Just as I predicted at the end of last year, Egypt continues to be a mess. (See #12.) The latest news is that the military leadership that stepped in last year “temporarily” in order to stabilize the country in the wake of the violent ”Arab Spring” ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, has now effectively voided this weekend’s democratic election of an islamist president, and seized supreme legislative power and veto authority over the new constitution. At this point there are no good outcomes possible in Egypt; only bad ones and worse ones.
A relatively smooth transition of presidential power to Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed candidate who apparently secured the majority vote on Sunday, would give control of the largest country in the Arab World to an Islamist and anti-Western government that is sympathetic to al-Qaeda and highly belligerent toward Israel. Considering that Egypt and Israel fought four wars in the 25 years between 1948 and 1973, and that the now-reviled Hosni Mubarak led Egypt for the vast majority of the last 40 years of peace, and all signs coming out of Cairo point to a deteriorating situation with Israel. Given the already uncomfortable relationship between a nuclear Israel and a nearly nuclear Iran, it is easy to imagine a newly militant Egyptian government being just a hair trigger away from initiating a much wider conflagration. It is also easy to imagine that an al-Qaeda-sympathetic government with access to Egypt’s wealth and military, not to mention control of the Suez Canal, could provide a platform for a renewed worldwide projection of terrorism and terrorist weapons.
And what I just described is probably the best that we can hope for.
Egypt is America’s second largest beneficiary of foreign aid and one of the largest recipients of foreign military sales. Its military trains at all levels with the US military and it possesses some of our best equipment. It would be preposterous if America were even to consider to provide that level of support and assistance to a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government. On the other hand, continuing that level of American support to the military junta that has taken over the country risks an even worse outcome, as a circa-1979 Iranian Shah style backlash becomes increasingly likely. America is already culpable in the eyes of the Egyptian majority. Every passing day that we arm Egypt’s oppressors, we increase the inevitability that an anti-government revolution grows even more anti-Western. When the rebels take over the country (and they will) the US will get all of the bad outcomes listed above, and on top of that, even more of the blame. Furthermore, our support for an anti-popular regime complicates US efforts to resolve peacefully an analogous situation in nearby Syria, where Russia, Iran, and perhaps even China support a military dictatorship against a popular uprising. Hypocrisy will be the charge, and it will have merit.
My prescription will be anathema to career diplomats and also to military leaders who have bought into the idea that engagement and dialogue equate to success. It is to publicly tell Egypt’s military government that all foreign aid, military assistance, and military training will completely halt effective the end of this month. And that if after that date, Egypt wishes the resumption of any portion of American assistance, it will be contingent upon being able to demonstrate measurable results in achieving democratic rule, protection of human rights, cooperation with Israel, support of the free flow of trade through the Canal, and the suppression of terrorist activities. Failure to achieve any one of those objectives will result in no American assistance.
My recommendation is no less than to break a significant portion of the Camp David Accords, so it is not made lightly. However, the status quo is untenable and increasingly likely to blow up (hopefully only figuratively) in the face of Americans. When confronted with the choice of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” the best outcome is the one with the least damnation. And the only thing we have to look forward to as a result of continued engagement with Egypt, is even more damnation.
*These opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense.
Tomorrow evening Nashville’s City Council will decide whether or not to implement a large increase in the city’s property tax. It is a tax increase that has the backing of the mayor, the chamber of commerce, and a host of “respectable” organizations.
Let me tell you why I am against it. When it comes right down to it, this is a tax increase sold on the basis of paying for the salaries for policemen, firemen, and teachers. In truth, it is a bill to raise taxes to continue to pay government workers who were only hired as a result of the President’s “stimulus” bill, which was supposed to be a temporary Keynesian measure to get the economy going again. Obviously, Keynesianism didn’t work. It never does in practice, but the theory sure sounds good. Now, rather than cut the city’s budget, the city’s “leaders” think that I should cut mine.
Bottom line: somebody’s budget is going to get cut this week. Either Nashville’s city budget will take the cut, or the residents of Nashville will take the cut in their own family’s budgets in order to pay the tax increase.
If you live in Nashville, have friends or family in Nashville, or just care about Nashville, now is the time to contact your council representative and urge him or her to reject the Mayor’s budget.
| Category: Race
| Posted at: Sunday, 17 June 2012
Through a commenter, I just learned that Rodney King is dead. Wow. I wonder if this is a metaphor for our times.
Republicans upset over President Obama’s decision to ignore the illegal immigration of hundreds of thousands of young foreigners should be overjoyed by the precedent the President sets. Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor asserts that by ignoring Congress, Obama is “reshaping the power of the presidency.” Actually, he is just re-asserting a power the presidency had long exercised until relatively recent history. While I happen to believe that the United States would be better off with greatly expanded legal immigration opportunities, even those conservatives of a more xenophobic persuasion should find plenty to like about Obama’s Friday announcement.
The decision to cease enforcing particular provisions of immigration law was not, as some commentors have asserted, a presidential usurpation of legislative power. The Executive branch is not making law, as was the case when it attempted to declare carbon dioxide to be a pollutant in violation of the powers granted to the EPA by Congress. Instead, this is a case where the President disagrees with a law on the books, and thus unilaterally decides not to carry it out.
We have a long history of a passive aggressive presidency. Thomas Jefferson refused to spend $50,000 to buy gunboats to patrol the Mississippi River and America’s border with the French colony on its western bank when his purchase of Louisiana in 1803 made moot that border. I’m sure there was some Congressman in whose district those boats were to be made who objected to this first use of presidential impoundment power. Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge were both famously cool toward the idea of enforcing the Volstead Act outlawing alcohol. Grover Cleveland didn’t fill numerous appointments, believing that government payrolls had grown bloated through patronage and spoils.
Since the very beginning of our Nation’s founding, there has been (by design) a healthy tension between the Legislative branch, which writes laws, and the Executive Branch, which executes those laws. Laws were only de facto valid when they were both on the books and willingly enforced. As every law is a limit upon the people, this created a very high barrier to restrictions on individual rights. In modern parlance we would say that it is a “feature, not a flaw,” as the tension between the branches reinforces the desired ideal that the default position of the federal government is inaction.
If President Obama’s frustration over a “do nothing” Congress prompts him to respond with a “do nothing” government, then I’m all for it. Imagine the good that could be done if a Republican president used Obama’s precedent: By not filling tens of thousands of authorized positions, he could shrink the size of government. By refusing to enforce some environmental regulations, he could remove barriers to economic growth and greater employment. By canceling unnecessary weapon systems, he could remove the influence of earmarks from the defense budget.
Instead of complaining about Obama’s decision, conservatives should applaud anything which increases government inaction. Meanwhile Democrats who applaud the President’s decision for the short-term advantage it might give them, should be very wary of handing a precedential hammer to a future Republican president who could use it to smash big government.
Thanks for the links from Glenn, Rand, and Allah. And thanks all for the comments. I expected this post to produce some complaints. Let me address some of them as they generally boil down to a few general ideas:
Liberals don’t respect precedent when it goes against them. That’s a matter of opinion, and somewhat irrelevant. However, if I were offering advice to the Romney campaign (I’m on active duty so I can’t do that) I would tell them to respond to this presidential move by listing the laws that he intends to ignore as soon as he becomes president. Commenter Smart Dude says: “Call this ‘The Obama Rule’ and shove this right in the[ir] face. . . There have to be a thousand insane regulations that need not to be enforced. Start with the War on Coal and the shutting down of irrigation water to Western agriculture.” I’m sure that Romney could score many political points with this approach, particularly in the realms of spending and environmental restrictions. Additionally, there is much entertainment value in this approach, as American voters would have the fun of watching David Axelrod contort himself explaining why ignoring one set of laws is good while ignoring another set of laws is wrong.
Conservatives believe in the rule of law; and this measure violates that. This is why I hate labels. There are those who believe in a strong legal system that punishes miscreants; they are often called “conservative.” There are those who believe in a legally enforeable system that regulates morality and they are often called “conservative.” There are those who believe that government should allow individuals maximum latitude and that individuals should rise and fall on the consequences of their actions; they too are often called “conservatives.” I could offer a dozen other depictions of conservative beliefs, half of which would conflict with the other half. Instead, I dispense with those labels and use “more individualism” versus “more centralization” when it comes to who gets to exercise power. So while I believe in “law and order,” I am always cognizant of the fact that law is not an established fact but a transitory event. Free men should always question whether or not a law still makes sense. And if one determines that it does not, it is his duty to violate it. (Believe me, I’ve lived a half-dozen years in a country where people did not believe that way, and 70 years later, they’re still confronting the ugliness of their inaction.) Does it still make sense to prohibit employment and education opportunities to American residents who, through no fault of their own, came to the States as minors and have been raised as Americans? I don’t think so. Similary, does it make sense to prohibit the reconstruction of a reservoir that provides literal sustenance to a community because a bird is threatened? Again, I don’t think so. Some laws are so intuitively stupid that they deserve breaking. And guess what: if you disagree, you get a vote next November and every fourth November after that.
It is an unconstitutional usurpation of legislative authority. I’ve mentioned several historical examples of why presidents have ignored the law. I don’t think that any of those were considered to be unconstitutional at the time. (Admittedly, the end of impoundment is a pet peeve of mine; to understand why, you only have to have spent one September as a government employee.) To one degree or another, executives of any organization have to prioritize what it is that their organization will do. My background is the army. If a company commander were to comply with every directive, order, regulation, and mandate that came before him, he would have no time remaining to actually train his soldiers. His soldiers’ time instead would be consumed by diversity training, dental appointments, and half-day Thursdays. Every new “good idea” seemingly requires a four-hour annual block of instruction. The military is no different from society at large. Complying with the myriad rules (and often contradictory rules, at that) exhausts the ability of an executive to execute anything meaningful. Hence, the job of the modern executive is to determine which rules one can “get away with” violating on the way to actually accomplishing something. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. This precedent recognizes that fact.
Thanks to all commenters, and keep the comments coming in.
Jim Delong pens this: “Broad illegality is also useful to maximize bureaucratic discretion. Make everything illegal, and then pick and choose what to enforce.” That’s a horrific vision of the future (present?) wherein everything is subject to the whims of whomever is elected. Thus, it’s a valid criticism of what I have written. Although, more precisely, it’s an indictment of the legislative branch, although not without the complicity of the executive. If we are there, then, well, God help us.
BTW, Jim Delong has a new book out. I bought it and like what I’ve found so far.
| Category: Culture
| Posted at: Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Normally, a union threatens a strike to get its way, the thinking being that the deprivation of valued labor forces employers back to the bargaining table so that they can quickly get employees back to the job of making them money.
But how does that model work if you’re part of a union of the unemployed? What, do you threaten to find a job? And doesn’t that hurt the UOUP (Union Of Unemployed Persons) more than it hurts anyone else; after all, once you’re employed by someone else, presumably you’re no longer eligible for UOUP membership.
Seriously, can someone explain how this is supposed to work in terms that doesn’t make it sound like it’s a story from the Onion?