Egypt’s Aftermath: Four Things That Will Happen Here

3 Feb

If the democratic impulses of the people in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East prevail, instability will rock the region as their success inspires more revolts against Western-backed dictators. Even if Mubarak’s corrupt regime manages to hold on, it will fuel even more radical responses than we’ve ever seen before throughout the Middle East.

So, what, if anything, will happen in the United States as a result of the turmoil? 

First, everything will cost more. Rightly or wrongly, Western financial and commodity markets perceive stability to be the best of all possible worlds, even if that stability is carried on the backs of poverty-stricken, oppressed people elsewhere. Oil, which underpins our modern economy, will skyrocket in price, driving up the cost of everything else.

When the Shah of Iran lost power, the uncertainty of oil prices helped usher in years of economic stagnation. And while Mubarak does not control oil production, Egypt does manage the Suez canal where a lot of it passes through in tankers. Only the potential of that waterway closing has pushed up crude oil prices to their highest level since the speculator-driven oil crisis of 2008. Imagine the impact if the flame of self-determination begins to burn elsewhere in the region?

Second, the Republicans will gain control of the Senate and extend its hold in the House in 2012. It will also win the White House. (Unless the GOP is stupid enough to put Sarah Palin on the ticket. She’s toxic to a majority of voters who see her as a selfish quitter and an ignorant shrew.) That’s because voters in this country always punish those in power when something bad happens. And because the hard right controls the GOP, it will accelerate the increasing inequality in this country as tax policies will favor the rich even more and, to pay for it, the Republicans will raid the budgets of social services.

Third, the wars in the Middle East will widen beginning in 2013. America depends too much on oil to let it slip from its grasp without a fight. And no political party better represents oil companies than do Republicans. Just as the Iraq war was all about oil from Day One, though gussied up to be about WMDs or spreading democracy, the next Middle East conflagration will be explicitly about keeping petroleum flowing to prime the pump of our economy.

Fourth, incompetent GOP economic policies and those new Middle East wars will hasten the end of the American Empire. The dollar will be the first victim. The British pound sterling dominated the planet for centuries. World War I changed the situation. It only took from 1914 to 1925 for the pound to give way to the Almighty Buck, which replaced it to become the reserve currency of choice among nations. Whether the euro or China’s yuan rides triumphant over the dollar is too early to tell.

Naturally, this is all speculation by your average joe. Nothing qualifies me to see into the future. Admittedly, I’m a glass-is-half-emty kind of guy, but it seems obvious to me that the consequences of what is happening in Egypt will reverberate beyond the the Nile to the broader Middle East and, thus, to the world as a whole. And because the United States has let its dependence on foreign oil become inextricably linked to the health of its economy and polity, risking its loss will become unacceptable to the powers that be, but attempting to sustain it will become how the American Empire passes into history.

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5 Responses to “Egypt’s Aftermath: Four Things That Will Happen Here”

  1. jonolan February 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Leaving aside your filthy anti-American rhetoric and sentiments for the moment, you’re not far wrong in your prediction of events, though their outcomes are in doubt.

    Personally, I think the West is going to have to step in stabilize the region as was done before. Muslims are, by and large, incapable of self-rule and cannot be allowed to maintain control of strategically important regions.

    Failing that, you’re predicted outcomes are likely with the caveat that they could be precluded by eliminating the bulk of the region’s indigenous populations and bringing a new workforce.

    • Mark Everett Hall February 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      Can’t see how my comments can be construed as “filthy anti-American” in the least. Anti-Republican party, yes. But that does not equate (yet) with anti-Americanism. And just to be clear, I’m not particularly fond of how Democrats handle foreign policy either.

      This is a great country when it adheres to the progressive ideals that our amazing, though imperfect Founders laid down for us; which is why we’ve had to continue to improve upon those founding principles. And, don’t kid yourself, they were progressives, who changed the idea of government forever, not just on these shores, but around the world. America is at her best when it moves forward politically. Revolting against an imperial king was progress. Giving the vote to non-freeholders was progress. Freeing the slaves was progress. Giving the vote to women was progress. Trying to rein in the urge for those kinds of democratic improvements when they come from abroad is not merely hypocritical, it’s not good policy.

      You see, by and large, democracies do not fight each other. There’s ample literature to prove this. Yes, yes, there are many exceptions. But among the most prevailing theories in diplomatic studies is this phenomenon. However, US policy does not always work to support democracy abroad because foreign policy Mandarins in both parties in Washington kowtow to the wishes of monied interests. Wall Street and the Oil Patch and, as President Eisenhower warned, the military-industrail complex, all of whom have skewed our relations abroad to the point where we now have a situation where President Obama is incapable of making a clear, unambiguous statement that the United States will support the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people by using our aid program to help make those dreams come to pass. But he can’t. Or won’t. (Sadly, I believe it’s the latter.)

      So, it should not shock anyone when those countries inevitably achieve their democratic goals that they do not immediately serve those interests (Wall Street, Oil Patch, etc.) as had prior governments. Hence, my bleak scenario for the future.

  2. dbl February 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Poor America. At least it was fun while it lasted. Oh, wait; I’m the half-full poster here.

    So, regarding your four points…

    First, yep, prices are going up and speculators will have fun. (As an aside, I think the amount of oil moving via Suez is noticeable but relatively small.) But, as happened couple years ago, lots of Americans will then drive less, which will drag down the price a bit and help us spew less toxins. We’re gonna have to get to the latter place one way or another, whether the cause is climate-related or because the world thinks it wants green alternatives and countries rush to supply them…even if just for jobs and economic opportunities.

    Second, re: that “voters in this country always punish those in power when something bad happens.” 2004? Granted, the Dems ran a woodman for prez, but I didn’t see any punishment meted out to the administration-in-power-during-the biggest-attack-ever-on-American-soil. 2006 maybe, but I think that was a modest tit for its political tat…it was more a function of ennui than pitchforks and torches (except, of course, for true unbelievers.) Let’s see how the American mood shifts after the House tries to shut down the government…again. And yep, those mid-90s Republicans did pay a price!

    Third and fourth: You’re right, the changes will directly affect the broader Middle East, and perhaps beyond. We’re gonna negotiate or fight to keep oil flowing and moving West. We didn’t build those tennis courts and bowling lanes in Iraq for no purpose.

    But I think we’ll find more “foreigners” in the diplomatic or real trenches this time than Mr. Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing” supplied. Everybody with skin in the game is anxious. The Europeans (read “Germans” and, to a much lesser degree, “French”) and the Chinese also let “dependence on foreign oil become inextricably linked to the health of (their) economy and polity, risking its loss will become unacceptable to the powers that be.” All of ’em.

    Now, we may lose our empire, but given your scenarios, I don’t see any other country rising to the throne. But that’s a long discussion for another time(s). For now, congratulations to the Egyptian people.

    • Mark Everett Hall February 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

      Nope. I disagree. I think the few people who would bother to drive less, or, in many cases because of where they live relative to their work places, could drive less will be over taken by the growing number of Chinese & Indian & Brazilian drivers. E.g., GM sold more cars in China than in the USA in 2010.

      The bit of the green thinking & acting that will result from higher prices will be offset (and then some) by transportation choices elsewhere. But I hope you’re right. (But you’re not.) 😉

      I definitely hope you’re right about the American mood come 2012. Not in any way because I think the Dems are so much better, but because the current Republican party’s disdain for democratic principles, intelligent and informed debate, and the equitable application of the law is so much worse. Though, as noted, I fear the Dems will bear the brunt of these unsettling times in the election ahead.

      • dbl February 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

        Yes, we disagree. I’ll bet a quarter that as gas nears $5 a gallon, we’ll see reduced usage in the U.S. And I believe the results will be similar in the enormous “emerging countries” you note, despite their progress. But I’m not confident enough on that to bet another quarter!

        I think I was less than clear about the “green” aspect of the changes. My bad. I don’t believe Americans will “get religion” about this, but that corporations will move to produce products and services for citizens and countries who/that do “get” it. Not altruism, but capitalism, in other words.

        Well, the Dems are marginally better, but it’s a slim margin. I quite like your summation of the root problem: “disdain for democratic principles, intelligent and informed debate, and the equitable application of the law…” On that we agree.

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