January 2011

The popular uprising in Egypt has left politicians and commentators scrambling for an appropriate reaction. Just about the only thing we know for certain about what will happen is that we cannot predict the outcome and there is very little the United States can do to affect the course of events.

What Happened So Far
To the best of everyone’s knowledge the initial spark for this week’s events occurred on Dec. 17 when Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit stand vendor set himself on fire in protest over the government’s confiscating the goods he was selling. Over the next few weeks growing protests resulted in the departure of the man who had been president of Tunisia for over twenty years and ongoing attempts at a transition government. These events which have been called the Jasmine Revolution inspired people in other Arab countries to protest against their autocratic governments. Rising food prices throughout the world have increased discontent among people in many poor countries who face spending more and more of their earnings on food. This is likely to have lowered the threshold for normal discontent to boil over into uprisings against oppressive governments. We could go into the causes of rising food prices and whether inflationary policies in the US and other Western countries are contributing to unprecedented cost of basic commodities, but this would take us a little far away from the current events in Egypt.

A week ago people started protesting in Egypt, a country of 85 million people, which is also one of America’s most loyal allies in the Middle East and one of only two Arab countries that have signed a peace treaty with Israel. Initially, the protests seemed unorganized and express general discontent with President Mubarak, Egypt’s leader for the past thirty years. In the past day or so, Mohamed el Baradei, a diplomat and former head of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), has emerged as a spokesman for the opposition which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group with lots of documented terrorist ties.

What’s Next?

President Mubarak’s government is on the defensive and has opened negotiations with the opposition. The army has announced that it won’t shoot at protesters. It looks like the rule of the 82-year-old Mubarak is quickly coming to an end. What’s next?

Nobody knows. The best case scenario is a gradual transition to a hopefully maturing democracy that rejects Islamist fanatics. The army, which appears to be respected by the people, may play a role similar to the army in Turkey – a firewall against extremists and anarchy. The Egypt emerging in this scenario would continue to be at peace with Israel and an ally of the United States. This scenario could be seen as a vindication of President Bush’ policy of bringing democracy to the Middle East via Iraq.

But there is a darker, much more dangerous course of events. The initial transition may be to a relatively weak leader like el Baradei followed by the eventual takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood which would turn the country into another Islamic Republic. Many revolutions have started with the initial turnover of power to people that are nice and reasonable, but who are no match to the committed ideologues waiting in the wings. This is what happened over 200 years ago in the French Revolution. It happened again in 1917 in Russia and thirty-two years ago in Iran.

In such a scenario, Israel would face a new threat to its existence, trade with Europe via the Suez Canal could be threatened and disruptions in the oil supply could result in sky-rocketing energy costs (e.g. gas at $5 or more a gallon). Worst of all, the Islamist contagion could spread to other Arab countries and become the main alternative to autocratic, secular governments in the region.

The successful suppression of the uprising by Mubarak seems unlikely especially now that the army has announced that it will not attack the demonstrators. This would be a bloody outcome similar to the 1989 Tinaman Square massacre in China or the suppression of the 2009 Iranian Green movement. Not something the United States should be associated with.

The Obama administration faces no good options. If we keep supporting Mubarak too long, the people of Egypt may see America as an ally with their oppressor. If we support the opposition uncritically, we may aid the ultimate victory of Islamist radicals. Other imperfect US allies may cool their relations with us when they see how quickly we dump an ally of thirty years. Opinions on this are widely divided, but the best approach may be to privately urge Mubarak to leave and threaten loss of US support, open up a dialogue with the army and key opposition figures and try to help with a transition that has some type of safeguards against an Islamist takeover.

It’s a high stakes game with an uncertain outcome. We are concerned whether President Obama has the understanding and experience to navigate this biggest foreign policy crisis of his administration. In matters of national security such as this, all Americans have to hope that President Obama receives the best advice and acts wisely in the interest of the United States.

Israel has more at stake in these events than any other country in the world. Here are comments from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper:

The administration faced a dilemma. One can guess that Obama himself identified with the demonstrators, not the aging dictator. But a superpower isn’t the civil rights movement. If it abandons its allies the moment they flounder, who would trust it tomorrow? That’s why Obama rallied to Mubarak’s side until Friday, when the force of the protests bested his regime.

The street revolts in Tunisia and Egypt showed that the United States can do very little to save its friends from the wrath of their citizens. Now Obama will come under fire for not getting close to the Egyptian opposition leaders soon enough and not demanding that Mubarak release his opponents from jail. He will be accused of not pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hard enough to stop the settlements and thus indirectly quell the rising tides of anger in the Muslim world. But that’s a case of 20:20 hindsight. There’s no guarantee that the Egyptian or Tunisian masses would have been willing to live in a repressive regime even if construction in Ariel was halted or a few opposition figures were released from jail.

Now Obama will try to hunker down until the winds of revolt die out, and then forge ties with the new leaders in the region. It cannot be assumed that Mubarak’s successors will be clones of Iran’s leaders, bent on pursuing a radical anti-American policy. Perhaps they will emulate Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who navigates among the blocs and superpowers without giving up his country’s membership in NATO and its defense ties with the United States. Erdogan obtained a good deal for Turkey, which benefits from political stability and economic growth without being in anyone’s pocket. It could work for Egypt, too.

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There are no officially declared Republican candidates yet for challenging Barak Obama in 2012, but some are getting close to entering the Republican primary officially. Florida Pundit isn’t going to support a specific candidate anytime soon, but we will want to occasionally feature a candidate.

Here is an inspiring ad from Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota:

Pawlenty also recently called Obama “chicken” for not addressing the real issues confronting us:

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We did not see much coverage of Rep. Paul Ryan’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech last week in the mainstream media. The lack of coverage is a good indication that the Left in the media is afraid of the effectiveness of Ryan’s comments.

As Republicans in Congress move forward with cutting government spending, it is good to listen to Ryan’s speech again. Paul Ryan is the House Budget Chairman and will be driving how aggressively Republicans will reduce spending. He is also one of the most effective speakers explaining the current situation and what to do about it.

Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well. It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.

The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.

Whether sold as “stimulus” or repackaged as “investment,” their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.

And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten — along with record deficits and debt — to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.

We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.

Our nation is approaching a tipping point.

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For all those in the media demonizing the Tea Party movement, here is Allen West’s clear, concise definition of what the Tea Party movement represents (via The Shark Tank):

The Tea Party is a constitutional, conservative grass-roots movement – and that’s it. The Tea Party stands for three things: they want to see effective, efficient constitutional government, they stand for national security and they stand for free market, free enterprise solutions. That’s it.

Now anyone that doesn’t believe in that: Do you really belief in what made America great in 234 years?

The quote above starts about 2 minutes into the video.

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On Tuesday President Obama will give the State of the Union address. The current silliness in Washington is the idea that sitting with members of the opposite party is going to achieve anything lasting. Many senators and representatives are trying to find a “date” from the opposite party to sit with on Tuesday night.

They clearly have not asked George Will about the significance of the State of the Union speech. Maybe they should.

The transcript (via The Daily Caller):

“A, they’re overrated — the next morning, the country is still a complex continental country with muscular interests in politics as its own momentum. Between Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, no one delivered this in person. They sent the report to Congress in writing. But, now we’ve turned this into this panorama. In which in an interminable speech, every president, regardless of party — tries to stroke every erogenous zone in the electorate and it becomes a political pep rally, to use the phrase of Chief Justice Roberts last year. If it’s going to be a pep rally with the president’s supporters of whatever party standing up and bringing approval and histrionic pouting on the part of the other, then it’s no place for the judiciary, no place for the uniformed military, and no place for non-adolescent legislators.”

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