I hope I’m not doing a disservice by writing these brief remarks as late as I am; however, the passing of Professor Joseph Cropsey warranted some small mention of appreciation from one of the many people Dr. Cropsey influenced. ?Dr. Cropsey was introduced to me when my college professor thrust History of Political Philosophy into my hands and said, “If you truly appreciate political philosophy, get this. ?It is the ‘bible.'” ?My copy (third edition; still looking to grab one of the earlier ones as well) sits beside my laptop as I type. ?It is a thick tome. ?The thoughts and writings inside, edited by Drs. Strauss and Cropsey, even thicker; requiring concentration and thought as you read, and re-read, and underline, and read once more.
News of Dr. Cropsey’s passing immediately spurred thoughts of Goethe’s passing in my mind. ?Goethe was on his deathbed with his daughter-in-law sitting by his side. ?Wanting another shutter in his room opened by one of the servants, Goethe is said to have called, ?more light! before his ties to this world were severed by Father Time’s scythe.
Allan Bloom said, “Education is the movement from darkness into light.” ?Joseph Cropsey spent his life helping pilgrims on their way from darkness into light. ?He started out much more economically-minded by writing at lengths about Adam Smith and Karl Marx. ?His writings on Plato, however, are considerable food for thought. ?Very, very rich food. ?Some people can stomach it, others might prefer something lighter. ?Nevertheless, one of the subjects Cropsey looks at is the human condition, as Peter Lawler stated in his comments on Postmodern Conservative, “our wondering and our wondering” in Plato’s World: Man’s Place in the Cosmos.??Here’s to hoping that his departure gave him what all philosophers long for: ?More Light!
“If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight – our country – these people are lying to themselves. . . . More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”
Those were the words of Lieutenant General John F. Kelly, United States Marine Corps, who is Secretary Gates’ senior military assistant. He went on to point out that less than one percent of the population serves in the armed forces currently, and there is a growing concern within the military community regarding their isolation in the America they are defending. Not only are our men and women facing isolation at home, they are being left on the battlefield with little support by their countrymen stateside.
A recent poll was released by ABC News and Washington Post shows that a paltry 34% of Americans find the war in Afghanistan worth fighting. Sadly, this poll came out the same day General Patraeus gave his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee asking his audience, Senators and informed Americans alike, to “remember why we are there in the first place.”
These statistics must be detrimental to anyone who has sent a family member or friend overseas; however, these statistics must be even more harmful for those serving overseas themselves. America was founded with the military, but philosophically, as a commercial republic. The two founders who shared the greatest vitriol were Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Despite their differences, they agreed on founding a republic that was commercial in nature so as to avoid war. Thomas Jefferson was the friend of the yeoman farmer, stating that “those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God…” Hamilton hoped this commercial republic would “soften the manners of men, and [to] extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars…” Until what can be considered fairly recently in the grand scheme of History, America never had a standing Army, opting to draft people when the occasion called for such measures instead. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in a war at the present moment, but we also find ourselves regimented into thinking that a battlefield is where football is played, or where ideas clash in a boardroom, or where politicians vie for votes in an important election. Even our professional athletes forget the difference between what they are, and what a true United States Soldier (or Marine) is.
America has faced large battles, and won. What is the difference this time?
Marc Thiessen has a post over at The Enterprise Blog where he lays the blame at President Obama’s feet when he points out that public support for the war has plummeted since President Obama came into office.
“When Obama took office, a majority still said the war in Afghanistan was worth it. He lost majority support in July 2009, then regained it briefly when he announced the surge in December 2009, and then lost it again with a precipitous decline throughout 2010.”
Mr. Thiessen continues by addressing what he believes to be the crux of the problem, which is the failure of the President to defend his policies in Afghanistan. Why hasn’t President Obama defended his endeavors overseas with the same zeal he defended his ill-conceived and unpopular health care legislation? Mr. Thiessen does not go far enough, however, in condemning the commander-in-chief for abdicating his duties as the leader of our armed forces and making sure that the American public that is entirely separated from this war and its ramifications remembers why our men and women are over there in the first place.
Let us get something straight: President Obama never addressed the war in Afghanistan with the attention it deserved, and when he did, it was with a flaccidity that would excite an Urologist. President Obama marched into the Oval Office with a view towards “slow[ing] things down” with regard to the military. The military asking a sitting president for the tools necessary to defeat an enemy abroad was seen as a problem to be solved, but not the war itself. As a matter of fact, most people have already forgotten that the president spoke with General McChrystal just once during the general’s first 70 days as commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, and that was a via video teleconference. Finally, in October of 2009, President Obama met with then-General McChrystal in Copenhagen while the president was lobbying to have the Olympics held in Chicago. He met the then-general of coalition forces in Afghanistan for twenty-five minutes in the front of Air Force Once.
Finally, it got to the point where President Obama had to act on the general’s recommendation for extra troops. As the Guardian reported, “Obama agreed to deploy an extra 30,000 troops but only after months of dithering that many in the military found frustrating.”
To claim the president displayed some sort of ambivalence regarding the war in Afghanistan is an understatement. The one most powerful weapon at his disposal (or what used to be) was his rhetorical ability, and even then he chooses not to rally the troops around the Afghan cause. In December of 2009, President Obama gave a lukewarm speech to West Pointers that earned him considerable scorn from the right. Even during this year’s State of the Union, the president dedicated six sentences to a war costing the United States $100+ billion and hundreds of American lives a year. Those six sentences gave way to 25 seconds of applause, the same length of time it took the president to deliver those sentences.
How can we expect our fellow countrymen to continue supporting an endeavor that our own president seems to treat as a mere thorn in his political side? This recent poll can be reversed if President Obama dedicated more of his time keeping Americans in the loop about what we are doing over there, why we are there in the first place, and using some of his famous rhetorical gifts to re-energize our commitment to those who are so committed to our country that they continue to fight even though 60% of Americans are not standing behind them.
As Peter Wehner said, “this is not ‘Obama’s War,’ this is ‘OUR war.'”
Ken Blackwell posted on his Facebook fan page a column by his friend, and the Republican Senator from Utah, Mike Lee. Senator Lee wants a balanced-budget amendment, and five other Senators on the Judiciary Committee agree.
This week, 58 senators – including all 47 Republicans, 10 Democrats and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent – recognized this urgent need and expressed support for a balanced-budget requirement. I have put forward a proposal that would require a balanced budget every fiscal year; limit federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product; and require a two-thirds vote in Congress to increase taxes, raise the debt limit or run a specific deficit.
I made the comment, “We never would have been able to have supply-side economics during Reagan if we had a balanced-budget amendment.” Nobody responded.
Unfortunately, the nation’s debt has sky-rocketed to levels high enough to be mistaken for a Ron Paul supporter at a Phish concert (I kid). Now we are at the point where even the people who say, “deficits don’t matter” are thinking, “holy hell, this deficit is out of control.” In fairness to Vice President Cheney, he was saying that deficits don’t matter in the short-term because he was responding to the naysayers from all sides of the aisle that have never been fond of supply-side economics. It might behoove us to remember that then-Chief of Staff Dick Cheney was on the ground floor of the supply-side revolution when, according to legend, Arthur Laffer drew an inverted U-shaped curve on a napkin at lunch. The Laffer Curve was used to articulate how lower tax rates might produce higher tax revenues.
In the 1970s and early-1980s it was a party of the Right Fight Club (the rule is to never speak of Party of the Right Fight Club) with the supply-siders arguing that the deficit will work itself out with the tax cuts (as it started to do) while the old guard was arguing that balancing the budget was the way to go, hands down. Irving Kristol and the Neoconservatives argued that the traditional right’s fetish with balancing the budget meant a deep-recession in the 1980s, and a pessimistic vision that would even make John Derbyshire, the king of conservative pessimism, balk.
Our current condition is one that should cause considerable alarm. However, I am not of the opinion that a balanced budget amendment is the solution to our woes. Ronald Reagan’s magic would not have been exercised had a balanced budget amendment been instituted (well, not his economic magic, if that is your thing) while he was in office. Balancing the budget is a good goal, and a deficit as large as the one we are facing is potentially devastating to our country. Yet we survived as a Republic without a balanced budget myriad times before, without considerable harm to ourselves. There may be times where we need to do so again, and I cannot say that I have enough faith in 2/3rds of the legislator being able to agree on a time when the government is allowed to carry such a debt (as would be the rule, according to Senator Lee). I know the Senator uses the time following the 9/11 attacks as anecdotal evidence of the Congress coming together, but I think it is far fetched to believe that Congress could do so barring another horrendous attack, which will hopefully never happen again.
On February 12th, Algerians plan to stage a similar protest that has been held in Tahrir Square. In Algeria, the square that is gaining recognition is 1st of May Square. This will be the sight on February 12th where Algerians will gather to show solidarity in an overthrow of the government. This is led by a pro-democracy group, however, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika understands the importance of the current uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. According to MEDEX Global Solutions, in an attempt to squash a reoccurrence of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bouteflika has ordered 10,000 police officers and 20,000 security personnel to guard the Capitol from protesters.
The difference between Egypt with other Arab countries is the leadership. Mubarak was not willing to use extensive violent force on the protesters, however, other regimes are not as understanding. As citizens in other nations take to the streets to demand more freedoms, the hope is that the autocratic rulers listen to the citizens rather than use excessive force in an attempt to subdue their uprisings.
As the domino effect continues, future uprisings will have to take the route of the Egyptians, peaceful yet non-compromising. It is amazing that we live in a day when a region riddled with autocratic rulers and corruption decides to unite together to overthrow the governments that hold them back from becoming nations where people have a voice.
It will be interesting to see if another domino shall begin to fall Saturday, February 12th.
On February 11, the Facebook Revolution reached an apex as news media sources reported that Mubarak had stepped down. As this happens, the critical decision is how the Egyptians remain united to create their new government. I am overwhelmed seeing the Egyptians celebrate their persistence in the streets. As Mubarak’s concession is made, a new Egypt is under way.
As it stands now, victory is not complete. Egyptians must still stand united. This was not a revolt against Mubarak, this was a revolt against a lack of freedoms, the absence of unalienable rights, and a corrupt government. It just so happens that Mubarak embodied all of these. As Mubarak hands power to the High Council of the Military, the question that remains is how the Military will begin to restructure government and allow for a representative government to take hold.
One point of concern is whether this is resignation or merely delegation. It is well thought that this is truly Mubarak’s last day in power. It is good to see that as Mubarak goes, Soliman retreats with him. If Soliman would have been allowed to remain in power, concerns would have been raised that the move by Mubarak would simply be delegation, opening the door for a return. This brings to mind the “transition of power” that never really happened in Russia, when Putin stepped down and Medvedev stepped in. As everyone knows, it is Putin who really runs that nation. However, with the High Council in control, these fears can be subsided for a short time, allowing the Egyptians to form a new government.
As Egyptians are cheering in the streets, a democracy in Egypt is closer than ever before. As mentioned in my previous post, Egyptians must keep their minds on a plan that promotes their goals, more freedoms, more human rights, and a democratic government.
Egyptians, the world watched and you delivered hope of a new form of government, hope of a new future, and the realization of a new Egypt. Thank you for what you have done so far, and God Bless You as you now move to the difficult work of constructing a new government that embodies the values you have espoused.
With concentration focused on the protesters, the resignation of Mubarak and hopefully a peaceful transfer of power, few are talking about the economic impact of the protests and Mubarak’s resignation. With tourism accounting for 11 percent of GDP and the Big Three rating companies dropping the Egyptian bond rating, the nation’s citizens are being adversely exposed to a falling economy. Additionally, many foreign companies are exiting the country.
This latter point hit home to me recently as I spoke to one of my many cousins in Egypt. He explained that the Japanese company that he works for called to inform him it has “decided to abandon projects and leave Egypt.” Another relative mentioned that her bank had been burned to the ground. While the current topics of conversation in American media are correctly focused on the political aspects of the power transfer, we should remember that the economic impact of the transfer of power will be just as critical.
There are two potential transfer of power scenarios being discussed in much of the international community. In the first, Mubarak steps down in September per his recent statement; in the second, Mubarak steps down much sooner, possibly in the coming month. However, there are great risks to both approaches. Should Mubarak step down now, it could leave a political vacuum for the Muslim Brotherhood. If he were to stay in power and protests continued then the world may see the same sad violence that was observed on February 2.
Whichever scenario holds, Egypt’s economy will suffer loss and chaos will persist. Currently in Egypt, the financial market is crashing, banks are burning, capital investments inside and outside of Egypt are disappearing, tourism revenues have vanished and foreign companies are leaving projects behind. And that is the good news, at least compared to citizens in Egypt who are not working. What’s currently at stake is greater poverty which will lead to greater chaos in the streets and perhaps years of political and economic recovery at stake.
I propose a compromise that will ease the instability and tension that will likely continue until the day a peaceful exchange of power takes place. As it stands currently, the two most likely replacements at this point are Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the IAEA, and Amr Moussa, current Secretary-General of the Arab League.
For an effective compromise to take place, Mubarak would need to take control one last time by helping to orchestrate the transfer of power to an interim government. Also, a leadership core must be established that will restore unity and order to Egypt while showing international governments, tourists and businesses that Egypt is, indeed, open to them. Over the next week, I believe a private meeting should be held between Mubarak, ElBaradei, and Moussa. Currently, two out of the three can provide value to Egyptians.
ElBaradei, though accused of being out-of-touch with the average Egyptian, has obtained international respect with his involvement in global equality, the International Atomic Energy Agency and being a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005. With this recognition, he would reinforce the prominence of Egypt in the Middle East and give hope of stability to international investors, companies and tourists. Domestically, Amr Moussa holds the respect of Egyptians and would be a formidable choice to orchestrate the domestic changes needed.
In this meeting, Mubarak should make Amr Moussa his “transition team” leader/interim president. Most of Egypt’s80 million citizens would approve of Moussa as the next leader and trust that he would rework the constitution. Several changes he would likely push for are installing inalienable human rights, providing more freedoms and ensuring protection against governmental corruption. At the same time ElBaradei would become a Vice President or a Senior Advisor managing all international relations. These two individuals would expedite the recovery of Egypt’s economy while also creating the democratic society that all Egyptians yearn for.
The success of Egypt and the new government is contingent upon the removal of the Mubarak regime now while recognizing the political and economic realities within the nation. Egypt literally cannot afford for Mubarak to wait until September. Even with a smooth transition of power capital investments, foreign companies and especially tourism may not return to pre-protest revenues for six months to a year after the Mubarak regime is out of office. If Mubarak truly wants the best for Egypt and Egyptians, as he said he did in his recent statement, than now is the time to step down.
February 2, 2011 was the first day that protesters lost sight of being a unified body. The ultimate removal of Mubarak, while creating a new interim government around Moussa and ElBaradei, would reunite Egyptian citizens while decreasing the likelihood that future generations would have to pay the economic price of today’s circumstances.
As the state department of the United States urges its citizens to make emergency flights out of Egypt, the US embassy in Cairo is hard at work. The US Embassy has tasked itself with the safety of US citizens to ensure a safe and quick departure from Egypt. However, is this a bad thing for Egyptians? Egyptians are saying that this departure could be a threat to their safety. The current situation in Cairo is highly unsettled and other countries are urging their citizens to pull out of Egypt as well, including Britain and Japan.
As this is happening, reports are surfacing in Egypt that President Obama is speaking to President Mubarak. No one knows what these talks entail; however, the Egyptian people assume that President Obama is still supporting Mubarak’s regime. As I am told, “We do not need the United States’ help in our revolution. What we hope is that the United States will tell Mubarak that the United States will no longer support Mubarak’s regime.”
So, why would Americans leaving Cairo affect the Egyptian people? The Egyptian people feel that as American, British, and Japanese citizens are departing for their home countries, Egyptians are left without their “shield”. With the only people left being Egyptians, people believe that Mubarak will be more willing to order the military to start using force to deter protesters. In response to this, the Egyptian people have begun asking for a million citizens to congregate at Tahrir Square on Tuesday, February 1. Some do believe that this is going to be a “million-man march” but the sentiment in Egypt is that the calling of a million people is to deter Mubarak from using force against the people. As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers.
As Mubarak’s days are numbered the reality that he would irrationally use military force on protesters in Tahrir Square which would cause a massacre is unlikely. However, it is this fear that has Egyptians concerned. They want this to be their fight and it is most certainly that now; the only individuals left are themselves, there are no foreign citizens to halt Mubarak from using direct force.
Egyptians have already seen scare tactics from Mubarak. The looters are believed to be sent from Mubarak’s regime. Public hospitals in Egypt were raided last night and the patients were stripped of any money they had. Public hospitals in Egypt care for the indigent. These are people who struggle to live day to day. Individuals who can afford more expensive, not always higher quality care, will be seen at private institutions. What does it mean that the looters choose to raid public hospitals? This would be Mubarak’s attempt to stifle the enthusiasm of the people who are, for every reason, willing to sacrifice all they have for a more equitable Egypt. These scare tactics have given most the belief that Mubarak is willing to use extreme measures until the people side with him.
What should President Obama do today? I do not wish to be the President of the United States this week, however, our President has been on the forefront in demanding human rights for the protesters. Whether the Egyptians are correct in believing that Mubarak will now start using force as foreigners have left, President Obama must take this threat seriously. A recommendation would be to again call President Mubarak to notify the leader that if peaceful protesters are met with violence then the United States will immediately and publically call for the immediate resignation of President Mubarak. The only hope is that a man whose back is against the proverbial wall will make the best decision for his fellow citizens and treat them as fellow humans, which is exactly what they are.
An article was brought to my attention that mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood seeking other opposition groups to join forces in an interim unity government. They will all be together in Tahrir Square tomorrow. What would this mean? The Muslim Brotherhood is seeking opportunities currently to be seen as a mild group that believes in the ideologies of the protesters, unalienable human rights and personal freedom. However, the Brotherhood does not support either ideal. The Brotherhood is currently locked out of the current government. If Egyptians allow the Muslim Brotherhood to play the slightest role in the reshaping of Egypt’s government, one can expect the stifling of personal freedoms and less equitable Egypt.
Egyptians, keep your eyes on end goal, put into power those individuals that will allow Egypt to flourish not suffer. To the military, side with your fellow citizens, they wish for you to protect a better Egypt.
The events that have transpired over the last few days in Egypt are breathing life into protesters and exhausting others. After speaking with family, I have gained insight as to what happens at night in Egypt. In America we have heard of the neighborhood watch groups, but allow me to paint a picture as to what it looks like. The men gain minimal hours of sleep during the day and at night stay outside walking around protecting their neighborhoods. The instruments of choice for protection are baseball bats, knives, and guns. Though guns are not allowed to be in the procession of citizens, those who have served in the military usually have obtained licenses to keep arms.
The men in neighborhoods are using a lot of strong instincts in knowing how to handle the situations at night. Homes are keeping their lights on. One reason is to give looters the appearance of an alert household, but as I heard today, “we must keep the lights on in the house because if the lamp posts go out, we need the light to stay vigilant”. These neighborhood watch groups are signifying themselves by wearing similar garments. For instance, you may see everyone in a neighborhood wear red ribbons around their arm. This provides an opportunity to easily identify outsiders as no two neighborhoods use similar garments. As looters approach, shots are fired to deter them from vandalizing homes in the neighborhoods. It is likely that night patrols will not cease until Mubarak is dethroned.
The question that is being raised most often is, what should America do moving forward? Should we speak out against Mubarak? How do we treat one of our most trusted allies in the Middle East? I do not pretend to be a fellow within the Council on Foreign Relations, however, Egypt is changing before our eyes and America must stand with Egyptians at this moment. As the men in the night watch describe the situation, “These protesters will not stop until Mubarak is out of office. There is no timetable on the passion for change.” As this being the sentiment shared by most Egyptians, it must be acknowledged by President Obama and his administration that standing with a man who is on his way out could damage the relations that the United States will need with the leader that Egyptians put into power.
If however, Mubarak does not step down soon, should United States officials try to broker peace between Mubarak and the people of Egypt? Absolutely not. This is a revolt that is led by the Egyptian people and they expect to finish the work themselves. A detrimental move for the United States would be for Middle Eastern countries to look at the next Egyptian leader as “hand-picked” by the United States. President Obama is making the right decisions in advising towards a peaceful end while allowing the Egyptian people to handle what they see as most important.
The United States is and will continue to be seen as the global police, however, we have seen how the Egyptians view police. For this reason, President Obama must stand with the people on the ideologies of human rights, freedom, and the end of corruption. If we stand with the people and encourage them to choose the leader that will restore Egyptian credibility and reconstruct the constitution allowing for more opportunity, a Middle Eastern crisis could certainly be avoided.
With family in Cairo and Alexandria, I am very well attuned to the goings on in Egypt at the current moment. After speaking with uncles and cousins via landlines (all other communication is shut down in Egypt) I have begun to understand the complexity and severity of the issue.
I have been asked by many people, why is this happening and what caused this? In response, this is an issue of a corrupt government. Close to half of Egyptians are living off less than $1 a day and the citizens simply expect basic human rights and their inalienable right to freedom. Despite the stereotype of the Middle East, religion has not played a part in the protests…yet.
All of this was compounded with the brutal police killing of Khaled Mohamed Said in June 2010. This killing of a man in his twenties ignited a spark against the government. What is more amazing about this, is the impact that Facebook has had in changing the environment in the Middle East. After the brutal killing of Said, a message on a Facebook page dedicated to Said talked about a protest that would happen on the national holiday celebrating the efforts of the police force in Egypt. The date was January 25, 2011. After hearing about the protest, Mubarak’s response surrounded the theme of ‘well let the children do what they wish’. Not knowing how upset the people were and how much of an issue for change this would become, the police force was unequipped which bolstered the protesters.
As of 6:00 pm EST on January 28, 2011, President Mubarak spoke to the people promising to remove his ministers but remained bold in his belief that he should stay in power. This will not happen. Protesters are upset with the Parliament in Egypt but they are more forceful with their words and actions as it relates to President Mubarak and his corruption.
What does this mean for Egypt going forward? Egyptians must make it known quickly that they want a moderate in power. If this does not happen then the Muslim Brotherhood will find itself in power, despite what others believe. Egyptians’ best choice at the present time is Mohammed ElBaradei, though seen as an outsider and unaware of Egyptians concerns; he gives Egypt the greatest opportunity to remain credible in the Middle East. Other names like Amr Moussa (former Minister of Foreign Affairs) have come to the surface as a potential replacement. However member of Mubarak’s ministry is an unlikely choice.
The protests right now are focused on all the right things: corruption, human rights, and freedom. If however, the Muslim Brotherhood gains power it would make this protest about religion. If this does happen, it is over for Egypt. What would that mean for the rest of the Middle East? With similar revolutions happening in Tunisia, Algiers, Jordan, and Yemen; what happens in Egypt will likely control how the citizens in other countries decide to elect their leaders.
If we look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as an example for how countries under this type of rule act, we see irrationality in foreign affairs. Fault is absolutely on both sides. However, many of the demands from the Palestinians are so dramatic that Israel has to deny them. They are dramatic because if there is peace there would not be a need for Hamas or the PLO. If these types of regimes take over the Middle East, you can expect the same irrationality (or rationality whichever way you think). Also, if this type of regime took over, what would happen to the economy of Egypt? Despite what others believe, Egypt is not as oil rich as their neighbors and a large portion of the economy is driven by the tourism of the history rich nation. However, if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, you would see a decline in tourism revenue resulting in even greater poverty.
It is very crucial for Egyptians to continue to fight for the right things, freedom from an authoritarian and a corrupt government and human rights. It must be stated that in this fight, Egyptians must not lose sight of a better Egypt, an Egypt that is credible around the world and a beacon for true freedom for other Arabs to see.
Make the right decision Egyptians, the world is watching!
Obama is the tech president. He’s the guy that finally got a Blackberry into the White House after all. And gadget nerds and tech geeks will always remain true to their hearts even if they do become president. So that being said it is no surprise that Obama made sure that America’s broadband strategy, or lack there of, was given a shout out. SiliconAngle picked up my post from Digital Society on the issue today. You can read about my thoughts on the Presidents comments at either of those sites.