The Meaning of the Egyptian People’s Revolution

News Abroad

Deepak Tripathi, former BBC journalist, reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, India and Sri Lanka during his 23-year career. His new book is "Breeding Ground: Afghanistan and the Origins of Islamist Terrorism" (Potomac, 2010).

Day seventeen of the Egyptian people’s uprising (February 10, 2011) brought a new dangerous twist to the crisis at the heart of the Middle East.  Beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak gave a television address, but expectations that he would leave were once again thwarted.  He patronized the people, calling them his children; he apologized for the state-sponsored violence of recent days; he attacked foreign powers, clearly meaning the United States, for trying to dictate to Egypt; he asserted, denying an obvious reality, that he would never turn the country into a satellite; he would devolve some of the presidential powers to the longstanding intelligence chief and now vice president Omar Suleiman; however, he would not resign and stay on until the end of his current term in September.

As he continued in this vein, determined to cling on to power, the popular mood of expectation turned into anger.  People chanted “Go, Go, Go.”  Shoes were seen flying in air.  It reminded me of a speech of Romania’s dictator Nicolai Ceausescu in 1989.  Before his fall, Ceausescu tried to address a crowd from the balcony of his palace.  The people booed him in response.  Imagine if Mubarak tried to face the Egyptian people instead of addressing them on state television?  What is surely the final phase of Mubarak’s three-decade dictatorship reminds us of the most tumultuous events in recent history.  The fall of the pro-U.S. Shah of Iran in 1979, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 symbolizing the end of the Soviet Empire and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

With popular rage sweeping the country, the pressure on the Mubarak regime, and uncertainty with it, are bound to increase.  Friday will be another day of massive demonstrations.  Already labor unions, government employees, judges and medical staff have been joining the protestors.  The trend is likely to grow, but Mubarak has failed to judge the nation’s mood.  Al Jazeera and Press TV reported about military officers at the Liberation Square in Cairo dropping their weapons and joining the demonstrators.  The loyalties of Egypt’s most important institution, the armed forces, to Mubarak and his regime look less certain.  The game seems to be up.  What legacy will Mubarak leave when he finally departs? For we are witnessing a phenomenon that is irreversible.

Egyptians living under a suppressive regime have broken the fear barrier.  The masses have realized their collective strength and resolved to end their long nightmare.  People have lived through atrocities and pain, economic and political hardships without any obvious recourse, distrust of their rulers and pessimism about their future long enough.  They have reflected on what they must endure if things remained unchanged, examined their own worth and concluded that the system cheats them in every way. Their rage has broken the threshold of tolerance. They have decided that the existence of permanent humiliation is not worthy of continuation. The point of inevitability has been reached in the people’s revolt in Egypt.

The inevitability of a revolution, once the dynamic has reached that point, is no longer in doubt.  However, exact prophecy is trickier.  Juan Cole warns against the temptation to compare Egypt’s popular uprising to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution (Why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979, Informed Comment, February 2, 2011).  A number of observers have made alarmist predictions that the Muslim Brotherhood (i.e. radical Islamists) will take over power if Egypt’s military-dominated regime is swept away by popular revolt.

The Muslim Brotherhood is neither a dominant entity in Egyptian polity nor is the movement in collaboration with the radical movements like the Islamic Jihad.  There are secular, left-wing and right-wing parties, religious forces and labor activists in considerable numbers.  Contrary to national elections and referendums to extend military-led rule under President Hosni Mubarak over three decades, the outcome of a free and fair election, if it were held, cannot be predetermined.  However, with more than twenty parties, the scenario of a radical Islamist seizer of power looks unlikely. 

Anti-Americanism in Egypt, the heart of the Arab world, is a different matter.  Political machinations by the ruling elites in and outside Egypt to keep the established character of regime in place will only serve to reinforce anti-American feelings.  Egypt’s uprising has both differences from, and parallels with, earlier civil revolts elsewhere.  The local context of the events in Egypt is different.  However, it is important to recognize what these events mean for the United States, Israel and their strategic designs in the Middle East.  They mean something akin to what the Iranian Revolution meant back in 1979. Mubarak’s desperate attempts to cling on to power look similar to those of Iran’s dictator, the shah, in his final days before he left the country in January 1979.

In the early stages of the Iranian Revolution, a weak American president, Jimmy Carter, in a moment of fatal misjudgment, described Iran as a “free country” and an “oasis of peace and stability.”  As the current Egyptian uprising started more than two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the regime in Cairo was “stable.”  America’s misjudgment and confusion about how to deal with the crisis does not stop there.  The way ahead is littered with political landmines.

President Obama’s soaring rhetoric proved much stronger than his leadership in office.  Today he looks like a weak president in the mold of Jimmy Carter.  In July 2009, he embarked on his Middle East political journey in Cairo with a celebrated speech seeking “a new beginning” with Muslims based on mutual interests and mutual respect, justice and tolerance.  That rhetorical promise now faces a severe test.  Obama seems clueless while American policy is hijacked by hawkish secretaries of state and defense, with the uniformed military top brass openly meddling in Egypt’s affairs; and voices from the United States and Israel declare utter disrespect for the Egyptian people and the reasons for this uprising.  Obama demands that a transition “must be quick, must be peaceful and must start now.”  President Mubarak refuses to resign, promises to go in September 2011 at the end of his current term (thirty years in all) and offers instead committees to discuss reforms and bribes in the form of pay rises.

No matter what comes out of Egypt’s tumultuous events, the American Empire is collapsing.  The Camp David Treaty that bought Egypt to the American camp for billions of dollars is in crisis.  Israel, which has used Mubarak to maintain the blockade of Gaza and divisions in the Arab world, has every reason to be extremely worried.  Autocratic ruling elites of other countries in the region—Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the smaller Gulf emirates and beyond—must be nervous.  The Egyptian people have all but ensured the end of Hosni Mubarak’s rule and the prospects of a Mubarak dynasty.  However, this is only a partial victory.  The real victory will be the establishment of democracy in Egypt as its people demand.  However, machinations in Israel, the United States and its European allies continue, and real victory is not certain—yet.  Is it to happen soon?  Or the people’s will to be thwarted—again? Attempts to cheat them this time will leave a legacy of anger and bitterness that will have consequences far more serious than the events in Iran in 1979.

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omar ibrahim baker - 2/25/2011

The Prof opines:
" Every piece of land in Jewish hands before 1948 was bought from willing Arab sellers, including many smallholders."

However for the WHOLE truth to come out he, or failing that, we have to qualify that statement with:

a-that was LESS than 7 % of the total area of Palestine as repeatedly posted here at HNN with British facts and figures.

b-What about POST 1948?, the then, pre 1967, actual figure was some 72% of the total area of Palestine.
What about 72-7=65% of Palestine in which Israel declared its "independence"??
WAS THAT bought by the JEWS??

The Prof sufferes from an endemic inability to say, or face, the WHOLE TRUTH which reflects sadly on the education of his students.

N. Friedman - 2/22/2011

To James:

Tell me, James: Is it not a bit odd that the one Jewish state has the world claiming it is the one wholly at fault - no mention of the unwillingness of the Palestinian Arab side to sit down and talk? How is today's opposition to Israel any different from the hundreds of other times that world problems were blamed on Jews? This is no different from the other incidents in the last millennia, with some supposedly plausible argument fronting for deep seated prejudice.

Having the world, except for noble America, saying that Israel is in the wrong is, given the history of how the world has thought for millennia about Jews, a pretty good sign that prejudice, not fact, is what drives opposition to Israel? Has that possibility not occurred to you?

As for Israel's creation, I would highly recommend Epraim Karsh's most recent book, Palestine Betrayed. Karsh shows, with evidence that is difficult - in fact, impossible - to refute that your allegations regarding Israel's creation are not only untrue but, in fact, not even possible. Among other things, the supposedly nefarious Jews were invited to innumerable numbers of goodbye parties sponsored by Palestinian Arabs - such Arabs having, in vast numbers been ordered to leave by those associated with the Grand Mufti, Hajj Amin Al-Husseini. And, in fact, Karsh reproduces, going city by city and town by town, the orders and the enforcement of those order by Palestinian Arabs for Palestinian Arabs to flee. So, the notion of vast ethnic cleansing, in fact, cannot possibly be true, since people left, for the most part, not due to the behavior of Jews but, in the vast majority of cities and towns, at the behest of Arab leaders.

Rather than supposed Jewish perfidy, the primary cause for the refugees was Palestinian Arabs being betrayed by their "leaders" - most particularly the Nazi party advocate, Hajj al-Husseini and his clique, who refused all compromises and ordered Palestinian Arabs, town by town and city by city, to leave.

I think it fair to say that al-Husseini believed, as shown pretty well by Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers in their recently translated book, Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine, that Jews - all Jews, not just those in Palestine - represented a radical evil to be fought. Which is to say, he was continuing the work he had done on behalf of the Nazis - and did so consciously, if we go by Karsh's book.

So, when you start talking about what the Jews of Palestine did to defend themselves as being wrongful, I remind you things are not so simple. Two great principles are at work here. One: the right to migrate to a place where refuge is made available and, Two, the right to participate in the politics of where one lives. Arabs reject those rights for Jews. You have problem with it as well, although you claim that all you want is a two state solution.

Fahrettin Tahir - 2/22/2011

Mr Butler

does your reference to the Kosher butchers areference to the ritual murder BS?

Is that your contribution to this discussion of Middle Eastern issues?

Give the Arabs anti-semitism and watch both Arabs and Israelis die and enjoy life, drinking a glass of wine?

james joseph butler - 2/21/2011

We agree. Truly. I have always said that I'm amenable to a pre 67 borders Israel. I believe in progress and while I laugh at your benign characterization of how Israel came to acquire those 67 borders, peace is a wonder drug. The fact is that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would abide by the Geneva Accord's parameters, at least that's what surveys suggest.

Needless to say both sides include some souls seemingly less enlightened than ourselves. The latest UN Security Council vote might seem to confuse matters. I know that President Obama shares your opinion that the West Bank settlements are an obstacle yet the USA chose to vote no. He tiptoes around usage, "illegal", when the truth is he predicates our UN vote on his 2012 reelection.

A.E. I wish more American Jews would recognize how extra ordinary America's relationship with Israel is. When in history has any nation given as much to another nation as America has given to Israel? Pardon me for analyzing this on a dollar basis rather than on the same level as many members of Congress see it. They dream of a beleaguered outpost of truth justice and freedom, surrounded by blackguard (AE, is blackguard racist? I think so. I also think America's policy toward the ME is racist.) assassins and suicide bombers. They're right, on the face of it but if they look beneath the surface, as any self respecting "historian" would do, they'd see that those suicide assassins were crazy for a reason.

Israel's window of opportunity to establish itself once and for all as a sovereign nation living in peace within the 67 borders (Of course I haven't mentioned Jerusalem.) is fading faster than they know. The Security Council vote was unanimous but for one. Democracy seems to be sweeping the ME and if there's one thing they can all agree upon it's that Israel is an enemy. America may not be able to buy them off any longer and someday, (Ok no time soon, because it would require Americans to actually pay attention.) Israel might be left to fend for itself. Which might mean nuclear war ultimately.

Oh well. Do you really think I'm a racist anti-Semite? Is that a two part question? Or do you just continue to harp upon that one note because you believe that my liberal heart is pained by your accusation? Just wondering.

Yours in hopes for a sunnier tomorrow.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/21/2011

Nobody took anybody else's land the way you mean it.
Every piece of land in Jewish hands before 1948 was bought from willing Arab sellers, including many smallholders.
Then the Jews were attacked, the first violence was from the Palestinians, and for five months the Palestinians were winning. Then the Palestinians lost, and one consequence was that they lost land.

I oppose the West Bank settlements; that's a different story.

But none of this changes the fact that only a racist would think that producing burlesque yiddish here on a serious blog is "fun." Fun for you perhaps--and that is just the point. It shows what you are. Would you do it to a black person? (Of course with you, Butler, perhaps the answer is "Yes"!)

james joseph butler - 2/20/2011

When I speak in the vernacular it's because, a)it's fun, and b)speaking in another tongue is a teeny tiny approximation of another self. I think it's called acting.

Arthur I don't have a problem with the father and son Kosher butchers who were opposed to their chosen country's foreign policy decision. They're not taking someone else's land and justifying it based on a holy book or some nonsense about there being no such thing as an indigeous people. They're just fans. They like their team.

I indulge you by offering coherent semi-intelligent responses to your "racist", anti-Semitic, blather. I have nothing else better to do. You feel better for having fought the good fight. I feel better for having shown off.

Sweet dreams pussy cat.

Fahrettin Tahir - 2/20/2011

to summarize:

there was a cease fire but the ideology of war remained.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/20/2011

Butler, it's racist for you to use burlesque Yiddish on this blog. Your argument above is, as I predicted, that you don't mean anything by it. Of course you do.

james joseph butler - 2/20/2011

My bad, 'burlesque' as you aptly describe it, Yiddish, is no worse than the sloppy brogue that I use around my Irish friends or the arch British tones I affect when called for. And yes, Praise Jesus, I'm not above mimicking the Southern branch of the family in their company, as well.

Art, if you're so concerned about my Yiddish you might to ask yourself; why does the Israeli government have a problem with Yiddish? You and I both know answer but just in case anyone else is paying attention; Israel proscribed the use of Yiddish until recently because it couldn't admit that there was another Jewish language besides Hebrew. And DUh, the reason for that was that Yiddish developed in Eastern Europe not Judea or Samaria. It is an amazingly descriptive tongue. What kind've country would seek to curtail its use?

Art you know all about Yiddish, you brought it up. And I'm sure you know about Israel's policies regarding it, if not you need to do some reading. I just wish someone as politically correct as you, whose tender sensibilites are offended when someone employs the wrong accent was as easily offended by a nation that judges human beings depending on their mother's religion.

A pleasure.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/20/2011

Just a sewer of vituperation; no response to specific facts. Let's see--is the Egyptian foregrounding the fradulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion not racist? Oh--Omar probably believes they're real.

omar ibrahim baker - 2/20/2011

Prof Eckstein
DID I miss the point??
Or is it that the only think you DID NOT miss in a glorious popular uprising was a sordid minor "event" of a misguided few??

That however did NOT surprise me accustomed as I am to your innate blindness and of your fondness for the trivial particularly when it touches the sordid!

omar ibrahim baker - 2/20/2011

We should never stop exposing Zionism and Israel for what they really are .

Zionism as a retrogressive, reactionary and racist doctrine based on an illusionary belief in its people's exceptionalism ( the "chosen people") that allows them extra legal and contra moral "rights" and privileges.
And Israel, its outgrowth, as an aggressive, expansionist and racist state that consistently denies the people whose land it conquered and colonized hi inalienable human civil and political rights.

This pernicious, essentially racist, doctrine came to claim the "right" and allege the "morality" to dislocate, dispossess and subjugate an indigenous people from and in his own homeland then sup planting that people with their own RACIALLY screened and approved "people" of aliens amassed from all over the world!

Zionism as the latest manifestation, and worst form, of colonialism, actually a unique neo colonialism, should be exposed by all people of good will, personal integrity and all anti colonialist/imperialist believers in justice and rational human progress… for the ulterior benefit of all of HUMANKIND.

Should Zionism be allowed to remain unchallenged and unexposed, and its racist and expansionist out growth, Israel, allowed to retain its loot what would prevent a major power, say a USA/Russia or a medium power, say a Germany /Japan, from re enacting the same scenario of DISLOCATION, DISPOSSESSION and SUBJUGATION of an indigenous people and supplanting him with their own racially screened and approved selection of people( the civilian equivalent of Black Water ??) to establish their own imperialist forward base .
Zionism/Israel is a hugely pernicious and universally dangerous historical precedent that has come to attain "legality" thus endangering the future of many of the world's smaller people, say, a Peru, Poland or a Philippine in the night mare scenario above!
For the sake of the future of a peace loving, progress seeking HUMANKIND Zionism should NOT be allowed to go unexposed nor should Israel be allowed to retain its loot and legitimacy!
Arnold I do not pretend to tell you what to do.
You have thewill peronal integrity and ability to do what you believe in..JUST go on doing that!

arthur m. eckstein - 2/19/2011

Butler, you're the one we're talking about, no one else right now, and you, I'm afraid, fit the anti-semitic bill. But you're so insensitive you probably can't even see it, despit your love of the burlesque Yiddish "shtick".

I ask you again, how do you think a black person would react if while writing while you were throwing in stage "Negro dialect" at crucial points? What would he think?


james joseph butler - 2/19/2011

Dear True Believers,

The bigot, anti-Semitism shtick; 140 countries, the entire Security Council save your favorite uncle, voted to declare Israeli settlements "illegal" yesterday. Ipso facto they're all anti-semitic bigots. Life for people such as yourselves is simple: if you disagree with Israel you're either an "idiot or a bigot", NF.

A little history published by 'Jews for Justice in the Middle East'. They cite the words of Pres. Wilson's,1919, King Crane Commission. I'm sure you're aware of their assessment, "The commissioners began their study of Zionism with minds predisposed in its favor...The fact came out repeatedly in conferences with Jewish representatives that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine."
"If the principle of self-determination is to rule and so the wishes of the Palestine population are to be decisive as to what is to be done with Palestine, then it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Paelstine -nearly nine tenths of the whole- are emphatically against the entire Zionist project. To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land would be a gross violation of the principle just quoted. No British officers consulted by the commission believed the Zionist project could be carried out except by force of arms."
"The initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives that they have a 'right' to Palestine based on an occupation of two thousand years ago can barely be seriously considered."

The story was no different in 1948 than it was in 1919. The independent, dare I say, impartial, oh I forgot, they're anti-Semites, American professionals on the ground said - Don't let this happen, it means war for a long time. - were ignored. History has proven them correct. Not that it matters to the Zionists.

What are decades of death and destruction compared to the Holy Roller's, (Pardon me if you find the HR thing distasteful. I've always found the Rapture Armageddeon thing distasteful but if you can hold your nose so can I.)Jew and Goy, devotion to fulfilling their goooood book's prophesies.

You're right those are cheap shots. You're not there, metaphorically or otherwise, via Judea and Samaria, you're there thanks to Poland, Russia, and Adolf. D)All of the above. Bingo.

You're right the Palestinians have nothing to do with it, they're just in the way.

As long as we're on the subject of death and destruction I'm sure you'll be happy to hear the chant, a million strong, reverberating through Tahrir Square yesterday, "To Jerusalem we are heading, Martyrs in the millions."
Sardonic smiles aside someday you may come to your senses. But it won't be soon.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/19/2011

That's right--blame anti-semitism on the Jews, not on the vile anti-semites who spew it out.

Remember, this isn't anti-Israel we're talking about, it's anti-Jews. The brutes in Tahrir square didn't shout "Israeli, Israeli, Israeli!"

Of course, this is all of a piece. My first dealing with Omar was when he insanely asserted that al-Manar TV of Hezbollah wasn't anti-semitic although it (a) put on a 29-part tv series showing Jews eating Christian and Muslim babies baked into matzoh (and this was during Ramadan), a piece of anti-semitism right out of the Medieval sewer and broadcast throughout the Arab world, and (b) when al-Manar had been banned from France for its anti-semitism.

France this spring also banned a major Egyptian network because of its anti-semitism.

But the position of people like Omar and Arnold is (a) to deny Muslim anti-semitism exists or underplay its importance, or (b), as here, to blame the Jews for it!

A disgusting display from them.

Arnold Shcherban - 2/19/2011

Thanks, Omar.
And you're right: one cannot expect any honest discussion from ultra-nationalist religious zealots whose leaders by their chauvinistic and criminal actions have caused a new wave of anti-semitism to then insidiously use it to justify the continuation of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and vilification of other religious fanatics, who are simply returning the "favor" to them.
That's why I stop responding to such
characters as Eckstein and others, just providing my view on the issue in question, instead.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/19/2011

You miss the point as usual, Omar--this vile anti-semitism is both the origin and the end-point of what you celebrate in your original posting above, which was not democracy but the destruction of Israel.

omar ibrahim baker - 2/19/2011

It takes an enlightened mind and an open heart to realize that:
" this singular episode (regardless of how ugly it, or any manifestation of ethnic hatred, was) or several of them is of minuscule importance, comparing to the grandeur of the Egyptian uprising,... "
You cannot expect that from the blind of mind and sick of heart OR the sex obsessed!!
That would be asking too much!!

arthur m. eckstein - 2/19/2011

Arnold, Egypt is a country where the government sponsered initial exhibit at the rebuilt Library of Alexandria featured the anti-semitic fraud the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as if it were real.

Anti-semitism as a feature of the Tahrir Square rallies:

Egypt is also a country where at the leading religious university (Al Azhar) we get the following. It is from a NY Times story, Jan. 10, 2009, describing the main Friday sermon pronounced by Egyptian-government appointed cleric Sheik Eid Abdel Hamid Youssef. Sheikh Youssef preached:

"Muslim brothers, God has inflicted the Muslim nation with a people whom God has become angry at [Koran 1:7] and whom he cursed [Koran 5:78] so he made monkeys and pigs [Koran 5:60] out of them. They killed prophets and messengers [Koran 2:61 / 3:112] and sowed corruption on Earth. [Koran 5:33 / 5:64] They are the most evil on Earth. [5:62 /63]."

Arnold, you think the "Jew Jew Jew!" incident came out of nowhere? Gimme a break. It's the result of a vile sewer of anti-semitism preached in mosques and even on tv for the past 50 years.

However, I know that for an ideologist such as Arnold, actual facts will count for little.

It's amazing too how Arnold simply shrugs off what happened to this reporter, and focuses instead on Egyptian "humiliation"> Just what humiliation has Egypt suffered? It's been a military dictatorship since 1952 and I bet as long as the USSR supported Nasser, you, Arnold, viewed Nasser as a hero.

Or do you mean the peace treaty with Egypt from 1979? Do you consider that a "humiliation"?

Arnold Shcherban - 2/18/2011

First of all, this singular episode (regardless of how ugly it, or any manifestation of ethnic hatred, was) or several of them is of minuscule importance, comparing to the grandeur of the Egyptian uprising, and did not even deserve to be mentioned in the discussion of the article.
Secondly, I submit to anyone that one episode of humiliation and suffering of an individual is a drop of water to the ocean of the humiliation and suffering of such big nation, as Egyptian one, experienced for decades.
Thirdly, as I have been saying on numerous occasions before, nowadays no one is as guilty as Israeli governments/elite, in invoking anti-semitic "fulminations" and excesses, the same as no one as guilty
in creating anti-American sentiments and even hatred towards America throughout much of the world, as the US financial and political elites through their imperialist, hegemonic policies.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/18/2011

Butler, when you satirize Yiddish accents like you do--"Oi, doze goy"--that is racist. If you did that to blacks, how would it look?

Don't bother to say you didn't mean anything by it. Of course you did!

BTW, for an account of Truman's decision in 1948 that emphasizes that it was, uh, Truman's decision, i.e., his personal decision motivated by his personal beliefs, see Ron and Alice Radosh, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel (pb 2010).

N. Friedman - 2/18/2011

Recognizing a state that is a rival to Israel is not Antisemitic. I think it foolish, but that is a different story.

The issue here is your comments. You make a big point about colonialism by oppressed migrants who, by your own admission, are returning their ancestral homeland. Do you have any idea how ridiculously contradictory that view point is? Only someone deeply biased to the point of prejudice could ignore the contradiction.

And, your discussion about Truman only makes sense if you cannot imagine Truman, based on his own view of right, wrong and national interest, recognizing the Jewish national home's right to form a state. To anyone who can think without prejudice, he acted on the matter for, no doubt, a variety of reasons. And, no doubt, he hoped that he would benefit at the polls but, quite obviously, that result was not guaranteed nor could it have been his primary reason.

And, crying because he heard a presentation from his business partner or anyone else of reasons why Jews needed or desired a state could not have been a reason unless he already believed so. Which is to say, his crying, if sincere, shows that his sympathies were inherently on the side of the Zionists.

For the record, I do not love Israel. I have no reason ever to go to Israel. I merely believe it has the right to exist and defend itself and that it is a legitimate state, no worse than most other and, in fact, better than the vast majority.

james joseph butler - 2/18/2011

There's an article in today's, 2/18, Wash Post about Argentina, along with seven other South American nations, granting recognition to an independent Palestinian state. The article is accompanied by a photo of a kosher butcher shop, the owner and his son, and this caption, "Abraham Kahrir said the Argentine government's decision to recognize an independent Palestinian state is an act of anti-Semitism."

The neuffe. That Kirshner lady, another Nazi. Oiii, dose goy....

It's easy to parody this sort of thing and no doubt HNN defenders of the faith will take the bait and point to my obvious bigotry but the sad truth is the self reinforcing bunker mentality beneath it all. It's all but impossible to short circuit the victimization that is the life blood of this nation.

We all love good guys and bad guys. Zionists want us to believe that anyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite, a bad guy. Israel is as screwed up as it is largely because it's indulgent Uncle, Sam, never says no. If you say no it means you're an anti-Semite.

N. Friedman - 2/18/2011

James writes:

'Truman', McCullough,pg 620, "When the Chief Rabbi Truman, called at the White House, he told Truman, "God put in your mother's womb so you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel after two thousand years."
"I thought he was over doing things, remembered David Niles, "but when I looked over at the President, tears were running down his cheeks."

Furthermore Truman stated that his former partner, Eddie Jacobson's, role in the creation of Israel was of "decisive importance".

How does that show what influenced Truman's decision? Politicians go teary eyed easily. Have you seen the new Speaker of the House? So, I think what you are writing is all nonsense. It shows nothing.

The "real Americans" are from Asia. They migrated to America.

How are Jews colonialists, James? You have been making that assertion while admitting, at the same time, that Israel is the ancestral home of the Jewish people. It cannot be both ways.

Now, in fact, I think the entire line of argument is nonsense. Humans are not plants. They are not indigenous anywhere. That is also true of Jews. However, when I read idiots talk about Palestinian Arabs - who came as colonial conquerors - being called indigenous, I know I am dealing with a bigot.

Kissinger lied for the US. He was, as records now show - with him taped - expressing no interest in lifting a finger to help Jews where they were persecuted. However, he did see fit to help Israel in the Yom Kippur war because it helped him drive the Soviets out of Egypt. That is well documented.

Israel's claim in 1956 was to have shipping through the Straits of Tiran, something illegally blocked by Egypt. It was not to capture Sinai to gain a foothold in the desert.

I suggest you re-read your comment, James. It is bigotry, through and through.

james joseph butler - 2/17/2011

'Truman', McCullough,pg 620, "When the Chief Rabbi Truman, called at the White House, he told Truman, "God put in your mother's womb so you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel after two thousand years."
"I thought he was over doing things, remembered David Niles, "but when I looked over at the President, tears were running down his cheeks."

Furthermore Truman stated that his former partner, Eddie Jacobson's, role in the creation of Israel was of "decisive importance".

NF I'm finished with your "bigotry" because it's a dodge. You can't handle legitimate criicism so you use the most hackneyed epherema to say that I "have gone way over the line."

"Can any group claim to be indigeous?" NF this is the last time I deign to reply to you individually because your ignorance speaks for itself. OK, Pacific Islanders. NF are you going to tell me that the lizards got there first? Aboriginal Australians? I know, the wallabies had a problem. The real Americans, the Indians; so maybe Erik the Red got there first? Those Scandinavians evicted those Martians?

Enough already. This exchange is illustrative of the whole Israel Palestine question in America. People have been indulging your sense of umbrage for decades. The irony is that very same prejudice manifest through the centuries against Jews now aids them in American eyes. Those born again Christians, hello Rev. Hagee and W, who are Israel's most ardent goy supporters, come from the same cohort who for years besieged Jews as their savior's assassin. Which of course is upside down nonsense. You point to Truman as someone who wouldn't let Jacobson in his house and yet he's Israel salvation. This is what I'm talking about; dumb goyim, OK Truman was not dumb, who see Israel as their Pie in the Sky idiocy saved. This stuff is so freaking stupid and Barack Hu-super smart Nobel Peace-ssein Obama believes it too. Of course that's the real truth. Both Truman and Obama knew that being pro-Israel meant pro-reelection. I love Jesus, Jews, and Me. A pleasing constellation.

Kissinger, are you kidding me? He lied for Israel. He withheld the truth to further Israel's interests. America "worked against Israel in the 1956 war" gosh, golly gee, why would America deny Israel, France and the UK eminent domain over Egypt??? I don't know NF, maybe because aside from creating an international fiasco and slowing the passage of oil Eisenhower thought stealing was a sin. Some Jew some where said so.

arthur m eckstein - 2/17/2011

1. Omar, are you claiming this incident is unimportant?
2. Are you claiming that the vicious anti-semitism of the incident was an accident, and has no relationship to your own fulminations, and is not an example of where things are going.

You can't get out of it the way you are going. Sneering at sex doesn't change the fact that it was not myself who brutalized this American reporter and shouted "Jew Jew Jew!" at her.

omar ibrahim baker - 2/17/2011

You seem to have found your favourite hunting, haunting?, ground : the sex angle, the fertile terrain of sick minds and you seem to relish it.
Good for you.
Interestingly and NOT unexpectedly you bypass everything else.
No wonder!!

N. Friedman - 2/17/2011


The reason I raised the bigotry question is your comments, which were filled with what, by any logical reckoning, is bigotry that, apparently, you still fail to appreciate or, in any event, admit. Truman, who was President and a lifelong restorationist (i.e., a Christian who believed in the restoration of Israel) was, on your telling, overwhelmed by his former business partner, a man who was not ever allowed even to step foot into his home. Only a bigot or an idiot believes that. I do not think you are an idiot. So, when you write garbage of that type, what am I to think?

Moreover, your objection to Israel on grounds of imperialism and colonialism is belied by your admission on this page, viz., that Jews have a special connection with the land involved that Americans do not even have with the US. Yet, you persist with what you obviously know, by such admission, is total nonsense. So, what am I to think?

And, your comments about Americans make no sense either. Where, other than in Africa, can any group claim to be indigenous? Nowhere. And, given that you lament colonialism, how can you side with Arabs who, pray tell, were, in their heyday of power, among the most successful imperialist and colonialists ever and still hold most of the land they conquered and settled? Is there any degree of consistency in your thoughts? I suppose your comment about America suggests that, in fact, your objection to Israel is really an objection to its association with the US. Otherwise, you have been objecting to the one group involved which, in fact, is not actually colonialist on grounds of colonialism while saying nothing about Arabs, who are, by any telling (including Arab histories, which celebrate that colonialism) colonialists.

You ask me to respect you. I would if you did not say things which are, on the best case telling, bigoted. Capiche? So, no, Jews were not colonialists but, in fact, desperate migrants looking to make a normal life, not to benefit an imperial power. And, Jews did not have magic control over Mr. Truman and, in fact, much of the world, including much of the US government, was an obstacle to Israel's creation, Mr. Truman being a notable exception - unless it conflicted with his State Department, which insisted on preventing Israel from having arms for self-defense.

I might add. Had Roosevelt lived, his position was that Israel ought be created as well. His idea was to expel all Arabs from the area. So, even focusing on Truman as the sole motivator when, in fact, there was, in fact, a large group in the government which favored Israel's creation misses the point as well.

You also claim that Israel's creation has been the source of conflict in the region. Has it not occurred to you that the real reason for conflict in the region is not Israel but the state of the governance, education, secularization, etc. of Arabs and that even without Israel, the region would still be prone to war? Have you not noticed that Israel was not even a participant in the worst wars in that region (e.g. the million killed in the Iraqi Iran war)?

Now, Marshall was certainly correct that Israel's creation would create problems and lead to wars. I would not deny that. The US, however, did not side with Israel in the 1948 war and worked against Israel in the 1956 war and was on the sideline, until the war was basically over, in the 1967 war. Only after that war did the US take on a serious role, helping Israel. Why? On Nixon and Kissinger's telling, it was to gain influence with the Arabs and drive out the Soviets. So, as things turned out, Israel did play a role. It helped the US to drive back Soviet influence on Egypt, etc.

Finally, and examining the issue not only from your perception of what is best for the US - which is certainly a legitimate question - but what about the Jews involved, you have no sympathy at all for them. So, in my mind, I hear you but think that deep down and noting your many other comments, that bigotry really is an important issue for you. That is why I raise it. I almost never raise it on here or anywhere else. But, you have gone way over the line.

arthur m. eckstein - 2/17/2011

Here's where it ends up: an Egyptian mob sexually assaults a female reporter for CBS while shouting "Jew! Jew!" at her.

The reporter's name is Lara Logan. She isn't Jewish. President Obama called her in the hospital yesterday.

This is the irrational, ugly and paranoid anger and self-pity what Omar is celebrating. Not for the first time.

james joseph butler - 2/16/2011

NF, Israel is a fact, "on the ground", as W put it. I look to the future so while I may begrudge it's creation I would do the same regarding the creation of America. Of course you're right that Jews have an ancient stake in Judea and Samaria that no colonists in America ever had. I wish both Israelis and Palestinians would come to their senses and recognize that neither can win a war predicated on best case scenarios. I also wish America was impartial.

Which brings me to Truman and my so called "bigotry". NF, I respect you so why can't you do the same? Why is it that so many Zionists feel compelled to throw dirt bombs? Anti-Semitism is, was, and ever shall be wrong and stupid. Millions of Jews have been murdered as a result of it. I'm Irish American for what it's worth and for the moment it's worth the truth that the British practiced genocide against the Irish in Ireland. I know they're pikers compared to the Nazis but the point is that was Ireland, that was hundreds of years ago, or a hundred, and I'm here and it's now and my relationships with people of British extraction is no different from my relationships with any other.

Prejudice lives on but when you dwell on the past you relive it. You're right about Truman's lifelong advocacy in theory regarding Jews and the old country. He had plenty of company in America when it came to idealizing the Old Testament, see President Obama for a current example, but when it came to 1947 and the U.N. vote on the creation of Israel he saw the world through the prism of real politick not real old books. Those "Arabists", the State Department, as well as Mr Sentimental, George Marshall, predicted decades of armed conflict in the world's crossroads as a result of the wrong choice on the pivotal UN vote, I know the US was a single nation but our pull was planetary. Those "damn Jews" was Truman's reaction to the pressure, from his former partner to Jewish lobbyists pressing him to vote yes. He voted yes, gained a few votes, and America has paid a price but that's history. The only "magic" was ordinary short sighted self-interest on Truman's part, history or the next election, hmmm...

Your "in the context of the barbaric behavior which is the norm in Muslim lands of our time," is illustrative of your own prejudice. I'm sorry NF but I judge nations by the numbers not anecdotal horror stories. America is responsible for the deaths of more foreign nationals than any other country in the last half century, Vietnam and Iraq to mention two debacles. In the last five years Israel is responsible for the deaths of civilian Gazans and Lebanese at a ratio that many around the world would think was barbaric before justifiable to prove a point.

james joseph butler - 2/16/2011

Dear Peter,
I beg to differ. The most important tool that an historian has is the evidence,the myriad manifestations of it constitute what approaches truth.

Regarding "just gadgetry", I dare say Egypt 2011 could not have happened without "gadgetry". But given your geopolitical inclinations it's not surprising that you long for the good old days. I imagine that also explains your wit regarding secretaries. Remember Peter good Americans embrace the future.

omar ibrahim baker - 2/16/2011

What does the USA really want in and from the Middle East; apart from the obvious i.e. the security of Israel and oil?
Going by declared public, declarations one would point out ( not in order of importance):

YES as long as long as it yields pro USA regimes, excludes other than pro USA regimes and supports and implements the FREE MARKET economic

-Economic development??
Yes as long as that leads to free flow of USA material and non material products, does not aim at "economic independence" or even self sufficiency (which could deter free flow of American products) and does open the gate for American capital investments and de facto domination over major natural resources (oil) etc

-National Security??
Certainly as long as long as it does not infringe on America’s pet projects, interests and friends and as long as America defines and prescribes its needs and limits
However BEST provided by an all encompassing American security umbrella wielded by the wiser hands of American politicians, CIA operatives and docile military

-Regional stability???
Of course, by all means as long as that enhances and protects the “democracy", “national security” and "economic development"; all as defined above.

That could well be in America's best interest ( it is) but not necessarily in the involved nations' interest.
Incorrect for the USA knows better what is in their best interests and to presume that they, the other nations, know best is not only impolite and ungrateful (for the sound advice and guidance rendered) BUT would ultimately lead to sedition and terrorism.

The USA is now captive of its own words and slogans BUT is too wise and world weary to take them seriously and necessary action is taken when the need arises:

- occupied Palestine was chastised and punished for democratically electing Hamas

-Saudi Arabia was chastised and threatened for trying to become self sufficient in grain and wheat production (by unAmericanly subsidizing its producers)

-Iraq was dismembered and destroyed for attempting to enhance its own national security.
And the FARCE continues!

High time the USA sheds away those empty slogans for they have become the laughing stock of the whole world and risk to engulf the USA in the laughter
BUT the FARCE will continue!

omar ibrahim baker - 2/16/2011

An aspect of the Egyptian Intifada that has not received due attention is its "national liberation" dimension.
The Egyptian Intifada was against CAMP DAVID and the SADDAT /MUBARAK era it engendered as much as it was against despotism and corruption.

Most of the long term opposition to that era, as distinct from the “face book” transient generation, contend that it was more anti CAMP DAVID-SADDAT/MUBARAK than any of the many ills weighing down a long suffering Egypt.

That era came to embody both frustration at unachieved promises of prosperity and humiliation under resulting conditions thereof.
Cordial relations with the USA (perceived by the masses as servility to the USA) and “peaceful relations” with Israel (perceived as submission to Israel) added up in general public consciousness to:
i-loss or severe curtailment of Egyptian sovereignty and independence
ii- Egyptian abdication of its regional, Arab, leadership role
iii- general degradation of Egyptian regional, and international, standing and prestige.
Ubiquitous regional and international reference to a three polar Middle East (Iran, Turkey and Israel) not only highlighted the new facts of post CAMP DAVID regional situation but came to sum up Egyptian general, public and “institutional” malaise; hence the public uprising and the ambivalent attitude of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

Egypt’s self perception as a major regional, and the main Arab, entity/power has, historically, been a mainstay of its self respect and has been a major factor behind it willingness to sacrifice willingly a great deal of what it aspires to as during the Nasser era.

CAMP DAVID not only failed to deliver anything of substance to Egypt but ended up with a joint front of its two other signatories, the USA and Israel, actually coordinating their efforts and colluding to further degrade, demote and humiliate Egypt:

a-the USA which not only failed to deliver a “reasonable” resolution of the ARAB/PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI conflict (which would have justified and redeemed Egypt’s defection from Arab ranks and reinstalled its leadership role) BUT, the USA, chose instead to empower Israel into regional super power status and conclude a strategic alliance with it.

b-Israel which, contrary to what was expected of her about the Palestinian problem , only intensified its land expropriation and Settlement construction activities ending up with an all but declared policy of total domination of all of Palestine and inflexible rejection and denial of all Palestinian civil and political rights in their homeland


a-The only visible and noticeable outcome of American economic “aid” via Camp David was the imposition on Egypt of a FREE MARKET economy which failed to alleviate any of its short and long term economic problems, gave rise to a new class of millionaires and billionaires that brought along a new system of mega wealth and mega corruption.

b-Israel got the free access to Egyptian markets it has long dreamt of AND an incredibly “sweet heart” deal for Egyptian gas at a ridiculous fraction of it market value via a “contract”(presumably one of Camp David’s secret addenda ) one of whose clauses denies the Egyptian Government it inalienable duty to present that contract to Parliament (!!!!!)

NONE of that escaped the Egyptian masses when they decided to rise and put an end to a truly humiliating period in Egypt’s long and glorious history.

Peter Kovachev - 2/15/2011

Alas, Jimmy, the most important tool a historian will ever need is located between his or her ears. The other stuff is just gadgetry. Remember the old "garbage in, garnage out"? Still applies even in this spiffy "communication environment."

But thanks for pointing out my typo; you're a natural secretary, bro.

N. Friedman - 2/15/2011

James writes: 'NF I read your first paragraph and stopped at, "You indicate that the US supported the Shah and Mubarak."'

Had you read further, you might have actually understood my point. And, I was not denying your assertion, which may well be correct, that "[t]he USA has given Mubarak's Egypt $600 Billion in the last thirty years." That point, however, is an irrelevancy to the question you posed.

What I was doing was questioning the basis for your counterfactual history. Which is to say, we have no way to know that either the Shah or Mubarak would have been toast, but for the US. Maybe they would; maybe they would not. It depends on how brutal they were prepared to be.

What we do know - and you have yet to wrap your head around the point - is that the US stood up for neither dictator once it became clear that there was real opposition. Which is to say, the US was not merely propping up leaders against the will of the people. So, your theory is contradicted by what occurred.

You are certainly correct that US policy is tied up in issues about oil and about Israel. Your comment that Truman was decisive in Israel's creation is belied by what his advisers thought and told him, which is that the Yishuv had no chance of surviving if attacked by the Arabs. Your version of history has 20/20 hindsight that Mr. Truman not only did not have when he embargoed the Yishuv but which, in fact, was contrary to what he was told. Yet, he still embargoed the Yishuv knowing that they would almost certainly all be killed or driven off, as the Arabs sought to do.

I really do not see what your beef is with Jews migrating to their ancestral home, buying land at exorbitant, above market rates and building a country where none had existed in thousands of years. Are you opposed to Mexicans who migrate to the US and seek to participate in US politics? How is your view about Jews creating Israel any different than that of the bigots who want to send all Mexican immigrants back to Mexico? Would it really have been a tragedy if the Arabs, rather than wanting blood, had agreed to the compromise with the Yishuv?

James: here is an important question for you to ponder: Is there not some moral imperative to solve the problem faced by the world's Jews, who (other than in the US) have not ever been considered equals in any Christian or Muslim land and who have frequently been oppressed and worse in both regions? Was the alternative to Israel, i.e., that Jews live as dhimmis under Islamic rule (or, in the best case scenario, as Copts are treated in Egypt - i.e. as second class citizens who need permission to build even a Church), better?

I think you are living in dreamland. Your comment about Truman being influenced by his business partner, frankly, smacks of bigotry. It is as if Truman, a lifelong advocate of the restoration of Israel - and for religious reasons - was overwhelmed in reaching a "rational" conclusion by the magic Jews, in this case his business partner.

Now, the issue with the Shah being less brutal than the Ayatollahs is not speculation. It is fact. Where were the stonings under the Shah, James? Were woman forced to don the veil under the Shah, James? Why is it, James, that unlike any period in Iran's history, Jews, Christians and even Baha'i were treated reasonable well under the Shah, but not under the Ayatollahs? In today's Iran, it is the government which goes after the Baha'i, Jews and Christians and persecutes them.

I have no brief for the Shah or Mubarak. But, they need to be taken in context. In the context of the barbaric behavior which is the norm in Muslim lands of our time, they were among the more liberal and benign rulers.

james joseph butler - 2/15/2011

NF I read your first paragraph and stopped at, "You indicate that the US supported the Shah and Mubarak." The USA has given Mubarak's Egypt $600 Billion in the last thirty years. I don't know about you but $600 billion is a hellacious indicator for my money. Iran, while Savak was torturing free speech America was helping Iran's nuclear maturation. (I know you're one of intellectual snobs who bad mouth Wikipedia but you have to see their Iran nuke page with an ad from American nuclear power companies featuring the Shah in all his beribboned glory applauding an oil rich nation's forward thinking.) You claim to have some insight regarding the Shah vs. Ayatollah regarding human rights neither one cared about anything other maintaining their control. You talk about Iran's insane keyed youngsters in the Iran Iraq war but who was America supporting in that war? Who started that war? Hussein who?

In the Middle East America concerns itself with Israel and oil. Regarding the birth of Israel and the US I was referring to the UN vote not the 1948 war. Truman's partner in failed haberdashery had more to do with the birth of Israel than any tanks or bombers.

N. Friedman - 2/15/2011

Mr. Butler,

I have difficulty taking your theory seriously. You indicate that the US supported the Shah and Mubarak. That, however, does not show that they could not have maintained their rule without the US. It has nothing to do with it. It merely shows that they had US support.

Of course, you ultimately admit that my view is correct but bemoan the fact that tax dollars are given to the likes of Mubarak. Evidently, it has not occurred to you that, in the region, the states the US gives money to are not only better and more liberally ruled but, in fact, are better and more liberally ruled because of the insistence of the US. Where the US had no influence - e.g., Assad's Syria -, people are treated like dirt and killed at the drop of a hat, even by Egypt's standards. So, in fact, while the US pursues its owns aims in the region, whether they are for the benefit of the region or not, the US tends to have a moderating impact on what horrors local rulers employ.

Let's look at states where the US has no role. Iran is substantially more brutal than Egypt. Iran, moreover, is ruled by religious fanatics who, during the Iran Iraq War marched a hundred thousand young boys across mine fields. The kids were given keys to carry, in order that upon being blown up, the keys could be used to enter the Islamic version of paradise. That sort of activity, frankly, places Iran in a place far beyond Egypt and it is not explained by the fact that the US played a role in overthrowing Mr. Mosaddeq. I might add, among those who were involved in the child mine field sweeper project is Iran's current lunatic president, Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The Ayatollahs rule Iran notwithstanding not only a lack of US support but on again and off again serious opposition from the US. And, unless you are unaware of facts, the Ayatollahs are substantially more brutal than the Shah ever was. So, your theory makes no sense at all.

Next, you assert that Israel would not have come to be but for the US. In that the US was not a supplier of arms to Israel at its founding - and, in fact, embargoed Israel from obtaining arms, it is difficult to imagine what you are thinking. I also cannot imagine why it has anything to do with the Shah being on the thrown or staying in power.

What can be said, I suppose, is that, of Iran's rulers, the Shah is almost certainly the most liberal and least brutal Iranian ruler ever - which, of course, is not saying that much because Iran, by world standards, has been ruled by nasty folk and, since you pretend to care about disenfranchised peoples, who treated non-Muslims like dirt. (Muslims were not treated all that well either, for what it is worth.) Surely, you have heard about the laws - which were enforced over the course of many centuries - requiring non-Muslims to remain at home and indoors on rainy days, lest Muslims be polluted by what their religious leaders told them were filthy, infidel humans - emphasis on the word "filthy." But for pressure from the West, that sort of stuff would be the law today, as such represents the thinking of the Ayatollahs.

Your concern for everyone in the region who might have been in some way harmed by the West is touching. Your understanding of that region, though, is non-existent. There is no story here about noble savages undermined by the West. The West did a lot of bad stuff in the region but the West did not create the dhimmi system. The West did not keep Muslims from becoming literate. The West did not prevent the introduction of the printing press in the Arab regions until the middle of the 19th Century. That, rather, was the world of their own, backed by religious fanatics who thought that printing in Arabic did an injustice to the Muslim holy language.

Among the people of that region who were badly treated were Jews, thought to be, in Arab thinking, contemptible humans and, in Islamic thinking, killers of all prophets (except Mohammad, who Jews are accused of trying to kill) and of corrupting the Torah to eliminate its connection with Islam. And, Westerners did not force Arabs to accept the Damascus blood libel against Jews in the 19th Century. Arabs did that all on their own and without any Zionism or Israel.

So, as touched as I am for you concern for the region, the facts do not turn the region in angels and the Westerners into devils. That is something you are doing.

Lastly, frankly Jews do not owe Arabs anything. They do not owe the Europeans a thing. Whatever the Jews of Israel have done, it has been primarily their own doing, not the doing of Westerners and surely not the doing of the US, which embargoed Israel from obtaining arms for self-defense during Israel's war of Independence.

james joseph butler - 2/14/2011

Dear Peter,
I know spell check isn't easily accessible on these Comments but there's this dictionary thing.

Regarding the validity of historical commentary within the current common era, "obviously", we share the understanding that the communication environment of today is superior to that of the 17th century. I totally agree with your choice of astounding (I'm afraid I can't agree with your spelling.) to describe the impact of 21st century social networks as well good old fashioned TV as invaluable vectors of social progress compared to the Pony Express, the Erie Canal, and what'd they have before the Suez...

Right on Brother.

james joseph butler - 2/14/2011

Frankly NF I think you need to examine the particulars: Iran and the Shah; Iran would be an American ally today if we not for BP, CIA,and 1953, a textbook case of America's short sighted greed getting in the way of its long term interests. Why can't America believe in capitalism rather than cronyism? Do you have an answer? I do, grand larceny is profitable and we like white people more than Persians, they're kinda like Jews.

Mubarak and Egypt. Forgive me if I tend to dwell on creation stories. How did Mubarak become President Mubarak? Why was Sadat assassinated?

NF I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that the Shah's return and Israel's birth could not have happened without the good old USA. (Don't get me wrong I think Europe and the USSR are also guilty regarding the creation of Israel but the US was the key actor.)

I posited, "Would Mubarak or the Shah...?" as a query because while I agree with your point that the Middle East and history has seen countless long term tyrants who've succeeded without Uncle Sam I beleve it's difficult to say that both regime's weren't hugely aided and abetted by my tax dollars. I have a problem with that.

N. Friedman - 2/14/2011

Mr. Butler writes: "Would Mubarak or the Shah have sustained their rule without Uncle Sam for decades?"

Given that numerous parties have maintained their rule in the Middle East for decades without US support, it is not possible to answer your question. That you think they could not have maintained their rule suggests you have yet to read anything about the rulers in the Middle East who, notwithstanding US opposition, maintained power for decades.

Take the Assads of Syria. Not only did papa stay in power for decades but his son has been in power for more than a decade. And, the Assads have been, if anything, far more repressive than any government in the Middle East that the US has supported.

Frankly, the entire line of your thinking is ahistorical nonsense. We do not know where Egypt is headed. Things could turn out well or we could see a disaster. People had high hopes for the Russian and French revolutions. Both led to a lot of dead people. Then again, other revolutions have had better results.

Andrew D. Todd - 2/13/2011

One point I found interesting about the Egyptian Revolution was the pattern of military participation. This seemed to fall within the range of what Edward Luttwak, in his Coup D'Etat: A Practical Handbook.(1968) called the "pronunciamento." As the name suggests, it more typically happens in Iberia and Latin America.

There are certain "social substrates" which underly and define the Latin American military. In Latin America, there is no tribalism to speak of, nothing like the Zulu/Xosa distinction in South Africa, for example, or the corresponding distinctions in large sections of the Middle East. To the extent that a Latin American is aware of being a Venezuelan or a Peruvian, he is hispanicized. In the colonial era, the big distinction was between people who were permanently settled in the colony ("creoles"), and people who were only there for a limited period, having been sent to rule on behalf of the king in Madrid-- or Lisbon. Later, the distinction was one between "ladinos" and "indios," not so much a matter of race as of acculturation. In Latin America, the officer corps tends to have a class basis, rather than a tribal or ethnic basis. At the risk of some oversimplification, I would say that the officer corps is traditionally lower-middle-class in a lumpenproletariet society. The officer corps is formed of farm boys who got selected for free education in officer colleges at a time when the national elites were sending their children to America or Europe. Sometimes the officer corps produces someone very much like Napoleon Bonaparte, or someone like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or someone like the Portuguese officer Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, organizer of Portugal's "Carnation Revolution" in 1974, something not basically dissimilar to what has happened in Egypt.


The Carnation Revolution derived its name from the troops passing through a flower market, en route to occupy public buildings, etc., and seizing the opportunity to adorn themselves with the flower in season, as a demonstration of their benevolent intentions. Similarly, their watchword was the song _Grândola, Vila Morena_, which if I understand correctly, would be roughly the Portuguese equivalent of Country/Western music. Jane Kramer has an immensely sympathetic essay on Carvalho in her book of collected essays, _Europeans_ (1988). She concluded that "I think Otelo is a fool of revolution, the way people in Mother Russia were fools of God. He never got over the fact that the revolution stopped, and that when it did stop 'o povo' [the common people] were not much richer or happier or more in control of their lives than they were before." (p. 102).

It may be that Egypt is different enough from other countries in the region that the regional curses do not apply. There was a time when people asserted that Spanish democracy was a lost cause, and spoke of the Opus Dei in very much the same terms that they now speak of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Peter Kovachev - 2/13/2011

"Historical analysis using 21st century tools examining 21st century revolutions is superior to 20th century historians examining 17th etc. revolutions."

Because you say so, obviously. And what astoundig "tools" are you thinking of, Jimmy? Confused and ncomprehensible neo-Marxist dialectics, and ideologically correct liberal academic "consensus"?

james joseph butler - 2/11/2011

Mr Tripathi doesn't read the future he reads the now. As of now Mubarak is history. Tripathi's analysis reflects the truth of America's impotence in the Middle East because we live in the past, as in America's fixation on Israel as the embodiment of Bible Belt theme parks and our president's spiritual fantasies.

1688, 1789, or 2011, every revolution lives in the immediate. Tripathi's analysis is keen because he's there. We all are, in a way that the fraction I've read of the revolutions, compared to Bell, of 1688 and 1789 are not. However Prof. Bell's truths are 1, 2, or 3 centuries stale. And I hate to point to the obvious but where in Bell's analysis do we discuss the impact of third party actors? Would Mubarak or the Shah have sustained their rule without Uncle Sam for decades?

My dentist is a fine seer because like Tripathi he lives here now. Historical analysis using 21st century tools examining 21st century revolutions is superior to 20th century historians examining 17th etc. revolutions.

james joseph butler - 2/11/2011

It's scary to read the words of Presidents Carter and Obama regarding their pet guard dogs of the Middle East, the Shah and the wanna be Pharoh, before they knew they were history. Two men who profess to believe in the principles of Jesus, Nobel Peace Prize winners, endorsed the reigns of bullies.

How can such smart people fail to recognize that it's about the process not the people? That stability constructed upon repression and fear is doomed. Can anyone be elected and serve in the presidency who actually believes in their own rhetoric?

Gary Ostrower - 2/11/2011

Compare this essay with Mr. Bell's essay (just scroll down the HNN menu) about the difference between revolutions of the 1688 variety and those of 1789. Mr. Tripathi can read the future. Mr.Bell admits of uncertainty.
If I've learned anything in my years as an historian, it's that historians are no better than dentists when it comes to predicting the future. That's why I appreciate the hint of humility in Mr. Bell's essay.