By Barry Rubin
Nothing is more fashionable than hindsight. Here are some myths forming this week.
1. New myth: Egypt proves that stability doesn’t work.
Let’s see: The Egyptian regime has lasted 59 years and is still in power as I write. Sounds relatively stable to me. The U.S.-Egypt alliance has now lasted about 22 years. It was a successful policy even if it is going to end now.
Yes, things change but the fact that a strategy or policy doesn’t succeed permanently does not mean it was a failure. For another example, consider the Israel-Turkey alliance.
2. Mubarak’s downfall was inevitable.
Well, he’s still president as I write this. What was inevitable is that an 82-year-old man is not immortal and he will not remain mortal that much longer either. Just because there are demonstrations in Cairo calling for the regime to fall doesn’t mean that the regime must or will fall.
Ask the Iranian regime about that one.
Incidentally, Tunisian President Ben Ali was 75 when he was overthrown; Mubarak is 82. Old dictators need to give way to younger dictators. Look at Syria, when Hafiz al-Assad prepared well for his departure from the scene. And now young Bashar is doing just fine.
3. The Egyptian upheaval shows that the United States should not support so many dictators.
Can you name any dictators the United States supports now in the Middle East? How about South America? We are no longer in the 1980s. U.S. policy around the world supports remarkably few dictatorships. Of course, all the regimes on the other side, America’s enemies, are dictatorships.
4. Being in power moderates revolutionary Islamist movements.
Can you name any? Because there is a list of examples to disprove this claim.
5. All problems in the world are Israel’s fault.
Why bother to answer that one, the people who believe it won’t listen any way.
6. All problems in the world are the fault of the United States.
If you hear this then you’re probably sitting in an American university class, or even an elementary school class.
7. This is the State Department’s fault.
Absolutely not. It’s the White House’s fault. At the State Department, whatever its shortcomings, they still understand diplomacy: maintain credibility; take into account cultural differences; ensure deterrence; find out what’s going on before you jump in; act privately and quietly; and don’t tell a beleagured ally:
You’re fired! Now pack your bags and get out! Oh, by the way, on second thought, please ensure a smooth transition!
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).