… Egypt’s secular liberals are in trouble. I have a lot of reporting on the subject to sift through, but a few weeks of immersion in the burgeoning political party scene here suggest that the new liberal parties have a lot of catching up to do. Perhaps a prohibitive amount.
Above is the crowd at the founding meeting of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party in Kafr El Sheikh, a provincial city in the Nile Delta, earlier this month. It numbered fewer than 200, probably closer to 100 by the end.
Below is a rally last night organized in another Delta city, Shibin El Kom, by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. The crowd numbered about 2,000, all of whom listened rapt until the end of the three-hour event, replete with detailed policy plans and instructions for cadres. If these number are any indication (and some smart people say they’re not), the Brotherhood is running far stronger than anyone else.
The McChrystal story really spiced up the week, and brought the Afghan war into a really clear focus. Matthew Yglesias wrote a fantastic short essay at The Daily Beast about what General David Petraeus needs to do to succeed. In the piece, Yglesias tackles two potent and related points. First, he gives voice to the counter-narrative about the Iraq surge, arguing that what Petraeus accomplished there wasn’t “victory” or a “secure Iraq” but a political triumph – lowering America’s expectations enough that Iraq’s disappointing progress would satisfy Washington and allow an exit. Second, Yglesias argues that Afghanistan is literally unwinnable, but could be another “success” if Petraeus can work the same magical concoction: great PR, political jujitsu, and competent war management.
As he says in summation:
Petraeus could be just the man to do for Obama what he did for Bush: help reframe the problem and walk away from unrealistic goals while projecting determination and making things better in some small concrete ways.
John Levi Barnard has written a powerful appeal to for us to take moral heed of the oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, abandon our wasteful ways, and embrace a kinder new paradigm.
There is a lesson to be learned here, as there was from the crisis of the 1850s, which is that there is a clear choice to be made between principle and the expedient solution, which is never a solution at all. Every president from Reagan to Obama has assured us that the American way of life is not negotiable, much as the great compromisers of the antebellum period assured us that nothing, not even Justice, would threaten the cohesion of the “union.”
Thoreau countered this in no uncertain terms, declaring in “Resistance to Civil Government” that the American “people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people.” From the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico—which extends both literally and figuratively to the Persian Gulf and the borderlands of Pakistan—we can derive a similarly radical statement: we must stop drilling in the ocean though it costs us something at the pump, though it forces us to make our way of life negotiable.