Something unusual happened on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show the other night -- a guest expressed an opinion that didn't dovetail with Maddow's. This doesn't occur often, presumably not by accident.
Here is an exchange on Monday between Maddow and former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, now the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, over political upheaval in Egypt and the extent to which Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is an American puppet --
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MADDOW: In terms of those hard questions, though, I mean, there is the great atmospheric problem here, which is that the United States saying that it is in effect in support of the protesters, that it is willing to support regime change in Egypt is only in the context of the fact that the United States has made the Mubarak presidency possible in so many ways over the past 30 years. Will the Arab world ever care what we have to say any more about strongmen given our record of propping them up?
INDYK: Propping them up is a strong word. I mean, Mubarak is the pharaoh of Egypt. He didn't really need us to prop him up. He stands at the top of a military regime that took power in 1952 in a revolution when they overthrew the former king and, you know, he stands on his own two feet. But ...
MADDOW: Is ...
INDYK: ... the United States has worked closely with him for a number of very good reasons that have served American interests very well. His predecessor, Anwar Sadat, made peace with Israel. That was the critical breakthrough which made it impossible for other Arab leaders to consider making war with Israel. It began the peace process. I think you'd agree that resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is a good thing and Mubarak has played a very important role in that regard.
MADDOW: But, but, so ...
INDYK: When it came to taking on Saddam Hussein, Mubarak was very supportive, gave us political cover and logistical support. When it comes to Afghanistan, the way that we can use Egypt as a transit route and through the Suez Canal is very important. So there are many strategic interests which are served by the relationship with Hosni Mubarak.
MADDOW: He's also been very well served by $2 billion a year, though, since the Camp David accords. I mean, the Egyptian military is the tenth largest in the world because it's full of F-16s and M1A1 Abrams tanks and Chinook helicopters and Tow missiles and all the rest of it. I mean, we may not be propping him up, but I'm not sure that he's standing on his own two feet given that that's the second largest recipient of US arms and US aid after Israel.
INDYK: Well, it's even more bizarre than that because he's receiving the military aid because he made peace with Israel. It's all part of the peace treaty deal. Israel gets $2 billion and Egypt gets around $1.3 billion. But the silver lining if you're looking for it in that military relationship is that that does give us considerable influence with the Egyptian military today. We train, equip, pay for, exercise with and have built military to military relations for 30 years with the Egyptian military. And so now I think that the word is coming from our generals to their generals, don't even think about firing on the demonstrators.
"But the silver lining if you're looking for it in that military relationship," Indyk said -- if you're looking for it the operative phrase here. Which Maddow clearly isn't. She'd prefer invoking the venerable liberal meme of Amerika the Bully propping up tinpot "strongmen" around the world -- even though the premise took a huge hit over the last decade with the US-led ouster of a strongman in Iraq.
The response from the left to this departure from the decades-long pattern of American support for authoritarian regimes, one extending back to the birth of the Cold War and supported by leaders of both major parties? To vilify George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as war criminals.
In case Maddow has forgotten, the architect of the Camp David accords that she cited, which led to the US aid to Egypt she mentioned, was none other than former president Jimmy Carter, left-wing oracle for all matters Middle Eastern.
As Indyk also pointed out, the American assistance to Egypt that Maddow finds so distasteful (lions and tigers and tanks, oh my!) has not only helped keep the peace with Israel for 30 years, a span of biblical proportion by Mideast standards, it provides the United States with leverage to influence the Egyptian military -- "don't even think about firing on the demonstrators."
Would that a similar arrangement existed between the United States, China and Taiwan in June 1989.