A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Sunday, January 30, 2011 :::
It is amazing how dreams live on in the hearts of men.

An unreconstructed liberal internationalist, of the sort who hangs out at conference co-sponsored by Brookings and the Pew Charitable Trusts,said--with that patented patronizing assurance that the right people would handle things--that "Egypt will have a new president in the next few days and his name will be El Baradei."  That would be Mohammed el-Baradei, who served for 12 years as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  When A Mind That Suits averred that this would be a disaster for US interests, given el-Baradei's strongly anti-American record at the IAEA, said confidenct internationalist pronounced that "bull s***," only it isn't.  When  A Mind That Suits refused to back down, the conversation wandered this way and that, but what it boiled down to is that this fellow was simply sure that "the right people," in which he clearly included himself, were going to settle it.

Now, at the same time, a TV was blaring Farid Zakaria and Candy Crowley, who were playing tag-team with a whole host of former ambassadors and think tank habitues who were rather more honest in admitting that they were all out at sea on this one.  One former Ambassador told Ms. Crowley that, in addition to the military and the Muslim Brotherhood cited by her, there was one more institution with some power, the bureaucracy.

The bureaucracy might form a basis for support of Mr. el-Baradei, with a stress on "might."  That would be a stronger bulwark than that cited by the companion of A Mind That Suits who felt that "strong international support" would do the trick.

They way it determine who's President of Pakistan, one guesses.

To bad, for the votaries of this kind of thinking, that what reads as "internationalism" in all the right places reads as "the combined forces of the dar-al-Harb" to the Muslim Brotherhood, and they will have a lot more to say about what happens that anyone living in Geneva.

The same fellow felt that it was a sign of el-Baradei's pro-Americanism that his son played softball with the American team at the IAEA, althoug a conservative would respond that either Dad made him do it to look friendly to people he routinely kicked in their softballs or that the kid simply liked the idea of being on a winning team.  One would have to check if said kid also plays soccer with the Italians or the Argentians.

One is also reminded that the chattering classes were beside themselves when a man, now long forgotten, named Yuri Andropov became General Secretary of the Communist Party in the USSR.   He liked scotch and jazz, the "thinking" ran, so therefore he must be someone the US could negotiate with.  His lifelong service to the KBG, whose director he ultimately became, was apparently beside the point.

Speaking of points, this true believer in internationalism--for which read, "conferences and international agencies"--just knew his people were going to handle it.

Just as another kind of American thinks that a thirst for liberty is going to spring fully formed from the hearts of every Egyptian.  How they know this, they do not divulge, and they get quite huffy when pressed.

A Mind That Suits remains, and will always be, a conservative: culture determines everything, and whatever happens in one country, "international" involvement--which usually means the interference of one particular nation, even if under the flag of the UN--will only be one more tool used by the forces within the country. 

On occasion, the outside tool simply hands things over to one side, as when the US handed control of the place the British named "Iraq" to the Shi'ites, who call it "home," and show little interest in truly sharing control of their ancient home with other Arabs, whom they call "enemies."  In fact, they have called them "enemies" since right about the time they started calling it "home." 

On other occasions, the outside tool just makes things worse (think nearly any place in Africa.)

On still other occasions, the outside force is hoping to seize a divided region for its assets or whatever.  That is irrelevant here.  Go look at a map.

Come to think of it, ALL of those occasions just listed are meaningless.  This is an Egyptian affair, and Egyptians are going to decide it.

Final thoughts: 

  • Because this is utlimately about culture, the best guides I have found to the region are exactly two:  first and foremost, Stanley Kurtz, who, before he became a "public intellectual" was a much-honored expert in "South Asian" culture, meaning Arabs, Persians, and others, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA analyst who is both technically fluent and quite comfortable (the two are not the same) using the main languages of the region.  Mr. Gerecht is not quite so visible as he once was--usually a sign that a commentator is committing a book--but Dr. Kurtz's recent posts have been invaluable.  See a good one here.

  • It is fascinating, living in a city full of them, the number of truly minor figures who think that by subscribing to the New York Times and Foreign Affairs, and attending the right conferences, that they are part of the "right people."  There's something at work here other than pretentiousness--herein defined as the belief that phony Oxbridge accents will yield the correct pronunciation of desirable exotic foods from country's that do not speak Indo-European languages.  There is, perhaps, fear that if it is acknowledged that this class wasn't even able to accurately handle the Cold War, which was fought using Western thought about Western technology and war aims, then the nasty world will reveal itself as spinning out of control.

  • Which is not to say, by the way, that there aren't many fine people lurking in the hallways of the Council on Foreign Relations, but those tend to be the former Ambassadors who recognize that they never really controlled very much.  The ones who read Foreign Affairs every quarter from front to back?  Not so much.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 3:03 PM



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