Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The riddle of the sands

Michele Dunne at Harvard looks at Bush's brief stop in Egypt, where "Bush seemed to try to compensate for the shortness of his stop with the fullness of his public statement, a virtual tour d’horizon of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship." One of her commenters, former US Ambassador to Egypt Dan Kurtzer rhetorically asks, "Is Egypt still “worth the money?” This requires a more thoughtful discussion than a few lines of comment, but the short answer for now is 'yes.'" The more interesting question is why.



The obvious reasons for Egypt's importance are geopolitical. Egypt shares a border with Israel. It's cooperation with the war on terrorism and any Palestinian deal are probably paramount. But there is a downside.

In April, 2007 the University of Maryland surveyed attitudes in four Islamic countries, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia as part of an effort to measure the effect of the War on Terror on perceptions in these countries. Here's a sample of the results of various questions.


Views of the US government

Favorable Unfavorable
Morocco 16 76
Egypt 4 93
Pakistan 15 67
Indonesia 20 66

The US Should Withdraw Forces From Islamic Countries

Agree Agree Somewhat
Morocco 37 35
Egypt 82 10
Pakistan 48 23
Indonesia 26 38

Approve on attacks on US troops in Iraq

Approve Mixed feelings Disapprove
Morocco 68 11 14
Egypt 91 2 4
Pakistan 35 13 35
Indonesia 19 11 61

Approve on attacks on US troops in Afghanistan

Approve Mixed feelings Disapprove
Morocco 61 14 17
Egypt 91 2 4
Pakistan 34 14 33
Indonesia 19 10 59

What's really striking about these figures is that Egypt, which is an American "ally", the end product of sophisticated diplomacy, the recipient of lavish aid apparently hates America worst of all. Going by the figures the US may be more popular in Iraq (as per a BBC poll) and Pakistan (where there is US campaign against the Taliban right across the border) than in Egypt or Morocco.

One of the challenges in maintaining objectively important US relations with vital countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia is finding ways to achieve this without being completely tarnished by association with an unpopular and sometimes hated local leader.

15 Comments:

Blogger Nomenklatura said...

They hate us largely because we are seen as propping up the dictator who oppresses them.

Nevertheless, it is helpful that they have agreed to stand in line, out of the fight for the present.

On the one hand we haven't purchased their non-belligerence, we've just rented it. On the other hand, if they don't come to their senses in the meantime then we'll deal with them at a later date.

You have to bring some order into the sequence in which you subjugate your enemies in a place like the Middle East. The Romans made a science of this.

1/16/2008 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

They hate us because their polygamy (which leaves most men sex-less losers substituting homosexual acts for heterosexual ones) makes their society violent and unstable and only an external enemy will suffice to keep a minimum social peace.

The problem with Egypt is that is has provided both the intellectual guidance (Qutb, Hassan al-Bana, the evil Dr. Zawahari) as well as the foot soldiers in great numbers for Jihad.

1/16/2008 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Riddle of the Sands is a 1903 novel by Erskine Childers. It is considered the first modern thriller. Concerning a stranded sailboat on the Frisian Coast and spies.

1/16/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Riddle of the Sands was a favorite when I was in my teens or early 20s. Childers was British and Irish patriot. His British patriotism shows in the Riddle of the Sands. Ironic that he was executed for treason by the British.

Childers was secretary-general of the Irish delegation that negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the British government. He stayed at the delegation headquarters in Hans Place throughout the period of the negotiations, 11 October–6 December 1921. Childers became vehemently opposed to the final draft of the agreement, particularly the clauses that required Irish leaders to take an Oath of Allegiance to the British king. The Treaty bitterly divided Sinn Féin and the IRA, and Ireland slipped into open civil war in June 1922.

Said to be the inspiration behind the irregulars' propaganda, Childers was hunted by National Army soldiers and had to travel secretly. The ambush death of Michael Collins intensified the desire of Free State authorities to exact retribution, and in September 1922 the Irish Dáil introduced the Emergency Powers legislation, establishing martial law powers and new capital offences for the carrying of firearms without licence. In November of the same year, Childers was arrested by Free State forces at his home, Glendalough, in County Wicklow, while travelling to meet De Valera. He was tried by a military court on the pretext of possessing a small-calibre automatic pistol on his person in violation of the Emergency Powers Resolution. Ironically, the pistol was alleged to be a gift from Michael Collins before the latter swore allegiance to the Free State. Childers was convicted by the military court and sentenced to death. While his appeal of the sentence was still pending, Childers was executed by firing squad at the Beggar's Bush Barracks in Dublin. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Before his execution, in a spirit of reconciliation, Childers obtained a promise from his then 16-year-old son, the future President Erskine Hamilton Childers, to seek out and shake the hand of every man who had signed his father's death warrant. Childers himself shook hands with each member of the firing squad that was about to execute him. His last words, spoken to them, were (characteristically) in the nature of a joke: "Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way."

1/16/2008 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I never forgot the narrative method by which Childers brought his readers to the final understanding of the Riddle of the Sands. By dint of putting together small boat piloting information he realized that the Germans, unable to cross the channel in regular steamers, planned to send a flotilla of small barges across to land on England. It was asymmetrical warfare set at the turn of the 19th century. Great stuff. May he rest in peace.

1/16/2008 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

By dint of putting together small boat piloting information he realized that the Germans, unable to cross the channel in regular steamers, planned to send a flotilla of small barges across to land on England.
////////
The brits themselves did this at dunkirk.

1/16/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

There are several reasons for the massive infusions of aid.

For one, Washington really doesn't want the Egyptian economy to collapse, with all the political ramifications of such a meltdown.

Of equal importance, the US is paying off the Egyptian government with advanced weaponry and military training, as well as money, to keep their border with Israel relatively quiet.

However, this doesn't mean that the Egyptians have to refrain from hating the US and Israel (while supporting Palestinian aspirations to erase the Jewish state).

The Egyptians are nobody's whores.

1/17/2008 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

There are several reasons for the massive infusions of aid.

For one, Washington really doesn't want the Egyptian economy to collapse.

Of equal importance, the US has been paying off the Egyptian government with advanced weaponry and military training, as well as money, to keep their border with Israel relatively quiet.

However, this doesn't mean that the Egyptians have to refrain from hating the US and Israel (while supporting Palestinian aspirations to erase the Jewish state).

The Egyptians are nobody's whores.

1/17/2008 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger ADE said...

With faded status, without oil, recognising the impotence of Arab culture in the modern world and knowing you are the poor relation of the Arab world, combined with a culture of honour...

you can only hate...

the hands that feeds.

An interesting US weapon, to be withdrawn at US whim.

ADE

1/17/2008 02:52:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Don't forget that Egypt's government is complicit in a internal propaganda campaign that paints the USA as evil.

In addition to the other reasons.

1/17/2008 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Barry Meislin said:

"... the US has been paying off the Egyptian government with advanced weaponry and military training, as well as money, to keep their border with Israel relatively quiet.... The Egyptians are nobody's whores."

The Egyptians aren't whores but they're suckers for baksheesh (Arabic for "tips" or "bribes"). Up until the 1967 War against the Israelis (where the Eygptians got creamed), the Egyptians were the main players in the Arab world and big time trouble makers. However the Eyptians were effectively neutered when the U.S. began providing them with foreign aid that was comparable to the foreign aid provided to Israel. This foreign aid was originally baksheesh to Egypt for Anwar Sadat's willingness to make peace with Israel. An important component of this foreign aid is surplus wheat that comes from subsidized US farmers. Egypt was the bread basket of the Mediterranean but no farmer can compete against someone giving away wheat for free. Agriculture in upper Egypt was almost wiped out, resulting in impoverished farmers fleeing to major cities like Cairo to live off the dole. Egypt morphed into the pathetic junkie completely dependent upon the friendly neighborhood dope peddler, i.e. the US. Again this was good for the US, Israel and world peace because a major Middle Eastern trouble maker had been removed from the equation. Needless to say the Eqyptians themselves are not happy about their ignoble status.

Nomenklatura said:

"we haven't purchased their non-belligerence, we've just rented it. On the other hand, if they don't come to their senses in the meantime then we'll deal with them at a later date."

Al Qaeda evolved politically from the Moslem Brotherhood which originated in Egypt. The Moslem Brotherhood represents Egypt's "political ground state", i.e. if Hosni Mubarak (who is a dictator) goes away then Eygpt defaults to the Moslem Brotherhood. The Moslem Brotherhood are very bad guys but not as stupidly violent as al Qaeda (that makes the Moslem Brotherhood even more dangerous).

A group of people that I have great respect and concern for are Egypt's Copts. The Copts are Christians and speak a language (not Arabic) that evolved from ancient Egyptian. The Copts are the living descendants of the Egyptians who built the Pyramids, the temples of Luxor and the city of Alexandria (a very high culture). Tragically, the Copts are a persecuted minority in Egypt (Egyptian Arabs have been better at breeding). If the Moslem Brotherhood takes over Egypt then it is probable that the Copts will be genocided (think of the Turks relationship with the Armenians and the Kurds). If the US bungles its relationship with Egypt (e.g. the Moslem Brotherhood takes over) then the Copts will be part of the considerable collateral damage.

1/17/2008 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hill said...

Wretchard,

I hope you had a chance to read "The Riddle of the Sands" by Erskine Childers - it was a terrific book.

1/17/2008 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

What's really striking about these figures is that Egypt, which is an American "ally", the end product of sophisticated diplomacy, the recipient of lavish aid apparently hates America worst of all.

To quote the preeminent foreign policy expert, Randy Newman:

We give them money
But are they grateful?
No they're spiteful
And they're hateful.
They don't respect us so let's surprise them;
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.


Eggplant: An important component of this foreign aid is surplus wheat that comes from subsidized US farmers. Egypt was the bread basket of the Mediterranean but no farmer can compete against someone giving away wheat for free. Agriculture in upper Egypt was almost wiped out, resulting in impoverished farmers fleeing to major cities like Cairo to live off the dole. Egypt morphed into the pathetic junkie completely dependent upon the friendly neighborhood dope peddler, i.e. the US. Again this was good for the US, Israel and world peace because a major Middle Eastern trouble maker had been removed from the equation. Needless to say the Eqyptians themselves are not happy about their ignoble status.

Needless to say (Then why say it?), this also makes Egypt extremely sensitive to any withdrawl of such grain imports. The entire MENA (Middle East North Africa) area is the fastest growing region of grain importers on earth. Endemic Water Poverty throughout the entire MME (Muslim Middle East) has left nearly all of Islam utterly dependent upon foreign grain supplies. While this may not have been America's explicit intent, just how much longer do Muslims think they can keep stabbing at the Western dragon before its fiery breath scorches all food from their tables? Islam continues to antagonize the entire world even as it becomes ever more dependent upon external resources. The day will soon dawn when Muslims are told to eat their sand and drink their oil.

1/17/2008 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

On the other hand, Egypt believes it has the US over a barrel.

Pace Ambassador Kurtzer.

(But then, they would think so, wouldn't they....)

1/18/2008 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/18/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

1/18/2008 11:16:00 AM  

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