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“Ted Cruz Loves Freedom, Liberty, And Dictators”: Loving Freedom While Applauding Ruthless Dictatorship

Republican presidential candidate and coloring book star Ted Cruz loves Egyptian dictatorship almost as much as he loves freedom and Candy Crush.

At Thursday night’s WWE-style Republican debate, the junior senator from Texas took a moment to praise the leadership skills and “courage” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt’s President al-Sisi, a Muslim, when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world,” Cruz said to an applauding audience.

It’s not the first time he’s praised Sisi—it’s is a common conservative meme to compare President Obama’s alleged weakness to the supposed manliness of strongmen abroad. And Cruz is far from the only Republican lawmaker to join the Sisi fan club. (Fellow 2016 contenders Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush are pretty much on the same page.) But for all of Cruz’s talk about liberty and democratic freedoms at home, he is giving Our Man In Cairo a hell of a pass abroad.

Sisi—a strongman ruler practically minted in the U.S.A.—came to power in a 2013 coup that ousted the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leading member in the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi’s armed forces then began a trigger-happy crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters, and commenced the typical authoritarian kick of going after the press and imprisoning the opposition. (Morsi himself is waiting to see if his execution is imminent.)

Additionally, in an apparent effort to prove that his regime is even more “Islamic” than the Islamists he deposed, Sisi has presided over a campaign of persecution, prosecution and public shaming of LGBT Egyptians. It’s yet another brutal crackdown that has made Sisi’s Egypt a worse environment for gays than Morsi’s Egypt ever was.

And for all the repression and human-rights violations, his government has not managed to make the Egyptian republic any safer. “Sisi came to power on a platform of security and stability and clearly he’s failing—by any measurable standard, Egypt is more vulnerable to insurgency today than it was two years ago,” Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast last month.

So what’s not to love, Senator Cruz?

The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding how the senator squares loving freedom with applauding ruthless dictatorship.

 

By: Asawin Suebsaeng, The Daiyl Beast, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Dictators, Human Rights, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Leading From Behind, And Proud Of It”: America May Just Need To Get Over Its Own Sense Of Paternalism

Egypt and the UAE went forward with air strikes against Islamists in Libya without informing the United States. They did this presumably because they are concerned with the growing influence of Islamist extremists in their region of the world. No doubt their concerns don’t exist in a vacuum; the whole world is watching as Islamists garner more control in Iraq and Syria. Apparently America is supposed to be upset about the move because we should have been informed. The thought is that we’ve provided some of the weaponry, so we should have a say. There’s also the uncomfortable truth that America may just need to get over its own sense of paternalism if we really want to stay out of conflict.

Poll after poll shows an American populace that does not favor intervention overseas. It’s become quite clear since the downturn of the economy that we have enough to work on here at home without getting into multibillion-dollar conflicts. So we don’t want to intervene, but we don’t want to be left out either. The favorite saying of what I would call war hawks is that this is what happens when America “leads from behind.”

Well, here’s my question: Why do we have to lead at all?

I would argue that at this point and time we are in no position to lead anyone. We have record -low unemployment, the middle class that once defined the American dream is dissipating, and we have social issues bubbling under the surface that we should probably start to address. We have serious infrastructure needs that need to be met, and plenty of ingrown homeland-security challenges I’m positive our military could focus on (not to mention millions of families who would be grateful not to send off their loved ones into dubious wars).

I understand that America has serious political interests in the Middle East beyond oil. I understand that leaving the area completely is a pipe dream, largely because leaving Israel to its own devices at this point would be like leaving a kid in the desert to fend for herself. That said, isn’t that kind of what Americans did when we declared independence? Or when we fought our incredibly deadly civil war? What if the superpower of the time got involved in our own now-infamous civil conflict? What if we were not allowed to fight it out but were forced to form ourselves under the influence of a foreign culture that no one understood?

That is what we have been doing in the Middle East, and it is time to stop. It is time to let regional powers figure out their own regional conflicts, and it is time for America to begin addressing our own. We have thousands of people trying to get into our country because the situation below our border is so dire, partially for reasons that are well within our control (e.g., the drug war). Maybe we don’t see that problem as just as much of a threat as those in the Middle East, but we should. As we have seen with the latest incident at the Texas border, we can only ignore our neighbors for so long as we toil along overseas.

The interests are strong, and the history is thick, but I, for one, am happy that Egypt and the UAE made a unilateral decision without us. I am happy that Egypt orchestrated the Israeli/Palestinian ceasefire. I am glad that we are starting to “lead from behind” in the rest of the world, because maybe that means we can lead our own country.

 

By: Courtney McKinney, The Huffington Post Blog, August 28, 2014

 

 

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Unique Understanding Of Syria”: Strong Opinions About Another Subject He Doesn’t Really Understand

It wasn’t surprising to see Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on “Meet the Press” yesterday criticizing the idea of military intervention in Syria. It was, however, interesting to hear his rationale for what U.S. foreign policy should look like in this case.

“I think the failure of the Obama administration has been we haven’t engaged the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this, and I think they were engaged. I think there’s a possibility Assad could already be gone. The Russians have every reason to want to keep their influence in Syria, and I think the only way they do is if there’s a change in government where Assad has gone but some of the same people remain stable.

“That would also be good for the Christians. I think the Islamic rebels winning is a bad idea for the Christians and all of a sudden we’ll have another Islamic state where Christians are persecuted.

“So I think really the best outcome for all the major powers would be a peaceful transition government, and Russia could influence that if they told Assad no more weapons.”

Paul seemed oddly preoccupied with Christians in Syria — a group he mentioned five times during the brief interview — to the point at which it seemed the senator may be confusing Syria with Egypt, where Coptic Christians have seen their churches burned.

But it was his rhetoric about Russia that was especially out of place.

About 13 years ago, then-Gov. George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore met for the first of three debates, and Jim Lehrer asked about Slobodan Milosevic, who was threatening at the time to ignore his election results and leave office. Bush said it would be “a wonderful time for the Russians to step into the Balkans” and help lead diplomatic efforts.

Gore said that didn’t make any sense — Russia had largely sided with Milosevic and wasn’t prepared to accept the election results. Bush said, “Well obviously we wouldn’t use the Russians if they didn’t agree with our answer, Mr. Vice President.”

“They don’t,” Gore replied, making clear that only one candidate on the stage knew what he was talking about.

I thought about that 2000 debate watching Paul suggest the Obama administration should “engage” Russia to help create a “change in government” in Syria. Indeed, in Paul’s vision, Obama would convince Russia to deny military aid to the Assad government.

How would this happen, exactly? Does Rand Paul realize that Russia and the U.S. are on opposite sides of this, and “engaging” Russians to help oust Assad doesn’t really make any sense? Did the senator not fully prepare for questions about Syria before the interview?

Or is this just another issue in which the Kentucky Republican has strong opinions about a subject he doesn’t really understand?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 2, 2013

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Rand Paul, Syria | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A National Embarrassment”: As A Member Of Congress, If Louie Gohmert Say’s It, There Must Be Something To It

About a year ago, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was wrapping up an important diplomatic mission in Cairo when her motorcade was confronted with angry protesters, many of whom threw shoes and tomatoes, while using Monica Lewinsky taunts. And why were these Egyptians so upset? Because they’d heard from right-wing extremists in the U.S. that the Obama administration “harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda” and backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

None of the claims were true, but there was a problem — the protesters in the streets of Cairo were relying on comments made by U.S. clowns like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). You know she’s ridiculous and not to be taken seriously, and I know she’s ridiculous and not to be taken seriously, but all Egyptians heard was that an elected member of Congress’ majority party had made provocative claims about U.S. policy in Egypt that many found credible.

A year later, as Sahil Kapur reports this morning, the problem persists as Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-Texas) nonsense about the White House and the Muslim Brotherhood, which Americans know to ignore, is “complicating U.S. foreign policy in the region.”

Anti-American conspiracy theories are rampant [in Egypt], for a variety of reasons related and unrelated to U.S. foreign policy, and hearing it from a United States congressman lends credibility to the theory that the U.S. is teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood — and even Al-Qaeda — to destroy Egypt.

“I guarantee you nobody in Egypt really knows who Louie Gohmert is or what he’s about. So they could very well point to this and say ‘Look! He’s a member of Congress. This must be serious. There must be something to it,'” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It doesn’t help in a political environment where everyone is already angry at us to be fueling conspiracy theories against us. In that way it enables an overall level of hostility toward the U.S.”

Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM, “[L]ook, this does provide real ammunition to the conspiracy theorists when you have American sources seemingly verifying what they are saying…. It lends these bizarre theories a new code of legitimacy and amplifies them. When Egyptians see this, they don’t realize that just because a U.S. congressman is saying this that it can be wrong or that he can be lying publicly.”

Congratulations, far-right activists, your nonsense now has a global reach and is actually influencing international events among those who can’t tell the difference between serious policymakers and circus clowns from thousands of miles away.

The TPM report added:

The New York Times reported Monday that the U.S.-Brotherhood conspiracy theory has become “widespread” in Egypt, even to the point of being seen by some as common knowledge. Billboards and posters in Egypt tie President Obama to the Brotherhood and accuse him of supporting terrorism against Egypt. And segments of the pro-military Egyptian media have been playing a YouTube clip of Gohmert speaking on the House floor, spliced with ominous background music, likening the Obama administration’s aid to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi’s government with assisting terrorists.

Gohmert defended his remarks in a statement to TPM, saying he was merely opposing President Obama’s policies and that Egyptians “are able to” make that distinction.

But they’re not able to. Most fair-minded political observers recognize Gohmert as a national embarrassment more in need of counseling than political power, but it’s not realistic to think Egyptians will have a sophisticated understanding of American politics. When they see YouTube clips of elected officials on the floor of our legislative body in Washington, and they hear outrageous conspiracy theories involving Egypt, they haven’t the foggiest idea that Gohmert is a few fries short of a happy meal.

Yes, in fairness, it’s important to note that many who are inclined to believe absurd conspiracy theories don’t really need proof — that, of course, applies to any country — and many Egyptians who want to believe in imaginary U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood are going to embrace the non-existent ties whether Gohmert talks them up or not.

But the point is, the right-wing Texas congressman, by recklessly spouting garbage, is making it easier for Egyptian conspiracy theorists to persuade others. Gohmert is obviously free to be as foolish as he wants to be, but one can only hope real-world events in Egypt will push him and his cohorts to be a little more responsible.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 27, 2013

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Few, The Proud, The Frightened”: Only The Fringe Standing With Rand Paul On Aid To Egypt

Yesterday wasn’t the best day for Rand Paul’s efforts to transform himself from a less cranky version of his old man into a power broker and potential presidential candidate in the Republican Party. Aside from Chris Christie’s contemptuous rejection of Paul’s suggestion that they sit down over a tall cool one and resolve their war of words over foreign policy, Paul failed to make much headway in the Senate in his long-standing attempt to cut off military aid to Egypt, despite having an almost ideal set of circumstances. While Democrats united behind the administration’s position that an aid cutoff could de-stabilize Egypt, most of the floor action involved the pummeling of Paul by his Republican colleagues, prior to a 86-13 vote against his amendment to the THUD appropriations bill.

WaPo’s Dana Milbank captured the flavor of the debate:

More than a dozen senators sat or stood at their desks in the usually empty chamber, engaging Paul, who tried to rebut their points. So many wished to join the fray that Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) extended the debate.

The result reinforced the proud tradition of internationalism in the body, and in the GOP. For all the talk of a Republican civil war over foreign policy, Wednesday’s vote showed that the internationalists still dominate. McCain portrayed Paul as the heir to the America Firsters. But there has been no growth in the isolationist sentiment since March, when an amendment to restrict aid to Egypt failed, 74-25, or since September 2012, when a Paul bill to cut off aid to Egypt, Pakistan and Libya went down, 81-10.

The coup de grace probably occurred when Lindsay Graham read aloud a letter from AIPAC opposing the aid cutoff.

McCain needled Paul. “The question here is whether the senator from Kentucky knows what’s better for Israel, or Israel.”

Paul shook his head, reclaimed the floor and challenged the “so-called leadership” of AIPAC.

When the clerk called the roll, McCain whipped his colleagues aggressively: arguing with Dean Heller (R-Nev.) after the new senator took Paul’s side, applauding when John Hoeven (R-N.D.) voted against Paul and working over Tim Scott (R-S.C.) until the senator cried uncle. “I’m with you,” Scott said.

For the Republican internationalists, this wasn’t about winning but dominating.

Well, maybe. 13 Republicans decided to Stand with Rand on aid to Egypt. That’s just one short of the number of Republican senators who stood with McCain and Graham on immigration reform, which was supposedly a triumph of party “pragmatism” against the craziness of the House GOP. You also see some significant names supporting Paul’s amendment: Mike Lee, the majordomo of the Senate’s “constitutional conservatives,” and his boon companion Ted Cruz, a potential rival of Paul’s in 2016. There’s Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who may be counting on help from Paul in rebuffing a primary challenge from Lynn Cheney that bids fair to become a national Neocon crusade. And then there was Mitch McConnell, who has clearly decided that snuggling up to Paul is his best insurance against his own primary challenge next year.

For dedicated Paulites, this was just another vote in a long struggle against foreign policy internationalists in both parties. For the GOP as a whole, it’s unclear whether the vote pitted the dominant faction against the fringe, or the party’s past against its future.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 1, 2013

August 3, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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