise the income tax on the wealthy to the Reagan Era rate or reinstating the draft in order to defeat them. In fact, America has supported Jihadists more often than they have fought them; i.e. the aid given to the Mujahedeen and Free Syrian Army verses the battle against al-Qaeda in Iraq.
    I agree it is a fallacy to expect a true believer to turn into a moderate once elected to office. Uncertainity and chaos are the Jihadist breeding ground. They swim in the ocean of war. Every death by drone missile radicalizes the living relatives.
    Instead of war, the true believers have to be quarantined. Over a thousand Somalis pirates are in jails across the world and a ship hasn’t been hijacked in a year in Somali waters.
    Finally, new generations have to be sold on the benefits of modernity, equality, peace, and the rule of law across the world and at home.

  21. Peter C says:

    Colonel, you touched on the one aspect that I have sensed since the Marines were taken out by the truck bomb in Lebanon. The time aspect “They have all the time in the world”. Because of the nature of the industrialized world to measure by the quarter and schedule, coupled with counting money in the red or black, can make it difficult to understand this concept.

  22. MRW says:

    Put the WASPs back in power.

  23. Charles I says:

    omg barring a Revelation over here this is MAD – mutual assured delusions.

  24. Charles I says:

    Say, is the Suez the prize it was in 1956? i.e., “”worth it”?

  25. Matthew says:

    VV: Well, at least Sisi hasn’t asked for the US Generals to submit to “re-education” or be monitored by Political Officers. See http://forward.com/articles/181559/do-us-generals-have-pro-arab-slant/?p=1

  26. Stephanie says:

    I was wondering what Weymouth’s byline was doing in Slate, and then I remembered it’s owned by The Washington Post Company. Of course, no one can say she doesn’t have expertise on the region, of a sort. It’s not every woman who’s been romantically linked with Alexander Cockburn, Edward Said, and Ariel Sharon.
    It seemed to me Sisi was talking less like a man who’s looking for a new patron than one who knows that his current patron is never going to turn off the spigot no matter what the provocation.

  27. turcopolier says:

    Ah, you would have preferred that this interview had been suppressed, as in the main stream media. IMO you are a “running dog” of the neocons with their dreams of univerasl political revolution. pl

  28. Charles says:

    Just saw that Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com has bought the WAPO if not the company for $250m.

  29. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “The Egyptian armed forces are now equipped with American gear, so a transition would be painful but it might be worth it.”
    Having gear is one thing. I don’t know what the official term would be, but wouldn’t there be some set of operating policies based on the gear at hand and its capabilities? I guess that word would be “doctrine.”
    And have the Egyptians mastered a doctrine based on the gear’s capability?
    I’m thinking of another ally with lots of US gear who couldn’t use it – the Hondurans. We bathed them in gear they could not maintain. Buying new gear that they couldn’t use from another source would have made no difference in their ineffectiveness! A seamless transition from incompetence to further incompetence.
    Obviously, Honduras was an extreme. But I suspect Egypt’s military has not mastered the man-machine integration like we and our NATO allies have.

  30. turcopolier says:

    “have the Egyptians mastered a doctrine based on the gear’s capability? Like most 3rd world militaries they haven’t “mastered” anything. They transitioned form British to Soviet and then to ours. They can do equally poorly once again. pl

  31. Stephanie says:

    I read that after I’d posted. Slate wasn’t sold to Bezos, apparently (neither was Foreign Affairs). Guess a name change is in store for the holding company.

  32. Matthew says:

    BM: Great article. This vignette was particularly poignant:
    “When the winds in Egypt one day carried biting sand particles from the desert during a demonstration for visiting U.S. dignitaries, I watched as a contingent of soldiers marched in and formed a single rank to shield the Americans; Egyptian soldiers, in other words, are used on occasion as nothing more than a windbreak.”

  33. elkern says:

    They are, they just abandoned DC for Wall Street, where the real money is. Who wants the responsibility of actually running something as complicated as a country (especially ours), when you can make a $B moving imaginary paper around?

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