Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/11

28

They don’t have oil and nuclear weapons

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A friend of mine asked what I thought about the protests in North Africa. I’m busy with some scientific issues and problems now, so I haven’t devoted much attention to them. All things equal I support a democratic government over a non-democratic government. But I think modern Americans tend to fetishize populist revolts. Russia in 2011 may not be the enemy it once was, but it is no Czech Republic. Iraq is now verging toward a moderately sectarian Shia regime thanks to popular elections (though counterbalanced by secular Kurdish nationalism). Iran is a famous case, with its revolution turning toward authoritarian rule by clerics after an initial period of hope and promise.

Because of the nature of its secular civil society I have more hope for Tunisia being a civilized popular democratic state than Egypt, which I think is more likely to go in an unrecognizable direction because of the power of the Islamic Brotherhood. But at the end of the day, does this matter? Neither Egypt or Tunisia have significant oil reserves, nor do they have nuclear weapons. I am skeptical of the future of any liberal democracy in Egypt, though less so in Tunisia, but it probably doesn’t matter to the rest of the world.*

One thing I will say: the Copts should view with foreboding what democratic government wrought for the Christians of Iraq. The majority of Egyptian Muslims may not be willing to take up arms against their ancient Christian minority, but a motivated minority unrestrained by an authoritarian state can cause great suffering and havoc. Democracy empowers popular majorities, but it often oppresses dispossessed minorities.

* Unlike Iran a religious regime with popular support in Egypt does not have the luxury of petro-dollars. Additionally, I don’t think Israel is actually that important to our geopolitics either, if you are curious.

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15 comments

  • panglos · January 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Why is it that democracy works only in countries with strong Christian influences (empirically speaking).

    Is it the Golden rule? It seems to be necessary for a strong democratic fabric.

  • Stephen · January 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    “Why is it that democracy works only in countries with strong Christian influences (empirically speaking).”

    Um, Japan and India are not democracies? How about South Korea?

    Christianity may be a strong force that pushes a society towards democracy, but I don’t think it is the only force.

  • Ross · January 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Egypt doesn’t have nuclear weapons or oil but it does control the Suez Canal one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Would you feel happy about sending Western ships through there if Egypt ruled by Islamists?

    The alternative route would take longer and give sailers a chance to experience Somalian hospitality.

  • John · January 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    David Hume, I agree with everything you said. Nonetheless, I think the protests are a good thing, especially if Mubarak is overthrown. In the short run, it probably will result in less freedom as Islamic populists take more control. However, this is probably a necessary stage in Egypt’s political development. If Egypt converts to a (sort of) democracy, eventually, the voices of reason can be heard. As long as a dictator is in charge, the forces of change, both good and bad, are ossified. I’m going to be an optimist and claim that Egypt is going through an adolescent period, after which it will eventually emerge to some sort of maturity.

  • Eyal · January 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    It’s not only about culture and religion……
    Egypt’s mean iq is 82 . There is a very small chance that a nation with that low mean iq will be able to be democracy .

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 30, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Egypt’s mean iq is 82 . There is a very small chance that a nation with that low mean iq will be able to be democracy .

    do you have a low IQ yourself moron? :-) india? they should keep facts away from retards.

    The alternative route would take longer and give sailers a chance to experience Somalian hospitality.

    another moron? do you think the suez means avoiding the horn of africa? i memorized all the capitals in the world when i was 8, not too smart of you to pretend as if you know geography when you clearly don’t own a globe (actually, the cape route is apparently a way to avoid somali piracy since it isn’t subject to the choke point of the red sea route). you should be fucking embarrassed of yourself. not only has the suez been closed for years in the 20th century, but what the fuck type of regime do you think bestrides the straits of hormuz? (look that up and you’ll know what i mean, i have no expectation you know off the top of your head)

    comment #1 is quite retarded too. who knew that dictation and screen-reading software is good enough for illiterates? (#2 pointed out what should be obvious to an elementary school age child)

    perhaps i need to install to install a raven’s matrices test to weed out the idiots? though even the highest IQ won’t help if you don’t know the geography you should have learned in 2nd grade.

    but then it may be i who have to take a measure of myself. i’ve been rather lax about comment policy here, allowing the sub-sentients to think they can speak freely.

  • Ross · January 30, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Most of the successful pirate attacks have not been in the relatively easy to patrol Gulf of Aden but in the open ocean- ie the bit that going to be a lot busier if the canal is deemed unsafe. With the greatest respect that is not difficult to look up- http://tinyurl.com/4laf7l2

    “but what the fuck type of regime do you think bestrides the straits of hormuz? “

    One which causes a lot of trouble with periodic threats to close it off. The type that isn’t really desirable in Egypt.

  • Mike H · January 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Egypt borders Israel and has the biggest population of any country in the Middle East and the 15th biggest population in the world. Cairo is one of the premier metropolises in the Muslim world.

    Egypt is also in a rather relevant strategic position, the Suez Canal of course but it also neighbors Libya which does have significant oil reserves. It’s at the crossroads of Africa and Asia. There’s a reason Britain made the defense of Egypt an utmost priority in WW2.

    It’s safe to say that what happens in Egypt matters quite a bit.

    Unfortunately the population likely has an education deficit and the country a civil society deficit which makes democracy a proposition unlikely to succeed.

  • sio · January 30, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    What are the chances that Saudi Arabia may flare up? I think that should be Washington’s biggest concern, although they’ll never say it publicly.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    With the greatest respect that is not difficult to look up- http://tinyurl.com/4laf7l2

    your map doesn’t even show what you purport to show! after i saw your comment i did look into it. you can find different sources saying different things. unless you are an expert in international shipping, you’re being a google pundit (and not a good one, as the map shows that the gulf of aden is riddled with pi, rate attacks). additionally, i also know that the cape route has become more, not less, important over the decades because the limitations on larger vessels going through the canal.

    One which causes a lot of trouble with periodic threats to close it off. The type that isn’t really desirable in Egypt.

    the whole gulf is ringed by islamist regimes. the most islamist is saudi arabia, our ally, which for decades sheltered the brotherhood during their periods of extreme persecution in egypt. therefore, even supposing the brotherhood takes over, there is no expectation that it will become an internationalist revolutionary regime, as iran purports to be. the salafist ideology obviously has grounds to support that, but qatar and saudi arabia show how malleable that is.

    look, don’t bullshit me. i don’t talk about international affairs because i don’t know much, but compared to the average retard i’m not ignorant. don’t bluff and front, and throw off snarky paragraphs expressing your superficial thoughts. make an argument. e.g., i’d be curious as to the tonnage of the suez vs. the cape, and the economic impacts of the closure during the 1970s, and how the rise of massive container vessels from china impact that (as well as the relative rise of east asia, and decline of the atlantic economies). instead i get boilerplate? seriously, don’t fuck with me. i know that causal stupidity is the norm on the web, but is it even that interesting?

    It’s at the crossroads of Africa and Asia.

    i hold that 1) aside from south africa and nigeria, africa doesn’t matter in terms of natural resources. 2) who cares about land traffic? it’s mostly sea anyway, 3) so the rub is the suez, 4) egypt doesn’t border the “asia” which matters. rather, it borders a bunch of monarchies and dictatorships and israel. i don’t understand why 19th century british colonial geopolitical concerns loom so large today. the europeans managed to evade the ottomans after they controlled the whole middle east. they did fine.

    the main issue i find plausible are the arabian oil fields. that’s mission critical. libya, not so much.

  • Jon · January 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Mr. Hume,

    “Causal stupidity” indeed. Has a certain ring to it.

  • Jean Mark · February 1, 2011 at 3:26 am

    I stumbled upon this article. Some interesting points. But am I must be reading this wrong. Is the author really adding comments calling commenters retards and morons? Wow. Classy. Especially for a site that proclaims Reason and Reality. I was very interested as a member of the Secular Left to hear thoughts from the Secular Right. But if this is what you call reason, well… I don’t really need to say it. Your words say it all.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Is the author really adding comments calling commenters retards and morons?

    some of the commenters were opining above their station or capacities. sorry, i call ‘em as i read ‘em. there are stupid people in the world. many.

  • Jean Mark · February 1, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Great. Then why not use Reason to show them Reality? I’ve had the time now to read your site, and find agreement with many of your views, but dude, seriously? I completely applaud your courage as a Conservative to stand up for secularism. Bravo! We desperately need more voices like yours. But name calling appeals to no one. It sets your cause backward. We both see the insanity of non critical thinking. Consider me naive, but I don’t think we bring our sisters and brothers to the light by beginning with, “Hey retard…”

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 4:25 am

    jean,

    two points

    1) some people are in my opinion congenitally stupid. this is unfortunate, but alas, true. we can’t all be above average!

    2) i don’t normally name-call so baldly, i was just irritated that some commenters put so little effort into actually making a comment. i don’t track the comments too closely here often cuz i have 2 other blogs which i run (one at *discover magazine* which is my primary focus), so was taken aback. now, the reality is that some of the commenters are capable of more, and reasoning with them isn’t the way to go. they need to be compelled to actually pay attention and invest time and energy into the comment. so it’s carrot or stick. i could say, “come now, you’re smarter than that!” (carrot), or, “are you a moron?” (stick) perhaps i should use more carrot than stick. so i’ll experiment with that….

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