05 February 2011

Egypt: The American Debate Has Gone Stark, Raving Crazy

This is what prof. Barry Rubin is saying about the latest intellectual contortions in Washington. And he is not sparing the neocons, too:

Consider one example (Roger Cohen has gone beyond ridicule so let's focus on someone who should know better). I regret criticizing Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution as he is one of the smarter, saner people.

Yet the kinds of things he is quoted as saying in the New York Times remind me of why the "neo-conservatives" have been so dangerous because of their naivete about the Middle East. They are fitting counterparts of the apologists for radicals who have demonized them. Both groups are trying to impose their fantasy model on the real Middle East. Of course, if Kagan didn't say things like this he wouldn't be quoted at all in the New York Times.
Good stuff, I recommend Rubin's article warmly. As to what Robert Kagan is saying - I got stuck on this quote:
"Obviously, Islam needs to make its peace with modernity and democracy. But the only way this is going to happen is when people speaking for Islam take part in the system. It's incumbent on Islamists who are elected democratically to behave democratically."
Of course, the dominant long word in the quote is ""incumbent", offering a rich choice of unrelated meanings:
  1. Lying or leaning on something else
  2. Necessary (for someone) as a duty or responsibility; morally binding
  3. Currently holding an office
As an uneducated guess, ## 1 and 3 are out of consideration, so, logically speaking, it leaves #2 as the only choice. Still, when I asked myself why the heck should Islamists feel bound by some duty or responsibility, esp. moral one, to behave democratically (whatever it means for Mr Kagan), I remained stuck. Maybe, after all, meaning #1 is the one? Makes as much sense upon second thought.

And, in spite of prof. Rubin admonition, I went to look at the latest Egypt-related pieces of Roger Cohen, aka Jolly Roger. These two, in fact. And I was forced to agree with that "beyond ridicule" concept prof Rubin developed for Cohen. Well, except maybe that:
The Egyptian army has shown superb professionalism. It can be the guarantor of an orderly transition.
But even this is... well, better left alone. As for the rest? Pure poetry. Nothing to get one's teeth into. Meaning-escaping shadows of soporific text, fluid and disappearing the moment one tries to get a fix on something stable. Again - sheer poetry. And not of the kind that Omar Khayyám was justly famous for, like this:
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Nope, don't expect such clarity from Mr Cohen. Well, I'll follow Khayyám's advice, its' near lunchtime where I am.


Cross-posted on Yourish.com