Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who Lost Egypt?

Roger Cohen, in today's Times, is OK on Egypt as far as he goes, calling on Israel to transcend rejection and fear. But he doesn't once mention the fact that much foreign policy, especially that based on fear rather than engagement, arises as much from domestic political imperatives--both in Israel and the United States--as it does from a sober assessment, even a wrongheaded one, of foreign issues based on national interests.

True during the Cold War. True of the national security state and its assumptions which both parties have embraced here since the end of World War II. And, perhaps most nakedly, true of American politics after 9.11 and Israeli politics since the Rabin assassination.

Which sets up the question, should current events play out poorly, of 'who lost Egypt', paralleling a prior era's 'Who lost China?' When Mao prevailed, his victory was blamed on the small group of American diplomats who actually knew something about China, as if they were capable of influencing events in a country of 600 million people half a world away. If Egypt turns for the worse, of course, it'll be Obama's fault. If, on the other hand, things go well, it'll be part of the Reagan legacy. But in either case, it'll be played out with an eye as much on domestic politics as on actual events.


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