Tonawanda News

Columns

August 21, 2013

DUVALL: Where only the strongmen survive

Tonawanda News — As has happened many times before, America’s best fictional president offered some prescient advice, now more than a decade ago, that speaks to problems we face.

Josiah Bartlet, the fictional president of television’s “The West Wing” was opining strife in the Middle East when he dismissed an adviser’s overwrought explanation of whatever the situation was.

The reason for all the violence in that part of the world isn’t religious or political in nature. It, Bartlet noted dryly, is because there’s no water and it’s extremely hot.

That thought passed through my mind several times reading about the strife in Egypt and what, if anything, America or the rest of the world can do to stop it.

President Obama has dithered and ducked the problem. He backed Hosni Mubarak until the forces on the street made it impossible. He backed Mohammad Morsi, the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood conservative, until the forces in the street made it impossible. He is backing the mostly American-trained Egyptian military, which ousted Morsi in a coup the United States can’t even call a coup — that is, until the blood in the streets will make it impossible to do even that.

This is not leadership. But what are the alternatives? After so badly overplaying our hand in the Arab world in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has nothing but cash to offer in exchange for compliance with whatever the hell outcome we could conceive that benefits us and Israel. 

And money, even billions of dollars of it, can’t buy democracy.

But American treasure spent propping up Egypt’s military isn’t so simply withheld, either. We give them the money as part of the historic Camp David Accord, the peace deal that’s prevented Egypt and Israel from taking up arms since 1979. A strong Egyptian army, paid for by the United States, was a prerequisite for any such deal for the Egyptians. 

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