Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kelly's world view

Sorry this thing is so late, I really have had very little time in the last couple of weeks, including the past few days.

A couple of commenters have asked why I comment on Jack Kelly so religiously (which is to say every Sunday?). There are a couple of thoughts there. First, I am interested in international affairs, including security studies, which also seems to be Kelly's first love (so to speak). Second, since he is ostensibly a Pittsburgh columnist (although he is also published in Toledo), I feel someone from Pittsburgh should comment on him (and yes, Dayvoe from 2PJ's would surely do this if I didn't, or even sometimes still does, but so what - I wanna). But the final reason is that Jack Kelly often presents a neat little case study of what I understand cognitive dissonance to be. He takes the facts of a situation and finds way to explain them that fit his view of the world. Like today's (er, Sunday's) column.

Kelly has three sort of central premises. First is that the Muslim Brotherhood (or Ikhwan, apparently) is likely to win enough elections in Egypt to control the government. Second Kelly draws a connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hitler, as well as quoting the current "supreme" leader that the Brotherhood wants to establish a "caliphate" in Egypt and achieve mastership of the world. Third Kelly asserts that A) it will be bad for the US if this happens, B) he implies we can do something about this and C) he implies we should if we can.

As to the question of whether the Brotherhood is likely to take of Egypt's government, that seems as likely as not. As to how bad the Muslim Brotherhood is, I am sure they want to be bad to the bone. They survived underground in Egypt, according to Kelly they have no love (and a certain degree of animosity) for Israel, the Shiites in Iraq (or where ever), or America.

On the last point, it should be pointed out that the US supported and by extension defended Mubarak for as long as he has been in power. While Mubarak was in power, there were elections, but everyone understood that the elections were rigged, and everyone understood that the US supported Mubarak. Why should Egyptians in general, much less the Muslim Brotherhood in specific, feel any great love for the US? Are they supposed to somehow understand that our foreign policy is shaped by the power of the Israeli lobby, so that while we support the idea of democracy everywhere, we will support with money and arms those dictators who do things that make the Israeli lobby happy in the US?

Jack Kelly does not come out and say we should control Egypt's democracy, he just says it will be bad if the Muslim Brotherhood takes control of the Egyptian government. He doesn't even say specifically how bad, he just talks a lot about how Hitler rose to power and took over parts of Europe because England and France appeased him. So how could Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood rival the destructive force Germany was able to wield in Europe in the thirties? What might Jack Kelly be thinking when he is giving us these dire warnings?

Two thoughts come to mind. First, (theoretically) the Muslim Brotherhood could achieve what Iran (and the Taliban in Afghanistan) failed to in the 1980's. Possibly they could encourage the people in other Muslim countries in the region to rise up against their current governments and create fundamentalist Muslims theocracies. Kelly specifically mentions Libya and Syria, where in one the government has already been toppled and in the other mass protests threaten the government. If an Islamist wave swept the Middle East, both Israel and the flow of oil to Europe and the US could be threatened.

While that would be really bad, that doesn't seem close to the "mastership" of the world the Brotherhood claims as a goal. How could the Muslim Brotherhood gain control in the world considering the power of China, Europe and the United States? I mean, Kelly talks about how Jimmy Carter misunderstood the Iranian revolution and Obama seems to be doing the same thing with the Brotherhood. But how much a dupe could Obama be, I mean, it's not like he spent a significant part of his childhood in a Muslim country, attending a Muslim Madrassa.

Yes, I am saying that I believe Jack Kelly is, between the lines, suggesting that Barack Obama is a sort of Muslim Manchurian Candidate. At best, Obama might be a well intentioned but dangerously naive dupe, and at worst might sap the power of the US by waging class warfare against the rich, while destroying our families by forcing gay marriage and gay teachers on us as well as giving Sharia law first equal power and then dominance in our legal system.

While Kelly does not come out and say Obama is a Muslim plant, he certainly complains about the rise to power the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be achieving. Its amusing to me that the same conservatives who cheered George Bush when he talked about bringing democracy to the Middle East complain loudly when the effects of democracy come to fruition. The conservatives who support Rich Santorum (an openly religious candidate for President here) decry the religious beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood. Obviously its not that religion is being pushed into politics, its which religion is taking on a political role. And mind you, right now we are talking about the government of Egypt, not our government. How do the Egyptians feel about this?

For Jack Kelly, clearly American interests (as he defines them right now) trump any rights of the Egyptian people to self determination. Thinking like that is what led us to support the Shah of Iran all those years. Of course, the Shah often had his own plans, but we might have been OK with the Shah absorbing smaller gulf states as long as he accommodated American interests in the region. Just like we supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980's after the Shah was deposed, particularly when Saddam went after Iran, to the point of turning a blind eye at that point when Saddam used nerve gas on the Kurds in Iraq.

Those are the kinds of actions that make the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt more popular than groups we might prefer. Not solely, of course, but our history in the Middle East makes anything we advocate there automatically suspect to most of the population there.

For all of Jack Kelly's knowledge of the specifics of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, I don't think he has a very good knowledge of the politics of the area. The US really can no longer afford to bluster around the area, removing people we don't like and putting in people who will give us what we want (as we turn a blind eye to what they do to their own people).

If we want to protect ourselves from the effects of our past actions in the Middle East catching up with us, there are things we could at home. A 55 MPH speed limit on the highway, much higher cafe standards, tougher vehicle inspections - all could reduce our dependence on foreign oil (long before we would have to drill, baby, drill). But Jack Kelly will never suggest personal responsibility.


spork_incident said...

that the same conservatives who cheered George Bush when he talked about bringing democracy to the Middle East complain loudly when the effects of democracy come to fruition

To point out the obvious: conservatives (hell, Americans) have never supported democracy abroad; they've supported the creation of client states. If any of those are democracies, then swell. But if not, whaddyagonnadoo?

Still won't ever support a return to 55mph, though.


EdHeath said...

Well, I agree that Americans in general have never supported democracy abroad as anything but a pretty abstraction (I suspect many simply assume the US is fostering democracy everywhereand fighting the evil commies and A-rabs). And conservatives don't really support democracy abroad unless doing so embarrasses liberals/Democrats. But for a moment, sometime around 2005, justification number 27 part b for invading Iraq was to spread democracy in the region like wildfire. And conservatives clapped and bobbed up and down like giddy schoolgirls, just for a moment. Now that Democracy has spread in the region like wildfire (rather more spontaneously than we had planned) conservatives look like they swallowed some vinegar.

If I may ask, who won't support a return to 55 mph? Are you referring to yourself or to conservatives or Americans in general? Actually, regardless of who you are referring to, I have to ask - when are we going to start getting serious about adopting a sustainable lifestyle?

spork_incident said...

I used to live in Southern New Mexico. At that time, it was common for me to drive hundreds of miles at a time; given that I grew up in the 'Burg, it was also common for me to drive from NM to PGH. (Also from PGH to other western states.)

You can only drive from Las Cruces, NM, to Albuquerque, NM, (226 miles) so many times before 55mph becomes wearying; you can only drive between St. Louis, MO, and Cheyenne, WY, only so many times before it becomes wearying.

I know that one uses more gasoline at 75mph than at 55mph. BUT: one is driving at a (generally) constant speed rather than start-and-stop.

Start-and-Stop: that's really the key. The people who spend an hour going between Cranberry and Pittsburgh every weekday morning on the Parkway North are, gallon for gallon, collectively, being far more wasteful of gasoline.

And that is my rant! :-D


EdHeath said...

Dare I say I hope we will evolve to be more European ... you know, national healthcare (although I'll settle for local Heathcare ... heh heh), mandatory vacation, government sponsored day care, free minimum post secondary education ... and high speed rail (and more extensive inter and intra city bus service). Sure, you have to plan most trips ahead, but the travel might be pretty fast.

I agree with you about the stop and go traffic, but fuel consumption is a bell curve, so 70 is pretty brutal on consumption as well. I don't have any sympathy for people living in Cranberry (or Mars or Westmoreland County) who claim they have no alternative to drive every day. Meanwhile, there are plenty of houses in the City, near bus lines.

Another things the Europeans have is a gas tax that effectively doubles the price of gas. It is apparently an effective tool to discourage (but not totally prevent) excessive driving. Such a tax could be adjusted to keep the price constant during speculation fluctuations. So if we had the very efficient high speed rail, I personally would be in favor of restoring the 55 mph speed limit (or at most 60 mph) as well as a gas tax. Although perhaps exceptions for the speed limit could be made for sections of the less populous west.

Americans have maintained their right to use considerable resources to travel where and when they want, at whatever speed they want. We do that at the expense of future generations. I've done my share of wasting resources, and even still do.

spork_incident said...

I stick with my idea that the US is a far too geographically large country for a "low" speed-limit to be desirable.

That said, making vehicle drivers pay the actual cost for driving (including the military protecting "oil lanes") would be a good thing, so long as that's coupled with an efficient mass-transit system.

Ah, there's the rub!

If it were up to me, we'd be lousy with SUPERTRAINS! (as Atrios might say). Barring those, I don't know how to "fix" transportation; minimizing, or eliminating, the "car culture" is the only way but Lord Love a Duck, getting there, I don't know how.

(I agree with most of what you wrote.)


EdHeath said...

Yeah, we mostly agree. My final comment: I have this bumper sticker.

By the way, since I drive a hybrid, I do speed up to maybe 65 mph at the top of a long hill to recharge my hybrid batteries on the way down. I can defend that practice by saying I get approximately 50 mpg on the highway.