Egypt and U.S. Policy

Friday, February 04, 2011

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign RelationsDaily Beast contributor, and author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy, weighs in on the uprising in Egypt, what U.S. policy should be toward the country, and how "the devil we know" might be preferable to the Muslim Brotherhood.


Leslie H. Gelb

Comments [27]

Samira from Hudson on Croton

@Taher, lol, Muslims and Arabs in America should really not start accusing Jews of dual loyalties any time they say something that's doesn't fit the Islamist/Arab agenda or when they explose basic truths about groups like the MB. It will not be a winning argument.

People who live in glass houses should not throw mud, rocks or Iranian-funded bombs, for that matter.

Feb. 06 2011 10:28 AM
Taher's Auntie Mafooz from Jaboola

Dear Little Taher,

You really need to listen to Al Manar if you want to hear news you will like about the Middle East since apparently anyone who speaks the truth about Islam terrorist gangs is not "centrist" to you and gets you into an angry street rage.

Remember all Muslim and Arab media are famous for their centrism and human rights concerns.

Actually, can you list all the Arabic and Islamic media from all over the world that is more centrist than WNYC so we can have a handy list. With 1.2 Billion Muslims and 250 million Arabs there must be hundreds of thousands of media organs, tv stations, newspapers and radio shows more fair and centrist than WNYC. Can you list just a few, say 5, to illuminate the audience on what WNYC can use as a model for centrism and fairness.

Thanks for your help!!!


Auntie Mafooz

Feb. 06 2011 10:23 AM
Pablo from Columbia

It's fascinating seeing how some of the anonymous comments in any discussion on Israel always include a few ugly hateful ones about Israel ....

Makes me support Israel even more.
As if concern about the Muslim Brotherhood is purely in the interest of Israel or belies the fact that Leslie Gelb is an agent of Israel.

Those who want to silence discussion and debate my making hateful accusations of dual loyalty will never win.

The hope and desire for freedom and truth will always win.



Feb. 06 2011 09:08 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Brian, it is really boring when you, as often you do, bring people on from that extreme rights organization “The Council on Foreign Relations.” Can’t you and producer do better then that? Or is it too much to stray from your “centrists” position and need to bring neo-Fascists on to the show?

Feb. 04 2011 05:50 PM

Listened to the show in the car and came home with all sorts of comments about Mr. Gelb's skewed analysis. Glad to see most of them addressed here but I still have an objection with a guest such as Mr. Gelb. I think he needed to do a disclaimer upfront: Declare that his primary and secondary interests (which may alternate for top position) in his analysis are US economic interests and protection of the State of Israel. We, as Americans, CANNOT continue to be "educated" about issues in the Middle East by those whose loyalties lie with a particular camp unless that is part of the description of the guest.

Feb. 04 2011 12:55 PM
abu from Cairo

on the one hand we have the patronizing and almost humorously hypocritical American left who never said boo about Mubarak until now (I don;t recall any boycotts of Egypt etc...) but write full of outrage about American hypocrisy and blowback and US acting on arrogance and self interest today in Egypt. (as if Egypt and the rest of the Arab world doesn't act with arrogance and self-interest mixed in with a bunch of tyrannical oppression, discrimination of minorities and Islamic fanatacism that glorifies terror)

On the other hand, the American Left is blinded to the horrors of Egypt becoming another Iran under the Muslim "brotherhood" terror gang....

American Left is dumb & dumber

Feb. 04 2011 11:39 AM
Eric from B'klyn

I did not find Mr Gelb's status quo reasoning persuasive. Yes it will be a risk. But I agree w many of the earlier posts, our hypocrisy and 30 year track record of support for a dictator is more dangerous to long term prospects for peace. I resent Mr Gelb's imperious tone and his ridiculing those w opinions other than his.

Feb. 04 2011 11:13 AM
Joel Simpson from Union, NJ

Mr. Gelb offers some valuable historical wisdom about the necessity of organizing the institutions of a democracy, but why didn't he mention Mohammed ElBaradei? ElBaradei has excellent political credentials without the tainted association with Mubarak that hangs onto Sulieman. Regarding Israel, if you look at Netanyahu from the perspective of a Palestinian living in Gaza or even in one of the sectored off communities of the West Bank, Netanyahu looks like a worse dictator than Mubarak. Neither supported democracy, yet we in the U.S. support(ed) them both. If a new government in Egypt, while preserving peace with Israel, opens the border with Gaza, it would be a great relief and benefit to its residents, who are targeted by the Netanyahu government for suffering short of a humanitarian crisis—a despicably cynical and oppressive policy. Uncritical supporters of Israel's current oppression would naturally want to beat the drum against the Muslim Brotherhood, who are, yes, currently the most organized of the opposition groups to Mubarak. But the group bends over backwards to assure everyone that they are non-violent, meaning not a threat. Comparisons with Iran or even Algeria of the 1990s (where the US had no stake) are much too superficial. In Iran, the population—as Western-oriented as their educated class is—had two major grudges against the US: we had overthrown their legitimate democracy in 1953 (the first CIA action), and we had installed a dictator, who murdered his opponents. We need to realize that the US is not seen abroad as the beacon of freedom and democracy, but as an overly powerful country that supports the needs of its most powerful corporations (viz. the oil companies, etc.) even militarily. Our meddling in the affairs of other countries to the benefit of our corporations, our support of repressive regimes, our invasions when things don't go our way—these are the things that spawn "terrorism." If we gave them up, "terrorism" would evaporate overnight.
Next time you have someone like Leslie Gelb on your show, why not invite Robert Fisk to respond. You'll hear deeper insights than you'll ever get from Gelb from the author of "The Great War for Civilisation," that magisterial tome on the meddling of Western powers in the Middle East. Amy Goodman interviewed him on her program yesterday, and he was brilliant.

Feb. 04 2011 10:44 AM
Charles from Carmel, NY

Leslie Gelb epitomizes the reason the US is detested in the Middle East. Arrogantly abrogating the right to determine regimes in other countries is immoral and exactly contrary to the founding principle of our nation, that of self-determination. Siccing dctators for generations on innocent millions makes us the primary agent of evil in the world. And the worst thing about it is that he is known as a "liberal." This shows that the Democrats and Republicans are two branches of the same party and that no matter who we elect as president, this disgusting foreign policy continues. Self-determination is not only nearly impossible in Egypt, but here also.

Feb. 04 2011 10:40 AM
manu sassoonian from New York City

In my lifetime the people of Egypt had only one opportunity to make a decision about their government. After the disastrous six day war with Israel Nasser announced that he would resign. The people poured into the streets and prevented him. They should have helped him pack.

Feb. 04 2011 10:40 AM
Keira McGuinness from Nolita

Mr. Gelb cites our history of repressing freedom in the region as both a reason we are so unpopular in the Middle East and a reason to continue the repression. When does it end? When is it the right time to do the right thing? In Mr. Gelb's universe, the right thing is always the self-serving thing.

Feb. 04 2011 10:36 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

Mubarak is 82. He's not going to live forever, and Egypt will be in this post-Mubarak position someday perhaps soon regardless of the protests. Why not support the Democratic strain in the country while it's at its peak with the crowds?

Feb. 04 2011 10:31 AM

I personally like how the Obama team adjusts to the situation as it develops, and the U.S. has $1.5 billion riding on this, which is a big bargaining chip. I really think coming up with a firm stand at the outset of the protests would have been working with too little information. That sounds like an "old guard" government approach. Something I'm glad is antiquated.

Feb. 04 2011 10:30 AM
Muriel from Manhattan

First of all Mr. Gelb does not take into account the power of twitter and facebook. The youth are more organized than ever through these media. What is more worrisome is the Corporatocracy taking over. No one is talking about the issues raised in the book, "The Shock Doctrine". We are watching a political upheaval which could easily lead to fierce response with Friedmanite Economic doctrines. We see subversive Friedman economics at play recently everywhere in response to every crisis from natural to manmade from New Orleans, to Greece, to New York City.

Feb. 04 2011 10:30 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

So, essentially, besides an earlier pronouncement, what the Obama admin. is currently doing is what you would have him continue to do?

How novel.

Feb. 04 2011 10:30 AM
Patrick from Hoboken

Question for Leslie Gelb: were we supposed to sponsor an undemocratic regime forever ? How can it possibly be in the US's, or Israel's long term strategic interest to keep the lid on an impoverished and frustrated population ?

Feb. 04 2011 10:29 AM
Jason from Brooklyn

The people of Egypt are rising up against oppressive conditions in their own country. All they want is their freedom. The only thing some people can think of is a totally different country--Israel--that cow-tows to our interests. How selfish can people be? We should stand with the people of Egypt because what they want is nothing more than human dignity.

Feb. 04 2011 10:29 AM

hjs 2 from Alexandria, Egypt
reread my comment my friend.
the first line is quoting the BL show. the second is my philosophy. i know u are a human, now act like it.

Feb. 04 2011 10:28 AM
inez from BEd Stuy

so the Arabs are like petulant kids threatening the world ---- if you push us, we're going to elected fanatic Islamists ---

but while we don't want you to push us -- keep the faucet of American aid - the billions of taxpayer dollars US sends to Egypt and the Palestinians

Our dear allies, the Arabs - give us the cash, let us have democracy, let us vote in terror mullahs

Feb. 04 2011 10:27 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Can't find phone number - would have liked to call in.
I was in Egypt fall of 2009 -- I felt that something might happen (in 10 years or so) along the lines of what we're seeing now -- It was possible to feel the yearning for change among young people. Everywhere, even in the poorest neighborhoods, there are satellite dishes. They know what's going on around the world.
BUT, there's an active and powerful right wing movement -- Any group of tourists larger than 5 or 6 needs an armed guard (and they take their jobs seriously). The well-known Nile cruise now ends in Luxor (rather than Cairo) because the tourist boarts have been fired on from the shore. The buses to Abu Simbaal ride in convoys. Yes, that's in case a bus breaks down, but it's at least equally for protection.
I have no particular expertise, but I'm not completely optimistic.

Feb. 04 2011 10:26 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Mr Gelb? Some possibilities you have not been considering:

> The opportunity is now, since Mubarak was formerly untouchable, and since, by all accounts, as he was stabilizing his country while simultaneously putting his country into the political and economic morass;

> There is a plan and negotiation now to NOT dump him unceremoniously;

> Egypt is an ancient, large, diverse country with a fairly secular history;

> The MILITARY is the primary institutional guarantor, so they will most likely to support a more secular, nominal democracy;

> The opposition, led by El Bharadei, is currently negotiating and drawing up a constitution and other formative

> The people want this, so it doesn't much matter what Gelb wants, although the Obama admin. has a _little_ - but not too much more - to say.

Does Gelb along with other foreign policy status quo supporters, acknowledge that there are other voices, other potential parties out there. Very unimaginative and frankly, wrong.

Finally, he is making false equivalencies and speculating reflexively without thinking deeply.

Feb. 04 2011 10:24 AM
Peter from jackson heights

mr gelb undermines his own credibility by referring to the Shah as "very democratic" and shows his hand by repeatedly referring "our strategic safety" in the region. It's not really our region to be strategically safe in in the first place, and a number of the regimes he tentatively likens the Brotherhood to -- tho acknowledging that no one knows what the Brotherhood's rule might look like -- a number of those regimes (Hamas, Hezbollah, Iranian ayatollahs) are themselves "blowback" to precisely the kind of strategic interests he appears to embody. Better to allow things to take their course, support the will of the Egyptian people (which, if anything, seems to be disarming Islamists' appeal), put our democratic money where our mouth is, and stop policing the Middle East.

Feb. 04 2011 10:21 AM
hjs 2 from Alexandria, Egypt

And it isn't for Americans or American Presidents like Obama the amatuer to interefere with Egypt and demand that Mubarak go now etc...

Obama please get off of our country

And Mr. HJS - sorry if that's inconvenient for your philosophy - we're not youre peices on a chess set - we are human beings


Alexandria, Egypt

Feb. 04 2011 10:20 AM
Patricia from FH

Mr. Gelb - you raised the question about Egypt becoming a Islamic Theocracy if Mubarack leaves. But aren't our good friend the Saudi Arabians an Islamic Theocracy? Further, why is our business who Egypt wants leading their country? Would we want Egyptians butting their nose into our domestic politics? Should they voice their concerns about all the Tea Party members we have now in Congress? The problem with U.S. policy is that we want to link everything to our interest, our interest, our interest. Has it ever occurred to you that Egyptians might be, God forbid, looking out for their own interests? Hush, hush we shouldn't say that, Egyptians should want what's in the USA's interest.

Feb. 04 2011 10:19 AM
mahtab from Brooklyn

Brian, Gelb needs to check his facts on Iran. The reason the US allowed Khomeini to gain power was because the Shah wanted to nationalize oil production and get the US imperialists out of the deal. Remember the OPEC crisis Gelb? The US did not have sweet, democratic interests in Iran--it was all about the money--as always.
From an Iranian who knows the facts.

Feb. 04 2011 10:15 AM

""the devil we know" might be preferable to the Muslim Brotherhood."

It isn’t for us to decide what kind of government Egypt has. Sorry if that’s inconvenient to your bottom line.

Feb. 04 2011 09:49 AM
Herb E from NYC

Encourge the President & members of Congress to change the nature of the aid to Egypt from military credits to economic and social credits. This is a win for America, a win for American allies in the area, and a win for Egypt. The massive military buildup in Egypt is destabilizing. With the acknowledged precarious nature of Egypt's government and the ever-present danger of its growing fundamentalist movement (Brotherhood), it is far more in America's interest to attend to the political, social, and economic needs of the Egyptian people so our country can help create a less desperate situation.

The economic impact to America is neutral, since the money comes in the form of credits to buy US goods. It would be better to let the Egyptian people buy our cars, our computers, our construction equipment, and other American goods. This policy would encourage peace and a more stable Egypt. It would also produce demand for American products beyond the scope of foreign aid.

Feb. 04 2011 09:02 AM

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