Saturday, January 28, 2012


Feluccas on the Nile
source: CIA World Factbook
Goldblog recently linked an article by Eric Trager regretting the recent trajectory of the Egyptian uprising. He regrets that
...a befuddled Obama administration has failed to do anything to stop the coming disaster.
Considering the billions of dollars in aid the United States poured into Mubarak's Egypt, I have to wonder what more Eric Trager or anyone else thinks the Obama Administration could have done. President Obama, after all, represented a country which had enabled the abuses of the Egyptian government under Mubarak for thirty years. Americans had to expect the voices of their government would not carry a lot of weight when the dictatorship crumbled.

Mr Trager makes his perception of the extent of the "disaster" clear:

...their photogenic faces carried the promise of a more democratic, friendly Egypt.
But the activists were never who we hoped they were. Far from being liberal, their ranks were... an alliance of convenience for opposing Mubarak and, later, for denouncing the U.S.
Thus, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Egypt in March 2011, a group of leading activists refused to meet with her.
 In his desire for "a more democratic and friendly Egypt", Mr. Trager joins a long line of writers on American foreign policy who misunderstand the consequences of American policies at a basic level. Rightly or wrongly, American policy in Western Asia conflicts at a basic level with the hopes and priorities of millions of people who live there. In many countries in the region, the more the government follows the popular will, the less it will support American policies.

The article concludes on a gloomy note:
ONE YEAR after Egypt’s heroic revolt, Washington has no heroes in Cairo, only headaches.... a year after the ebullience of Tahrir, an alliance between military autocrats and radical theocrats is viewed, sadly, as a best-case scenario. 

Slaves exposed for sale
source: Library of Congress Collection
 Whether or not you agree with Eric Trager's assessments here, some perspective might help. American independence served to extend slavery for at least a generation, and led to increasing and increasingly brutal encroachment into territories of North American aboriginal peoples. If Americans, despite all the bad consequences of American independence, claim the founding of their country as a step forward for human freedom, on what basis do they denounce the Egyptians for the ways they have used their new-found freedom?


Anonymous said...

One problem with your post: Obama wasn't the one who started funding of Mubarak in the first place. Also, how did you expect him to stop funding of Mubarak's regime when he had pressing things to deal with at home in the USA and a congress that wasn't that supportive?

Finally, some perspective on President Obama that, although quite old, was (and has been) needed:

What The "Do Nothing" Obama Has Accomplished That We Choose To Ignore Or
Fail To Acknowledge (

John Spragge said...

You mistake me if you think my comment contained a criticism of the Obama administration. Quite the opposite: I believe, and I intended to say, that given the toxic legacy of three and a half decades of American funding and support for undemocratic governments in Egypt, to say nothing of the legacy in other parts of the Muslim world, no American president could hope to command great popularity in Egypt today.