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What an odd title but that is exactly what is going on in Egypt right now. A similar juxtaposition also occurred inside the minds of some Americans back on July 4th 1863 (exactly 150 years ago)  as they begin to bury the dead from both sides in Gettysburg.   Since human beings are 99.5% the same, what Egypt is now bearing must create some  intro-inspection upon how things are going here in the US as well.

I was shown an email passed among Tea Partiers that whooped:  “Egypt got rid of  their dictator; Why can’t we get rid of ours?”   Ironically the popular vote percents are strikingly similar… Morsi won with  51.7%;  Obama with 51.1%…   Yet Egypt is in the middle of a coup; and Obama is being hailed as the first since Dwight to have solidly won over 51% for both terms…

Just looking at a chart over our nation’s history one sees just how tight our popular vote margin is.  (one also sees the margin of victory is a bad indicator of just how good a president will be)…

It’s a good thing we have an electoral college to decide matters for us, and create a more determinable method of preventing what Egyptians and many of out tea partiers think should happen now….

I know many decry Bush’s win (-0.51$)  over Gore and use that to promote an amendment to abolish the Electoral College.  However America survived far better than Egypt (+1.7%) is doing  now,  with even worse violations against the the  popular vote total…  Through the House of Representatives, these people became President:  Benjamin Harrison (-0.83%), Rutherford B. Hayes (-3.00), and John Quincy Adams (-10.44%) all with more of a percentage loss than had George W. Bush over Gore.  In two of the three, the loser returned to whomp the stealer out of his second term.  One  of these “losers” even had a 51% popular vote majority!

But the electoral college  provided decisiveness. Just like in football or basketball, the final score may not portray the better team, but it provides a finality from which we can all move on.

The demise of Morsi is a great chance to bring up this issue, simply to force us to understand why our founding fathers who were unburdened at that point by political parties,  could by using what today are called “thought models”, come up with this peculiar institution that has well served it’s test over time.  Couple that to the fact that even today, we have something almost akin to a political party vying for the forced overthrow our our elected top official,  one can imagine the rancor and violence that might have tainted our nation’s  development if we did not have a clear uncontestable “score” that determined our winners from losers.

One must be cautious when comparing today’s Egypt with today’s American democracy.  Egypt is in its founding stages.  As Morsi proclaimed, removing him removes all legitimacy of any future democratically elected government.  As did Julius Caesar to all future democracy in Rome.

It makes us realize how lucky we are today that all of America was unified behind George Washington as it’s first head of state.  That unanimity of opinion, allowed the slow formation of  traditions we now have today to take root.   For one, Washington did not impose himself (as did Morsi) by aligning with either the Democrats or Federalists on policy at the expense of the other.

Morsi made that mistake with the Muslim Brotherhood.   Instead, unlike the current head of Egypt,   George Washington held court over a myriad of opinions, and picked and chose in the fashion of King Solomon, almost the same as he did at the Constitutional Convention,  of which was the most judicious approach on the basis of each proposal’s merits.  It is worth noting,  that towards the end of his second term as the political parties were being formed for the upcoming  1798 race,  he himself became quite disgusted with the smears, dirt, graft, and corruption required to enable any country to run effectively upon its own power…

Perhaps because Egypt did not endure a long war of Independence, it does not respect the cost of freedom.  Perhaps because democracy came to Egypt in its first time  like a pack of chewing gum in a cashiers line, they easily think they can replace it again with a better flavor?

But this foreboding irony of Egypt remains.   Instead of comparing it with American Democracy, suppose we go Godwin and compare it to the German election of 1932.  What if the Germans had risen up a year later against Hitler and thrown him out?  That would be  good thing right?  Or had  Mao been pushed out and the Chinese business reforms begun 40 years earlier?   Or had North Korea said “unh unh” to its dictator in the first year?  Or had Centrists in Iran risen and prevailed over the Ayatollah?

The Turkish Army as well as the Pakistani Army has on occasion stepped in and then later bowed out whenever control has become precarious.  Perhaps this is the only model that works well for overly excitable Arab populations?  it is a longterm democracy with military safeguards built into its Constitution.

But one thing is very clear from this current outcome is this:  religion can play NO part in government, even if given a political mandate. Living vicariously through Egypt it is clear there must be an impenetrable wall between that which belongs to Caesar, and that which belongs to God. All political entities who have dared mix religion into their political framework, have populations who are deeply suffering now (relative to those in strictly secular governments), even when that religious entity is the Chairman of the ruling political party himself, as is the case in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, or as was of Japan and Germany during the second world war…

It’s a lesson the US should take to heart.  They next time anyone decries we need more religious people in our democracy, cut them off with this:  “Remember Iran; Remember Egypt.”

As Americans we are not immune to Civil War.  From it we learned it is a horrible alternative to walk away from one’s existing structure simply because one does not get one’s own way…  We also learned that one can’t impose one’s will on vast majorities of ourselves who think differently.

Third.  We learned that freedom is great, but the need to eat is greater.  Government first has to function to meet the basic needs of its citizens; only then, once its citizens are economically stable to be not worried whether they will be alive the day after tomorrow,  can their thoughts begin to turn to topics such as does democracy even matter?

As US policy,  our actions need to first get Egypt to feed themselves; Spare no expense; make it our generation’s Marshall Plan. Then once well fed and able to provide for themselves, can we begin to  proselytize our points of view.  Whether they choose democracy or totalitarianism, will depend solely on who they see helping them now in their time of need…  One can talk of democracy’s long-term future implications, but that rings on deaf ears when all one really wonders, is if one will be alive the day after tomorrow.

It sits between two giants… Iran and India. One is Shiite, the other Hindu… both hostile.

Currently this region is the current global hot seat. Some due because of Navy Seal Team 6, the rest due to Iran’s nukes.

However, as often happens when people get angry over a disturbance and hostile words begin to flow, if a member of the correct authority shows up, order is quickly re-established and no violence breaks out. On the other hand, if there is no authority intervening, words pile on words to create hostile feelings, and sooner or later, a physical threat provokes a defensive reaction and boom, a fight breaks out….

The US is the authority that can choose to make the difference.

A couple of things to note. Iran is rattling sabers rather loosely which means they are more worried over consequences within their country, than outside their country… If reading the Shiite tea leaves correctly, there is strong internal pressure within Iran to go tough against the outside.

The pressure is so strong, that Iran leadership seems to be flailing, … signing off on anything that could make it look like leadership was standing up for themselves and not being whooped on by the global community.

There is little Iran can do…

Here is what they’ve tried.

Three bombings. India, Georgia, and Thailand, aimed at Israel diplomats.

Boasting over a very difficult to believe breakthrough of their new technology. Such boasting is rather similar to those of Kim Jong-il….

Pre-empting the EU’s future cutoff, Iran cut off oil sales to 6 countries there.

But these threats seemed calculated for Iran’s domestic consumption. All three bombings were totally bungled, (perhaps by design). The countries cut off of oil, already had a ban in place of not buying any new Iranian oil since last month, and no oil is to be accepted by the EU after July 1st…. And the videos showing Mr. Ahmadinejad loading his new super de- duper nuclear fuel rods without radiation protection, strain belief…. (yeah right they were real)….

Elections are being held March 2nd and there are some serious domestic problems in Iran that warrant the distraction these foreign adventures cause.

In it’s own backyard, regional influence is running away from Iran. Perhaps it’s support for Syria has something to do with that. When the Assad regime fails, Iran will lose it’s supply line to the Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

No longer afraid of Iran, Saudi Arabia announced it would fill Iran’s vacuum with their oil. Even after Tehran called the Saudi move a hostile act, Saudi did not back down, but stuck to its guns in defiance of Iran.

Iran cannot do business with or obtain credit from any reputable international bank, nor can it easily insure its ships or find energy investors…

In the last six weeks, the Iranian rial has declined dramatically against the dollar, adding to the economic woes Iran is now confronting. This stems from America’s penalties on Iran’s Central Bank and on those dealing with it…..

Grain is sitting on ships that won’t unload their cargoes in Iranian ports because suppliers haven’t been paid.

Iranian oil is being stored on tankers as Iran’s buyers demand discounts to purchase it..

Those buying Iran’s oil, are not paying dollars. India is buying oil with rupees and barter, which means Iran might be receiving Indian goods it does not want or need….

All this with elections due in 16 days……

The Iranian problem is creating distance between the West and India. India has refuse to follow the West’s sanctions on Iran’s oil. That is understandable. When you exist in a land where your closest neighbors hate your friend, sometimes what is in your own best interest, is to put a little distance between you and your friend…. That is all India is doing. I mean even we would do that if we found ourselves in that same position…

And between these two I’s, lies Pakistan. A nation rebuffed that it’s ally didn’t confer and trust them and entered and captured Osama Bin Laden on their own. It appears Pakistan has gotten over that.

It is in the process of opening itself to India, creating another reason India would not want to appear too open to the West’s suggestion. Today three agreements on customs cooperation, mutual recognition and redressal of trade grievances were signed between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan is expected to add India to its most-favored status list, as India drops Pakistan from its own Negative List. In a huge trade agreement, Pakastani products will be open to market of 1.2 billion people. Both of India’s central banks have plans to open bank branches in Pakistan, and energy agreements that supply electricity to Pakistan and petroleum to India, are on the boards to be filled out and signed….

In the middle of all this, Afghanistan’s leader Karzai is visiting Pakistan to shore up relations. Sidelined by the US in its talks with the Taliban in Qatar, Karzai will attempt to shore up support in case a coalition government with the Taliban is forthcoming.

Soon a meeting will take place between Karzai, Pakistan, and the Iranian President, just two weeks before his election in which it is expected to create a joint communique demanding that the Taliban come to the negotiation table, so that region can get over conflict for a while, and get down to the business of rebuilding through trade among its neighbors.

As a Delawarean you have to feel good… During the 2008 election only one candidate, and that was Delaware’s Joe Biden, brought up the issue of Pakistan.

Since he’s become part of the administration, Pakistan has become a priority in the war against the Taliban. We knew Osama was hiding somewhere in Pakistan; we just did not know where. In 2008, only thirty sorties of Predator missions had flown in Pakistan. That doubled to 59 the first year of the Biden-Obama administration, and was again doubled to over 118, this past year. Likewise the rules for engagement against Pakistan targets were relaxed. Prior to Biden’s influence, only members on a list of 26, could be taken out. Now, with the standards relaxed, if the predator comes across a car bomb being built, it can apply deadly force. Once, only after investigating the damage on the ground, was it discovered then, that a high ranking target had been eliminated.

Of course, all this attention comes with a price..

Imagine how nervous you would be if Red Chinese tanks patrolled your neighborhood development. Occasionally you could hear explosions within ear range, and later drive by to find what looked like a house hit by a tornado and obliterated. Occasionally you might hear that a mistake had been made, and the guns had taken aim at an innocent target. That would do a lot to bolster your confidence.

Furthermore, if the Red Chinese flew into America to kill/capture one of their dissidents with which we had no quarrel, we would protest loudly too. “Hey, he’s on our land, and you have no right to come and endanger us in the process”… Funny thing, if it happened over here, the Republicans would be the first to denounce it. If it happens over there, they are clamoring all over how to get a piece of the credit….

So, like it or not, the Paki’s have a legitimate gripe against the United States.

Likewise, we have some difficulties with them… How can it be possible that not one Pakistan’s intelligence officer knew of or reported the compound only 15 kliks from their military academy? This puts the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence organization, in a rather bad light as the rest of the international community looks over the scenario, and quietly nods knowingly….” uh, huh”…. It also shows the resourcefulness and the wisdom of NOT telling the Pakistani’s exactly where Mr. Ben Laden was thought to be staying… …

Succinctly put: they hid Bin Laden from us; we found out and blatantly violated their sovereignty to get him… That amounts to a wash. Under Muslim law, if a violation against one family, is met with another violation upon the other, both counteract each other bringing the net worth of the violations .. to zero.

The US needs Pakistan’s on-the-ground intelligence. Pakistan needs US space and aerial intelligence. Therefore, we will both go forward with the relationship, and do whatever each has to do, to keep the other happy. Who knows? With Bin Laden out of the way, perhaps the fact that we no longer are on opposite ends of one of the big sticks, may pave the way to a smoother relationship….

It’s called diplomacy, and creates a safer world.

And it started with one of our own, from here, … in Delaware.

Pakistan High Country
Photo Courtesy of Ramsar

Anyone who has ever been party to a turnaround experience, knows that the bigger parties who’ve invested in such, can be rather impatient awaiting their results.

Often they chime in with well-meant, but ill timed advice.

Turnarounds are not led from the top. They are built from the bottom. It takes time to build a foundation.

That’s why this small important soundbyte, missed across the noise of the globe, is important.

General Petraeus: “We have to be very clear in recognizing what Pakistan has done over the course of the last 22 months, which is quite considerable. They’ve conducted impressive counterinsurgency operations” in several regions, including the Swat Valley, the North West Frontier Province and the tribal regions, Petraeus said. “And they have sustained significant military losses and civilian losses during the course of that time.”

Petraeus insisted that gains already made must be solidified before Pakistan expands its operations to other areas — such as troubled North Waziristan.

“They are the first to recognize that there are groups in there that have to be dealt with over time,” the general said, sitting at the desk of an office set up inside the military plane, laptops keeping him connected to operations across the country.

“But … they’ve got quite a few short sticks and hornets’ nests already, and rule Number 1 of a military operation is don’t start something you can’t finish. And they recognize the need to finish some of the operations they’ve already conducted before launching significant new ones.”

Highlands of Pakistan
Photo Courtesy of M Atif

One must remember why we’re there. If insurgents are too busy defending themselves from annihilation, they can’t envision, plan, or stage operations like 9/11. Secondary in this fight, is the establishment of a happy Afghanistan. The Soviets failed. The British succeeded. How? They kept a frontier line in Afghanistan, which was never at peace, so the violence never ventured into India (India and Pakistan) which was their bread and butter.

But Pakistan must be recognized for what they’ve done. Is it enough? Yes! Those of us who have done “turn-arounds” see hopeful signs. Nice to see we learned something from Vietnam…