It’s Always 1968 Somewhere

Adam Garfinkle at the American Interest stretches an analogy across the globe:

‘What am I trying to say here? Simply this: Cairo and Baltimore suffer from serious structural social dysfunctions. The problems in each are not the same, but both sets of problems have multiple and compound sources that are varied, engrained, poorly understood for the most past, and largely immune to fast-working policy fixes from on high.’

I’d suggest more something like this:  The problems are real, and serious, but the current administration likely sees both Cairo and Baltimore similarly because of a common underlying political philosophy, which focuses on certain problems in certain ways.

That political philosophy tends to the activist, Left-liberal and to be mostly progressive:  It hones in on the suffering, crimes, breakdowns and injustices in black communities and lives and calls for moral inclusion, political power and representation, and populist protest.

Many have focused on the moral good of including black folks into broader society which is a clear moral good to my eyes (basic decency, more opportunities and the responsibilities and the expectations that go with them, to not feel constantly invisible, prejudged, and excluded, no jobs, basic respect, persecuted etc.)

Given human nature and politics being what they are, however, the incentives of such politics on the ground are also what they are:  Activists in positions of political/bureaucratic power often possess clearly defined enemies outside of their ideals and a long agenda of change and activist loyalties (the system is still rotten and the man is still holding them down, even if they are the system and the man).

The actual state of race relations in the country comes to the fore, and there’s plenty of ignorance, mistrust and bad ideas to go around.  The same cronyism and money-trails all politicians leave in their wake remain, and out in the streets a constantly agitated base of constituents is still exhorted to consume the diminishing returns of hope, progress, change, and whatever redistributed wealth such folks can get wrest away from the other people who also want it: Union, bureaucratic, moneyed and other interests in the party that brought them.

Not a good plan for long-term growth, opportunity and stability.

What does this have to do with Cairo?  Well, maybe this: If you saw the people out in Cairo and the ‘Arab Spring’ as generally oppressed, in need of being brought into a community of nations and right-thinking Western universal ideals, and in need of ‘purely’ democratic peace protests and free and fair elections on their way towards progress, then you might have made a lot of the decisions the Obama administration has.

Reality, of course, is another matter.


On that note: The consequences of removing the U.S. from its post WWII role as guarantor of much Middle-East security, and also trying to go out on a limb with the Iranian regime for a nuke deal (without much support from Republicans at home, and the necessary parties in the Middle-East) are coming home to roost:

‘King Salman of Saudi Arabia has announced at the eleventh hour that he will not attend President Obama’s high-profile Arab summit, which starts today at Camp David. As a result, the Administration, which realized late in the day how much it needed the Gulf powers to make a deal stick, now finds its defining foreign policy effort in jeopardy.’