The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Some Points About Egypt

1) the timing for Davos of both revolutions is… interesting.  One might think a message is being sent.

2) the Iranians have been putting money into the rural areas of Egypt.  Specifically into clinics.  Since the Egyptians are American clients, they can’t break drug patent laws, the Iranians are happy to do so.  Poor folks are happy for the children to live.

3) The Muslim Brotherhood is, in fact, the strongest opposition party.

4) Egypt has real hard currency problems.  Essentially all hard currency flows into the currency then right back out and the vast majority is used to buy weapons.

5) Egypt can’t feed its own population and the devaluation that is going on is hurting them badly.

6) Think of both revolutions as part of the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Notice who is winning.  Notice the price jump in oil.  Remember that this benefits Iran more than Saudi Arabia—Iran needs a much higher price for oil than SA does to keep its society on a more or less even keel (The Sauds have even noted that the best way to crush Iran is to reduce the price of oil).  Remember that high oil prices really hurt everyone who isn’t an oil state and that once you get around $110/barrel or so it is likely to lead to a huge spike and another crash out.

7) The army and the Muslim Brotherhood seem rather unlikely to allow a western style secular democracy.  And I wonder how much money the army is willing to give up so people can, y’know, eat.  A lot of the day laboring classes in Egypt basically spend ALL their daily money on food.

8 ) This is the end of the Gaza blockade in any meaningful fashion unless the Israelis want to fully reoccupy it, which I doubt they do.

9) Egypt has been strongly in the US camp now for a long time.  The ordinary people really haven’t gotten much out of it, have they?

10) The oilarchies spend much more money on a per capita basis on internal repression and subsidies than Egypt could ever afford to.  Assume that Saudi Arabia, for example, spends about 20% of GDP on military and security services combined.  The small oil states are very generous to their “citizens”, while using “guest workers” for most of the actual work.

11) Revolutions happen when people can’t reliably get enough food.  If they can revolt, they revolt.  If they can’t, there are famines. The green revolution is reaching its limits and the deliberate policy of turning nations into food dependencies so European and American farmers could make money is reaping bitter fruit.  So-called non core inflation (food and energy) is what matters most, not least.  Who cares if a toaster is cheap when you don’t have enough to eat, or you can’t stay warm, or the fuel to cook your food is too expensive?


Will the military join the people in Egypt?


Andrew Cuomo: Evil or Stupid?


  1. just a reader

    other points found

    Ex-CIA source: “For interrogation, use Jordan. For torture, use Syria. To make them disappear — never to see them again — send to Egypt.”

    The Egyptian revolution is really separating usa Congress into those who at least make a nod to democracy and those who worship power. In the early days of this, the reactions are far more telling than they will be when Mubarak gets run out of the country and a new government takes over.

    USA propping up of autocrats who repress their people hasn’t worked and isn’t sustainable. The best thing usa could do is allow countries like Egypt to find leaders who have the consent of the people, and see how or if usa can work with them afterwards. Anything else breeds instability and hatred for the West. The usa has this awful history of making alliances with individuals instead of a country’s people. This old style of Cold War-era thinking has to end.

    Why is America so afraid?

    Because we are seeing a giant leap in Arab power, in which the people of the largest Arab nation demand that they be allowed to fulfill their potential. This change portends a huge shift in the balance of power in the region. For the US has played only a negative role in the Egyptian advance, supplying the teargas, and it seems inevitable that Egypt will cease to be a client state to the US And thereby threaten the order of the last 30 years.

    Whatever government replaces the current one in Egypt, it will not serve American interests, which have been largely defined by Israel, the American-Israeli “imperium,” as Helena Cobban put it. Since the 1970s, Egypt has been the lynchpin of a US strategy of supporting Israel. The special relationship with Israel has steered our foreign policy, encouraged the destruction and occupation of Iraq, and even fed American Islamophobia. Key to preserving this order has been our ironclad support for the Arab dictatorships in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere — by providing the policy with a “moderate Arab” seal. Hey Egypt was a bulwark against the Islamists, and Egypt was crucial to the peace process, as all the correspondents tell us on American TV.

    The danger to America and Israel is that the Egyptian revolution will destroy this false choice of secular dictator-or-crazy Islamists by showing that Arabs are smart articulate people who can handle real democracy if they get to make it themselves. And when they get it, they are likely to strip the mask off the peace process.

    The grimness on the faces of American Establishment figures reflects the greatest threat to authority, the crumbling of an existing order. Support for Israel has defined order in this region for decades and steered our support for dictators. Ever since Truman defied the State Department in 1947-48, we have been committed to maintaining a Jewish state in the Middle East despite local opposition. This has required great American expenditure, and probably cost Bobby Kennedy his life, but it has been an order. That order has required lip service to Arab democracy, but hey, Mubarak is better than those Islamists.

  2. just a reader returns

    a couple of more points found

    Who Is Omar Suleiman?

    since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the CIA’s point man in Egypt for renditions — the covert program in which the CIA snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.

    beginning in the nineteen-nineties, Suleiman negotiated directly with top Agency officials. Every rendition was greenlighted at the highest levels of both the US and Egyptian intelligence agencies. Edward S. Walker, Jr., a former US Ambassador to Egypt, described Suleiman as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.”

    The Torture Career of Egypt’s New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program

  3. Lex

    It seems like the brotherhood has been very quiet in all of this. I have to wonder, though the logical explanation is that it is seasoned enough now to wait for stepping up rather than lead the attempt to bring down the government.

    I assume that the military will end up in control. I also assume that it will take control “until elections can be held”. What happens then is anybody’s guess. But at the moment the Army is walking a tightrope too. IIRC, it’s a conscription army and those aren’t always the most reliable against populist uprisings. Right now the people are happy with it. Will they stay that way if the military stays too close to Mubarak? Can the military afford to get too far from him and risk the gravy train of US aid? Will the people retain goodwill towards the army if it replaces Mubarak and changes little else to keep DC happy?

  4. >>The Torture Career of Egypt’s New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program<<

    This is confirmation that Suleiman's appointment and along with the firing of Mubarak's cabinet clearly wasn't an olive branch to the protesters, but a move to curry favor and support from the American oligarchic and political classes. It's a statement to says save those of us who've been your faithful servants. TPTB will move heaven and earth to prevent democracy from breaking out in Egypt. Egypt is the bright line in the sand and if that line is breached, the house of Saud will be in deep trouble along with the US and Israel. They'll do what they must to prevent that and that means a brutal and bloody crackdown on the protesters. There's a danger in that also, because the world is watching.

  5. grs

    7) The army and the Muslim Brotherhood seem rather unlikely to allow a western style secular democracy. And I wonder how much money the army is willing to give up so people can, y’know, eat.

    This. History has shown that rarely in these circumstances that the people who run the initial revolt (basically, the people) end up in charge. Smart money knows to wait out the initial chaos, then swoop in for a power grab.

    I keep hearing a lot about “the military” in Egypt with little to no insight about the people that actually run the Egyptian military (lack of foreign correspondents?). Where do the military leadership loyalties lie? Will the rest of the military follow the leadership if ordered to fire against civilians? Or will there be a mutiny in the military itself leading to much further instability?

    But I’m ill informed on Egypt and many of the key players in this situation. I’m sure there are many outside players pulling strings here.

  6. Celsius 233

    We’ll see…

  7. Morocco Bama

    Good point, Celsius. It’s too early to tell how any of this will play out. American “Progressives” have a tendency to project their own wishes and intentions into incidents such as this, and those wishes and intentions may not be the wishes and intentions of the populations involved in these uprisings. For example, in Iraq, the people obviously don’t want secular Democracy, and if you attempted to institute it there, eventually you would end up with a Government administered by Shia clerics with laws resembling, in many respects, Sharia.

    It’s really not a matter of secular Democracy, but a matter of self-determination. So-called “liberated” women in the West cannot presume to understand the psychical disposition of a women in the Middle East who was indoctrinated into a system where women don’t hold the same status as men. Conversely, that same Middle Eastern woman cannot presume the psychical disposition of the Western woman who falsely believes she is “liberated” because she can cast a meaningless vote, be a CEO or work in a cubicle alongside men, and no longer cooks and/or cleans, even though she could if she wanted to, but refuses to out of a matter of principle, and instead lets the illegal immigrant maid do that “dirty” work.

    What I wish for the people of Egypt, and all those under the thumb of tyrannical oppression, is the opportunity to truly self-determine, whatever that self-determination turns out to be. I believe that if true, and I mean a truly unfettered environment for it to manifest, self-determination is given an opportunity to inculcate, it will ultimately be of a positive nature, but it might not necessarily take a form perceived as positive by the so-called enlightened “Progressives/Liberals.”

    Yes, this is a criticism of the “Progressive/Liberal” community, and in keeping with the sentiment that has been expressed here about said “Progressives/Liberals” for the past two months, or more. I’ve noticed that the armchair quarterbacks in the “Progressive/Liberal” blogosphere, who have been following the latest match in Egypt like they follow a Superbowl game, have retired to their Lake Houses, Mountain Homes, or various social arrangements (getting plastered at Cocktail parties and feigning concern for the poor peoples of Egypt) whilst the Egyptian people duke it out on the streets of Egypt from Cairo to Alexandria. The Egyptians don’t have the luxury of putting this aside for the weekend to rest, relax, socialize and “self-actualize”….but not to worry, all of those zealously concerned and eagerly empathetic so-called “Progressive/Liberals” will be back in their cubes/offices Monday morning cheering on what they want the world to be …..something attuned to this, so long as it doesn’t interrupt their routine:

  8. BDBlue

    I, too, hope the Egyptian people get to decide their future. And by people, I mean people whereas I fear in Egypt as in so many other places in the world, people = men.

  9. Morocco Bama

    Yeah, I’m afraid you may be right, BDBlue, if the Muslim Brotherhood has its way.

    Here’s an interesting video I found authored by a Norwegian Muslim concerning the Muslim Brotherhood and its intentions. I’m still chewing on it, but it was an interesting take…..from a fellow Muslim. It goes to show that Muslims are not Monolithic. Of course, you and I already knew that, but many ignorant Americans don’t know that……or don’t even care to know it.

  10. Celsius 233

    The only thing that is certain is; that once again, the U.S.’s schizophrenic/hypocritical foreign policy has once again found us on the wrong side. The history of this stretches back to, um, so far in the past, I can’t see how far back it actually goes. Fuck us; we just never learn! It’s possible our day of reckoning is very close…

  11. beowulf

    Ever since Truman defied the State Department in 1947-48, we have been committed to maintaining a Jewish state in the Middle East despite local opposition. This has required great American expenditure, and probably cost Bobby Kennedy his life, but it has been an order.

    Unless of course our old friend Bobby was killed for reasons that have nothing to do with the Israel-Palestine dispute. James W. Douglass’s first book of a planned trilogy “JFK and the Unspeakable” is the most beautiful and saddest book about Dallas I’ve ever read.

    His next book is about Martin King and the one after, Bob Kennedy (spoiler! Sirhan was a patsy).

  12. Morocco Bama

    I reviewed your link, beowulf…..and also read the ensuing comments. The cognitive dissonance and sloppy thinking is palpable. Before I provide an example, I will say that I believe JFK was assassinated by virtue of a conspiracy, but I will also add that such an event was fully expected, and to linger on that event and attach to it all manner of laments and meanings that shouldn’t be attributed to it, just further delivers us into the clutches of this beastly System. As Chomsky insists, and the Zeitgeist films point out, it’s the System. No man is greater than this System, and no man can take down this System. I don’t believe JFK was the man people made him out to be, on either side of the judgment equation. The System was thoroughly entrenched before Kennedy, and it is still here 46 years later. Belief in it, and support of it, will only drive us further into it…..perhaps to the point where extraction from it is impossible.

    From the comments per your link:

    A commenter said:

    Another of Kennedy’s evolutions while in office was to see the insanity of escalating Viet Nam. Shortly before his death he had discussion­s about how to ease America out of it. That, plus printing silver certificat­es in defiance of the FED, I think, sealed his fate. Nothing like having the MIC AND Wall Street mad at you.

    The silver certificates and the defiance of the FED trope are pure disinformation. It’s sloppy research and thinking, and it reveals the commenter will believe anyhting that validates hos preconceived notions and blind faith.

    What E.O. 11110 did was to modify previous Executive Order 10289, delegating to the Secretary of the Treasury various powers of the President. To these delegated powers, E.O. 11110 added the power to alter the supply of Silver Certificates in circulation. Executive Order 11110, therefore, did not create any new authority for the Treasury to issue notes; it only affected who could give the order, the Secretary or the President.

    The reason for the move was that the President had just signed legislation repealing the Silver Purchase Act. With this repeal, the Treasury Secretary could no longer control the issue of Silver Certificates on his own authority. However, the issuance of certificates could be controlled under the President’s authority. Hence, for administrative convenience, President Kennedy issued Executive Order 11110.

    Ironically, the purpose of the order and the legislation was to decrease the circulation of Silver Certificates, with Federal Reserve Notes taking their place. As economic activity grew and prices rose in the 1950s and early 1960s, the need for small-denomination currency grew at the same time that the price of silver increased. The Treasury required silver for the increasing number of Silver Certificates and coins needed for transactions. But the price of silver was rapidly approaching the point that the silver in the coins and in reserve for the certificates was worth more than the face value of the money.

    To conserve on the silver needs of the Treasury, President Kennedy requested legislation needed to bring the issuance of Silver Certificates to an end and to authorize the Fed to issue small denomination notes (which it could not at that time). The Fed began issuing small denomination notes almost immediately after the legislation was passed. And in October 1964, the Treasury ceased issuing Silver Certificates altogether. If anything, E.O. 11110 enhanced Federal Reserve power and did not in any way reduce it.” (See “Money and the Federal Reserve System: Myth and Reality,” by G. Thomas Woodward, Specialist in Macroeconomics, Economics Division, Congressional Research Services, Library of Congress, CRS Report for Congress, No. 96-672 E, July 31, 1996.)

    Kennedy did the exact opposite of what the commenter states. His intent was to decrease the issuance of silver certificates, not increase them.

  13. KZK

    For every American Revolution, their are a dozen French Revolutions.

    “In a real revolution – not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions – in a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane and devoted natures, the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement – but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims – the victims of disgust, disenchantment – often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured – that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of that. My meaning is that I don’t want you to be a victim.”
    –Joseph Conrad

  14. jumpjet

    You know, France did turn out all right in the end.

    I’m not pessimistic about Egypt’s shot at democracy- I’m wildly optimistic. But then I am a romantic.

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