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This is where I become ashamed of my government:

"“Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.” - Joe Biden


"The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper." - Hillary Clinton


Wow, that's a really proportionate criticism.

Fun fact: Egypt is our #3 recipient of foreign aid.


It would be great if Biden, instead of saying Mubarak is not a dictator, said something like this:

"Dear Egyptian Police and Military. The US government gives Egypt $1.5 Billion every year. That's what is paying your salary. If you want to get paid, just get out of the way."

Yeah, it's called Realpolitik and, for better or worse (usually worse), it's generally the basis of American foreign policy.

That said, "idealism" is also often a terrible basis for foreign policy as well.

Eh.. realpolitik is short term and almost always misses the big picture. When things change, you wind up on the wrong side, like us with Mubarak right now. Or all that Taliban and Saddam funding once upon a time.

There's a balance of course.. but in a case like this, I'd elevate America the idea over America the set of short term interests, and I'm embarrassed by Biden's comments too.

Indeed. People will make you think that Realpolitik is some hard-thinking, tough-decisions geopolitical chess game. But it's not, it's just international checkers, making the least bad decision at the last minute because you haven't planned ahead. It's a shame that it has infected American foreign policy for so long.

Naive idealism is no better, but pragmatic idealism is far far better, but also far more difficult.

Yeah, if there's one thing I can't stand, it's hearing condescending "adult opinions" on things that have been colossally mismanaged for decades.

For perhaps the first time ever, I wholeheartedly agree with jbooth for two posts in a row.

Realpolitik got you Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bin Laden, 9/11, Noriega and a whole slew of other problems.

Makes you wonder if it is really worth it.

The Iraq debacle (2003-) was something different: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality-based_community

That was a bit later, before then we had this:


hence the "(2003-)", although arguably it'd be more correct to say "(2003-2009)"

Ok. With Iraq in the list above I specifically meant the period when Saddam was being propped up by the US as an example of realpolitik, not the situation later on.

> Fun fact: Egypt is our #3 recipient of foreign aid...The US government gives Egypt $1.5 Billion every year.

The US government gives Egypt foreign aid because that is part of the agreement of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty[1], when Egypt became the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel.

I don't know enough about the overall situation to have an opinion, but it does seem at least plausible to me that buying peace with foreign aid might be a good thing (albeit a distasteful moral-hazard-prone good thing).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt%E2%80%93Israel_Peace_Trea...

Egypt is #4 recipient of US foreign aid after Afghan, Iraq, and Israel according to that pdf..

My mistake, my eyes glossed over Afghanistan.

FWIW, we were in opposition to Libya and Cuba for how long, and it didn't get us anywhere.

We need a real poli-sci explanation for why certain leaders are sticky, and why certain regions seem to have more than their fair share of despots.

We need a real poli-sci explanation for why certain leaders are sticky

Some people are just better at being despots than others, just as some people are better at being actors, CEOs, basketball players or programmers.

Give me unquestioned power over some tin-pot little country and I'd probably be chased out of my palace within two weeks. But a really good (in the sense of efficacy, not morality) despot knows just how to crush dissent among the masses using just the right amount of force while keeping all his generals (and anyone else with the power to depose him directly) dependent on a drip-feed of favours and constantly afraid of a knife in the back. It's a delicate balancing act, I'm sure, and some folks are just really good at it.

>Dear Egyptian Police and Military. The US government gives Egypt $1.5 Billion every year. That's what is paying your salary. If you want to get paid, just get out of the way.

And replace him with who ?

We had a nice pet leader in Iran once, he used to buy weapons and nuclear reactors from us. He did torture people and his secret police weren't terribly nice. Then he got overthrown and for some reason the people that replaced him didn't like us very much ( although we did still sell them weapons ).

And replace him with who ?

That's really up to the Egyptian people, no?

Come on. Even in the U.S., the people get to pick between a couple of none-too-attractive choices. It wouldn't be shocking for 51% of Egyptians to pick a theocracy given a bunch of poor choices, but that doesn't mean that's what most people want.

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