Guest Post: Israeli, Saudi and American Leaders Say Arabs Are Not Ready for Democracy

Washington’s Blog

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday:

I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.

Also on Friday, Saudi King Abdullah said he support Egyptian president Mubarak and called the protesters troublemakers for calling for freedom of expression:

Saudi King Abdullah has expressed his support for embattled President Hosni Mubarak and slammed those “tampering” with Egypt’s security and stability, state news agency SPA reported on Saturday.

The Saudi ruler, in Morocco recovering from back surgery performed in the United States, telephoned Mubarak early Saturday, the report said.

During the conversation, Abdullah condemned “intruders” he said were “tampering with Egypt’s security and stability … in the name of freedom of expression.”

As FireDogLake notes, the U.S. State Department has taken a similar position.

As a large group of well-respected American academics wrote in an open letter today to President Obama:

As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday ‘political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,’ your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

“Egypt remains a major pawn in the Middle East,” said [Didier Billion, an expert at Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) in Paris]. The West fears “a domino effect if Mubarak falls, with a protest movement that could grow across the world.”


“One of the lessons here is that we need to be on the right side of history in these countries,” said US Senator John McCain, who lost his 2008 White House bid to Obama.

“We need to do a better job of emphasizing and arguing strenuously for human rights,” he said on the CNN news channel.

“You can’t have autocratic regimes last forever. The longer they last, the more explosive the results.”

Indeed, the U.S. is now becoming concerned that continuing to back Mubarak will ensure that it is on the losing side of history.

For that reason, Obama changed his tune today, saying that he supports an “orderly transition” in Egypt. This is not a change in America’s foreign policy so as to embrace democracy in the Middle East. Rather, it is simply a realization that America’s puppet in Egypt has lost his grip on power and is impossible to save.

As a prominent writer told me:

We really should be embarrassed. TE Lawrence promised the Arabs democracy in return for their support in WWI (it was critical to Allied victory) and Great Britain welched on the promise. This is more of the same BS.

Indeed, Wikipedia notes:

Britain had promised, through British intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence (aka: Lawrence of Arabia), independence for a united Arab state covering most of the Arab Middle East in exchange for Arab support of the British during the war.

It goes without saying that the hostility of the State Department and our “allies” in the War on Terror Israel and Saudi Arabia towards democracy in Egypt gives lie to the claim that the War on Terror is about bringing “democracy” to the Middle East.

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George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. rd

    What we view as “dominos” are usually just the local populations taking control of their own future. This should have been one of the major lessons learned from Vietnam. Instead of a Soviet and Chinese driven event, it was really just a long war against the colonial powers. Because the colonial powers kept throwing more military might against it, they had to go outside for help “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

    These places only become dominos when we put too much emphasis on them with lots of support propping up corrupt dictatorships. Then when they go bang suddenly, the US has levered itself out of position to be a player in the new reality.

    1. Ἱερώνυμος Αματι Nώνυμος

      dominos” are usually just the local populations taking control of their own future. This should have been one of the major lessons learned from Vietnam. Instead of a Soviet


      *Dominoes* is just another word for people. After 30 years are people in Egypt trying to shake off a foreign controlled slave holder? I think they should go for it. Tell me something! Did the Viet Naimesse finally shake off their owners? Bully for them. Go for it, Egyptians. Tell me something else! When Iranians were revolting against the Shah, did lot of Americans say, “Stop those revolting revolutionaries. They will take away all of womens rights and make them wear veils.”? Now you can see that women in Iran have more rights than lot of other Persian Gulf Women. Freedom is communicable. Since revolution even Iranian Women caught the freedom, perhaps even Afghan women. Most of Afghan men now advocate education for their daughters. Freedom won’t hurt you, My People. You are my people, Populace.

      Go for it

    2. Nathanael

      Reading the full history of the anti-colonial struggle in Vietnam, we see why Ho Chi Minh is such a hero.

      A bit young for the previous waves of Chinese colonialism. Led the fight against French colonialism, Japanese colonialism, French colonialism again, American colonialism, and Chinese colonialism.

      Amazing that the US couldn’t see the consistent “through line” in all of that.

  2. James

    It goes without saying that the hostility of the State Department and our “allies” in the War on Terror Israel and Saudi Arabia towards democracy in Egypt gives lie to the claim that the War on Terror is about bringing “democracy” to the Middle East.

    Indeed, it makes obvious the hypocrisy of the US and its assorted foreign policies.

    Dominoes? I thought we laid all that shit to rest back in the 60-70’s. Apparently NoBama and his current bunch of “GoGo Boys” ain’t all that. Not surprising.

    Same shit, another generation.

    The more you live…

  3. escariot

    I was listening to BBC the other morning and they had Gelb on (NYT etc etc) and he was without hesitation making the claim that the Egytians are “not ready” for democratic institutions. If that is true, who is to blame? Strange that the Billions of dollars we send over there wasn’t promoting capacity building of Deomcratic society but something else: supression of freedom.

    It just reels the mind that in 2011 we are in the neo-colonial mindset that the Serious People Of The West know what’s best for the masses in Egypt. Shorter Gelb: sit down and shut up.

    Apparently the folks on the streets in Cairo didn’t get the memo.

  4. skippy

    The Plantation owners have spoken[!], has Obama reduced him self to the ethical morase of the past….ummm.

  5. jake chase

    I have no answers on this but merely a few questions:

    Does anyone else notice the similarities to Iran in 1979?

    Has anyone counted the number of Egyptians and compared the result to the number of demonstrators?

    WTF does this have to do with Israel?

    How many of these letter writing experts could exist for six months without an academic sinecure?

    Don’t we have enough problems without interfering with those of Egypt?

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      IMVHO, the number of these letter writers who could survive without an academic sinecure = 0.

      Note who came tottering out to talk about ‘not supporting authoritarian governments’ — the elderly Iraq War supporter John McCain. I’m waiting for Joe Lieberman to be right on McCain’s heels wailing any minute now. Mubarak is 82. McCain’s in his 70s, and Lieberman’s probably within a decade of them.

      Meanwhile, it appears that 2/3 of the 80,000,000 population of Egypt who are under the age of 30 view McCain’s message = FAIL.

      2/3 of 80,000,000 is about 53,000,000 who’d like something other than what they’ve grown up under. Although I am not familiar with the caliber of education in that 53,000,000 sub-population of Egypt, it’s certain to be the most literate population in that nation’s history. That means they aren’t likely to sit down and shut up for whatever tinpot dictator wants to keep them under his/her thumb.

      In addition, Netanyahu apparently doesn’t know squat about the relationship between widespread literacy and democratic movements. If he did, he wouldn’t make such nonsensical statements.

    2. DownSouth

      • Does anyone else notice the similarities to Iran in 1979?

      In both Egypt and Iran, in the name of its hallowed “national security,” the United States suppressed internal dissent, encouraged political assassination, winked at torture and applauded fraudulent elections.

      • Has anyone counted the number of Egyptians and compared the result to the number of demonstrators?

      Yes. There is no evidence that the brutal, U.S.-backed dictator has even a scintilla of popular support.

      • WTF does this have to do with Israel?

      A lot.

      • How many of these letter writing experts could exist for six months without an academic sinecure?

      About as many as the number of neoconservatives and neoliberals that could exist if their sponsors were weaned off the government teat for six months, and this includes the mouthpieces for both the defense contractors and the TBTF banks.

      • Don’t we have enough problems without interfering with those of Egypt?

      Evidently not. Egypt is the second largest recipient of foreign aid from the United States, right behind Israel. This money goes to Mubarak’s security apparatus and is used to murder and torture innocent Egyptians.

  6. DownSouth

    [T]he relatively expansive pre-industrial sensibilities that had animated Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and the original Anti-Federalists gradually lost that strand of democratic continuity and legitimacy which, in fact, connected their time and their possibility to our own through the actions of Americans who lived in the interim; the Populist connecting link was lost to the heritage. The egalitarian current that was part of the nation’s wellspring became not a constantly active source of ideas, but a curious backwater, eddying somewhere outside both the conveyed historical heritage and the mainstream of modern political thought that necessarily builds upon that heritage.

    The result is self-insulation: the popular aspirations of the people of the “third world” in the twentieth century have easily become as threatening to modern Americans as the revolt of their own farmers was to goldbugs eighty years ago. Though American foreign policy and American weapons have defended anachronistic feudal and military hierarchies in South America, Africa, and Asia, such actions being justified at home as necessary to the defense of “democracy,” neither the policy nor the justification has proved notably persuasive to the non-Americans who are the mass victims of such hierarchies. The resulting unpopularity of America puzzles Americans. The policies themselves, however, are not debatable within the limits of public dialogue sanctioned in modern America. Under such constraints, the ultimate political price that Americans may be forced to pay for their narrowed cultural range in the twentieth century has emerged as a question of sobering dimension.
    –Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment

    1. Nathanael

      That analysis is a bit out of date since the CEO class decided that the average American should be cut out of the deal and reduced to poverty along with the third world.

      1. attempter

        It’s not out of date. All one needs to add is that the rise of a mass middle class (and the kind of propaganda and mindset among it Goodwyn describes) was always seen by the elites as provisional and temporary, and that with the maturation of all capitalist sectors (and thus their inability to maintain profitable competition) and Peak Oil, imperialism is now coming home.

  7. Pat Donnelly

    Saddam Hussein died and his son in law brought the news to the west, but secretly. Thus the son had to “finish” what the father had refused to do: occupy Iraq to prevent regime collapse.

    Now the US dominoes are about to fall as a result of food shortage exacerbated by eco-fuel policy!

    Irony or kismet?

  8. arliss

    i’m afraid that this can only lead to the islamization of north africa. the regimes we supported (and some of the ones we didn’t/don’t like baathist iraq and syria) suppressed the islamists and now that this has been removed we’ll see the islamic parties gathering power. we saw this in algeria in 1990, we’re seeing this in iraq and also now in turkey.

  9. wallyfurthermore

    “Britain had promised… independence for a united Arab state covering most of the Arab Middle East ”

    Libya? Syria? Morocco? Egypt? Dictators happen when people in those countries let them happen. We in the US have our own problems (control by oligarchs and a bought-and-sold Congress). Nobody can promise anybody that something will go on for ever and ever; people have to get out in front of their own destiny. Egyptians are now doing so… I hope they have the sense to keep what they get, but history says they probably will not.

    1. Paul Repstock

      Suu Kyi. “Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it.”

  10. Jim

    I suggest that your readers google the name “Jeffrey Feltman”. He’s an Assistant Secretary of State. Look at his biography. Look at news about his current activities. He has gone to the Middle East to represent US government’s interests. He seems to pursue a “neocon” agenda.

  11. deeringothamnus

    I ordered an Egyptian flag today and am frankly jealous. The bail out proves we need a revolution in the US. The very idea, to black mail the American people that they needed trillions before the Asian markets opened up in a few hours. We have been denied the retribution of a crash that would have redistributed ill gotten wealth. Likewise, the Egyptians were denied democracy and had to take to the streets. The kleptocrats world wide must go.

  12. Paul Tioxon

    The People, Ignited, will never be defeated.

    A government of the people, by the people and for the people, will not perish from this earth. Even if it not on American soil, at the very least, somewhere. Why not Egypt, Tunisia?

    You can’t brutally suppress all of the people all of the time.

  13. Deus-DJ

    I think many of you aren’t seeing the other side of the coin, with too much involvement of the US in past ousters like with Mossadeq in Iran(being of Iranian descent of course this is on my mind) and others in latin america. In other words america may end up delegitimizing the process by going “too far”.

  14. Larry Elasmo

    Obama’s know-nothings discuss Egypt:

    What is notable is the absence of anyone in the group who has any serious knowledge about either Egypt or the broader region.

    So thorough-going has been the witch-hunt that AIPAC and its attack dogs have conducted over the past 25 years against anyone with real Middle East expertise that the U.S. government now contains no-one at the higher (or even mid-career) levels of policymaking who has any in-depth understanding of the region or of the aspirations of its people………

    Only hacks like Jeffrey Feltman or Donald Blome– the list is endless… — who could prove their unswerving loyalty to the pro-Israel agenda got promoted or retained. Throughout those 16 years of the Clinton and GWB presidencies, a generation of career diplomats grew up whose main mantra was to do nothing that might question or even upset Israel. (There were, of course, those heroic few who questioned the prevailing, AIPAC-fueled “wisdom” on the advisability of invading Iraq in 2003, who resigned their posts at the time.)

    So now, in the Oval Office, we have the blind leading the blind and the blind advising the blind….

    posted by Helena Cobban

    to read full article:

    1. psychohistorian

      You do a disservice to blind people.

      The so-and-sos in charge of this ship of state know and see clearly exactly what they are doing.

  15. aw70

    As nasty as these statements are…

    They do have a point of sorts.

    Point in case: look at who is claiming leadership in Egypt *right now*. One Mr. El Baradei. The very same gentleman who, as a leader of the IAEA, was pivotally responsible for our esteemed friends, the theocratic nutcases in Iran, being able to start an atomic program. If there had been anything like proper oversight on the part of the IAEA during his tenure, that idiocy might have been nipped in the bud. But no, it was much more important for him to make some post-colonialist point, and let those perfectly sane gentlemen in Teheran have their playthings.


    Mubarak was scum. And it’s perfectly sensible for the Egyptians to revolt. Also, I agree with the sentiments of practically everyone here that blanket statements along the lines of “Egypt is not ready for democracy” are an insult.

    But then, look who is likely to end up crashing their party. These countries, and societies, are unstable, and have the capacity for a LOT of trouble. The sane part of the planet should be very wary of what transpires there…

    1. Whelks

      1. ElBaradei has stated he doesn’t want to be President.

      2. As for Iran the relevant treaties explicitly state every country has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. IAEA can ring the alarm bell if they think nuclear weapons are being developed. However, the IAEA has neither the authority nor power to shut down nuclear programs. Those issues are left to the UN Security Council. This is not a bug but a feature of how the UN works. It was set up so that the great powers wield the whip, not the UN. If the UN actually had those kinds of powers then we would be well on our way to the One-World government that a certain paranoid segment keeps blathering about.

      1. aw70

        You are of course right about every country having the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. However, in the case of Iran, there were indicators right from the get-go that their effort might not be entirely peaceful. Stuff like the Iranian regime playing cat and mouse with nuclear inspectors all the time. Not to mention the openly genocidal aims of the ruling elite with respect to Israel.

        Now Mr. El Baradei’s motives for turning a blind eye on these shenanigans might not even have been actual collusion with the Iranians. It might just have been him, as an Egyptian of a generation who grew up being second-best citizens in their own country during the presence of the British, bristling at the thought of some Westerners trying to tell off yet another non-western country for not doing exactly as they wished. However, as a world citizen, one has the right to expect leading UN officials to stand above such personal concerns. And we also have the right to expect top UN officials to think ahead about the consequences of their actions.

        But regardless of what his motives were for being actively obstructive about inspecting the Iranian nuclear programme – the damage was done. And having blotted his copybook like that does not make him an ideal candidate for any sort of high office, anywhere.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Obviously not — hidebound 150-year-old duopoly; no opposition parties.

      Where’s the pluralism?

  16. Doc Holiday

    The only choice is honesty!


    Other awards and recognition
    ElBaradei in the 45th Munich Security Conference 2009

    ElBaradei has received many awards for his work as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Some of these awards include:

    * The Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria (Grand Decoration in Gold with Sash) (2009)
    * The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grand Cross with Star and Sash) (2010)[63]
    * “El Athir” award, Algeria’s highest national distinction[64]
    * The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award (2006)[65]
    * The James Park Morton Interfaith Award[66]
    * The Golden Plate award from the American Academy of Achievement[66]
    * The Jit Trainor award from Georgetown University for distinction in the conduct of diplomacy[67]
    * The Human Security award from the Muslim Public Affairs Council[68]
    * The Prix de la Fondation award from the Crans Montana Forum[69]
    * The Golden Dove of Peace prize from the President of Italy[70]
    * Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society (2006) of Trinity College, Dublin, following in the footsteps of previous Nobel Peace Prize Winners Desmond Tutu and John Hume[71]
    * Greatest Nile Collar, the highest Egyptian civilian decoration, awarded by the Government of Egypt[70]
    * Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Peaceful Worldwide Use of Nuclear Technology, awarded by The World Nuclear Association in September 2007[72]
    * The Mostar 2007 international peace award of the Mostar Center for Peace and Multiethnic Cooperation[73]
    * The 2008 “Peacebuilding Award” of the EastWest Institute[74][75]
    * The International Seville NODO Prize for Peace, Security and Inter-Cultural Dialogue[76]
    * The 2008 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development[77]
    * The 2009 Delta Prize for Global Understanding, sponsored by the University of Georgia and Delta Airlines[78]
    * The XIV International Grupo Compostela-Xunta de Galicia Prize

    ElBaradei has also received honorary doctoral degrees from: the University of Dublin, Trinity College; New York University; the University of Maryland; the American University in Cairo; the Free Mediterranean University (LUM) in Bari, Italy; Soka University of Japan; Tsinghua University of Beijing; the Polytechnic University of Bucharest; the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid; Konkuk University in Seoul; the University of Florence; the University of Buenos Aires; the National University of Cuyo in Argentina; Amherst College and Cairo University.[79]

  17. leroguetradeur

    The comments as usual consist mainly of amateur anarchists who seem to know nothing about politics, government or the Middle East, but who nevertheless have a strong sense that America is in some way to blame for anything bad that happens there, and that popular movements there can have no bad consequences.

    The first step to realism is to accept the nature of political Islam. It was a religion of armed conquest, and has retained its roots. Islam waged a systematic war on the West from around 650 to 1700, and only stopped because it was defeated. The crusades, far from being the first stirrings of Western Imperialism, were a movement of national liberation attempting to reverse the Islamic imperialist conquests. The last time Vienna was besieged was in the 1680s. So do not think that a pan Middle Eastern Islamist regime would have no significance for Europe, it would be a threat limited only by any disparity in military power that existed.

    The second thing to realize is that popular movements may not have their hearts in the right place, or even if they do, in the course of the revolution may be succeeded by authoritarian and fanatical elements.

    There are wild popular delusions and madnesses. Someone cites the Iranian Revolution with approval as a model, and actually says that improved women’s right. No, the Iranian revolution did install, with immense popular support, a dictatorship of the priesthood. This then repressed dissent savagely, and conducted the war against Iraq with a fanaticism and disregard for human life that only such a regime could manage. The Chinese command in Korea sent human waves against the enemy in sub zero temperatures wearing only sandals. The Iranian leadership sent conscripts across mine fields as human mine clearer. The Russian Revolution after Kerensky succumbed to fantaticism and genoicide. As did the Chinese. Revolutions are very very dangerous to the health of the population that initiates them. Their usual consequence is a period of mass murder.

    Western leaders are right to be worried. There is a lot of hope in Egypt, it is possible that a modern democratic reform will occur. But there is no Islamic or Arab democracy as a precedent, and that is not simply our fault, it is due to the nature of political Islam. It is also possible that what will be installed is a fanatical and imperialist version of political Islam. If this happened, nuclear war in the Middle East is very possible.

    They are right to be worried, we should be too.

    1. DownSouth


      Been reading many neocon screeds lately?

      Yours is such a butchering of history, and a butchering in the service of a specific political agenda, that one hardly knows where to begin in debunking it. So let’s just take a couple of snapshots.

      The tension between the East and the West hardly started in 650 with the Islamic incursions into Europe. Long before then the West had intruded into Muslim territories as this map showing the outlines of the Roman Empire in 6 A.D. indicates. But since you chose to begin history with the Muslim invasion of Europe in the 7th century, let’s go with that. From Wikipedia’s History of Jews in Spain we learn this:

      With the victory of Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711, the lives of the Sephardim changed dramatically. In spite of the stigma attached to being dhimmis (non-Muslim members of monotheistic faiths) under Muslim rule, the invasion of the Moors was by-and-large welcomed by the Jews of Iberia.

      Both Muslim and Christian sources tell us that Jews provided valuable aid to the invaders.


      In spite of the restrictions placed upon the Jews as dhimmis, life under Muslim rule was one of great opportunity in comparison to that under prior Christian Visigoths, as testified by the influx of Jews from abroad. To Jews throughout the Christian and Muslim worlds, Iberia was seen as a land of relative tolerance and opportunity. Following initial Arab victories, and especially with the establishment of Umayyad rule by Abd-ar-Rahman I in 755, the native Jewish community was joined by Jews from the rest of Europe…


      The first period of exceptional [Jewish] prosperity took place under the reign of Abd ar-Rahman III (882-942), the first independent Caliph of Córdoba. The inauguration of the Golden Age is closely identified with the career of his Jewish councillor, Hasdai ibn Shaprut (882-942). Originally a court physician, Shaprut’s official duties went on to include the supervision of customs and foreign trade. It was in his capacity as dignitary that he corresponded with the kingdom of the Khazars, who had converted to Judaism in the 8th century (Assis, pp. 13, 47).

      Abd al-Rahman III’s support for Arabic scholasticism had made Iberia the center of Arabic philological research. It was within this context of cultural patronage that interest in Hebrew studies developed and flourished. With Hasdai as its leading patron, Córdoba became the “Mecca of Jewish scholars who could be assured of a hospitable welcome from Jewish courtiers and men of means” (Sarna, p. 327).

      Now let’s fast forward to 1497 for another snapshot. The Granada War of 1492 expelled all Muslim authority from Spain. In that same year one of the first acts of the Reyes Catolicos, now with unchallenged sovereignty over all of Spain, was to clear all Jews from the country. Jews could continue to live in Portugal, however, and indeed many of the Jews ousted from Spain had taken refuge across the border.

      All that changed in 1497, however, when out of the negotiations leading up to the marriage settlement between Portugal’s Manuel and Spain’s Isabel there emerged the decision to expel Portugal’s Jews and Muslims.

      However, the expulsion of the Jews and the Muslims was not handled the same. The Muslims were allowed to take their children with them. The Jews were not. The chronicler Damião de Góis is utterly frank when he comes to explain this surprising difference in the treatment of the two peoples. It was not out of any impulse of generosity or nobility of sentiment that the concession was made by the Portuguese authorities to the Muslims. His text is so revealing and has such direct bearing on the way Muslims were later to be treated elsewhere in the peninsula (particularly in the lands of the Crown of Aragon), that it must be translated here in extenso:

      In case we are censured for carelessness in not explaining why the King had the Jews’ children seized, whereas the children of the Moors were not, especially since the reason both of these groups were being obliged to leave the country was that they had refused baptism and rejected the teachings of the Church, it must be borne in mind that no harm could result to Christians if they took away the children of the Jews. Jews are scattered all over the earth, and have no country of their own, no lordships, cities or towns, and indeed in all the places where they dwell, they are transients, and payers of tribute, so they lack the power and authority to execute their will against those who do them harm and injury. The Moors, on the other hand, have, for our sins, and in order to punish us, been permitted by God to occupy the greater part of Asia, Africa, and a good part of Europe too, and in these places where the Moors have empires, kingdoms and great lordships, there live many Christians who are subject to their tribute, not to mention the many Christians held captive by them. It would have been very prejudicial to all these peoples to take away the Moors’ children, because those subjected to this harm would clearly not fail, after expulsion had been inflicted on them, to seek to execute revenge on those Christians who lived in Moorish territory, and above all to take revenge on the Portuguese, who would incur special blame. This was why the Moors were allowed to leave the kingdom with their children, whereas the Jews were not.

      As L.P. Harvey explains in Muslims in Spain: 1500 to 1614:

      This Machiavellian line of reasoning should not be forgotten when…we come to look at the ways in which the expulsion of the Moriscos was put into effect in the period 1609-12 under the different conditions of that later age. In terms of global strategy the Christian nations of the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century felt vis-à-vis the Islamic world, that they were potentially vulnerable, but by the time the Edicts of Expulsion were eventually put into effect the combined kingdoms of Spain and Portugal were immeasurably wealthier and more powerful than any of the Islamic powers of the early seventeenth century. Fear of reprisals no longer held Christian policymakers back in the way that it had done 112 years earlier.

      And as to your highly selective rendition of the history and nature of revolution, you and I have had that conversation before on this blog here. Why is it that you are so hell bent on repeating the same old distortions, half-truths and outright lies, even after having been shown the error of your ways?

      1. leroguetradeur

        It may be something to do with not having been shown any error in my ways.

        The argument that Spain and Portugal were no longer worried about the threat from Islam at the time of the expulsions is simply nonsense. The key event which marked the end of the naval threat was the battle of Lepanto. Until then, militant Islam was a serious naval threat. That was not until the end of the 16th century. Vienna, as I say, was besieged in the 1680s, and it is probably not until then that the land based military threat was extinguished.

        The question to ask about the Reconquista is what was it? Was it the first stirrings of European imperialism? Or was it a revolt against Islamic imperialism?

        We have to look with a cold detached eye at both Christendom and Islamic history, and we find in both a record of aggression, more less forcible expansion of a religion. The key difference though was the separation of church and state that evolved in the West, and that has not evolved in Islam. This is a really important difference and its effects are felt today. Yes, it was a bloody and uncertain evolution in the West but it did finally happen and we are better off for it.

        The difficulty that people have when trying to deny this is that the only real argumentative strategy that works, logically, is to deny that there is any democracy in the West, and to argue that political Islam is no more authoritarian and has just as good human rights as we do in the West, and that anyone arguing to the contrary is deluded and something called a neo-con.

        Well, whatever turns you on. Try going to Saudi and handing out Bibles. Then go to Trafalgar Square or Times Square and hand out copies of the Koran. Try setting up an evangelical church in Teheran, take out ads in the local press, and make a real effort to convert the locals to Christianity. Then come back and tell us there is no difference in freedom of speech and human rights. Look forward to hearing from you.

        1. attempter

          Try going to Saudi and handing out Bibles. Then go to Trafalgar Square or Times Square and hand out copies of the Koran. Try setting up an evangelical church in Teheran, take out ads in the local press, and make a real effort to convert the locals to Christianity.

          Why would I want to do any of those things? Unlike a certain kind of totalitarian lout, I don’t get my highs going around trying to subvert other people’s cultures (no doubt with some profit motive).

          But as you said, whatever turns you on.

        2. DownSouth

          Really, leroguetradeur, no reality and no common sense can penetrate your mind.

          To begin with, the “being shown the error of your ways” comment was made specifically in response to your butchering of the history and character of revolution, your distortions, half-truths and outright lies having been pointed out to you before.

          In regards to your comment concerning “militant Islam” being a serious threat, it never ceases to amaze me how in the neocon mind (If that’s not an oxymoron.), every Middle Eastern regime—-and there are absolutely no exceptions here—-is, always has been, and always will be a theocracy.

          But of course history tells us something very different, such as the Wikileaks discussion Christianity and Judaism in the Ottoman Empire:

          During the first centuries of control over the Balkans by the Ottoman Empire (c.1300’s to 1800’s), the Christian population, and especially the Orthodox Christians (who were not under the protection of a Great Power of that time, as were the Catholics, until the rise of Imperial Russia), faced various degrees of tolerance, both from local Ottoman authorities and from the Sultan.
          The Ottoman Empire was, in principle, tolerant towards Christians and Jews, but not polytheists, in accordance with Sharia law. Forced conversion is counter to Sharia law, and was not a standard practice. Though far short of modern standards, Ottoman tolerance was particularly constructive compared to the contemporary situation in Europe.


          The Empire often served as a refuge for the persecuted and exiled Jews of Europe, as for example following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, when Sultan Beyazid II welcomed them into Ottoman lands.

          And funny you should talk about the lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia, a country ruled by a brutal dictatorship that would be tossed out in a heartbeat if not backstopped by the iron fist of the U.S. We of course don’t know what sort of government would have evolved in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries over the past 200 years if they had been left to their own devices, that is without the incessant intervention by the U.S. and other Western powers. But given their track record up until that time, it looks like they were well ahead of the West in the religious tolerance department.

    2. attempter

      amateur anarchists


      I, personally, think I’m ready to go pro. Where do I go to do that? To get my credentials?

      Oh, wait, I forgot – it’s anarchism. By definition one is an “amateur”.

      Once again we see how democracy is utterly unintelligible to the parasitic elitist mindset.

  18. Brick

    I am not sure that this has much to do with democracy, since the political system is described as a republic with the elections in 2000 heralded as a significant improvement. I am not an egyptian so I don’t really know what it is about, but from what little I can gather, then it appears to be about corruption, human rights and economics. One news paper in the UK has a report that includes the following statements.

    a boy of 13 was arrested on suspicion of stealing a packet of tea. The boy was beaten, raped and left for dead on waste ground for his parents to find him.

    Mubarak’s police force has become known for its mass round-ups, random arrests and savage beatings, regardless of guilt or innocence.

    A husband could be holding down two jobs and still bring in less than £40 a month; where a wife could struggle to put meat on the table more than once a week and where the children could pass all their exams with flying colours and still be illiterate.It’s a packet of Marlboro Lights and a few dollars slipped under the table by a parent too weary – or indeed, too frightened – to buck the corrupt system.

    I don’t know whether these stories are isolated or generally reflect things. I do know that egypt has a food subsidy program, but even here there are suggestions that the policy encourages a black market, with state run bakeries being mismanaged and possibly corrupt.The problems for western governments is that they have sat on the sidelines and said nothing on these issues. Notice how the US policy response differed from UK and European responses initially, with European focus on social and polical reform being accellerated with the US sort of coming into align with this later. With regard to Israel and Saudi Arabia, then their statements perhaps reflect instabilities and fear within their own domains.There is a suggestion that the Muslim Brotherhood will become a major part of the future of Egypt, and again I have no idea whether this is good or bad, but suspect it might intensify anti Israel and US sentiment.

    In honesty I have very little idea of whats going on and would like to hear details straight from egyptians rather than rather mangled views through the media.From the comments here it would appear that I am not the only one who is rather in the dark and I am not sure democracy western style would not create more problems than it solves.

  19. Peter Everts

    Saudi fear of a democratic Egypt is well-founded. Saudi Arabia is one of the most evil, repressive regimes in history. The US, for once, must stand by its supposed principles and support a democratic Egypt. Keep the kleptocrats out (US and Egyptian) and help the Egyptian people create democracy in their country.

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