Saturday, February 5, 2011

See You Off In September

As Cairo's streets calm down, could the Obama administration be open to letting Hosni Mubarak finish his term? The BBC says the State department has distanced itself from comments by ad hoc U.S. envoy Frank Wisner, but distance is difference from repudiation:

"We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes," [Wisner] told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

"I believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical - it's his chance to write his own legacy.

"He has given 60 years of his life to the service of his country, this is an ideal moment for him to show the way forward."

But in Washington, state department spokesman PJ Crowley said: "We have great respect for Frank Wisner and we were deeply appreciative of his willingness to travel to Egypt last week."

"He has not continued in any official capacity following the trip. The views he expressed today are his own. He did not co-ordinate his comments with the US government."

34 Years To Get The Girl

A careful analysis by Simon Gallagher shows that the Bill Murray character in "Groundhog Day" probably relived Groundhog Day 12,403 times.

The Whole World's Laughing

One of the 11 students charged yesterday with conspiracy to disrupt Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech at UC Irvine in February 2010 allegedly posted on a message board:
We will be staging a University of Chicago Style disruption of the Ambassador’s speech.
UCI's freshman comp teachers should brush up on hyphenation and capitalization. There may also be an issue for the U.S. history curriculum, because I'm assuming the young man was talking not about the University of Chicago (whose famous style guide could help with the hyphenation and capitalization) but the 1968 demonstrations in Chicago against the Democratic National Convention.

Thanks to this poor decision by Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas, unless the kids plead out to avoid having to serve up to six months in jail, our community may enjoy a spectacle not unlike the notorious Chicago 7 trial now that U.S. government officials are appearing to single out Muslims for prosecution of campus tomfoolery.

God Said, "I Sent You A Kindle, Nook, and iPad"

E-readers such as the Kindle are making reading books more fashionable with children. Too bad newspapers never figured out how to get on board.

Ducking Egypt's Pro-Stoning 84%

In an analysis of how democracy could take root in Egypt, Fareed Zakaria (the young pundit Richard Nixon would have most enjoyed though not always agreed with) describes how the rising expectations of an improving economy actually helped make problems for Hosni Mubarak:
Dictatorships find it difficult to handle change because the structure of power they have set up cannot respond to the new, dynamic demands coming from their people. So it was in Tunisia; so it was in Egypt. Youth unemployment and food prices might have been the immediate causes, but the underlying trend was a growing, restive population, stirred up by new economic winds, connected to a wider world. (Notice that more-stagnant countries like Syria and North Korea have remained more stable.)
Zakaria doesn't mention that this is exactly what happened in Iran in the late 1970s. Our post-Vietnam and -Watergate media were fixated on Shah Reza Pahlavi's notorious secret police and his status as a CIA-abetted U.S. client and proxy (that's he with Richard Nixon). Most overlooked how his policies of economic and cultural liberalization had provoked the same kind of dislocation and unrest that Zakaria describes in Egypt, especially among Iranian young people who had flocked to the city but couldn't find work and so went to demonstrations instead.

So let's not reassure ourselves just because, for now, the Egyptian revolution looks more secular and economic than religious. Besides, as Zakaria writes about an April 2010 poll of Egyptians' attitudes by the Pew Research Center:
Pew found that 82% of Egyptians support stoning as a punishment for adultery, 84% favor the death penalty for Muslims who leave the religion, and in the struggle between "modernizers" and "fundamentalists," 59% identify with fundamentalists.

That's enough to make one worry about the rise of an Iranian-style regime. Except that this is not all the Pew surveys show. A 2007 poll found that 90% of Egyptians support freedom of religion, 88% an impartial judiciary and 80% free speech; 75% are opposed to censorship, and, according to the 2010 report, a large majority believes that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government.

Since stoning people for adultery and leaving Islam are, by virtue of being savage, medieval acts, utterly irreconcilable with almost all the good stuff in the second paragraph above, I guess we've got to figure out what Egyptians are most passionate about. In making that determination, it's important to recognize that people almost always want democracy on paper. Most modern totalitarian regimes have had democracy on paper. I'd also bet that a poll of Iranians in April 1978 would've shown pretty much the same views when it came to government and, ironically enough, less extreme ones on religion.

So as much as I honor public opinion as a general rule, at the moment I'm counting on the same relatively moderate, secular-minded, authoritarian, anti-stoning elites who have held Egypt together for the last 3o years and are trying to promote a smooth transition of power.

The Simple-Minded Genius

Christopher Hitchens goes a little squishy on his one-time nemesis Ronald Reagan:
In a bizarre way...his simple-mindedness turns out to have had a touch of genius to it. His grasp of physics was on a level with Hollywood beam-weapon B-movies, and how we all laughed when he told Mikhail Gorbachev that, in the event of a Martian invasion of Earth, the United States and the Soviet Union would combine to sink their differences. But he had an insight that was denied to the adherents of Mutual Assured Destruction, whose theory was rapidly coming up against diminishing returns.
David Eisenhower, Nixon's son-in-law, told me that Reagan had indeed gotten the Strategic Defense Initiative from an old movie and that his self-confidence during negotiations with the Soviets stemmed from his mistaken belief that the strategic missile-killing system had actually been designed and deployed. This kind of thing can make us goofy with wonderment about that Reagan magic. Or it could help us appreciate the extent to which, during the Reagan years, the Soviet Union was actually crumbling of its own accord, in part because of a reckless expenditure on weaponry that was the consequence of all that MAD thinking and, thus, the effective policies of Reagan's predecessors.

Friday, February 4, 2011

D'Souza: Obama Thinks U.S. Is A "Rogue Nation"

Frank Gaffney (who actually held power in the Reagan administration) says the president has been brainwashed by Muslims:

On Hannity last night, Gaffney argued that "the Obama Administration's policies are being viewed through, and actually articulated and implemented through influence operations that the Muslim Brotherhood itself is running in our own country."

"You cannot possibly get your strategy right, you cannot execute it effectively if you don't know that the enemy is actually giving you advice on how to proceed," he said.

In the same interview, Gaffney says he'd met that day with some conservative leaders who also seem to be under secret Muslim influence, which he was able to discern, evidently, from their lack of interest in his views. Hannity agrees that's a scandal deserving full attention in a future broadcast.

And there's more: Elsewhere Gaffney said that three top U.S. officials, including the director of homeland security, are "questionable people who are sympathetic to the program of the stealth jihadists who have influence with the United States government."

And you get this at no extra charge:

Right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza, who wrote a book called "The Roots of Obama's Rage," told Newsmax TV yesterday that "for Obama, America is viewed as a neocolonial power occupying Iraq and Afghanistan," so "from his point of view he sees the Muslims who are fighting against America, as in a sense, freedom fighters."

He continued: "This gives Obama a somewhat romantic view of Islamic radicals. So he might not think the Muslim Brotherhood is a problem, because he might think, 'well, look, these are the good guys trying to liberate Egypt from this horrible dictator who is supported by us, the rogue nation, the United States.'"

I should disclose that all these reports come from "Talking Points Memo," a left-leaning web site that may also be under Muslim discipline. Me, too, so far as you know.

Pesky Elections Again

Helene Cooper and Mark Landler in the New York Times, writing about Israel's nervousness about post-Mubarak Egypt:
Obama officials say that the United States cannot rule out the possibility of engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood — the largest opposition group in Egypt — at the same time that it is espousing support for a democratic Egypt. If Egyptians are allowed free and fair elections, a goal of the Obama administration, then, administration officials say, they will have to deal with the real possibility that an Egyptian government might include members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Public Presidential Heart To Heart

On Egypt, a riveting performance today from the president whose critics still insist he can't get by without a TelePrompTer. You want to know how Barack Obama plans to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from seizing the Egyptian government? By getting inside of Hosni Mubarak's head and convincing him that he can hold it high if he cooperates in an smooth, U.S.-brokered transition.

Obama was talking man to man today. You and I were bystanders. He urges Mubarak to consult his colleagues, because the U.S. team has been doing its homework and knows what they'll say. Showing gracious sensitivity to Mubarak's pride (Associate Justice Sotomayor calls that useful skill "empathy"), Obama's trying to nudge him toward accepting that the true Rubicon moment was his decision not to seek reelection. What's a few more months after 30 years?:
I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he's also a patriot. And what I've suggested to him is...that he needs to consult with those who are around him in his government. He needs to listen to what's being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a pathway forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and serious....

He's already said that he's not going to run for reelection. This is somebody who's been in power for a very long time in Egypt. Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important for him to ask himself, for the Egyptian government to ask itself, as well as the opposition to ask itself, is how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate.

And as I said before, that's not a decision ultimately the United States makes or any country outside of Egypt makes. What we can do, though, is affirm the core principles that are going to be involved in that transition. If you end up having just gestures towards the opposition but it leads to a continuing suppression of the opposition, that's not going to work. If you have the pretense of reform but not real reform, that's not going to be effective.

And as I said before, once the President himself announced that he was not going to be running again, and since his term is up relatively shortly, the key question he should be asking himself is "How do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?" And my that he will end up making the right decision.

"Jews Should Not Rely On Pharaohs"

Leon Wieseltier's prose deserves to be set to music -- plus, as he methodically analyzes the consequences for Israel of the revolution in Egypt, he's right:
What Netanyahu has offered his country is a complacent immobilism, now followed by a mild panic. So with our eyes wide open, it is important to assert that Israel’s vision of its future cannot be premised upon an eternity of Arab authoritarianism and an eternity of Palestinian statelessness. Such a vision is wrong, and it will not work. It is painful, for someone who admires the Jewish state for its democratic character, to see it emerge as an enemy of democratization. Jews should not rely on Pharaohs.
Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu

Matt Yglesias Links To "The Episconixonian"

Here. And thanks to NixoNARA's Maarja Krusten for sharing the same post on the archivists' message board.

The Danger Of One Man, One Vote, One Time

From Charles Krauthammer, a stark warning about Egypt that unfortunately can't be overlooked:

The Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support. But only a child can believe that a democratic outcome is inevitable. And only a blinkered optimist can believe that it is even the most likely outcome.

Yes, the Egyptian revolution is broad-based. But so were the French and the Russian and the Iranian revolutions. Indeed in Iran, the revolution only succeeded - the shah was long opposed by the mullahs - when the merchants, the housewives, the students and the secularists joined to bring him down.

And who ended up in control? The most disciplined, ruthless and ideologically committed - the radical Islamists.

This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time. That would be Egypt's fate should the Muslim Brotherhood prevail.
Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt

Presidents' droit du seigneur

Richard Nixon was famous for collecting "historic firsts." His friendly rival Ronald Reagan has beat him to the last one. While Yorba Linda continues to wallow in Watergate, the Reagan library, 20 years after it opened in Simi Valley, California, has finally uncovered the scandal that buffeted Reagan's presidency in 1986-87:

Before the [about-to-be-unveiled] renovation, the Reagan library made scant mention of the Iran-Contra scandal, the secret U.S. sale of arms to Iran despite an embargo. The sales were an attempt to induce Iranian-backed guerrillas in Lebanon to free American hostages, but some of the proceeds went to fund anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

The new library devotes a section to Iran-Contra, including a recording of Reagan's 1987 speech in which he admits responsibility for the affair.

The long-awaited gust of fresh air in Simi Valley is in the way of all things presidential librarian. Because their millions give them leverage over the National Archives, ex-presidents' friends and families get to see hagiographic museums when libraries first open. It's one price federal archivists pays to get state-of-the-art storage facilities which enable them to preserve White House records for scholars and researchers.

The museums usually last 5-10 years before being renovated or replaced, when objectivity begins to intrude. With the federal Nixon library's new Watergate exhibit evidently still tied up by the Watergate-era Nixon friends who now control his foundation, have the Reaganites outdone the Nixonites in historical transparency?

No and yes. When we opened the Nixon library in 1990, it was an exception to the rule for at least two reasons. The first is that it was privately rather than publicly run. The second is that it had a substantial exhibit on Watergate, the ugliest episode in Richard Nixon's career. That set it apart from the public Johnson and Reagan libraries, whose first-generation museums neglected Vietnam and Iran-contra.

In Yorba Linda, we knew we'd be pilloried for overlooking Watergate. Our solution was a large, polemical exhibit which attracted considerable criticism from reporters and historians over the years, though none managed to find an error. (Trying to do so, historian David Greenberg committed a couple of his own.) In 2006, in my 17th year as Nixon library director and in the midst of our second attempt to turn it over to the taxpayers, NARA's presidential libraries chief, Sharon Fawcett, and I agreed that the new federal director, distinguished Cold War historian Tim Naftali, was the best person to plan and install the second-generation Watergate exhibit.

But while a pro-Nixon Watergate exhibit was one thing, the no-holds-barred rendition Naftali envisioned (based on extensive interviews with Nixon men such as Dwight Chapin, shown here) was quite another. The public learned last August of Nixon operatives' attempts to derail the new exhibit. One can also imagine secret maneuvers. Were other presidential foundations perhaps given the impression that Naftali and Fawcett were trying to take away presidents' traditional droit du seigneur when it comes to their precious reputations? Just think of a Nixon hand clutching a glass of chardonnay and whispering in the ear of someone from the George W. Bush foundation, "If they get their way on Watergate, you'll have to open your museum with a torture exhibit."

But that was never the point. At 21 years old, the Nixon library has reached the age of historical maturity. Besides, no matter how defensive some of his men may be about their own reputations when it comes to the full range of Watergate-related activities, the reputation of the Nixonite who actually thought of going to China can withstand telling the full story. And now Ronald Reagan has beat him to it.

"Tales Of Brave Ulysses," Cream

Performing in May 1968 on the Summer Smothers Brothers Show
Hat tip to NPR Music

Clapton Is Y-----

This is sweet: Via NPR Music (the world's coolest iPhone app) I learned about a recurring series where obsessed, nostalgia-tripping geezers pressure malleable, desperate-to-please interns veteran NPR staffers invite their young colleagues to review classic rock albums they've never heard before. Here Beca Grimm gently patronizes "Disraeli Gears." Reminds me of the time I slow-danced to "Sunshine Of Your Love" in 19--... Oh, never mind!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Space Aliens Join Middle East Peace Talks

It's dangerous enough when Jews venture onto the Temple Mount. This incident allegedly occurred on Jan. 28. Read a skeptic's analysis here.

Public Museum, Private Interests

Writing at an archivists' forum about the reorganization of the National Archives, historian and former Nixon Project archivist Maarja Krusten reads the tea leaves at The Episconixonian:
John Taylor doesn't sound optimistic about [Nixon library director] Tim Naftali getting his Watergate exhibit up. He wrote at his blog yesterday that "So far, the new exhibit at the federal Nixon library has evidently been blocked by friends and former White House colleagues of [Fred] Malek and [Dwight] Chapin who now control Nixon's foundation."
Despite the considerable pressures on Naftali, I actually do feel guardedly optimistic about his chances. I also feel rueful that NARA official Sharon Fawcett and I saddled him with the task of interpreting Watergate and Watergate-related activities at a presidential library where the affiliated private foundation is now run or influenced by some who were directly involved. Knowing what Naftali originally planned to include in the exhibit, I and others will be studying it carefully when it finally does open, to find out what hidden interests have permitted taxpayers to see in a federally run museum.

Picking On The "Disfavored"

Two Episcopalians -- my clergy colleague the Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, rector of St. Anselm's in Garden Grove, and Mike Penn, longtime lay leader at St. Paul's in Tustin -- are among the Orange County faith leaders who signed a Feb. 2 letter urging DA Tony Rackauckas not to prosecute the 11 students who disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's talk at UCI last February. They imply that Rackauckas is picking on them because they're Muslims:
As District Attorney, it is within your discretion to determine society's interests in seeking punishment of certain offenses. Over the years, there have been countless instances of non-violent protest activities during campus speeches, including at UCI, with no comparable criminal prosecution. By criminally prosecuting one set of protesters and not others, including the counter-protesters at the same event, who cursed, threatened and even assaulted the students, these indictments would be singular. Orange County citizens would understand from your office's actions that minority or disfavored groups receive a disproportionate and selective application of the law, while the integrity of the office of the OCDA as well as the justice system would be profoundly undermined....

Our vision for Orange County is that it be a place where all faith groups are treated with equal respect and due process of law, where no political viewpoint is penalized, and where all of our public officials and offices utilize their stations to promote these ends.

Perfect Household

Presiding at a dedication service for a new monastic community in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the Community of Divine Love in San Gabriel, the Rt. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool presented the community's founders and first residents, the Rev. Dennis Gibbs and Greta Ronnigen, with Russian painter Andrei Rublev's (d. 1430) icon of the Holy Trinity.

Annals Of Ancient Dentistry

Recent archaeological finds bolster the notion that homo sapiens wandered out of Africa as long as 200,000 years ago. But the discovery of near-human remains in Israel suggest that humankind was in the Middle East -- not far west of Eden -- another 200,000 years before that. Might this be a tooth that bit the apple?
Hat tip to Bruce Hughes

God's Blessing Of Impossible Choices

Last week, Arizona's Roman Catholic bishop fired St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix and said that a nun and other Catholics on the hospital's ethics committee had excommunicated themselves by permitting an abortion to save the life of a mother. Speaking up for the church (but neglecting to mention that the mother's life was at stake), Lisa Fabrizio writes:
Most folks, and indeed many Catholics who have not been properly catechized, simply do not understand the Faith. They don't understand, for example, that excommunication is far from being a tool to punish and permanently separate Catholics from the Church, but an act of charity aimed at getting the person to recognize their error and return to a faithful reception of the sacraments; most often accomplished simply by making a sincere sacramental confession and receiving absolution.
If that's the case, then Sister Margaret (not Mary, as Fabrizio writes) could, through confession, acknowledge the profound moral difficulty of the dilemma she faced and receive absolution. I understand there are those who would have no hesitation acting as she did. God blesses them in their certitude the same as God blesses those who agonize. It takes all kinds.

This One Goes To 11

Editorializing about the possibility of criminal charges by the Orange County DA against students who disrupted an on-campus speech by the Israeli ambassador last year, the LA Times is absolutely right:
Criminal charges...are not appropriate. They would be overkill, a punishment out of proportion to the offense. Is it really necessary to threaten the futures of students who engaged in a nonviolent protest that didn't, ultimately, stop Oren from delivering his remarks? These students have been punished already, in an effort to make clear the difference between legitimate protest and their unacceptable actions. We hope they've learned a lesson. Now it's time to move on.
Hat tip to Tom Tierney

How Much Would You Pay For Free Energy?

Many activists and politicians who say greenhouse gases pose an existential crisis to earthlings oppose the relatively quick and easy fix of building more nuclear power plants. Maybe the third way is a massive investment in fusion power, which Glen Wurden at the Los Alamos National Laboratory says he could bring on line immediately -- if:
Wurden says the biggest impediment to controlled fusion has been a lack of resources. “If you gave me an infinite amount of money, I [could] produce a fusion reactor tomorrow. On the other hand, if you gave me a billion dollars a year for 20 years, that’s the other extreme. Is there a way to do it faster? Yeah, I think there is. Somewhere between one day and 20 years is the right number.”

The Rule About Smoke And Fire Notwithstanding

Ugandan authorities (whose motives and procedures are questionable) say David Kato's sexuality wasn't a factor in his murder.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My City In Ruins

From The Ruins Of Detroit (Steidl, 2010) by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. I remember my parents talking about Cass Tech High School as the pinnacle of public education in our proud city. This photo was taken in the school laboratory. More here.

No More Landing At Airports

That was Richard Nixon's famous instruction to an aide after a plane-side campaign rally had gone poorly. More hard-to-fulfill requests from passengers here, courtesy of the flight attendants of Virgin Atlantic.

"Short Dress Gal," Carolina Chocolate Drops

With the Luminescent Orchestrii
Hat tip to the good people at "Paste"

Bob Woodward, Me, And Nixon's "Nonsense"

As she writes this morning at NixoNARA, historian Maarja Krusten was still working at the National Archives' Washington-area Nixon Project in 1988 when journalist Bob Woodward came looking for details about the investigation President Richard Nixon had ordered years before into how many Jews were working for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It was the last year of the Reagan administration. The Nixon aide who received and followed the order, Fred Malek (above), was up for a top GOP job. I was then Nixon's post-presidential chief of staff. After the story by Woodward and his Washington Post colleague, Walter Pincus, was published, I wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Times accusing the Post of recycling a story that Woodward and Carl Bernstein had first reported many years before in their book The Final Days.

The afternoon my article appeared, Woodward called me. While he said that he hadn't recalled the reference to White House Jew-counting in The Final Days until he read my article, he insisted that Malek's prominence in party circles made it news once again. He also questioned my labored contention that Nixon's obsession with Jews could be entirely accounted for by his obsession with liberals.

When I asked Woodward if he thought Nixon was anti-Semitic, he said, "I don't know." As for Malek, he told the Post in 1988 that Nixon's fears about a cabal of Jews manipulating economic statistics to his detriment were "ridiculous" and "nonsense." But more recently, as Krusten notes, Nixon library director Tim Naftali couldn't get Malek to repeat his criticisms on camera:
Malek comes across better to me in what he told Woodward in 1988 than in Ben Stein’s “Leave Fred Malek alone” column in 2010 (shades of “Leave Britney Alone”) or in the oral history interview he later gave [to Naftali] on the BLS matter. (I’ve described Malek’s stance in the latter as “no harm, no foul.”) Yet Malek had more at stake, as he was being considered in 1988 for chairman of the Republican National Committee.
According to an on-line catalog at, Malek's interview with Naftali is among those to be included the new Nixon library Watergate exhibit. It also features convicted perjurer Dwight Chapin's dramatic charge that Nixon was present when Chapin (right) was ordered to set up a dirty tricks operation for the 1972 presidential campaign.

So far, the new exhibit at the federal Nixon library has evidently been blocked by friends and former White House colleagues of Malek and Chapin who now control Nixon's foundation.

The Arab Fleet Street

Is it possible it's not principally about Mubarak? From an "Economist" survey of Arab reporting and editorializing about Egypt:
Tariq Hameed of the pan-Arab daily Al Sharq Al Awsat writes that Egyptians’ dissatisfaction with Mr Mubarak has nothing to do with the president himself, whom he describes as being "neither Saddam Hussein nor Zine el Abidine Ben Ali [Tunisia's recently ousted president]," and "a nationalist in both war and peace" whom Egyptians are "proud to have as a part of their history." Rather it is the institutionalised tolerance of unlimited presidential terms that they are protesting against:

"The crisis is not a crisis of the Egyptian regime, but a crisis of all Arab republics. If the opponents of Mubarak’s regime blamed it yesterday for being a client of America, how can they blame Washington today for not standing against it strongly, or forget that there other Arab republics whose democratic predicaments are far greater than the plight of the Egypt...? Washington has allowed Nuri al-Maliki to take a second term in Iraq, despite losing the election! Is this a case of Arab hypocrisy, or its absence? What about the Sudanese regime, for example? And the other republics?

"This is not a defense of the Egyptian regime, or any other, but is a call for reason and reflection, rather than emotion."

Egypt's Top Anglican: "All We Need Is Democracy"

The Most Rev. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Egypt's Episcopal bishop and presiding bishop of the Anglican Communion province encompassing the Dioceses of Jerusalem and the Middle East, is taking a middle-way line on the crisis in Egypt that isn't reflected in much reporting I've seen. He evidently wrote his pastoral letter before today's bloody clashes between Hosni Mubarak's friends and foes:
President Mubarak made it very clear that he will not seek re-election after he finishes his term in November 2011. He appointed Mr. Ibrahim Soliman as a Vice President. He has a good reputation among Egyptians. This appointment ruled out the possibility of appointing the President's son as a successor. President Mubarak also appointed a new Prime Minister, Mr. Shafik who was the Minister of Civil Aviation (Egypt Air, etc.). He is a very good man and has done a lot of improvement in his previous Ministry. President Mubarak also called for a review for the Constitution to allow democracy; he also assured the people that those who were responsible for the violence, destructions, looting, escape of prisoners, etc. will be brought to judgment.

Our concern was that extremist groups would take advantage of the demonstrations to push for violence. We thank God that this did not happen. It seems that the majority of the youth who are demonstrating are aware of this possibility. Many of them started to see this possible risk. The youth who were interviewed by the television yesterday mentioned that all [that] they need is democracy. Many groups this morning are demonstrating in support of President Mubarak, the new government, and peaceful transfer of authority at the end of the President's term.

Out Of The Courtroom And Back To Class

As Egyptians stand up to their authoritarian president on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, 11 UC Irvine students may face criminal prosecution for disrupting an on-campus speech by the Israeli ambassador last February. At the Orange County DA's office yesterday, 50 people (some shown here) gathered to protest a grand jury investigation of the 11.

Ambassador Michael Oren finished his speech after the protesters were arrested. The university suspended the Muslim Student Union for a year, though the organization denied any involvement in the incident. As the Times reports this morning:
Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Irvine's law school, said the issue is not about free speech or expression but about appropriate punishment.

"I don't think the D.A. should press charges, but what the students did wasn't freedom of expression," he said.

"I favor them being punished by the university because what they did was wrong," he said, adding that "university discipline is sufficient."
Chemerinsky is no enemy of free expression, so his nuance is important. You can't use your rights to deprive someone of his. That's the first irony of the Egypt comparison, since those who do enjoy the blessings of freedom must use it discerningly. A college or university campus is one place where a legitimate spokesman for a point of view -- the ambassador of a sovereign nation and vital U.S. ally definitely falls into that category -- is entitled to expect to find open minds and pointed but civil debate.

Instead, young people who may not fully appreciate the purposes of a liberal education nor the privilege of attending one of the greatest universities in the world at still-popular prices end up wasting their time and our money on street theater. When it comes to UCI, I'm not just talking about the anti-Israel club.

But criminal prosecution of student protesters sounds like a Mubarak move. Unless he has evidence that the students were up to something worse than being obnoxious, DA Tony Rackauckas and his grand jury should close the books on this case in the hope that the young people will open theirs and get back to class.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Israel's Nightmare

Yossi Klein Halevi:
The Muslim Brotherhood has long stated its opposition to peace with Israel and has pledged to revoke the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty if it comes into power. Given the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas’s control of Gaza and the unraveling of the Turkish-Israeli alliance, an Islamist Egypt could produce the ultimate Israeli nightmare: living in a country surrounded by Iran’s allies or proxies.

Apres Egypt, Apartheid?

Thomas Friedman:
[I]f Israelis tell themselves that Egypt’s unrest proves why Israel cannot make peace with the Palestinian Authority, then they will be talking themselves into becoming an apartheid state — they will be talking themselves into permanently absorbing the West Bank and thereby laying the seeds for an Arab majority ruled by a Jewish minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

"Fortunate Son," Fogerty and Springsteen

Two great American rockers rock David Eisenhower

Why Peace Makes Sense For Egypt

Matthew Yglesias thinks a democratic Egyptian government -- indeed any rational Egyptian government -- would be inclined to keep the peace with Israel:
The peace agreement with Israel was signed by Anwar Sadat for perfectly sound reasons of state and its been maintained for thirty years for equally sound reasons of state. Egypt, unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran, is actually adjacent to Israel so if it’s not at peace with Israel it’s at war—in a non-theoretical way—and war with Israel is not in the interests of the Egyptian public or state. And I think that ultimately paying attention to reasons of state will shed more light on the future course of Egyptian policy than will attempting to parse the theological musings of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Stanley Schemer

Making a careful study of hardening, harsher, and sometimes more paranoid attitudes among conservatives compared with those of a generation or two ago, historian Maarja Krusten writes that she's disappointed conservative pundit Stanley Kurtz really thinks he has to conceal his true identity lest perfidious (in his view) liberal archivists withhold the juicy stuff. She also finds it ironic that Kurtz complained about this to my Nixon buddy Hugh Hewitt:
That Kurtz chose to describe his research as if he saw a need to skulk about and disguise who he was baffled me. Especially since he was speaking to Hewitt, who once served as director of the private Nixon library. Hewitt stated in 1990 that he would bar Bob Woodward from doing research at the Nixon library (then controlled by the Nixon foundation) “because he is an irresponsible journalist.” John Taylor, who succeeded Hewitt as director, announced in 1990 while Hewitt still was in charge that Nixon didn’t want that and researchers would be admitted “without regard to their opinions on any subject.” Why Kurtz presented himself to Hewitt, of all people, as someone who might be interfered with in his research due to his ideology or goals comes across to me as comical as well as mind boggling.
When writing about this incident a week ago, I'd forgotten that as Nixon's chief of staff I'd publicly repudiated Hewitt's Woodward ban. Thinking back, I'm pretty sure that I warned Hewitt about it and that he said he understood why we needed to climb down.

After all that, so as far as I know Woodward's never done research at either the private or public Nixon library. He and I did have an exchange of e-mails in January 2007, when he was trying to confirm a claim by one of his and Carl Bernstein's sources many years ago that former Nixon campaign manager John Mitchell had briefed President Nixon about the roots of Watergate over dinner on June 19, 1972, just two days after the break-in. He asked me to consult the White House daily diary, which disclosed that Nixon actually had dinner in Key Biscayne with buddy Bebe Rebozo that night before flying back to Washington. I never did find out what Woodward was working on.

Eat Less

Lose weight. Whoa.

Just In Case You're Feeling Clueless Today

Hat tip to Tom Tierney

The Egyptian Roadblock To Peace

Jacob Heilbrunn on why no one should expect progress between Israel and the Palestinians with Egypt in play:

For Israel to embark upon serious negotiations would be tantamount to negotiating with a loaded revolver to its head. It doesn't know how Egypt is going to play out, either. Might Egypt turn into an actively hostile foe after decades of a cold peace? Is Israel's "strategic space" about to shrink further? The odds are that Israel will turn even further to the right should Egypt devolve back into nationalism, or some syncretic form of "isms" that includes radical Islam.

If Egypt turns out well, and some form of tender democratic shoots take hold, then the pressure on Israel would mount considerably to reach some kind of deal with the Palestinians. But the situation is far too murky to expect more than bluff and bombast to emanate from both the Israelis and Palestinians about the peace process for weeks to come.

Anyway, the problem in the Middle East right now isn't Israel. It's radical Islam. Pakistan, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia could all face internal turmoil should the Tunisian revolt continue to spread. Perhaps this really will be 1989 all over again. But there is plenty of room to wonder.

After This Winter, We're Even More Confused

My former colleague Paul Saunders, executive director of the Nixon Center, and Vaughan Turekian on the international and U.S. domestic political complexities of the climate change issue:
[T]hough they have tried many different arguments, climate advocates have thus far largely failed in making a sufficiently strong case for emissions limits on any basis. While the scientific case for climate change is solid, the “approaching calamity” argument about its expected consequences hasn’t gained traction. This appears partially due to good public relations by climate skeptics (helped recently by foolish and highly-publicized emails among a handful of scientists) and to record-high snowfall throughout the United States in the winter of 2009-10 that was consistent with climate change modeling but confused many Americans.

The moral argument for action to save indigenous peoples, animals, and glaciers is closely related to the calamity argument and often has a greater emotional appeal. However, despite support from some evangelical Christian groups focused on humanity’s stewardship of God’s creation, this has also fallen short.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday Sermon: "Paul's Pilgrimage"

The six denominations in charge of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher feud and bicker not because they're Christians but because they're human. They achieve an uneasy coexistence because they agree on only one thing: That Jesus died and rose from the dead somewhere on the rough stones buried a few meters under their feet. What's the rock that unifies our homes and communities despite the disturbances and conflicts inherent in the human experience? My Sunday sermon, in honor of our patron, St. John Proparoxytone, is here.

Both Sides For Now

Chris Mooney:

[I]ncreasingly, evolution and climate change are being tied together in attacks on science education. The strategy tends to be the same: Students are encouraged to “critique” or examine "strengths and weaknesses" or hear “both sides”—but only a few hot button subjects are singled out.

I get nervous when people put "both sides" in quotes (except when it comes to slavery and the Holocaust) because it suggests an effort to anathematize and perhaps someday punish an unpopular point of view. But there I go, putting "both sides" in quotes myself on two subjects, and I'll bet I can think of others (giving women the vote; anything that's illegal in a free society; I'm rolling now!). May we at least agree that the smaller the number of subjects about which we try to close off intelligent, civil discussion, the better?

The Muslim Brotherhood's Pursuit Of Death

To assure his readers that he hasn't gone soft on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Jeffrey Goldberg has surveyed the breadth and especially the depth of its current thought so you don't have to.

If there's one thing we can probably be sure about, it's that the Obama administration is calibrating all its public statements and using all its private influence (at least until Julian Assange publishes everybody's e-mails and cables) to try to keep the MB from dominating any new Egyptian government.

Giving Him The Boot

Max Boot is one conservative who thinks we should push Mubarak harder.

Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt

Overthrowing The Peace Process

Why Mubarak matters, according to the New York Times:

Israelis worry that Jordan is in a precarious state and a successful overthrow in Egypt could spread there. And if the Muslim Brotherhood were to gain power in Egypt, that would probably mean not only a stronger Islamist force in Gaza but also in the West Bank, currently run by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, as well as in Jordan, meaning Israel would feel surrounded in a way it has not in decades.

If Egypt also turned unfriendly, that would quite likely stop in its tracks any further Israeli talk of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, officials and analysts said. A peace treaty with the West Bank would involve yielding territory and military control to a relatively weak Palestinian Authority. Trading land for peace with autocrats like Mr. Mubarak, some analysts say, is not a sound basis for enduring treaties.

Photo: Graffiti on Israel's security and separation wall near Bethlehem, January 2011

Iran, Egypt, And The Tipping Point

My Nixon buddy Hugh Hewitt writes to say that he's not endorsing a military crackdown in Egypt nor under any illusion that we could do anything to bring one about.

As for the comparison between Egypt's unrest and the 1978-79 Iranian revolution that led to the shah's ouster, Hewitt's unique perspective on the latter comes from his work during those months on Richard Nixon's staff in San Clemente, working on Nixon's 1980 book The Real War. It's for Hewitt to write about what 37 said privately about Iranian and U.S. policy as opposition pressure built on the shah's regime. Had his broad liberalization policies offended the Shi'ite mullahs? Could he have held onto power, and prevented considerable misery for his people and headaches for his neighbors and us, by pushing back in the streets before protests got out of hand?

In The Real War, Nixon described his conversation with the exiled shah in Mexico in 1979:
As he sees it now, the crucial mistake the United States made was not in giving him support or failing to give him support but in being indecisive. One day, he would receive public and private assurances [from the Carter administration] of all-out support. The next day, a story would be leaked to the effect that second-level U.S. emissaries were in contact with his opposition. The day after that, a statement from the White House would indicate that the United States, in the event the shah was overthrown, would accept any government the people wanted. A vacillating United States government could not seem to decide whether to support the shah unequivocally, force him to compromise with his enemies, or leave him free to maneuver without its support.
Obama can't be accused of the same kind of equivocation in Egypt. His administration seems to have adopted a unified policy of studied ambiguity, wanting neither to offend Mubarak's successors nor, in the event he stays for a while, Mubarak. I don't think Obama has any other choice. In Iran, had we wanted to, we had months to work in coordination with the shah to forestall the rule of the grim theocrat Ruhollah Khomeini, who had set up a government-in-exile in France. The Egyptian crisis blossomed overnight, ruling out much of a U.S. role.

One think we can't and shouldn't evade is our status as a friend of the Mubarak regime, which among other things is a possibly indispensable cornerstone of the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Besides, if the U.S. is going to stop backing authoritarian regimes, somebody had better be prepared to take over from Beijing buying trillions in U.S. treasuries. Obama would have looked weak and opportunistic by abandoning Mubarak too early. Instead, he'll wait for the tipping point, when helping usher Mubarak out of power would be the fitting work of a realistic friend.

As of this morning, it doesn't look like we're there quite yet. Right now, I'm watching former UN ambassador John Bolton gently praise Obama's handling of the situation and predict that Mubarak wants to hold on until his current term expires later this year.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Next They'll Want The Vote

Scott Perlo wonders why men are less involved than women in faith communities -- and why women aren't running more faith communities:
The far-reaching Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey indicates that women outclass men in all the most important indices for religious belief and participation: affiliation, belief in God, regular prayer, and -- most tellingly -- the reported importance of religion in their lives. It is actually quite stunning how much resistance to female religious leadership still exists in America, considering how many more women than men engage in spiritual practice.

When Is A Palestinian State Really Not One?

When its leaders have the responsibilities of sovereignty without having sovereignty. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley say Israel has options other than allowing an independent Palestine or waiting for Arabs to outnumber and outvote Jews in Israel:
Already, by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, former prime minister Ariel Sharon transformed the numbers game, effectively removing 1.5 million Palestinians from the Israeli equation. The current or a future government could unilaterally conduct further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, allowing, as in the case of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s West Bank government, or compelling, as happened in Gaza, large numbers of Palestinians to rule themselves and mitigating the demographic peril. The options, in other words, are not necessarily limited to a two-state solution, an apartheid regime, or the end of the Jewish state.

Chick-fil-As And Gays

Evangelical chicken sandwiches land in political hot sauce.

Yorba Linda Sky

3 p.m. Sunday

What Really Counts: U.S. Words Or Billions?

Barack Obama must be feeling pretty powerful these days. Though he can't get a bill through the House anymore, the word from an abundance of commentators and bloggers is that the next 30 years of Egyptian history is his to write by virtue of a righteous turn of phrase.

The prevailing analogy is Jimmy Carter's policy toward Iran in 1978-79, when an authoritarian, pro-Western leader, Shah Reza Pahlavi, was driven from power and replaced by the theocratic regime whose leaders continue to confound us. Carter's critics made the hard to disprove (or prove) claim that the shah would've been able to hold onto power indefinitely with strong U.S. support. Late last week, Hugh Hewitt said as much when he ventured this critique of Obama's policy in Egypt in an interview with Charles Krauthammer:
[W]hen I heard [Obama's public statement about Egypt], I tried to put myself in the position of a Muslim Brotherhood activist listening, and I thought Obama cleared the way, immunizing them from any kind of crackdown. In other words, that Saturday will be a tumultuous, violence-filled day, because the President signaled to Mubarak, don’t use the army....Let me go back to 1979...If we knew then what we know now, would we have been better off if the Shah had instructed the army to fire on the mob, and even with the horrendous bloodshed that would have occurred....?
So theory one is that Obama can save our Egyptian ally from a mass popular movement with stronger rhetoric, encouragement of a brutal military crackdown, or both. Theory two comes from a potential Mubarak successor, Mohamed ElBaradei, who suggested this weekend that we'll get a more moderate Egyptian regime if the U.S. pulls the rug out from under Mubarak. On the basis of his own analysis of the Iranian revolution, Kai Bird agrees:
Recent events in Egypt recall the street protests of 1978 in Tehran when...Carter had to decide whether to remain loyal to the Pahlavi regime, a long-standing American-backed dictatorship—or whether the time had come to abandon the Shah and support a popular uprising demanding human rights and democracy. Carter tried to have it both ways, modulating his support for the Shah, calling for political liberalization, and warning the Shah against the use of state violence against unarmed protesters. Obama seems to be following the same script, and the results may well turn out to be equally fraught with unintended consequences....It is imperative that Washington finds a way to place itself on the side of those political forces advocating change and reform—despite America's historical baggage of temporizing with Arab kings and dictators.
Hewitt says we got Islamists in Iran because the U.S. didn't back the shah, thus opening the popular floodgates. Bird says we got them because we backed him too much, further seeding and radicalizing the deluge. There's a third theory, of course, which is that it doesn't matter that much what Obama says, that political outcomes will occur in Egypt principally as the result of internal political and cultural dynamics, just as in Iran. To an extent, Bird himself concurs:
The end of the Mubarak era will...spell an end to Egypt's cold peace with Israel. No post-Mubarak government, and certainly not one populated with Muslim Brotherhood members, will tolerate the continued blockade of their Hamas cousins in Gaza. Israel will thus be faced with additional strategic incentives to end its occupation of the West Bank, dismantle its settlements and quickly recognize a Palestinian state based largely on its 1967 borders.
This assertion complicates the picture even more. In Bird's view, Obama and his speechwriters can alter the course of events at a fluid moment such as this one and yet will be powerless to keep a new Egyptian government, whether dominated by moderates or hardliners and in spite of our $2 billion in annual aid, from railroading Israel.

Obviously Bird has high hopes along these lines. But if he's right that any new Egyptian government will actively support Hamas, then the revolution will probably be devastating to the peace process. Israel already has good cause to fear Hamas ending up in charge of a Palestinian state. If Egypt becomes an enemy again, I imagine Israel will at least be tempted to keep indefinitely the West Bank lands it won in the 1973 war against Egypt and its allies. If Egypt waxes even more aggressive, Israel may even be willing to vie for the Sinai again.

Nobody wants to see that happen. Whether or not it matters much what Obama says this week, let's hope that our $2 billion continues to speak loudly in the months and years ahead.

Neocon Dreams

Jeffrey Goldberg:
[U]ltimately I have to come down on the side of people like Reuel Gerecht, who argue that the imposition of ostensibly pro-Western autocrats on Muslim populations leads to nothing good in the end. If President Bush had carried through his worthy freedom agenda (and if President Obama had picked up the standard of democratic change) Hosni Mubarak might have long ago been convinced to seek retirement before his people sought it for him, and today we would be watching orderly elections in Egypt in which the Muslim Brotherhood represented one choice among many, and not images of Cairo on fire.

Easy For Him To Say

Should the U.S. use its influence to facilitate regime change in Egypt? The opposition leader being mentioned as the new boss sure thinks so:

[Mohamed ElBaradei] criticized the Obama administration, which has expressed support for the rights of the protesters but pointedly refrained from calling on Mr. Mubarak to step down. In an interview with CNN, Mr. ElBaradei called that approach “a failed policy” that was eroding American credibility.

“It’s better for President Obama not to appear that he is the last one to say to President Mubarak, it’s time for you to go,” Mr. ElBaradei said.