Kristol and Cheney Weigh in on Egyptian Protests -- Push for Heavier US Hand in Iran
Ah yes... another Sunday, another week where Fox makes sure we get the neo-cons view on spreading democracy in the Middle East. At least the success of these peaceful demonstrations has Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney praising them instead of pushing for dropping more bombs on poor people's heads, for now anyway.
WALLACE: So I think it is fair to say in these first hours after the fall of Mubarak, everyone is saying the right thing. The government says it is going to turn over power to a democratically elected government, that they are going to honor the peace treaty with Israel, and the demonstrators say they're going to go home.
Bill, how confident are you that this is all going to work out and how much influence does the Obama administration have to try to shape events?
KRISTOL: Confident would be an overstatement, I think. It is the Middle East after all, so you have to be foolish to be confident that anything would work out too well, and revolutions do often go off the rail for various reasons.
Having said that, I think basically for the last three or four weeks the skeptics have been proven to be too skeptical. The naysayers who said it could never happen, it's going to be violent, his departure would mean the Muslim Brotherhood taking over the next day or total chaos in the streets of Egypt, they have been proven wrong. And the notion that the Egyptian people have managed to pull off this democratic, peaceful removal of a dictator, and now have a seemingly a pretty stable situation in the streets of Cairo and the other big cities, with the guarantee or at least a promise of a transition to free and fair elections and no real sense that those elections are -- yet that the elections are going to go in some terrible direction for the U.S. or for Egypt itself.
I think this may be a case where the normal worldly pessimism is too pessimistic and the normal cynicism is too cynical, and one has a right to actually be hopeful about these developments in Egypt.
EASTON: I have to agree with Bill Kristol. You know, the thing to keep in mind, everybody wanted to compare this or a lot of people wanted to compare this to 1979 in Iran, but the face of this was not turbaned ayatollahs; the face of this revolution was a marketing executive from Google, 30-year-old young guy. And these young people were very consciously at the forefront of this protests.
I think whereas the U.S. had to find its way -- the Obama administration in the weeks leading up to this -- the way is very clear now, and that is to hold the military's feet to the fire, to make sure that there are elections and to make sure the emergency decree is lifted.
The military is key here. It is something that touches everybody's lives in Egypt. Somebody is either-- somebody from every family serves in it or is an officer, but it also controls 10 percent to 15 percent of the economy. It is entrenched in the economy. It has its own interests. It has to be watched.
WALLACE: All right, I'm going to be the professional worrywart on this panel. Liz, you've worked on Egypt for, what, 20 years at the World Bank and then at the State Department. How worried should we be about the Muslim Brotherhood and the possibility that they or some other Islamist radical force fills the political vacuum?
I talked to a senior White House official yesterday who said that he feels that support for the Muslim Brotherhood is declining in Egypt.
CHENEY: I think the Muslim Brotherhood is a concerning organization. I think that Jim Clapper clearly got it wrong.
WALLACE: Explain who he is and what he said.
CHENEY: The director of national intelligence who said they were a secular organization in his testimony, later clarified, but nothing could be further from the truth.
So they are concerning. They are not democratic, and I think we as a government need to be clear about the fact that they don't uphold basic human rights and notions of equality for women or minorities.
Having said that, however, I think that what happened on the streets of Cairo is just magnificent and has been tremendously moving to watch. The Muslim Brotherhood has not been at the forefront of what happened. It has been young people. It has been a new generation, who basically have said our parents may have been willing to live this way, but we aren't.
And I spoke last night with a friend of mine who has been in the Square, who said, you know, we used to in the evenings go to restaurants and go out and figure out how we could relax after work. Now, we stay up until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, thinking about what our constitution should say and how can we guarantee the freedoms that we've won.
I just think that it has been an amazing model and lesson for the world. I think we, as the United States, ought to do whatever we can to help, but we've got to do it with a lot of humility here. What the Egyptian people have accomplished, they accomplished on their own. It wasn't about us. It was about freedom, and they ought to be applauded and supported (inaudible).
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that. I want to go back to the president's statement that we played at the beginning of this segment, where he said that nonviolence, peaceful protests, not terrorism, was the right path for change. Obviously in Egypt, and I think the implied message was in the Middle East.
Given what happened in Egypt and in Tunisia, how effective a message is that to the young, angry, unemployed, disenfranchised element of the Arab street?
WILLIAMS: I think it's got to be compelling. It's overwhelming. I mean, there is real change that has taken place here, and it is a compelling alternative to Al Qaida's model that requires terrorism and embraces violence. You know, it is not in my nature, but let me give a hat to Liz Cheney.
CHENEY: That should happen more often.
WILLIAMS: Because Liz Cheney, when she was at the State Department in the Bush administration, had been pro-democracy all along.
CHENEY: Thank you, Juan.
WILLIAMS: And what they have done is to try to help, in fact, try to help Mubarak when he was rigging those elections last year, and I think that sent a message that change was necessary, and I think young people did respond. I mean, it is stunning to me to think that a third of the population there is under the age of 15. That shows you how young and what a compelling --
WALLACE: And that is not unusual in the Middle East.
WILLIAMS: And you said something also. So combine these two factors. So many young people and so many unemployed people, especially young men, uneducated, are seeking change and having no way to do it. And now seeing that there is a way -- we have seen Tunisia and now we've seen what is taking place in Egypt. There is already pressure in Jordan.
So we see this building now across the Middle East. And the question is whether or not there is a domino effect. Does it in fact continue, or does the military, which is under tremendous pressure, you know, does the military give in to the idea that they hold on to some of Mubarak's forces, their government right there, and delay the free and fair elections?
Change has come in terms of no Mubarak son running for election, no Omar Suleiman running for election, but do they lift the emergency ban? How quickly do we see these changes or do we see people forced back into Tahrir Square in a matter of weeks?
WALLACE: Certainly now since dissolving the Parliament so they certainly seeing to be moving in that direction.
I want to -- I want to pick up on this idea of how this could spread. Because it was interesting, Bill, to see the Obama administration trying to use these events to put pressures on the mullahs in Iran. Here is Vice President Cheney on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say to our Iranian friends, let your people march. Let your people speak. Release your people from jail. Let them have a voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Well, obviously that wasn't Dick Cheney, that was Joe Biden, but we have Cheney on our mind. Can the White House reignite the political opposition in Iran that it did so little to support in 2009?
KRISTOL: I hope so. I think the political opposition will have to reignite itself. But there is that opposition there and they've tried to call for a demonstration tomorrow which the Iranian government is trying obviously to suppress. But it is striking to me that the administration will not say that it made a mistake, but I think they now understand they made a terrible mistake in June of 2009 in not supporting the Iranians in the streets of Tehran.
Vice President Biden said what you showed there, Tom Donilon, the National Security Adviser, put out a statement Saturday afternoon, which is kind of unusual, calling on the Iranian government which had hailed the demonstrations in Egypt to allow its own people to demonstrate similarly for -- for freedom and democracy. So that's a good sign.
I hope -- and I really hope that -- that June of 2009 was not a once in a generation event and that that can be reignited, and history would suggest that incidentally. There have been plenty of times in the last 30 -- 40 years where there's a democratic protest, Poland, they got suppressed for a while and then it reemerges. And so I think that would be an unbelievable triumph if Egypt could be followed by -- by Iran.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here.