Cuba, Egypt, and Men with Beards

The United States Media, who are in a sort of push-me pull-you relationship with that country's establishment (others might compare it to those strange friendships found in prisons or amongst Spartans) have been agitating for the world power to 'do something' about the revolt in Egypt for some time now. Sage heads have nodded, and last night, a reasonably large force of Marines seems to have been despatched, complemented by the carrier group led by the Enterprise. The President has said serious things about full and fair elections, and the intelligence chief has been touted as the inescapable man just as the Egyptian Army have moved to secure pipelines and quietly arrest agitators.

This is a far cry from 1989, of course. I look at what is happening, or rather, that is all I can do, unlike some of my former students, who are in the thick of things, and I think 'I hope that this does not turn into another Cuba'.

Cuba as a cipher for the modern American state's nightmares seems apt. Remember, Fidel Castro (a former baseball hopeful) first appeared on TV in America in 1957; he went so far as to tour the States, and employed a major public relations firm there in 1959 and 1960. Though he displaced a client dictator out of whom many in America did well, he at first was concerned to reach out to the Eisenhower administration and American public opinion in general. In part he succeeded with the public, and was popular at first, but was loathed in the executive and legislative branches.

His assurances may have been the workings of a duplicitous mind, given his subsequent behaviour, or genuine. In any event, the overtures were met with several concurrent plans for his assassination, begun by Richard Nixon, Frank Wister, Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Richard Helms. These were and carried on by the Kennedys upon arrival in office fifty years ago.

They all failed. That which many liberal Americans claimed to want--a Cuba that actually represented its people--brought the world to the brink of atomic war, and became communist, in very short order. At the back of those strategic minds who remember must be the concern that, well, maybe Castro could have been captured for the West, had America not been so anticommunist from the outset. I think that sort of addled thinking may well be leading people to wonder if they cannot bring in the Muslim Brotherhood to any new Egypt--an inclusion about as useful as bringing Hitler into the Weimar cabinet, to any other mind.

Perhaps the spectre of another fifty year crisis concentrates minds. Certainly, the Cuban imbroglio led directly, as far as I can tell, to the strengthening of the forces which ended the most hopeful presidency of the twentieth century.

Perhaps other worries are present. In 2005, Al-Qaeda's long term strategy documents came to light. There is some sense in calling them strategic plans, though I suppose in truth they had something more of the chancer's eye for a route through difficulty about them. They had been written, apparently, by an Egyptian, now believed by many to be hiding in Iran following a tour of duty in Afghanistan and a career which began in the murder of Anwar Sadat. The documents purported to chart a course for the Base that would stretch into 2020. In 2010-12, as the fourth phase of a seven-part plan, they had pencilled in 'cyber terrorism, assaults on oil supplies, and the destruction of Arab governments, particularly in North Africa'. Little else of their plan--the third phase destabilisation of Syria, for instance, or their pre-surge hopes for an Iraqi collapse, seem to have come about, but, well, coincidences in international politics are interesting.

Egypt is full of ghosts, not the least of which is Al-Libi, I suppose. He was the Libyan who, under torture in Egypt, (under the practiced eye of Omar Suleiman) confessed to the American authorities his knowledge of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Later, he sought to recant. He died in a Libyan prison, apparently of multiple explanations.

Like Batista, Mubarak knows a lot about what the United States has suffered to be done. Like America, he is probably haunted by his ghosts too. I hope that they keep him awake at night. The suspicion must arise that they, and the memory of numerous other last times, are more likely to keep the old man in power this time than not; no more Batistas, or Shahs, if the CIA can help it.


Anonymous said…
Martin, I can't attempt to address all your questions but some of what you say resonates. Some makes me laugh. How can someone die from multiple explanations?

What you say about a Cuba that actually represents it's people and the problems that brought are surely very similar to the problems facing Egypt today. Do we want democracy or not? If the majority of people who live in Egypt today choose a fundamentally different society, can we condemn them? And really, what is this to do with the USA?

People can elect a government that turns out to be against all the principles of free society. Hamas was duly elected in Gaza but we ignore that because it doesn't suit.

Maybe the USA should back off and let these countries determine their own future.

Martin Meenagh said…
well, one side says he died by hanging himself, another explains that he was tortured to death, a third explains that he fell down the stairs and a fourth explains that he died in his bed. Just like multiple complications, only more fatal.

Funny how all the multiple explanations seem to involve deals with shady arab regimes and Dick Cheney....
Edward Spalton said…

Perhaps you know who this was.

One of the American founding fathers said that his country's constitution should not be too "democratical" and remarked "Else we will but have exchanged King George for King Numbers"

That's the trouble with democracy!
A lynch mob is democratic in its way and proceeds by majority.

Most Muslim countries have a small, westernised (and generally corrupt) upper crust and a large, often uneducated majority of much more basic Islamic tendencies. So once the upper crust is broken, the up-country mullahs will come bubbling out with their followers. It's difficult to see any good coming of a revolution where there is no tradition of limited government and law. I am told (for instance) that most people in Egypt do not have regular legally enforcible tenancy or clear title to ownership of the properties they occupy. It is a very unstable base upon which to build an orderly Whiggish/US type of revolution and, of course, outside intervention is likely to be counterproductive.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Edward

I think that the income distribution figures for Egypt--and the pictures on the TV--suggest more that a small middle class has developed in that country but is now constrained by the corruption. I have books on Islamic finance and distributism on my shelf which I sincerely want the time to digest before I blog about them, but I have been waiting for months for the right moment!

Off the top of my head, I think that John Randolph gave a speech called 'King Numbers'. I have a copy of Russell Kirk's conservative book on him at home, I think, and will check--but the phrase was a common one.
Martin: If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you read the following book - JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass. Kennedy inherited CIA plots against Cuba...Bay of Pigs for one....and after that fiasco was over he was at odds with the national security establishment in dealing with Cuba, Laos, Vietnam. In the very last month of his life, he was back-channeling with Castro trying to come to peaceful solutions and possible diplomatic and trade agreements. Upon his assassination, all communication with the USA government stopped although Castro wished it to continue. THE USA national security state - Pentagon, CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. have a separate agenda - and I believe Kennedy was the last President who tried to oppose it. With Egypt, Mubarak is the the USA's man. Having experienced what happened in Iran 30+ years ago, the USA military and the Egyptian military will enforce a solution upon Egypt in accordance with USA security doctrine and the country's elite. Also, any protests happening in Saudi Arabia will be brutally suppressed before critical mass is reached.
Martin Meenagh said…
Patrick, I have wanted a copy of that book since I heard about it and now have one, but am warming up with Nelson's potboiler (which is full of holes, but still interesting) about LBJ and the assasination beforehand. It was recommended to me on when I posted a review of Chambers' book, 'Head Shot' about the assasination there and started a mini-debate.
I tend to agree with you about Egypt. The marines heading there yesterday had me thinking that maybe Obama was just positioning to avoid a hostage crisis and being Carterized, but maybe it is a little more sinister. Every US ambassador in the world, all 260, were recalled to Washington the other day, and Hillary and the rest at Foggy Bottom are briefing them on 'strategy' as I write. Is this post-wikileaks diplomacy or is there something there to scare the horses?
I hope that you are well, and good luck. When I finish the 'Unspeakable' book (I like the theological pedigree of the writer as much as anything else) I will blog about it, promise!

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