Juan Cole has listed 5 foreign policy challenges for the US in 2012, number 3 being Syria and number 2 being Egypt. One might be charitable and describe Cole as neutral on the issue of states in the Middle East being independent and accountable to their populations rather than to Cole's country, the United States. But one must admit that he expresses comfort and reassurance at the idea that the foreign policies at least of these countries are not determined locally.
My comment posted there did not pass the moderation filter, but I'll leave it here.
The Muslim Brotherhood is making it clear that they want to submit the 1979 Camp David Peace treaty to a national referendum. A Muslim Brotherhood prime minister or president is most unlikely to be willing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or to continue to help impose a blockade on the Palestinian civilians of Gaza. The Egyptian military is still ultimately in control, and it does not want hostilities with Israel, so that this change is unlikely to go beyond producing tensions.Cole came to prominence as a critic of the George W. Bush administration. I once thought he was far more liberal than he actually is. Cole's only criticism of Mubarak, of Iran's Shah, and if he's consistent also his only criticism of the British indirect rule of parts of India and Great Britain's control of the colonies that are now called UAE is that those examples of colonialism may not effectively hold those countries under control.
What makes you write, in the context of a future with a sitting parliament and an Islamist post-Mubarak prime minister, that the Egyptian military is still ultimately in control? The constitution of post-Mubarak Egypt has not been written or at least not released to the public.
Have you heard indications of this behind the scenes from Obama administration officials?
You also present it as a reassuring thing, which raises the question, do you approve of Egypt’s voters not being sovereign over Egypt’s foreign policy but that instead Egypt’s foreign policy should remain accountable to the United States?
In any case, rising Egyptian-Israeli tensions for the first time since the early 1970s present a severe challenge to US policy, which attempts to maintain good relations with both.
That’s an interesting way to put that. Would you describe the US’ relationship with Iran under the Shah as an “attempt to maintain good relations” with Iran? The Shah, like Mubarak and Tantawi, was a dictator over whom the United States held tremendous leverage and over whom his own people had no leverage until at least hundreds were dying in the streets in protest. Is that your idea of good relations?
The crisis in Syria remains grave. It can only end in one of three ways: The regime succeeds in repressing the reform movement, 2) the reform movement comes to power, or 3) the regime makes enough changes to allow a slow transition away from one-party authoritarianism.
I don’t remember ever reading you characterize Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or UAE as authoritarian.
Last year the phrase you used to describe the Mubarak dictatorship was “unproblematic for the US”. No mention of authoritarianism there either.
And of course, you’ve referred in agreement to Freedom House describing Morocco and Kuwait as “partly free”.
Do you give passes to pro-US authoritarian dictatorships in the Middle East? If so, why?
If Western countries are actually able to hold non-Western countries effectively, Cole's language indicates that he favors colonial-style relations. That puts him in agreement with Barack Obama no more or less than it does with Winston Churchill and Cecil Rhodes.