Thursday, February 24, 2011


Interesting to ponder: Could the historical sweep of freedom in the Arab world and Middle East reach northwest Pakistan? So far these people's revolutions are completely antithetical to Al Queda's uber-violent philosophy. Could it be that some of the Brothers will see the light? Okay, it's a bit of a stretch, but I wonder if one of these guys would give him up, and I might as well throw in al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar -- as long as I'm fantasizing. Just a thought.

, , , and so it goes.


Why is president Obama so silent on public employee unions? Who is he, Eisenhower?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


While the Egyptian revolution was mostly peaceful, Bahrain is quite different. The leaders appear to have adopted the Tiananmen model. China brought troops in from the countryside who had very little in common with the student protesters in the capital making the massacre that much easier for some of the old hard-liners in the politburo.

In Bahrain with its Shia majority pitted against the Sunni dominated elites, the same violent approach will work -- for a time. It's unclear what democracy means to the people that revolt in the streets of the Arab world, but it is a movement that may be delayed, not denied. The hope is the people in the streets will take a cue from the Egyptian populace and find ways other than a blinding, frustrating violence to achieve their ends. Egypt, thus far, has shown it's eminently doable.

The question, too, is where does the United States stand? With the 5th fleet birthed in Bahrain, the security interest rears its head in ways it did not in Egypt. Again we must choose wisely and promptly; true revolutions can be slowed, not stopped.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Dirksen redux: A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to less than one percent of the deficit.

. . . and so it goes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


The army is now in charge in Egypt. The same military that has a vested interest in the status quo. After all, their businesses, military owned businesses, comprise about 10% of the Egyptian economy. Never mind that they don't want to give that up. There's another reason that democracy may give them pause.

Little noticed here, but the same day the Egyptian people freed themselves from Mubarack's military dictatorship, the Turkish prosecutor asked a court to jail 180 current and former military officers on charges they plotted a coup against the democratic Islamist government. The trial is a victory for the government in tackling a military that once held sway over Turkish political life.

The fate of the Turkish military isn't lost on the Egyptian command, and they may not want to go gently into this free night as have their Turkish confreres. Democracy is tough slogging .

Friday, February 11, 2011


They may have a republic, if they can keep it.

. . . On to Tehran.


We are so transfixed by the protestors in Egypt essentially because (at least so far) they are a nonviolent movement. Those young students take their philosophical underpinnings from the likes of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and the velvet revolutions of Europe.

This is a philosophical focus we must encourage; it is a movement we must forcefully endorse. If we don't, this anti Queda, non Islamist movement will devolve into something nasty and it will further diminish our influence in the region.

If the protestors in Cairo can prevail, that will go a long way toward validating democratic ideals. And those ideals may spread beyond the Arab world all the way to Tehran. Our choice is between the ossified and the ascendant. We ought to choose wisely and promptly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


At least Nixon had the sense to go.

SO LONG HOSNI (click here for el Ahram)

The Egyptian army will take control of the country and Hosni Mubarack will step down today in favor of Omar Suleiman, or more likely the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. And now we wait . . .

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


In the 1971 South Asian crisis, Henry Kissinger famously 'tilted' toward Pakistan. The tilt was not an all out endosement, and Nixon's antipathy toward Indira Gandhi played a part, but the tilt wasn't a bad idea.

Today we have to play a similar card in Egypt. The cliches aside, i.e. 'getting ahead of the curve,' we need a policy that makes sense. Tilting toward the protestors in Tahrir Square is a must if we don't want the antipathy of the street. We need to be seen as supporting them. At the same time, support - tepid though it should be- for an ally of some thirty years will comfort our other allies in the region.

Yes, there are risks, Mubarack and his cronies literally know where the bodies are buried -- but we must to be seen as supporting those democracy hungry protesters in the cities of Egypt. And signaling that tilt is the way we need to go.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Finally the corpus resurrected? It will be interesting to see how the Iranian thugocracy reacts to the call for demonstrations by a weak opposition. (click the headline to go to the Times article)

Friday, February 04, 2011


I. An interim government to be set up by March 1st with a transitional figure, perhaps Mohammed ElBaradei or Amr Moussa , in the lead and encompassing the disparate factions. They would be charged with three primary function: running the government; developing a directionality for Egyptian democracy; and lastly, to organize an election to be set up for July 1st. The army would be the guarantor of this body and see to it that its primary funtions are carried out equally and uniformly.

II. An election on July 1st with all parties and stakeholders in Egypt participating regardless of ideology, which may even include figures such as Gamal Mubarack, should he choose to run. The election to be monitored by credible international observers.

III. The handing over of power to the newly elected regime on September 1st.

This may indeed be a way forward to bridge our own American dilemma -- not to humiliate an ally of thirty years standing as well as satisfying the American ideal of encouraging democracy. Perhaps too this also may mollify, to some extent, our other allies -- the Kingdoms in the region.

Mubarack has already agreed to the September target, and from our own perspective there is little downside, with at least a chance of a legitimate neutral outcome.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Hosni Mubarack has taken a cue from Iran by sending out his own thugs reminiscent of the Iranian Besij militia. But Egypt is not Iran and the Egyptian military, the strongest center of power in Egypt, is yet to be heard from.


The spillover of the Egyptian crisis seems to have focused the mind of Arab governments and emboldened their populations. Is the Iranian opposition getting this message, or does it not apply to Persians? Where are those brave protesters who tried in vain to topple the Ahmadinejad regime? Time for a second push; they may not get another chance anytime soon.


Egypt's confusion and ours:. Many in the street want to cast off the American yoke and yet recast themselves in it's image, That confusion spills all the way to Washington.

Is this a velvet revolution, or one that will devolve into chaos with Islamists picking up the pieces? Is the Muslim Brotherhood a changed organization or a scourge that will only bring a fundamentalist Egypt? Will the Muslim Brotherhood even be the winners? Is the quiescence of the Brotherhood tactical or strategic? Do they really aspire to Islamic governance throughout the Muslim world? All tough questions to answer.

At the moment though, the most powerful force in Egypt is not the Brotherhood, but the army. Many of these guys have spent more time at West Point then they have in Cairo, all to the good. And if the Muslim Brotherhood did have a say in a new government, would our engagement with them present an opportunity? That is, some influence in moderating the views of their compatriots in Gaza, Hamas.

It's all damn confusing, but the United States' rhetoric much match its values, otherwise we have no chance of an upside.