Friday, February 4, 2011

Bolton on Egypt: keep hope crushed

Thanks to a post at Salon about U.S. politicians and pundits who have aligned themselves, to one degree or another, with Mubarak and against his opponents, I learn that John Bolton said the following to Fox News:
We have a profound interest in the stability of the Israeli-Egyptian peace relationship. We've got an enormously strong relationship with the Egyptian military. Mubarak, while no Jeffersonian democrat to be sure, has been an American ally for 30 years. These are not things you toss away lightly against the promise, the hope, the aspiration for sweetness and light and democratic government.
Note the word choice here: on one side, "interest," "stability," "American ally"; on the other side, "promise," "hope," "aspiration," "democratic government." The latter are nice in theory, Bolton implies, but decidedly secondary. This from a prospective presidential candidate in 2012. And also, be it remembered, from a man who was a member of an administration that talked a lot about "hope" and "democracy" when it suited its purposes, i.e., in justifying the invasion of Iraq.


hank_F_M said...

Well of course “ally” is much less accurate but much more diplomatic than “quasi-client”. The President has to be diplomaic; but does everybody?

Who will end up running the place I will not guess but it seems to me that much of the protesters are pro-democratic To my limited knowledge the Moslem Brotherhood is not, and quite willing to use violence to impose it‘s preferred ideals. It is quite possible that the protesters ideals will end being betrayed if the Moslem Brotherhood ends up on top.

Is Mr. Bolton saying he is against a democratic solution in Egypt or is he saying that the Moslem Brotherhood will likley get power and will not be democratic and his phrase “the hope, the aspiration for sweetness and light and democratic government” is a satire of what he considers the probable result? The latter seems much more in line with what I have read of his writing before.

LFC said...

I didn't see the whole Bolton interview with Fox (though a link is available via the Salon post to which I link).

Just looking at the quote, then: no, he is not saying he is against a democratic solution in Egypt. He is saying, as I read it, that you don't lightly stop supporting a long-time ally who has served perceived U.S. interests when the outcome of doing so is unknown and might be less in line with those perceived geostrategic and other interests. Which is a defensible position -- though not one I would necessarily be inclined to take -- but one which, among other things, seems to have been overtaken by events.

Moreover, how much does Bolton really care about the aspirations of the Egyptian people for a more responsive and democratic government? I don't know, but I do recall that Bolton in the G.W.Bush administration (and before) was a severe, and sometimes unfairly severe, critic of the UN and a fierce defender of what he took to be the U.S.'s sovereign prerogatives. He exuded disdain for international law. His view, if I recall correctly, was that the U.S. should pursue its perceived interests and not bother too much with whether European allies agreed with the course of policy (in Iraq) or care much about getting UN backing for the invasion. So someone who showed a certain disdain for allies in that context is now showing considerable solicitude for this particular ally (Mubarak). And that is only one of several possible ironies that one might detect in this whole situation.