Leslie Gelb and the Decline of American Power


It is hard not to treat this collection of ex post facto explanations and condemnations, of a self-appointed Foreign Policy Mandarin as so much whistling in the dark, as the Egyptian People, including the Muslim Brotherhood, make their own history, seemingly unaided by the paternal hand of America. Mr. Gelb is one of the members of a sclerotic, myopic policy establishment, that can only think in terms of American interests and not the interests of the Egyptian People and their concerns, values, etc.; and to engage in the denigration of Human Rights, as sign of lack of ‘toughness’ is, perhaps, totally within the realm of the believable, in his stunted world view, here expressed. Is this in any way a surprise? Mr. Gelb and his philosophical confreres are ‘realists’ and take their political cues from an actual corrosive cynicism and opportunism; that has led us into the blind alley we now occupy, in terms of Foreign Policy: Iraq, Afghanistan and whatever new front will soon open in ‘the War on Terror’ or whatever it is now named and the network of manufactured allies that , now, seem to be falling like dominos. Mr. Gelb represents the failed nature of a generation of ‘Policy Makers’, of whatever political stripe; for narrowness is definitive of a particular American self-conception of moral/political superiority. The Egyptian People cannot be trusted to make their own history, without the aid, the direction of a stern, yet compassionate, Uncle Sam, issuing directives from afar. How much paternalism is enough paternalism? That might be a question Mr. Gelb is not yet ready to answer, in the present state of History unresolved.

Mr. Gelb’s rhetorical stance is that of an ‘outsider’ commenting on the events of Egyptian history, while he in fact is a member of the established policy order, fully vested and unapologetic, that brought about Mubarak and his thirty year care and maintenance. He frames his comments in moralistic terms of good and evil demonstrating his ‘Wilsonian’ world view of a rampant paternalism. Mr. Gelb doesn’t see the writing on the wall, the old order is dying, Mubarak must go and a defense of his person, in a position of power no longer seems tenable, as we look at the situation, put in the mildest terms. He is defensive and cultivates a realism based on a fear of the unknown. Mr. Gelb and his fellow realists need to realize that this is their failure,  that the care and maintenance of Mubarak is of thirty years duration and not some policy accident, not some miscalculation. The political aspirations of the Egyptian people are playing out, without our interference, in the streets, to what end we do not yet know. Mr. Gelb ridicules the idea of human rights as utterly wrong-headed, as a failed idea worthy of his disdain, this kind of notion never entered into his calculation, his conception of ‘realism’. Does this indicate that the civic republican virtues that are the founding principles of our country have been rendered null by the political necessity of Mr. Gelb’s ‘realism’?  Mr. Gelb has some good ideas for a resolution of the crisis, yet our concerns might not be the primary concern of the people of Egypt, as they make their own history in situ. The American hegemony built from the closely held order of money, clients and military bases around the world that we administer, is coming to a close, as we have known it, rather abruptly. Is this a measure of our decline as a world power? Perhaps that could be the cause of the note of mild hysteria that is pervasive in this essay by Mr. Gelb. The order that he has helped to create is falling apart precipitously and has led to a political panic, barley controlled, but still manageable in the realm of opinionating. The Egyptian people will make their own history without the aid of bankrupt American intellectuals who had no problem with Mubarak and his allies as long as they were able to ‘maintain stability’ in the ‘Middle-East’. The bitter truth is that the world has passed by Mr. Gelb and his cronies, and given hope to millions  across the globe.

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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