Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18)
Senator John McCain
When a man does something really wrongheaded there can be more than one reason for it, so we shouldn’t be too hasty to condemn any single motivation behind it. Rather we should learn as these motives are revealed over time. Tolkien says it better than I ever could, but when vanity and pride, rather than sound facts and analysis, cause a man to pursue a plan of action, it sits on him like an oath instead of a calculated decision which can be modified as circumstances change. (Compare the American Chief of Staff and the German General Staff in World War II.) Every subsequent step forward becomes a test of, and a testament to, this pride, which leads a man further away from his original purpose, more toward defeat than success.
So, when John McCain rushed out to embrace the Arab Spring in Egypt in early 2011, he could have been merely misinformed, or perhaps had been lazy and hadn’t done his homework, or perhaps hadn’t attended the briefing on America’s tiers of interests in the region. Maybe he didn’t understand why we had been (secretly) giving the Egyptian military a billion in aid every year since the 1979 treaty with Israel, and why this treaty brought about the assassination of Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by a name central in this McCain saga, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Maybe McCain didn’t know these things. But he should have, since he’d been in Congress since 1982.
He was not a kid, as Obama was in 1981. So I can understand Barack Obama being naive in this regard, as he was just 20 when Sadat was murdered, and still doing drugs, which dulls the mind, I’m told, sometimes permanently. And he had only been on North American soil for a couple of years then, still getting his feet dry, so to speak, and had not even decided yet whether to go to Columbia as an American or foreign exchange student. And since Classics Illustrated never published its own edition about Sadat’s murder, he probably knew nothing about Sadat until much, much later, say around 2009, when he was probably briefed on it by Cass Sunstein’s semi-pretty wife, Samantha Power. (Remind me someday to finish the article I started in 1992 when Bill first ran for president, about the miracles of makeup.)
McCain should have known better, but maybe he too didn’t know these things, or maybe he was just naive enough to believe the Brotherhood had become civilized because they now wear well-creased business suits (you can fool some men that way), and had moderated since 1981, when they were last banned in Egypt (1981-2011), after three times before since WWII, when they worked with Hitler…sort of, some say.
McCain may have thought that, hey, thirty years is a long time in Arab terms. Plenty of time for old grievances to heal. After all, the Muslims tried and waited, tried and waited, and tried and waited for over 600 years before they finally tore down Constantinople’s walls and secured the Bosphorus. But maybe McCain missed the briefing on Islamist persistence and grudge-keeping too.
But then again, maybe McCain’s wrongheadedness is because he has just been sucking up to Barack Obama, which he’s done a lot of lately, or possibly to the American media, which he’s always been sucking up to since I first knew him to throw his first teat fit. (An old friend of mine, a classmate of his at the Academy, says he really hasn’t changed much in terms of temperament.) It was the media who first knighted McCain “maverick,” a title he admires, and portrayed his very crooked “straight talk” in the 2000 Republican primary with very positive press and has generally had him on its hook since.
If you’ve ever wondered why men visit prostitutes, it’s because a $50 whore will tell them they’re real studs. If you want to know how they feel, just watch John McCain at a presser.
I think the Tolkien rule works best, for a vain and arrogant man, much like a liar, must, at every turn in the trek protect his initial position (the lie) with even greater fabrications, or he must acknowledge his error and lose face. At every crossroad, the vain and arrogant man can only go in one direction. So it seems with McCain.
His dog, Spot, Lindsay Graham
But I am not only writing this about John McCain, for Lindsay Graham runs for re-election in 2014. In light of this, McCain is actually irrelevant here if we can only keep him from causing history to occur before he leaves office.
Politically, McCain is no more than blown tire rubber from an 18-wheeler on the interstate. Just swerve to miss it and go on by.
Lindsay Graham is another matter, for his slavish attendance to anything John McCain wants, in the character and courage department, indicates an even more deplorable a human characteristic than vanity and pride. Graham is a shameless craven, and can hardly hide it. I think Truman Capote examined this sort of psychological dependency in In Cold Blood.
Dealing with Graham is the more immediate concern here, for he is running for reelection in 2014, and again in 2020 and 2026, should he win this time, by which time he’ll own his own island somewhere. So I want to endorse anyone in South Carolina who is able to take the Republican nomination away from this man. Right now that one person is Nancy Mace. On this point, ALL Republicans in South Carolina should be of one voice, for it is an open primary state, and such is the shallow reputation of Lindsay Graham as a staunch defender of the Republican brand and the Doctrine of Liberty that Democrats will rush en masse to vote for him on primary day, for then the general election will be a win-win for the Democrats. Nikki Haley needs to give this some thought, especially. And prayer. And maybe even the Heart Sutra, for wisdom.
For the psychology of the needy craven is in many respects more dangerous than the vain. He reminds me of the Carter years, when every red-blooded man and woman in America felt they were superior to the President of the United States. And this is not a good thing for South Carolinians to feel.
Shaking Hands With the Brotherhood and Fascism
I just finished a book about the first “Arab Spring” trifecta in the 1950s. Bloody and terror-filled for over a decade, it ended in independence for France’s North African colonies, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. But while terrorism was their tool, Islamism was not their primary purpose then, but rather anti-imperialism, French imperialism, which is particularly insidious and, well, French.
But even then, the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups seeking a return to sharia law was in there, brokering gun-running from ex-Nazis in Europe to the terrorists in the Maghreb, but also ever-watching, waiting for the opportunity to move in, just as they did for 600 years outside the walls of Constantinople.
This history the Egyptian military knows and understands, even if our current government, or John McCain, does not.
Recent American history has shown that self-interest is part of every government, no matter where or when situated. Only among the people in the streets do the belief in the simpler ideals of liberty and freedom reside, to build one’s House and then be able to pass it on. And in America, until recently, it has been the American street that drove events in our republic.
So, we know that not all governmental self-interests are antagonistic to these desires of the people, and I have not found in the Egyptian military anything but a willingness to coexist with an increasing democratic people. So far they have not shown us a Hafez al-Assad or Saddam Hussein. Whether the Egyptian military feel their own interests threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood, or simply do not like the way the people had been lied to by Morsi and the Brotherhood, and their turn away from an orderly path toward democracy for all Egyptians (incl Christians), I can’t say.
But they get the benefit of the doubt for the simple reason that the Brotherhood does not. It is clear that the status quo of orderly transition, which was the original promise of Arab Spring as envisioned by the people, is preferable to the new path the Muslim Brotherhood had chosen, and the path the Obama Administration (with the aid of John McCain and his dog Spot) not only approved, but had helped direct. (Maybe McCain didn’t know this second part, but that will surely be revealed in more detail as Lady Disdain’s presidential run gathers steam in 2015.)
Islamo-Fascism versus Arab democracy
An old subject with my departed friend, Moses Sands (RIP), understand the stakes not only for Egypt but the prospects for democracy in the Middle East: As civil war looms, never forget that the ONLY antidote to the ceaseless warfare made against freedom by Islamo-fascism is the one first offered by our Founders, for it allows the individual man, not his imam, not his tribal leaders, but the individual human family, to set their own priorities, and come to God on their own terms, including rejecting God and choosing a secular path. It’s the only chance they have.
Long before our Constitution, the histories of Cairo, Baghdad and Damascus have all proved that when man is allowed to pursue commerce and enough power to build his own House, he will gladly reorient the power church leaders try to exert over his House. Free markets (which the Middle Easterners are naturally inclined toward) and the predictability of the Rule of Law, which all men seek, provides a simple path for the common men and women of the world to follow.
Guaranteed these things, in due course, after the necessary bloodshed and trauma, Islamism will simply die out from poor enrollment. All their young men will be out building their House.
Thus it is written.
The road toward freedom, lasting generations, just as it did here, will be rugged, but this is the only way to defeat the Islamist scourge without turning the whole Middle East into black ice. This is the long road to make them stop, a road which relies on the people to stake out their ground and fight their own battles, with the government protecting them, as the Egyptian military seems to be trying, without oppressive, outside influence.
Obama’s chosen way of making the fascists stop is to give them what they want, hoping we will be the last ones eaten.
I know how the fight will turn out over there, for just like our frontier culture, it will take a hundred years for men to lay a permanent cornerstone to their House. But once done, unless they become too fat and sassy, and secular, and an Obama comes along to seduce their children, those Houses will stand for generations, and the Islamo-fascists will simply fade away.
In Egypt today, as well as Tunisia and others, the path to that place lies with the youth and the common men and women, and for the short term, the military, who are the only ones who seem to be able to keep that door to democracy ajar.