Against Dumbed Down Conservatism Part II: Fruits of the Arab Spring

There are reports that rockets fired from Egypt have struck Israel. If this turns out to be accurate, it will be the first hostilities between Egypt and Israel since 1979.

Mitt Romney and the Republican punditocracy (see here and here) endorsed the Arab Spring enthusiastically. Bret Stephens’ recent anti-intellectual screed about what is wrong with Republicans didn’t so much as mention the establishment GOP’s endorsement of the catastrophic policy of regime change in the Middle East.

The facts speak for themselves. The US helped topple the Mubarak regime. After 33 years of peace, Egypt is openly promoting terrorist activity and apparently attacking Israel directly. Radio Free Europe is reporting that the weapons used to attack Israel are believed to have come from Libya and Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Our “ally” Iraq is calling for Arab nations to use oil as a weapon against the United States because of U.S. support for Israel. This attitude is the fruit of the union of David Petraeus’ COIN strategy with the Arab Spring. The US paid a price of 4,500 dead, 32,000 wounded, and 750 billion dollars for this?

And we should not overlook the fact that our Afghan “allies” have joined with our Iraqi, Egyptian, and Jordanian “allies” in condemning Israel’s exercise of its right to self-defense.

We can only hope that the GOP and anti-intellectual pundits such as Stephens, Krauthammer, and Kristol will start looking at the facts rather than dreaming about democracy breaking out in the Middle East.

It is wise to remember that the roots of the Benghazi disaster lie in the Arab Spring. We should not forget this as we untangle the web of lies woven by the Obama administration about the events of 9/11/12. 

  1. Adam Koslin

    I’m confused.  You cite the Stephens piece as being somehow an “anti-intellectual screed.”  I hope you perhaps mistyped?  I fail to see how an article that denounces the GOP’s tone-deaf pitch on social issues and the bone-deep stupidity of many of its primary candidates is somehow “anti-intellectual.”  If anything, Stephens is castigating those very “anti-intellectuals,” and calling for a more cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and nuanced GOP.  Enlighten me…what am I missing?

  2. Israel P.

    There is more than a bit of a straw man argument to the idea that the US should not have helped oust Hosni Mubarack from the presidency of Egypt. The man was eighty-two years old and he would not have lasted a whole lot longer. Sure there was significance to the timing, as part of a wave across the neighborhood, but still, this  would have happened  anyway.

    What did not have to happen was the choice of his successor. Without the “Arab Spring,” the Egyptian army would have played a significant role in that process. The results would have been far from certain, especially when you consider that the Brotherhood has been infiltrating the army these last few years, but nonetheless the insistence upon early elections took the army and everyone else out of the game, leaving the field open for the Brotherhood.

    That policy was not so much Obama’s as Secretary Clinton’s. Seems to me that Obama’s people and the Republicans looking forward to 2016 have a common goal in reminding people of that, loudly and often.

  3. MJBubba

    This is the continuing unintended consequences from the bad decisions of the neocons under President W and Donald Rumsfeld.  President Obama’s mideast policy serves as an extension of the policies of 2000 – 2008, even though they do not share an ideology. 

  4. Neolibertarian

    “If only,” is for children, but it may be instructive to understand we could have shaped the “Arab Awakening.”

    We could have aggressively supported the Green Revolution in Iran, which was the spark and gasoline for the “Arab Spring” which followed directly afterwards. If this only resulted in a chaotic civil war in the Islamic Republic, they would have at least been subtracted from the equation for a time. This would have been a very, very good thing by all accounts.

    Either way, the United States is directly responsible for the drastic changes which have occurred. It’s Allen Dulles’ “Domino Theory” come back to haunt us…with ironic horror.

    We just don’t have enough tools in our Realpolitik tool box.

  5. Sandy

    Yes, democracy is a tricky business and it doesn’t always work out the way one would like–anywhere.  But how is our current state of affairs the fault of thinkers like Stephens, Krauthammer, and Kristol or neo-cons in the Bush administration?   Neither in their actions nor their writings did they defend democracy willy-nilly.   I would say, rather, that our current pitiful state in the world is the fault of four years of signalling weakness again and again and again.  Whatever the nature of the government with which we are dealing,  democratic or not, we will be able to defend our interests only if we have a firm and clear foreign policy and a big military to back it up.  We have neither.  

  6. AIG

    Speaking of anti-intellectualism, you use an “article” which quotes an “Iraqi diplomat”, and then attribute it to “Iraq”. 

    If we were to use the same standard for attributing the attitudes of the United States by quoting Sheila Jackson Lee, or the attitudes of the UK by quoting George Galloway, would you consider that an “intellectual” approach? 

    I appreciate your effort with this two part series, but your approach to this by attributing “facts” through a rather trivial mechanism, and a clearly biased one at that, isn’t making the case for anti-intellectualism.

    PS: Rockets fired from Egypt by individuals does not constitute hostilities BY Egypt, anymore than gunshots at the US-Mexico border constitutes an attack by Mexico on the US. 

  7. AIG

    Speaking specifically to the topic:

    1) The intended outcomes of Iraq, Afghanistan etc were not intended to have anything to do with Israel, or Arab acceptance to Israel. The US has interests of its own besides Israel, nor would it be reasonable to assume such an outcome. You are inventing a criteria for success here.

    2) The Arab Spring has nothing to do with US support or rejection of it. The US could have rejected it all it wanted, it would still have happened. Attributing everything that happens in the world to the US is no different that the Left’s strategy of attributing everything that happens in the world to the US. 

    3) It is unreasonable, judging from the history of all revolutions and internal upheavals, to expect that the outcomes of these things will be visible in such a short period of time, or that they necessarily relate to any measure of success you may have (if you expect that Egypt will fall in love with Israel, that is not going to happen, and there is no reason to think that it is the most important outcome both for the US or Israel).

  8. liberal jim

    I am not a political scientist or an historian, but it seems to me our founding fathers were far less keen on democracy than either of the two parties that are currently running the nation into the ground.  Unless I am mistaken the founding fathers were so leery of direct democracy they only allowed 1/2 of one branch of the Federal government to be selected by direct vote and only about 1/4 of the adult population were qualified to vote.  It seems to me that encouraging nations that have no democratic experience to adopt far more liberal forms of democracy than what our nation began with could be viewed as unwise at best.  

    But we have GWB, the big O and leaders of both parties signing the praises of democracy.  I guess I am missing something, but it seems to me our founders were sending a message that democracy can be a extremely destructive thing. 

  9. Zafar

    Worth considering:

    1  The Arab Spring happened *despite* the US best efforts, not because of them.  In the end the US made the best of a bad job and tried to control the outcomes – with varying levels of success. (Overthrowing Gaddafi, for eg, had some seriously unintended consequences wrt military stability in North/West Africa.)  

    2  The Arab Spring took place in response to a decades long situation that the US definitely had a hand in.  (Mubarak was a US ally right until he was overthrown.) This colours popular perception of the US in the region, and limits the potential of official US engagement with popular movements.  You may see your role one way, but how they see your role is crucial.

    3  To be blunt, overt US support of a citizens’ group or movement in the Middle East is the kiss of death.  The *worst* thing the US could have done for the Green Revolution in Iran is loudly supported it.  Ditto the uprising in Syria.  

    4  Invading a country (Iraq, Afghanistan) doesn’t make its inhabitants your allies, it makes you their occupiers.  Don’t expect to be liked, you’re there for you, not for them.

  10. John Grant
    C

    Diplomats are taken to have some authority to speak for their country in foreign affairs, right?

    You should check into international law. A nation is responsible for controlling its territory. If rockets were fired from the US in to Mexico, it would be normal to consider that as an act of war by the US against Mexico.

    AIG: Speaking of anti-intellectualism, you use an “article” which quotes an “Iraqi diplomat”, and then attribute it to “Iraq”. 

    If we were to use the same standard for attributing the attitudes of the United States by quoting Sheila Jackson Lee, or the attitudes of the UK by quoting George Galloway, would you consider that an “intellectual” approach? 

    I appreciate your effort with this two part series, but your approach to this by attributing “facts” through a rather trivial mechanism, and a clearly biased one at that, isn’t making the case for anti-intellectualism.

    PS: Rockets fired from Egypt by individuals does not constitute hostilities BY Egypt, anymore than gunshots at the US-Mexico border constitutes an attack by Mexico on the US.  · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

  11. John Grant
    C

    1) Are you saying we should not consider the ramifications of our actions in regards to all nations in foreign affairs? What sense does it make to undertake policies in Iraq that hurt us somewhere else?

    2) Can you seriously maintain that our actions had nothing to do with toppling the Libyan and Egyptian regimes?

    3) I am sorry, but you are dreaming if you think anything like democracy American style is possible in the Middle East. In short, Islam and tribalism preclude equality, respect for rights, and limited representative government.

    We took a bad situation in Egypt and made it worse by meddling.

    AIG: Speaking specifically to the topic:

    1) The intended outcomes of Iraq, Afghanistan etc were not intended to have anything to do with Israel, or Arab acceptance to Israel.

    2) The Arab Spring has nothing to do with US support or rejection of it.

    3) It is unreasonable, judging from the history of all revolutions and internal upheavals, to expect that the outcomes of these things will be visible in such a short period of time . . . . · 1 hour ago

  12. Sandy
    John Grant: I criticize Kristol et al. because they endorsed the Arab Spring, which has been a disaster for the United States.

    Obama’s policies are merely a continuation of those of the previous administration. Arab Spring=Bush’s Freedom Agenda.

    I see no evidence that Bush showed more strength than Obama. Consider the rules of engagement promulgated under Bush.

    How was establishing Islamic theocracies in Iraq and Afghanistan a sign of strength? · 8 hours ago

    Sandy: Yes, democracy is a tricky business and it doesn’t always work out the way one would like–anywhere.  But how is our current state of affairs the fault of thinkers like Stephens, Krauthammer, and Kristol or neo-cons in the Bush administration?    · 3 hours ago

    Kristol has his failings, but I believe  his position on the Arab Spring is more complex than you give him credit for.  As for Bush, you are more or less right, though he certainly put the fear of God into Gaddafi,  but then Bush was not a neo-con.

  13. John Grant
    C

    Stephens claimed to be attacking anti-intellectualism, but in reality he just ranted about the evils of social conservatism.

    What Stephens is calling for has nothing to do with serious thought. He wants the GOP to adopt the establishment Progressive consensus on all social and moral issues.

    Adam Koslin: I’m confused.  You cite the Stephens piece as being somehow an “anti-intellectual screed.”  I hope you perhaps mistyped?  I fail to see how an article that denounces the GOP’s tone-deaf pitch on social issues and the bone-deep stupidity of many of its primary candidates is somehow “anti-intellectual.”  If anything, Stephens is castigating those very “anti-intellectuals,” and calling for a more cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and nuanced GOP.  Enlighten me…what am I missing? · 5 hours ago

  14. AIG

    Diplomats are taken to have some authority to speak for their country

    I’m supposed to take the word of a journalist? Journalists are all in bed with the left and we shouldn’t listen to what they say, except for when they say things that fit into our case. 

    1) I’m saying that what we did in Iraq or Afghanistan has nothing to do with Israel. I don’t measure success by how much it affects Israel in these cases, since not only is Israel not a variable, there is no reason to think we would have any impact on that. 

    2) My #2 and your interpretation of #2 have nothing to do with each other. Nor does Libya have anything to do with Egypt. 

    3) Your #3 is unrelated to my #3 since I specifically said that I don’t expect them to turn into American-style democracies, nor is that a desirable outcome. 

    I have no problem with you having your criteria for desirable outcomes/intentions, but I do have a problem with you framing this as the “intellectual”conservative position, implying that people who disagree with your outcomes/intentions are anti-intellectual. Wrong strategy. 

  15. AIG

    You should check into international law. A nation is responsible for controlling its territory. If rockets were fired from the US in to Mexico, it would be normal to consider that as an act of war by the US against Mexico.

    Absolutely not. 

  16. John Grant
    C

    I criticize Kristol et al. because they endorsed the Arab Spring, which has been a disaster for the United States.

    Obama’s policies are merely a continuation of those of the previous administration. Arab Spring=Bush’s Freedom Agenda.

    I see no evidence that Bush showed more strength than Obama. Consider the rules of engagement promulgated under Bush.

    How was establishing Islamic theocracies in Iraq and Afghanistan a sign of strength?

    Sandy: Yes, democracy is a tricky business and it doesn’t always work out the way one would like–anywhere.  But how is our current state of affairs the fault of thinkers like Stephens, Krauthammer, and Kristol or neo-cons in the Bush administration?   Neither in their actions nor their writings did they defend democracy willy-nilly.   I would say, rather, that our current pitiful state in the world is the fault of four years of signalling weakness again and again and again.  Whatever the nature of the government with which we are dealing,  democratic or not, we will be able to defend our interests only if we have a firm and clear foreign policy and a big military to back it up.  We have neither.   · 3 hours ago

  17. John Grant
    C

    Egypt has a responsibility under international law to maintain law and order in its territory, and it can be held accountable for actions taken from its territory.

    The Mubarak regime managed to keep rockets from being launched from its territory at Israel.

    Now if Egypt treated the perpretrators like criminals, that would indicate the state was not responsible. I bet we won’t see that happen!

    AIG

    You should check into international law. A nation is responsible for controlling its territory. If rockets were fired from the US in to Mexico, it would be normal to consider that as an act of war by the US against Mexico.

    Absolutely not.  · 4 minutes ago

  18. Dietlbomb

    I wouldn’t call Stephen’s piece anti-intellectual. It is the type of drivel intellectuals produce all the time. But it is quite stupid.

    Consider this paragraph:

    By the way, what’s so awful about Spanish? It’s a fine European language with an outstanding literary tradition—Cervantes, Borges, Paz, Vargas Llosa—and it would do you no harm to learn it. Bilingualism is an intellectual virtue, not a deviant sexual practice.

    You can’t argue with this insanity. What is he saying? That the GOP is opposed to learning foreign languages? Or is it Spanish in particular that the GOP hates? Would opposition to Spanish be a more appropriate position if Spanish were a deviant sexual practice?

    Either Stephens is completely ignorant of the arguments against bilingual education (the political issue), or he is just haranguing us with the typical dishonest leftist talking points.

  19. AIG

    I’m sorry to tell you this again, but you are inventing scenarios which have no bearing on reality. What Islamic theocracy in Iraq? Or do you consider any government made up of Muslims an Islamic theocracy? If you claim to be speaking from an “conservative intellectual” POV, please don’t say things which are demonstrably false, or simply your own unsupported opinions. 

    The Arab Spring has nothing to do with the US. The US has done nothing in support, or against, the Arab Spring. You think the Arabs care what Kristol has to say? Libya was a special case in which the US and European nations wanted to get revenge on Q, and the result is that Libya is now ruled by much more pro-western leaders than elsewhere. 

    You keep insisting that we control the fate of the ME, that we should show “strength”. How about we show nothing, since it’s none of our business, it has nothing to do with our interests. How about we stop showing “strength”, and show our backs? 

    Israel is a big boy with a huge army (that we pay for). Israel will be fine.  We’ve got bigger problems right here. 

  20. AIG

    Now if Egypt treated the perpretrators like criminals, that would indicate the state was not responsible. I bet we won’t see that happen!

    Of course Egypt does. That’s my point. You’re inventing a scenario here which is not supported by the actions of the Egyptian government or military. This isn’t the first time there has been fire from the Egyptian border into Israel in the past year, and the Egyptian military did respond.

    Making an accusation, and then supporting it by saying “I bet I’m right”, while ignoring the actual evidence on the ground, isn’t what I consider “conservative intellectualism”, since you wish to frame the debate in those terms.  

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In