To Those Who Demand A Tougher Stance Toward the Egyptian Mob
Here's the thing.
We just spent half a trillion dollars and over 2,000 American lives trying to clear Afghanistan and prevent it from serving as a safe haven for terrorists. And it's far from clear whether we will have succeeded for any meaningful length of time.
We actually invaded Iraq at a much higher cost in both blood and treasure, and while that country has a somewhat more stable government, it seems perfectly clear that this big, expensive lesson in American resolve and strength sunk in not one bit to the average anti-American Middle Easterner.
Now, thanks to the Arab spring and whatever part we played in that, we have unstable democracies sprouting up throughout the region, and if Benghazi is any example, each one of them offers a potential safe haven to terrorists.
So we can fault the president for not showing sufficient resolve and not being tough enough, but this is not the world of Ronald Reagan where tough talk and a big stick could cow the leaders of the Soviet Union. There is no peace through strength strategy that makes any sense for this threat. Because there is simply no amount of force for which we would ever have the stomach that could effectively cow this mob.
And let's be honest with ourselves. Even if the United States had stood behind Mubarak, his government would never have lasted for any meaningful length of time -- certainly not beyond his own death. The strong man era of Middle Eastern politics is imploding, with or without our blessing, so to fault the president for being responsible for that is foolish.
Our best hope is not to mentor these countries in democracy, charm them with our cultural sensitivity, or to frighten them with our military might, but to persuade them through capitalism. The only thing that will reduce the long term security risk emanating from this part of the world is a general improvement in their standard of living so that they actually have something to lose from inviting and encouraging zealous chaos. A middle class, Middle East will not harbor terrorists or condone suicide bombings for fear of discouraging Trader Joe's or IKEA from coming to town.
So I would like to hear someone speak of that reality in cogent tones.
Until then, for all our indignation over lines in airports, I fear that large American cities will increasingly have to resemble Tel Aviv.