Spengler on American ineptitude in Egypt


"America's whimsical attitude towards Egypt is not a blunder but rather a catastrophic institutional failure. President Obama has surrounded himself with a camarilla, with Susan Rice as National Security Advisor, flanked by Valerie Jarrett, the Iranian-born public housing millionaire. Compared to Obama's team, Zbigniew Brzezinski was an intellectual colossus at Jimmy Carter's NSC. These are amateurs, and it is anyone's guess what they will do from one day to the next.
By default, Republican policy is defined by Senator John McCain, whom the head of Egypt's ruling National Salvation Party dismissed as a "senile old man" after the senator's last visit to Cairo. McCain's belief in Egyptian democracy is echoed by a few high-profile Republican pundits, for example, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Robert Kagan, and Max Boot. Most of the Republican foreign policy community disagrees."  Spengler


SWMBO often says that we were lucky to have lived and served in the period of America's greatness and indeed grandeur.  She is correct.

The United States, IMO. has declined politically, institutionally, morally, and ethically with a rapidity that is hard to find mirrored in history.  It is now a national security state obsessed and afflicted with the malignancy of Orwellian "virtue" over issues of political correctness that have little to do with real life in a hostile world.  So few Americans are willing to serve in the armed forces that "thank you for your servce" has become even more of a mockery than it was before 9/11.  The suicide rate is high in the armed forces?  Consider that many of those who have not served in combat are the people who kill themselves.  Consider that over half of the reported sexual assaults in the armed forces are of men on men.  What sort of children are you raising?

The attempt to export American practice in political life is so absurd and self destructive as to merit the ridicule that Spengler heaps upon it.

"A Tale Told by an Idiot."  pl


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64 Responses to Spengler on American ineptitude in Egypt

  1. Matthew says:

    Col: This weekend another dad at our sons’s scout function told me, “People in the Middle East fail to appreciate the sacrifices we’ve made for them.”
    How would John Quincy Adams react to such schmaltz?

  2. walrus says:

    Spengler is a wonderful pseudonym for David Goldman.
    My personal take for what has happened to recent American Administrations is based on my own experience of dysfunctional corporations and the failure of what is called the Corporate Governance function.
    The Governance function is essentially providing a “reality check” and verification of the facts and critical thinking behind the decisions of the CEO.
    Narcissistic leaders have no use for Governance in any form. They surround themselves with “special people”. They refuse to listen, let alone consult, anyone outside the “magic circle” and they thus go on their merry way constructing their own reality.Now add “noise” from well funded special interest groups and the possibility for apocalyptic miscalculation escalates.
    As a trivial example, what football club in its right mind would decide that it was in its best interests to form a special “high performance unit” and inject its players with various dubious compounds under the guidance of a “sports scientist” with no formal medical qualifications?

  3. My understanding is that the almost 50% or higher rate of failure on just physical aspects of soldiering is a national scandal that is being hushed up. In the draft established in 1940 an Army had to deal with a 40% rejection rate for malnourishment coming out of the national depression of the 30’s and the basic test that you had to weigh 100 pounds was NOT met by over 40% of all men subject to the draft. The concept being that you might have to lug 100lbs of web gear, weapons and supplies. That being the American standard although not met by much of the world soldiers. Result the establishment of a federal food stamp program as the need for soldiers was identified by the draft.
    Perhaps some have more accurate information.

  4. turcopolier says:

    i am not a JQ Adams fan. your co-dad is right. nobody in the ME, including the Israelis, are grateful to us for anything. Why should they be? This is a matter of state interests. pl

  5. turcopolier says:

    Not only are 50% of those willing to join as enlisted soldiers inferior physical specimens but they are often weaklings in spirit as well who cannot bear the discipline of military life. Pathetic. pl

  6. Could it be argued that the modern MENA is largely a US FP creation, including Israel? I think the weight of argument favors that conclusion. In other words WE [USA] may well have created and be the problem for the citizens and residents of MENA! My thinking as to this conclusion largely attributable to the book published called “The Great War” by a British news reporter who has spent most of his life in MENA!

  7. CK says:

    As do so many other of the hostile intellectual minority in the USA, Goldman absolutely hates any idea that Americans might be allowed to ask “Is this course of action good for Americans?”
    Folks who do ask that question are immediately labeled isolationists; as if that were a bad thing to be.
    So just a suggestion to remember that Spengler has a nuanced agenda not always in favour of America’s long term profit or interest.

  8. turcopolier says:

    I ask that question all the time and I pretty much am an isolationist. pl

  9. turcopolier says:

    IMO the modern MENA was largely created by he British and French in the course of the long demise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. pl

  10. r whitman says:

    The federal food stamp program was heavily debated by the US Dept of Agriculture late in the Eisenhower administration mostly at the behest of the supermarket and grocery store lobby. Poor people were getting handouts of free surplus ag commodities and the food business people wanted some of the action. The food stamp program went into effect early in the Kennedy administration.

  11. Lamoe2012 says:

    I think you can call America the Accidental Empire. After WWII with communism needing to be contained, with the European powers on the ropes, in a couple of examples out cold on the mat there was simply no one else. The United States eventually took over the roles of the UK and the French. A role in my option we where not equipped for and are still struggling with. Lets face it, with a few examples most of our so called elites like most Americas are not out ward looking. They find the out side world puzzling and wish they where more like us. It’s not surprising BHO and his cronies are having a hard time getting the grips with a place a hideously complex as the middle east. A combination of ignorance, wishful thinking arrogance, and with this bunch political correctness has lead us to this sorry state. Well at lest we will be living in interesting times.

  12. Will Reks says:

    “America’s whimsical attitude towards Egypt is not a blunder but rather a catastrophic institutional failure”
    The old Reagan/Bush (even back to Carter) hands Spengler pines for have long been put out to pasture. Their expertise is not wanted by the cabal that dominates both parties’ foreign policy experts. The continuity in thought from the neoconservatives in the GWB WH to the Wilsonians in the Obama WH is striking. These people worship at the same altar of Western democracy promotion and belief that foreign cultures can be easily socially engineered for Western tastes.

  13. confusedponderer says:

    “I think you can call America the Accidental Empire. … The United States eventually took over the roles of the UK and the French. ”
    Accidental? If there was any US reluctance to take over when the other powers ran out of steam after bleeding white in two world wars there sure is little left of it nowadays.
    American empire is at least nowadays quite a deliberate affair, if all that talk of global benevolent (or not) hegemons and the insistence on US dominance everywhere over the last two decades is any indication.

  14. Thanks R Whitman and PL!
    And certainly the borders in MENA a product of the Versailles Peace Conference at end of WWI were they not?

  15. From Wikipedia:
    First Food Stamp Program (FSP) (May 16, 1939 – Spring 1943
    The idea for the first FSP has been credited to various people, most notably U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace and the program’s first administrator, Milo Perkins. Of the program, Perkins said, “We got a picture of a gorge, with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm.” The program operated by permitting people on relief to buy orange stamps equal to their normal food expenditures; for every US$1 worth of orange stamps purchased, fifty-cents’ worth of blue stamps were received. Orange stamps could be used to buy any food; blue stamps could be used only to buy food determined by the Department to be surplus.
    Over the course of nearly four years, the first FSP reached approximately 20 million people at one time or another in nearly half of the counties in the U.S. at a total cost of $262 million. At its peak, the program assisted 4 million people simultaneously. The first recipient was Mabel McFiggin of Rochester, New York; the first retailer to redeem the stamps was Joseph Mutolo; and the first retailer caught violating program rules was Nick Salzano in October 1939. The program ended when the conditions that brought the program into being (unmarketable food surpluses and widespread unemployment) no longer existed.

  16. johnf says:

    If a parallel is needed I’d go for Imperial Athens and the Sicilian Expedition. Alcibiades, Thucydides et al have a lot they can teach us.
    Anerican hard power might be in a terminal decline (though recoveries are not unknown) but its soft power will live well beyond it – just as Athenian did (and does).
    And how much was the American Empire merely a continuation of the British and preceding European Empires? The West might be in decline but its scientific and cultural and intellectual strengths – from which economic political and military power usually stem – still far out rank any of its rivals (though India and Brazil might be future challengers or partners).

  17. John Quincy Adams would have quoted his father, Samuel Adams, to the effect that “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” These days, America goes abroad in order to create them. Good money in it for Monster-Fighters, Inc., though. Only way I can explain it.

  18. There is nothing whatsoever British about David P. Goldman. He is a former close associate of Lyndon La Rouche, who back in 1980 co-authored a book on Milton Friedman with him. As is well known, LaRouche believes that the most nefarious developments in the world are generally the product of conspiracies orchestrated from London.
    Although Goldman repudiated the LaRouche connection, his writings still have a good deal in common with those of his erstwhile associates. They are a bizarre combination of fascinating and often very important information, genuine insight, and sheer dottiness.
    His analysis of how ‘neocons and Obama liberals have created catastrophe by consensus in the Middle East’ was developed at greater length in the ‘Tablet’ earlier this year, and is very well worth reading.
    (See http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/132459/dumb-and-dumber )
    Unfortunately, Goldman is no more able than the neoconservatives he – very acutely – criticises to grasp the fact that the new-found ability to influence the deployment of the massive military power of the United States is, for Zionists, a double-edged sword.
    The notion that it could be used to ‘modernise’ the Middle East, and thus make it Israel-friendly, was certainly a fantasy. So too however is the notion that it enables Israel to find permanent security by staying on top in an indefinite war against a population conceived of as savages whose civilisation is headed for extinction.
    Once you conceive Arab and Muslim peoples in these terms, the notion that there could ever be a ‘safe haven’ for Jews among them is patently preposterous — a dotty idea. Moreover, attempts to inveigle America and other Western countries into fighting Israel’s wars for it – as with Goldman’s repeated beating of the war drums against Iran – risk an eventual backlash against Jewish influence in those countries.
    (For an example of his beating the war drums against Iran, see http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2013/05/05/syria-attack-shows-theres-no-alternative-to-neutralizing-iran/?singlepage=true )

  19. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    sorry. I thought he was one of you all. That does not change the truth of what he writes in this instance. pl

  20. cloned_poster says:

    Thanks for adding a new word to my vocabulary:
    A camarilla is a group of courtiers or favourites who surround a king or ruler. Usually, they do not hold any office or have any official authority at court but influence their ruler behind the scenes. Consequently, they also escape having to bear responsibility for the effects of their advice. The term derives from the Spanish word, camarilla (diminutive of cámara), meaning “little chamber” or private cabinet of the king. It was first used of the circle of cronies around Spanish King Ferdinand VII (reigned 1814-1833). The term involves what is known as cronyism. The term also entered other languages like the German and Greek language, and is used in the sense given above.
    A similar concept in modern politics is that of a Kitchen Cabinet, which is often composed of unelected advisers bypassing traditional governance practices.

  21. Matthew! Sorry but Sam Adams not the father of John Quincy Adams. Try John Adams!

  22. CORRECTIO: Last comment addressed to Michael Murray!

  23. Matthew says:

    Michael: I think Quincy’s father was John Adams.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not think he understands women either and he is entirely too dependent on what philosophy he learnt while in college; he seems to have been influenced by Rosenzweig who did not understand Islam (in my opinion).

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think the Will to Empire existed from the very beginnings of the United States; it was not realized until late in the 19-th century after the internal opposition to it, the Old South, was defeated in the Civil War.

  26. Matthew says:

    Walrus: Like most provocative thinkers, Splengler can be fantastically wrong. As you may know, he published a book called “How Civilizations Die”, which argued, inter alia, that Iran is collapsing because of a propitious birthrate decline–which Spengler then extended to Islam at large. Iran and Islam were essentially choosing to die out.
    Two problems:
    (1) Both Mexico and Italy have experienced recent big drops in birthrate. Are they likewise committing national suicide, or are they making a developmental leap to near sustainability? (It can be argued that Italy’s birth rate is already below replacement rate.)
    (2) Since Mexico and Italy are Catholic countries, is Roman Catholic Christianity also dying by attrition? (Not in my state, BTW.)
    While every argument is worth consideration, every argument should be tested with Charlie Munger’s exhortation: “Always invert.”
    Spengler’s population argument fail the inversion test.

  27. Matthew says:

    Col: I agree. But the man was complaining about the ingratitude, not accepting it. My writing was unclear.

  28. Bill H says:

    I believe that the “scientific and intellectual strengths” of the US are overrated, trading largely on past glory and having little reality in modern times, and the “cultural strength” of the US is entirely a thing of the past.

  29. oofda says:

    It is worse than people think. My son, who served with an Army infantry battalion in Germany and Afghanistan, said that his unit was getting replacements for deployment that they could not use and had to jettison before they left for overseas. One notable problem was the several soliders who had PTSD from BEFORE they entered the Army- from their troubled high school years. One can only conjecture how they got through basic. Shades of Project 100,000 during the Vietnam years.

  30. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel,
    Since the 1980s, the decline of America has been a topic of discussion among friends (kicked off by Paul Kennedy?), but by the late 1990s, I began to think that the perennial 15 year time horizon was too short. With the arrival of GWB Jr, and since the crash, the US debt-funding 15% of its economy on China (and all the other points you make, which relate), I will be surprised (pleasantly since my assets are in US$$) if the US remains a superpower in 2020. Our system has shown itself incapable anymore of the needed institutional self-corrections (due to gov’t capture by the 0.001%).
    Spengler often opines in this regards. But then he tends to excoriates for changes that invariably are Israel-centric (and a neo-liberal Israel-centric at that).

  31. John says:

    I like my new word for the day, camarilla.
    I especially like the secondary meaning: the name of a vampire clan in a role playing game called Masquerade.
    Our oligarchic overlords are vampires and they are into role playing..
    And apropos of nothing, I think I remember that Bismarck introduced socialized medicine in Germany in the late 19th Century to improve the German crop of cannon fodder. It sorta worked, but it still didn’t turn out so well for the Germans or the cannon fodder.
    And finally from a hot young lady from Austin, Texas, Otep Shamaya:
    We’ve become a nation of wolves, ruled by sheep.
    Owned by swine, overfed, and put to sleep.
    While the media elite declare what to think,
    I’ll be wide awake, on the edge, and on the brink.”
    although I suspect it is more appropriately a nation of sheep, ruled by wolves!

  32. Matthew,
    Absolutely. And the badness of the argument matters, because of what Goldman wants to do with it. Close to the start of one of his war-drum beating pieces, written in February last year, he explains that:
    “An important insight into the character of the Iranian leadership can be gained from Adolf Hitler’s speech to the German army’s top commanders at Obersalzberg on Aug. 22, 1939, a week before the invasion of Poland.”
    He goes on to explain that:
    “Just like Hitler, Iran has nothing to lose. Hitler was convinced that the Aryan race was doomed to corruption and extinction unless he restored its preeminence by force; Ahmadinejad knows with certainty that Persian will become an extinct language in a few generations given the present fertility trend.”
    (See http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2012/02/03/lessons-about-iran-from-hitler/?singlepage=true )
    This is hysterical alarmism born of trauma – not serious strategic analysis. And it leads in directions liable to be suicidal for Israel and dangerous for Jews elsewhere.

  33. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    The issue of what you think of Goldman’s philosophy of life is largely irrelevant here. The part of his screed that I am interested in is his insistence that the US is in what is probably an irreversible decline and that our meddling and attempts to impose neoliberal systems everywhere is making our situation and that of the world worse, not better. pl

  34. Matthew says:

    BM: Thomas Jefferson called it “an Empire of Liberty.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_of_Liberty
    You can decide whether that’s a distinction without a difference.

  35. Matthew says:

    WRC: Although rumor has it, “Sam Adams” makes a better beer than John Adams.

  36. walrus says:

    Thanks to all who have pointed out Goldmans political fetishes. I was not aware of his previous history, but with hindsight, I should have guessed some of it from his pseudonym “Spengler”.
    However I agree with Col. Lang. As Plato said; just because a fool says the sun is shining doesn’t make it dark outside. Francis Fukuyama was also spectacularly wrong about his “End of History” thesis but I still revere his work on the economic value of trust and cooperation in societies.

  37. MRW says:

    Great line: “This is hysterical alarmism born of trauma – not serious strategic analysis.”

  38. MRW says:

    “the US debt-funding 15% of its economy on China.”
    Can you identify the factory in downtown China where they are making the US dollars that you think we’re borrowing?

  39. Michael Murry says:

    OK. Strike “his father.” And Thanks for the correction. The quote still stands — and would no matter who had said it.

  40. Narcissistic leaders have no use for Governance in any form.
    Absolutely 100% spot on. And so it goes.

  41. Lamoe2012 says:

    It’s obvious I failed to make my point clear. What I meant is the United States lack the skills and aptitude for Empire. Or simply we’re not very good at it as a people. We like the perks the prestige the power, who wouldn’t. To be a successful Empire your friends have to know you can be relied on your enemies have to have a healthy respect and fear of you.

  42. So are the writings of Oswald Spengler still of relevance to Western CIV?

  43. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Oswald Spengler
    29 May 1880
    Blankenburg, Duchy of Brunswick, Germany
    8 May 1936 (aged 55)
    Munich, Bavaria, Germany
    Main interests
    Philosophy of history
    Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936) was a German historian and philosopher of history whose interests included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes), published in 1918 and 1922, covering all of world history. He proposed a new theory, according to which the lifespan of civilizations is limited and ultimately they decay.

  44. Basilisk says:

    Actually, John Quincy Adams would have been quoting himself. That is from his Indedendence Day address 4 July 1921 when he was Secretary of State. One of my favorites. The whole thing is:
    America…goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy…She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but it its stead would soon be substituted and imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

  45. turcopolier says:

    “Why do you hate liberty?” pl

  46. Matthew says:

    Dh: I retrospect, Yemen is a better example than either Italy or Mexico to refute Spengler’s thesis. Yemen has an exploding population rate….and it’s a failing state.

  47. Matthew says:

    Walrus: Even Churchill had Gallipoli. And TR had the Bull Moose Party.
    Best wishes.

  48. Basilisk says:

    I don’t, as long as I am the one allowed to define “liberty.” I’m afraid the term is far too often invoked to conceal activities that do not meet Mr. Jefferson’s definition.

  49. Basilisk says:

    And obviously that is 1821, not 1921, (curse you, spellchecker!)

  50. CK says:

    It is not isolationism to wish profitable mutual intercourse with other sovereignties. It might be capitalism of a rather old fashioned and less crony kind. It is not isolationism to keep ones sword/pecker out of other folks hornet’s nests.
    There is no country that is autarchic ( using the resource self sufficiency definition), the USSR came close but not close enough. Trade is necessary. Meddlesomeness in mores, standards, politics is not.

  51. CK says:

    Obviously a man who has never watched Lady Gaga, or enjoyed the cable networks worship of serial killers, meth makers and ho’s.

  52. PS says:

    A President Romney would have had us neck-deep in Iran and Syria by now, but President Obama helps fumble away any relevance in the ME. However, as an American, the growing chaos seems preferable to chaos and thousands of dead U.S. soldiers.
    From my perch, I see the Administration desperately pulling on levers while nothing works. Foreign policies are pursued on the cheap (due to a limited budget) while China or other allies put serious money behind their efforts. In other cases, the USG relies on the mistaken belief that countries will follow “sound policy,” as if Americans can discern an objective reality that should be recognized by all policy-makers, no matter the culture or history. (This isn’t exclusive to the Administration, as demonstrated by the disastrous visit to Cairo by McCain and Graham.)
    I’m not sure what comes next, but the only option seems to be turn to realpolitik and recognition that countries pursue a given set of policies not because they don’t know any better but because these benefit some person/group/interest. Solve the question of “who benefits” and you can start to craft effective policies and actions.

  53. Ursa Maior says:

    The soft power of the US is declining faster than the hard part of it. Even though the Colonel probably disagrees I still dont see a power in the coming 20-25 years who would have the slightest chance in an open war against the US armed forces.
    OTOH a definite decline of american values (or what is left of them) in US made media is not too far away. Movies like Pacific Rim, or the new Wolverine movie, not to mention the ridiculous character of Mandarin in Iron Man 3 shows a clear turn towards asian customers.

  54. Well, look at it this way. The Bush administration rolled the dice and enabled democracy in Iraq. Likewise with the Obama Administration in Egypt. In both cases, voting thereafter brought in fundamentalist governments, which significant portions of the domestic populations do not like, and then led to a diminution of the U.S.’s profile, plus more security headaches. So what, exactly? What should be happening that would be better?
    We might instead make the case that, at least, the U.S. is demonstrating the conviction of “self-determination”: That whoever the people want should be elected, and those governments should be expected to do a proper job of governing, and that, if it goes wrong, well, that isn’t exactly our fault, is it?
    Notice that the war against religious fundamentalism is being placed where it belongs: between the people themselves. In other words, the the U.S. is succeeding in stepping out of it. And that could be a good thing. Perhaps what we are beginning to see, is the Islamic equivalent of the Reformation, which everyone seems to think that Islam needs, and which European historians will note was a bloody awful time.

  55. confusedponderer says:

    You really believe that? Or are you just hoping? Because that’d be rolling the dice again.
    I’d object to a foreign policy of gambling.

  56. confusedponderer says:

    All of it.

  57. confusedponderer says:

    And in particular the bit about the Islamic reformation.
    I hope I don’t do you injustice, but I read that as a veiled suggestion that we should not be too upset at the prospect of the the carnage to be expected from it – as they are just birth pangs of a new, reformed Middle East. You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs I guess.
    And sooner or later them Muslims will arrive in modernity … or do they?
    Just a thought.

  58. You can be as upset as you want. But cut to the chase: From this point in time forward, how do YOU think the U.S. should step in and “manage” the situation?

  59. confusedponderer says:

    No, the US cannot control the outcome, to think so is to maintain an illusion.
    Roll the dice as policy means that the US can affect that outcome by making a random choice. IMO that is eqally an illusion.
    Look how well rolling the dice turned out in Iraq. The US were played from start to end on Iraq, and ended up empowering the Shia. The result was not a liberal democracy where Freedom ™ and the Holy Free Market blossomed but a country locked in strife that went into Iran’s camp – only the latter, so we are told is a horrible thing.
    Do you believe the US is in control on Syria right now?
    Have you ever considered the extent to which they were dragged and manipulated into the conflict by other players? Do you believe the US was rolling the dice when Sisi cracked down on the MB? To me it appears they were overtaken by events on which they had no influence.
    That dice rolling stuff sure produces sort of unreliable outcomes. And does it really happen? It would also serve splendidly as an ex-post-facto rationalisation for having made a couple of idiotic blunders.
    So far all that rolling the dice has added fuel to the fire.
    Actions just as omissions have consequences, even if one calls them ‘rolling the dice’.
    So them Muslims are going to have a “bloody awful time”, and will end up being reformed when they arrive at the end of history? Ah, let’s expedite the chaotic collapse, shall we?
    Faster please. I’m sure something splendid is going to rise from the ashes! Hard 8!

  60. confusedponderer says:

    re: “U.S. should step in and “manage” the situation”
    You think in odd categories. Can the US manage the situation? Can they roll the dice or are they just made to believe that?
    I would advise that the US is looking at it in a transactional way and decide what’s in for them. There is no shame in being transactional in the Middle East – everybody there is, only the US is maintaining the delusion that they need to bring light to the benighted, and save Israel from their reckless policies.
    The US should engage where it pays off and stay out where it doesn’t. Simple as that.
    What you call ‘roll dice’ means right now that the US should support Prince Bandars’s in his pursuit of Saudi and wahhabi dominance in the Middle East, in hope a reformation comes out of it. Idiocy. The US do not have an interest in spreading Wahhabi influence.
    So instead of rolling dice a policy based on national interest would do just fine.
    That would probably involve dumping Saudi Arabia, telling Israel to call when they are serious, the burying of grudges and reconciling with Iran, forgetting about Russia as an adversdary and other unpleasant but necesary things the US right now just can’t bring themself to, apparently because they’re jut too exceptional.
    The talk about rolling dice or letting them Muslims have their reformation and have them duke it out amongst themselves (over which they presumably will forget about America, or Israel for that matter) while the US safely stands outside, and Israel safely grabs more land, is just empty bravado IMO.

  61. CP,
    Thanks for that link. The whole series of articles looks very interesting. Their author makes a critical point – that the notion of some kind of linear movement, between bad ‘traditional’ ways of doing things, and good ‘modern’ ones, is nonsense.
    It was after all Tocqueville – the great European champion of American democracy – who argued that the ineluctable collapse of the traditional order in Europe could easily manifest itself in various forms of egalitarian despotism.
    From such a perspective, the imperialistic military despotism of Napoleon, or indeed the tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin, are as much part of ‘modernity’ as the rather civilised order which the post-war Pax Americana brought to Western Europe.
    Moreover, the rise of that essentially modern phenomenon of nationalism – which destroyed the Ottoman Empire, as well as those of the Hapsburgs and Romanovs – has been a deeply ambiguous process. It is curious to recall that the principal architect of the strategy of attrition by which the Russian Empire destroyed Napoleon, Barclay de Tolly, came from a middle class Baltic family, originally from Scotland, but Lutheran in religion and German in culture.

  62. I began by writing that the U.S. should step out of it, since it was little better than rolling the dice, and it wasn’t working. You replied that this was uncaring of the expected carnage. I replied, then what do you think the U.S. should do about it? Then you wrote gibberish about how it shouldn’t be rolling the dice and managing the situation. Fine — that puts you back where I started from!
    NOW you finally write your recommended policies: Dump the Saudis, tell Israel to get serious, reconcile with Iran, and be nice to Russia. All very easy, it will have no repercussions, and it will solve everything! A veritable Spenglerian trifecta!
    Also, what does it have to do with Egypt (and Syria)?
    Saudis (and maybe Israelis) are pro-Assad, pro-Sisi. Iran is pro-Assad, anti-Sisi. Turkey ( a NATO member) is anti-Assad, anti-Sisi. Assad is anti-Muslim Brotherhood. U.S. backed the Egyptian elections and therefore was pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is pro-Muslim Brotherhood but anti-U.S.
    Please explain again how your own policies would affect any of this.

  63. confusedponderer says:

    I’d like to challenge your premises:
    #1 The Saudis are ANTI-Assad considering all the funding they give to the rebels, because Assad is a heathen to them, and his regime is a heathen regime to them. The Saudis support Sisi because the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood aren’t their kind of Muslim. Interesting bit, that. What the Saudis are interested in is spreading their idea of Islam and thus their political reach, largely they do so by means of their wealth.
    #2 The Israelis are a mixed bag, the hawks being apparently Anti-Assad, and apparently are keen to exploit Syrian instability to get a firmer grasp on the Golan. Chaos in the arab world to them strengthens Israel’s position. I don’t think so. They ought to be rightfully weary of Jihadis taking control in Syria. The missiles fired by Egyptian Jihadis from the Sinai tell them what to expect in the north in case of a Jihadi victory. Right now they only enjoy the ‘heathens first’ phenomenon in the north. After that …
    The Israelis are dependent on the US in many ways and do not reciprocate the favours so unconditionally showered upon them. The US only have theoretical leverage over them, which is a result of US domestic policy, which ensures that Israel can continue to act like it does, even openly meddle in US elections, without any consequences.
    #3 Iran is pro-Assad, because they have very little friends left, and likewise Assad is pro-Iran because he has so little friends left. Where the Iranians stand on Sisi, I don’t know. For now, they have bigger fish to fry I guess.
    The US conflict with Iran is a festering wound that needs addressing, and a grand bargain would to much to improve the situation in the Middle East for the US. Indeed, the Iranians wanted to reconcile, but the US weren’t ready because they were high on regime change at the time and Iran was an item on that to do list.
    That is IMO in part US dogmatism as far as enemies are concerned and part domestic policy, since Israel regards Iran as their regional rival, the lobby follows. Iran, with its industrial potential, population and strategic depth is possibly the only country regionally that is able to stand up to the Israelis.
    #4 Turkey (a NATO member) is anti-Assad, largely because of the MB agenda of the current government, and they are only anti-Sisi because they are pro-Muslim brotherhood and can’t be happy about what Sisi did to Mursi.
    Turkey entered NATO in a time before Erdogan, and the threat from the Warsaw pact has since dissolved, as has much of NATO’s original rationale. Erdogan is not a clean cut democrat. He is an Islamist also, with all that comes with that. His consolidation of power in the security parapet speaks for itself. He’s trying to coup-proof himself, because he probably expects that if his Islamic reforms reach a certain point they and he will become unpalatable to the Guardians of Attatürk’s legacy. That is a local conflict that has deep roots which the US can influence only so much.
    #5 Assad is anti-Muslim Brotherhood because of some bad experiences with them cutting the throats of Alawites here and there and, with Western and Saudi help, now again. That is to say, Assad has a real local reason for his problem with the group. This conflict goes way back in Syria and would exist even without the Saudis and Qataris funding Jihadis to make life miserable for him.
    Assad wanted to surrender to the West but the West made that conditional of him abandoning Iran, and he is ingratiated to them. Syria to be friends with both the West AND Iran is unacceptable for the West these days, thus Assad now faces the consequences to refusing to surrender i.e. for defying the West.
    Intervening there is not going to change any of the underlying causes of Syria’s problems. The US can do nothing to appease the MB in Syria, because they likely are not content with anything but dhimmi status for Alawis and Christians, and the Alawis and Christians – although a minority – have ample reason to fear that outcome. To get the idea, google some of the beheading videos from Syria. Iirc it was common in pre-Assad Syria for Sunnis to own Alawis.
    Making this all about weakening Iran is likewise a folly, because that completely ignore all of the above.
    #6 U.S. backed the Egyptian elections and therefore was pro-Muslim Brotherhood, largely IMO born out of America’s ‘Democracy is good for and against everything’ reflex. That was probably a mistake. Probably all Mursi was interested was indeed establishing a Sharia state. One man, one vote, one time?
    Elections are not an end in themselves. The US had no interest in a Sharia state in Egypt, and their reflexive support for democracy in Egypt led them to ignore who the winner actually was. The MB was elected? Good enough, never mind what and who they are.
    #7 As for Hamas being pro-Muslim Brotherhood, and they have been anti-Muslim brotherhood and pro-Iran before, but events have forced them to switch their allegiance to Egypt’s MB instead.
    They are first of all pro Palestinian, which has in the past put them at odds with Al Qaeda who deem them too nationalist and thus un-Islamic. They are anti-U.S. they probably are as a result of US hostility and policy.
    Hamas, with their stubborn insistence on 1960 borders, have a point rooted in intl. law, which is unacceptable for the US because it is unacceptable for Israel. Hamas have a local, territorial grievance, a thing that could be fixed, but they are Islamists with all that comes with that. Their beef with the US comes probably first of all from the US not being an honest broker but a second hostile party at the negotiating table, which is again a result of US domestic policy.
    The US can do something about that and the borders issue, but have chose for about two decades now not to.
    #8 The ongoing US hostility towards Russia is simply a stupid thing that I have never understood. The cold war is over. Get over it. Probably, the US didn’t win, the Russians only went broke first. The guarantees once given to Gorbatchev by the Bush 41 administration – no NATO east expansion and so forth – were all broken by subsequent administrations. What was the necessity?
    In all of these fields there are choices, some long overdue, that the US can make to improve their situation. No need to roll dice for a grand experiment in social engineering.
    And anyway, I still hold that, just like the old ‘flypaper strategy’, the “dice rolling strategy” is a ex post facto rationalisation for FUBAR rather than a strategy in its own right.
    Not much of a difference between “fight’em there so we don’t have to fight ’em over here” to “have ’em fight there so we don’t have to fight ’em over here or down there”. Both theories are equally dumb.
    Which doesn’t mean that the idea of a Islamic reformation is not likely a pipe dream to begin with, and to the extent that it happens, likely will NOT produce a linear outcome in line with Western history. I think that extremely unlikely.

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