Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Weird realist morality on the Egyptian revolution

I should probably get back to climate blogging at some point, but just to finish up thinking about all the good news from Egypt:

1. Key turning point no one seems to be talking about:
....unable to break the protesters’ discipline or determination, the Mubarak forces resorted to guns, shooting 45 and killing 2, according to witnesses and doctors interviewed early that morning. The soldiers — perhaps following orders to prevent excessive bloodshed, perhaps acting on their own — finally intervened. They fired their machine guns into the ground and into the air, several witnesses said, scattering the Mubarak forces and leaving the protesters in unmolested control of the square, and by extension, the streets.
Mubarak's thugs were giving the demonstrators a hard time even without using guns. Say whatever you want about people power, but it's not going to work in the short term when only the bad guys have guns. The military intervention was crucial.

2. Whether Obama did a good job or bad job depends on whether you grade on a curve or as an absolute measure of what's right. See the article linked above for where the pressure was coming from - compared to most of his top advisors, the Israeli and Arab leaders, and some European leaders, Obama leaned in the correct direction. OTOH, it's not hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys here, despite the blindness of a number of American conservatives. Decide for yourself how you grade, I guess. I usually lean toward the curve, with the understanding that that diminishes my estimate of the person. Anyway, interesting assessment of Obama here in Foreign Policy.

3. I find the strange morality of the foreign policy realists to be truly weird. They seem to think we're morally obligated to back evil dictators because that's what we've been doing all along. I sillyly thought that the point of realism is to chuck morality, that of course you throw someone under the bus when they no longer serve, and that the First Rule of Realist Club is you always back the winning horse.

Israeli leaders have their own version of this - they seem to think that moralistic analysis requires foreign support of the Israeli state, the "shining light" of democracy in the Middle East, but also that morality must be chucked out the window when one consider the realist analysis of pro-democracy revolution in Egypt and its possible effect on Israeli security. I'm not buying this yoga position, and I don't think that either a realist analysis or a moralist analysis gives the US much reason to support Israel's occupation of West Bank and Gaza.

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