Monday, April 18, 2011

Pharoah's heirs and the multifold lessons of the Exodus

Every year around Passover, there are events and circumstances by whose light we can appreciate the enduring relevance of the Exodus story. Still, it's hard not to find this to be especially true in 2011.

Natan Sharansky writes about the rebellions today against modern-day Pharaohs in North Africa and the Middle East, and the challenges they present to those of us blessed to live under free governments. Mindful of the often forgotten follow-up to the escape from Egypt--that heaving off the chains of servitude is merely the first step towards liberty--Sharansky argues that we must strongly put our weight behind those fighting for their political freedom today. The logic of supporting "stable autocracies" is no longer viable, if it ever was. [For an account of why, see Tamara Cofman Wittes' Freedom's Unsteady March.]

"The Stakes in the Middle East," Natan Sharansky. Jewish Review of Books No. 5 (Spring 2011).
No movement toward freedom has succeeded in the blink of an eye, absent a struggle, or without periods when all has seemed lost. In the case of this latest movement, not only has its work barely begun, but it is up against a formidable combination of odds. That is why the next phases are so crucial—and why in my view the nations of the free world must, without delay, seize the moment to lend a hand.
The hard realities of democratic politicking have quickly overtaken the liberal youth movement that toppled Mubarak. This is neither surprising, nor reason to declare the whole thing a failure.
"Struggling to Restart Egypt's Stalled Revolution," Eric Trager. The Atlantic. April 2, 2011.

"Egypt's First Vote," Yasmine el Rashidi. New York Review of Books. March 19, 2011.

"In a Divided Egypt, the Military and Islamists Play for Political Advantage," Eric Trager. The Atlantic. March 18, 2011

Daniel Byman explains just how much it might take to actually topple Qaddafi, and what the potential pitfalls are. President Obama wants to do the right thing on the cheap, and it's not at all clear that the highly circumscribed approach that Obama has laid out is up to the task.
"Libya's Rebels: Approach with Caution," Daniel Byman. Slate. March 31, 2011.
See also a video with Byman, "Libya: Is the U.S. Prepared for a Long-Term Engagement?" March 21, 2011.

Elliott Abrams on why the fake republics of the Middle East and North Africa are more illiberal than the monarchies (see also Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws Books 6, 11, and 12).
"Ridding Syria of a Despot," Op-Ed: Washington Post. March 25, 2011.

Andrew Tabler on what the US can realistically do to undermine Assad.
"Twisting Assad's Arm," Foreign Policy. April 14, 2011.

Itamar Rabinovich, who is probably the most informed and prudent Israeli politician on Syrian matters, explains how the uprising in Syria looks from Jerusalem.
"Israel's Dilemma in Damascus," Foreign Affairs. April 10, 2011.