Rubin Reports: Egypt’s Elections – Titanic of Western Interests Meet Iceberg of Islamist Revolutionary ZealTuesday, April 24th, 2012
There are now a total of 23 candidates, though it is possible there will be a few more before registration closes April 26. Aside from Mursi and Moussa, they include two other Islamists, three moderates, and a leftist.
In all of this, there is a hugely important point that’s been generally missed: Unlike the Brotherhood, the radical Salafists have not yet produced an alternative candidate. A lot of its members are endorsing Mursi. Now the Salafist al-Nour party has genuine differences with the Brotherhood, though more over timing and the desire for power than anything substantive. Still, al-Nour may be splitting over the party’s support for Mursi. But if the dissidents don’t have a candidate at all, who will the 25 percent of al-Nour’s supporters in the parliamentary ballot support?
In theory, then, Mursi can depend on 75 percent of the electorate — the Brotherhood and al-Nour voters — based on the parliamentary vote! He won’t get that many because a lot of those who voted for Islamists may want some balance in the government or just happen to like Moussa, whose anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Israel credentials are strong.
Still, will enough voters switch to Moussa to tilt the balance? Moreover, in a run-off between Mursi and Moussa, the former should be able to depend on stronger support from any al-Nour supporters who are ambiguous about how they will vote in the first round.
So nobody can predict the victor. Still, overall, one might better assume that Egypt is going to have an Islamist president and parliament just eight weeks from now, to be followed by an Islamist constitution.
As far as I can tell — and amazing as this might seem — there has been no preparation in the West for such an outcome. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed we can read:
What is poorly understood in the West is how critical fundamentalists are to the moral and political rejuvenation of their countries. As counterintuitive as it seems, they are the key to more democratic, liberal politics in the region.
Of course, there is a grain of truth in what Reuel Gerecht said in his op-ed. If Islamists weren’t allowed to participate, there couldn’t be fair elections. And if they do participate and win, one can call the resulting system democracy.
Rubin Reports: Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan – An Anti-Radical Liberal Who Saw the Unfortunate Future Where We Now LiveMonday, April 23rd, 2012
It’s time for a revival of interest in the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the last American politicians with serious intellectual credentials as well (Compare Moynihan to Obama to see how shallow and mythical are the latter’s intellectual attainments). Moynihan was one of the first people to try to deal with the lurch leftward of the liberal and Democratic streams that is now so dangerously dominant in America.
“In the best universities the best men are increasingly appalled by the authoritarian tendencies of the left. The inadequacies of traditional liberalism are equally unmistakable, while, no less important, the credulity, even the vulgarity of the supposed intellectual and social elite of the country has led increasing numbers of men and women of no especial political persuasion to realize that something is wrong somewhere. These persons are [our] natural allies.”
“America has developed, in Lionel Trilling’s phrase, `an adversary culture’….The ‘culture’ is more in opposition now than perhaps at any time in history….As Richard Hofstadter recently observed, some really surprising event…is going to have to happen to change the minds of the present generation.”
It’s really interesting when I talk to Obama supporters who are soft-core, meaning they are open to discussion and not completely closed-minded or ideologically set in granite. There are several themes that constantly recur in such conversations, though one rarely or never sees these points in print.
Of course, these people get their information from the mainstream media, which protects the administration and repackages its talking points while largely censoring out critical responses and the failures or scandals. But there are also some important assumptions they are making on their own.
A key argument is that Obama really hasn’t done that much to change anything. The subtext of this claim is that the person who believes it is only looking at legislation passed by Congress. In that category, once one goes beyond ObamaCare or the disastrous stimulus plan, this administration has gotten far less in the way of major bills through the legislature than have many of its predecessors.
Leaving aside the fact that the speaker usually doesn’t understand the full import of ObamaCare, the problem here is that most of the changes are invisible. They are the result of regulatory changes made by unelected officials and czars in a wide range of agencies, or of executive orders from the White House. Thus, it is possible to vastly understate the changes to American society made by this administration.
Another area of change is the deep indebtedness that Obama has brought — the massive, wasteful spending, and the inability to get the country out of recession. Here, after almost a full term for Obama, the soft-core Obama supporter doesn’t blame George Bush so much as the difficult situation itself. After all, if Obama had taken over during a boom, the assumption runs, that good economy would still be going on. The implication is that the president doesn’t have too much to do with the economic state of the nation.
Then comes a theme I hear over and over again: Obama is a centrist because he gets along with capitalists. His relationship with the head of General Electric is mentioned, as is the fact that he’s hired people from Wall Street and other such things. People say things like: to hear the right-wing talk about it, you’d think Obama is some wild-eyed Occupy Wall Street type.
There is no sense of the concept of crony capitalism. Sure the administration is happy to back specific companies if they support its policies and perhaps kick back big campaign contributions. Obama calls for class warfare and then jets off to big fundraisers with corporate fat cats. That doesn’t make him a centrist but rather someone who knows how to leverage support and intimidate opposition.
Ironically, his behavior — most notably with “green energy” — is the kind of thing that used to be called the most blatant form of corruption, that would have condemned his predecessors to scorching media treatment.
Often there is a foreign policy point. While the “Obama got Osama” theme is big generally, the point I most often hear is that Obama has done well in making America popular abroad. People are shocked when I tell them that I meet diplomats and officials from three dozen countries that are horrified by Obama’s policy. The “Europe loves Obama” theme has long since worn off, as reflected by the media there. And American military officers and career officials are also horrified by what’s going on.
Going back to the “Obama got Osama” chant or talk of Predator drones in Yemen, I reply that this is precisely the problem. Yes, the administration views itself as being at war with al-Qaeda – but that’s it. Almost all other Islamists are viewed as moderates who can be won over in the battle against al-Qaeda. They might be taking over countries and preaching genocide against Jews and the repression of Christians, but at least they aren’t attacking New York. This policy is destroying U.S. interests in the Middle East.
If my interlocutor is Jewish and friendly toward Israel, he will usually cite Israeli leaders saying nice things about Obama. Of course they have to say those things, I explain, and they should do so. But you should hear what they are saying about him in private. It is obvious here that Israel cannot depend on this U.S. government.
Finally, the soft-core Obama supporter says something like this: “Well, do you think he’s any different from other Democratic presidents? Is there a discontinuity with him?
Many conservatives, like Obama supporters, would agree that he is just a typical liberal, which of course provides a good reason for liberals and Democrats to vote for him and independents to have an excuse to do so.
But this is just not true. Whatever the continuities, Obama has gone much further and with some very different assumptions. Obama’s administration is radical, not liberal, but if his critics minimize his differences, it will help to assure his reelection.
Rubin Reports: Obama’s ‘Secret’ Plan on Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Issue and Why (Even the Saudis Tell You) It Will FailThursday, April 19th, 2012
Hey, there’s no hurry! The negotiations with Iran have just been postponed a month. What’s another month after the current U.S. administration has given Iran 38 of them to keep developing nuclear weapons?
The problem with the Obama administration is that it wants to pursue policies acceptable to the day-dreaming cultural elite, but not to regimes that are full of cunning and deceit, like the Iranian regime, whose primary objectives do not include development, openness, humanitarian values, the well-being of its citizens, or even religious tolerance; rather, all that the Iranian regime – and the ideology behind it – cares about is expansion and infiltrating other countries.
Oops! I didn’t write that last paragraph and there’s no plagiarism intended! These are the words of Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of al-Sharq al-Awsat in that Saudi-backed newspaper’s April 15 issue. He once again illustrates a point I keep trying to make: anti-Islamist and moderate Arab states, intellectuals, and democratic opposition movements are just as upset with the Obama Administration as I am. And they are just as endangered by current U.S. policies as Israel is.
Alhomayed is horrified by reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she thinks there are signs that Iran is moderating on the nuclear weapons issue and is going to negotiate seriously.
Iran, Alhomayed continued, has been working for three decades to “infiltrate our region” and “divide Arab states from within.” As examples he cites Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon as well as the Palestinians. He even claims Tehran at times works with al-Qaida today, an accusation incidentally that U.S. intelligence reporting has confirmed. So why, Alhomayed asks, would anyone trust Iran?
It is astonishing to note how much the Obama Administration, supposedly so sensitive to the views of Arabs and Muslims, has ignored the concerns of America’s own Arab allies. And it is astounding to see how much that same administration, which is so obsessed with being popular among Arabs and Muslims, is mistrusted and ridiculed by so many Arabs, Turks, and Iranians who want to be allies of the United States, as well as being ridiculed and stepped on by America’s enemies in the region.
Alhomayed is on target. The Washington Post has revealed what can be called President Barack Obama’s secret plan to solve the Iran nuclear crisis without a confrontation. It might sound familiar.
If Iran somehow proves that it doesn’t want nuclear weapons, the United States will agree to Tehran’ having peaceful nuclear power.
This is what Obama has just told the Iranian leadership through the visiting Turkish prime minister. Well, guess what? This is precisely the same plan he’s been proposing since 2009. This strategy hasn’t worked and it won’t work.
From a high-level U.S. government group-think approach, Obama’s plan sounds brilliant. It gives Tehran a way out and is intellectually cute. Hey, you claim you don’t want nuclear weapons but only nuclear-generated power so we’ll call your bluff.
One could also read into this a bit of nasty trickery: you pretend you aren’t building nuclear weapons and we’ll play along if you don’t actually assemble one or be too obvious about the drive for military weapons of mass destruction.
The phrase “too clever by half” might have been invented to describe this situation.
Someone who doesn’t know much about Iran, revolutionary Islamism, or Middle East politics might expect that this plan could possibly work in the real sense. Iran would recognize its “true interests” (as defined in Washington governmental corridors and media offices) and back down.
And someone who doesn’t know much about Iran, revolutionary Islamism, or Middle East politics might expect that this plan could possibly work in the fraudulent sense. Iran could recognize how to exploit this offer by taking the deal and pretend to be moderate while going ahead with its nuclear weapons’ drive.
Yet why should Tehran do either? Iran’s leadership really does want nuclear weapons and it doesn’t need to fool the West when it can call the West’s bluff. The Iranian leadership doesn’t believe the United States will attack because it views Obama as weak and itself as strong. They’re right in assuming they don’t have to worry about a U.S. assault.
At the same time, the Islamist leadership—like the Communist regimes of the past—firmly believes that the West is intrinsically hostile. So the Tehran regime finds the idea that the West might keep such a deal to be laughable. The Islamist regime is convinced that the Crusader-Zionist West will target it whatever Iran does. Stalling for time and continuing to seek deliverable nuclear weapons is obviously the best choice.
One could argue that Obama’s strategy is to give Tehran every chance to resolve the issue so that if Iran refuses to do so then Obama can some day mobilize support for military action. My view, however, is that he is engaging in wishful thinking allowing him to argue that he is working hard on the issue when in fact he isn’t doing anything. This strategy makes it far more likely that Iran will get nuclear weapons and also more likely that a war would result at some point.
Rubin Reports: Romney’s Road – Blast Obama’s Failures and Policy, Expose the Lies, Seize the MainstreamTuesday, April 17th, 2012
I wrote this article before Mitt Romney made what might be called his first speech directed at the general election (see the end of this article for the link). And I was pleasantly surprised that he seems to be following the strategy I’ve outlined below. It appears that Romney is changing gears after being bland, centrist, and nasty to win the Republican nomination. This is a superb speech full of sharp and clear points, and I urge you to read it.
What are the weaknesses of Obamaism that my “Marxist-style” analysis highlighted, and how do they suggest the way in which the presidential and congressional electoral campaigns should be conducted?
1. The current policies don’t work for a basic structural reason. You cannot apply highly statist, left-wing socialist policies to the American system and have them work. It is like beating your automobile with a buggy whip to make it go faster or, alternatively, buying a Leaf.
There is no way that Obama’s policies can revive the American economy precisely because they are based on an ideology that doesn’t fit the system it is supposed to govern. And if he’s reelected, things will become far worse. Mitt Romney and others must highlight this total mismatch.
Obama ignores the facts and doubles down on applying failed strategies, as he did by refusing to increase drilling in the face of high prices or as he continues to do by investing in “green energy” when the green in it is the mold growing on bankrupt facilities.
2. The philosophy and policies of the Obama administration run counter to all previous American thought and practice. Obama can reach to find precedents, but they are very unpersuasive. When he does come up with something, it is either taken out of context or argued as if the America of today hasn’t changed in a century, with cigar-smoking, top-hatted capitalists oppressing workers that have no unions.
Romney should highlight Obama’s departure from the Constitution and consensus. He is the mainstream candidate, Obama is the extremist.
3. Obamaism throws the American system out of balance. There is nothing wrong with having a state capable of balancing big business and the banks from having unbridled power, but that is nowhere close to reality. Instead, the federal government has grown to ridiculous proportions, to the point where it is dictating to society and the individual. Romney should be the candidate of reasonable balance, explaining why the government, taxes, and regulation must be scaled back to reasonable proportions.
4. The Obama approach is not some social justice system protecting the masses, but rather the instrument of a privileged class trying to enrich itself and accumulate power. It is a bid for power by wealthy and upper middle class people who benefit from their relationship to the state to enrich themselves, rather than produce jobs, products, and wealth.
They pretend to serve most Americans, but actually steal the property of the people to benefit parasitical crony capitalists and non-productive upper middle class sectors. Romney must show how government programs that pretend to be altruistic are actually forms of greed that hurt the voters.
5. Romney needs to wage an old-fashioned anti-Washington campaign against big government, high taxes, and excessive regulation, and against a swollen government full of waste, fraud, and abuse.
When they call him rich, he must respond by calling them arrogant, power-hungry, and liberty-stealing. He must provide case after case of massive government waste and fraud to trash the lie that money to the federal government merely keeps the water and air clean, clothes the poor, and does assorted other good deeds. He and the congressional candidates need to show the waste and corruption involved in funding crony capitalism and the turning of government into a foundation that uses tax money to make left-wing groups rich.
He needs to talk about big cuts in spending as ejecting non-productive — indeed, anti-productive — bureaucrats rather than worthy programs. He needs to expose how institutions like the departments of Energy, Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others are counterproductive.
How should this strategy be implemented? First and foremost, Romney and congressional candidates should aggressively denounce Obama’s policies. Let me put it clearly: Romney must do to Obama what he did to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. If he pulls punches and tries to be too restrained, he will repeat the mistake of John McCain and make a humiliating defeat inevitable.
Second, Romney should not try to get the media or the statist-oriented elite to like him — that’s the kryptonite of the opposition — but should appeal over its head to the people. Nothing Romney can do besides going soft on Obama, minimizing the difference, and ensuring his own defeat will get the media to say anything nice about him.
Rubin Reports: Being an Israeli and a Jew in 2012: Let’s Face Reality Without Illusion, Shrug, and Move ForwardTuesday, April 3rd, 2012
In previously moderate Tunisia, now under Muslim Brotherhood rule, thousands of Salafists paraded, chanting to kill the Jews in order to enter paradise. The new Tunisian constitution contains a provision that the country could never recognize Israel. Almost a half-century ago, Tunisia’s then leader was the first Arab politician to call for recognizing Israel. We’re still waiting.
“This is the end… Of our elaborate plans, the end, Of everything that stands…. No safety or surprise…. There’s danger on the edge of town…. And all the children are insane…. The West is the best…. But you will never follow me.”
–“This is the End,” The Doors
Here’s your basic problem for 2012-2013 – in the Middle East, the vultures are coming home to roost. Of course, the main cause of developments in the region is the long, failed legacy of radical Arab nationalism which is now being replaced by what we’ll be calling in 20 or 30 years the long, failed legacy of revolutionary Islamism.
But the secondary cause is the mistaken policy of President Barack Obama. Let’s make a list:
–By putting the priority on Muslim identity, as he did in the Cairo speech and elsewhere, Obama helped empower Islamism over nationalism and democratic choices.
–By pressing for revolutionary change in Egypt, Obama helped bring a radical Islamist regime to Egypt, the Arab world’s most important country, leading it to break the alliance with the United States and move toward heightened belligerency —possibly war— with Israel
–By pressing for revolutionary change in Egypt, Obama helped bring to power a regime allied to Hamas, providing that regime in the Gaza Strip with unlimited arms, money, and terrorist reinforcements, and thus bringing renewed armed conflict with Israel.
Let me stop here a moment and respond to the claim that Obama couldn’t have done much on this issue. Of course, if we look at the demonstrations on the ground that seems a sensible argument. But the key pressure point was the U.S. ability to affect decisions taken by Egypt’s elite and military in January and early February 2011 to give up and even join the revolution.
U.S. encouragement and pressure—as the State Department wanted to do at the time—would have allowed a post-Mubarak transition with some reforms rather than an all-out revolution. There’s an interesting parallel to Iran in 1978, when almost year-long inaction by the Carter Administration helped create a situation that fostered the Islamic revolution there.
–By overthrowing the horrible Muammar Qadhafi, however much that can be justified by the evil nature of his regime, Obama handed power over to radical forces, not consciously or intentionally but inevitably, given the reality of that country. We already see such signs as a refusal to cooperate with the Lockerbie bombing investigation and the destruction of Christian and Jewish graveyards.
–By failing to help the Iranian opposition, by not taking a strong stance when the election was stolen, and by doing nothing serious about Iran’s nuclear program for more than two years, the Obama Administration has helped create a situation in which either Israel will attack Iran or Iran will get nuclear weapons. Or both.
–By never criticizing or seriously pressuring the Palestinian Authority (as it sought unilateral independence at the UN, allied itself with Hamas, and refused to negotiate with Israel) the Obama Administration made the “peace process” absolutely, positively dead.
–By backing Islamist forces in the Syrian opposition, and not helping the opposition generally, the Obama Administration is most likely creating the worst two options: the continued pro-Iran, anti-American regime in Damascus or an Islamist takeover.
–In failing to help U.S. allies, Obama has alienated the few remaining states that sought American protection against revolutionary Islamism, to the point that they know they are on their own, retreat before the radicals, or make their own deals.
–In distancing itself from Israel, the Obama Administration has emboldened radicals to escalate operations against that country and persuaded the less radical to go along with them.
–By embracing an Islamist regime in Turkey, Obama has allowed that government to continue with its agenda of transforming Turkey while disproving the opposition’s argument that radical policies at home and abroad might damage the country’s standing in Washington.
–By showing so much weakness (which it portrays as friendliness, sympathy, multilateralism, and cultural sensitivity), the Obama Administration has convinced the radical, anti-American forces that the United States is weak and ripe for collapse. Listen to what the Islamists in the region actually say.
This is the government and this is the policy portrayed as successful merely because good intelligence officers located Usama bin Ladin and courageous Navy Seals killed him.
This is the government that portrays itself as the best friend of Israel – even as it undermines Israel’s security – because Obama keeps saying how much he supports Israel and “allows” continued congressionally mandated aid to go to that country. With best friends like this who needs enemies?
Nothing could be more ridiculous than these assurances of success while the Middle East burns, while U.S. standing and interests there are in sharp decline. The “funny” thing about all of this is that virtually everyone in the region itself knows that everything written above is true even as virtually everyone in the “mainstream” discussion in the United States denies it.
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