The CFR Is Unhappy
by Charles H. Featherstone
The BBC World Service interviewed the always-insightful Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday afternoon about events in Egypt. It’s a good thing I don’t scream at stupidity on the radio in the same way I scream at stupidity on teevee.
Gelb’s line was simple: the Egyptian protestors cannot be supported because they may be under the direct control of Islamic radicals or, at best, the unwilling catspaws of the same Islamists (who may still be at work trying to subvert Tunisia too!). Thus, the United States government must support Hosni Mubarak, because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate. Push Mubarak to reform, but still support him.
This is not just the consensus establishment position. Linda Chavez on NPR, taking David Brook’s place during the weekly tête-à-tête with E. J. Dionne, could not stop talking about Islamists and the threat of the Ikhwan al Muslimin (the Muslim Brotherhood) taking advantage of the unrest to seize power and turn Egypt into a central part of the Caliphate. Dionne, a liberal, did not contest this understanding.
I understand this view – Mubarak or the Awful Green Menace – has, over the last few days, become a fairly uniform view held by those on the right. And it’s why it’s good to be opposed to “democracy” in the Arab world today, as opposed to a few years ago when George W. Bush was invading Iraq to liberate it and let 1,000 Arab flowers bloom. And anyone who was opposed was not properly humanitarian or worse, a racist who did not believe in Arab democracy. Which is, after all, God’s gift to humanity through his chosen people, the United States of America.
Now, of course, all goodthinkers take Bibi Netanyahu’s line that Arabs are not yet ready for democracy. To paraphrase John McCain, we are all sclerotic Middle East autocrats now.