Barbara Kay: Obama’s Carter-esque foreign policy deployed to Egypt ,Demonstrations in Egypt

Barbara Kay: Obama’s Carter-esque foreign policy deployed to Egypt
In November, 1979, Richard V. Allen, Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy advisor, commended a just-published magazine article to his boss’s attention. “What you gave me to read was extraordinary!” Reagan told Allen. “Who is this guy Jeane Kirkpatrick?”

The “guy,” a political science professor at Georgetown University and a Democrat of the muscularly anti-Communist school, went on to become president Reagan’s ambassador to the UN.

Jeane Kirkpatrick’s influential Commentary magazine article, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” assesses Jimmy Carter’s hypocrisy in foreign affairs, a hypocrisy that led to a betrayal of America’s real interests. She viewed Carter as the quintessence of a romantically cosmopolitan mentality that wrongly perceives all change as progress toward a happy ending. Re-reading the article last week, I found that if I substituted the word “Islamism” for “Communism” and “Obama” for “Carter,” much of Kirkpatrick’s insightful essay is helpful to understanding the current situation in Egypt.

Kirkpatrick contrasted (a) Carter’s moralistic dudgeon toward regimes that were autocratic and repressive but generally Western-friendly, with (b) his cultivated insouciance toward communist regimes that were outright totalitarian. Carter made overtures of “normalization” to Vietnam, Cuba and the Chinese People’s Republic, all hostile to America; but cooled relations with South Korea, South Africa and the Phillipines, countries friendly to America.

Similarly, before being soundly rebuffed, Obama made “reaching out” to anti-Western, Islamist Iran a key plank in his platform. He routinely offers encouraging words to Islamist or Islamizing countries, like jihad-peddling Saudi Arabia and Israel-baiting Turkey, while shaming pro-America, democratic Israel.

The nub of Kirkpatrick’s thesis is the distinction between regimes headed up by “traditional rulers of semi-traditional societies” such as Iran’s former Shah (or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak) — which typically may be characterized as our SOBs: venal, corrupt, repressive, but with limited regional ambitions and broadly pro-America in outlook — and totalitarian, anti-Western regimes seeking regional or world dominion.

Our SOBs can be nudged toward democratization. Ideology based regimes such as communism and Islamism typically cannot. History, Kirkpatrick reminds us, shows many recent examples of authoritarian states turned democratic — notably Brazil and Spain. But no revolutionary Communist society has ever willingly democratized (Russia was forced to, and is still no democracy; China has modernized but not democratized). Likewise, in our era, moderate Islamic societies have become more Islamist, but Islamist societies have not spontaneously moderated.

All totalitarian regimes lock down society; they suppress speech and dissident action. They are impervious to sticks and carrots alike, yielding only to force majeure. If democracy is the goal, Kirkpatrick says, America is far better off in alliance with “traditional authoritarian governments.” For revolutions often produce more repressive governance than the autocracies they replace. Taiwan was preferable to Red China; Czarist Russia was liberal beside the Soviet Union; next to Iran’s West-loathing mullahs, the Shah was a model of enlightenment.

As a litmus test for alliance, America should ally itself with those nations that don’t produce refugees, Kirkpatrick says. Neither democracies nor traditional autocracies do. While traditional autocracies such as Egypt tolerate social iniquities, they do not interfere in personal economic acquisition, or disturb ancient rhythms of culture or manipulate personal relationships — the things that matter to individuals.

Totalitarian regimes, on the other hand, do create refugees. They “claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society” and “so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands.” By the end of 1978, more than six million refugees had fled Marxist countries, a million from Cuba alone (how many more since then?). Four million refugees have fled post-revolution Iran. Compare with Argentina, Brazil and Chile under authoritarian governance: about 35,000 each.

In short, Kirkpatrick says, “When U.S. policymakers and large portions of the liberal press interpret insurgency as evidence of widespread popular discontent and a will to democracy, the scene is set for disaster.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, the only well-organized movement in Egypt, like all revolutionary forces presents as democratic and reformist (remember the mullahs in Iran in 1977 forswearing their wish for political power?). But it is the fountainhead of a global Islamist movement as intent on conquering the United States — and the rest of the world — as communism was. Obama should not have pushed for a vacuum of leadership, for the Brotherhood is eager to fill it, and if they do, Obama will have been the midwife to yet another totalitarian country. Obama just doesn’t get it at all.

In 1980, the United States had Reagan to save the country from a naive president who invariably backed the wrong historical horse. Who will save the West from Carter’s equally naive heir?

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