Why the Jews, Bibi or Obama?

By William K. Black

Shmuel Rosner, in his Jerusalem Post column, criticizes Professor Telhami’s prediction in the New York Time’s “Room for Debate” feature that: “Benjamin Netanyahu will likely be seen by future Israelis as the prime minister who lost Egypt.” Rosner’s response: “you say ‘prediction’ – I say ‘wishful thinking.” Rosner explains:
Why? Does he think Netanyahu could have prevented Egyptian unrest? Did he provoke Egyptians in any way? Why would Israelis blame Netanyahu for something on which he had no control? I read Telhami’s column once and twice and couldn’t quite get it.
Rosner’s comment brings to mind the famous joke. It is 1936. A German Jew stops just at the entrance to a meeting hall where a Nazi speaker is whipping up the crowd.
Who stabbed Germany in the back? Who sabotaged the German army when it was on the verge of victory? Who betrayed the Fatherland by giving the British our secrets so that their Navy could blockade our ports and starve our people? Who destroyed our economy and our currency? It was always the same group and you know who they were. Answer me now – who did all these things?

The Jew yells an answer before the rest of the crowd can react: “the bicyclists!” The Nazi speaker and the crowd are stunned. The bewildered Nazi finally asks, “why the bicyclists?” The Jew responds: “why the Jews?”

I understand and agree with Rosner’s criticism of Telhami’s prediction. It makes no sense to blame Bibi (Netanyahu’s popular nickname) for something “on which he had no control.” But the JPost is chock full of columns, including one by Rosner, that blame President Obama for Mubarak’s fall. Unlike Telhami’s column, which is respectful, the tone of the JPost columns attacking Obama is exceptionally strident. Why doesn’t Rosner recognize that it is absurd to blame either the bicyclists (Obama) or the Jews (Netanyahu) for Mubarak’s loss of power? Why not blame Mubarak and his cronies and family – who the Egyptians came to despise?

The efforts by JPost columnists to blame Obama for Mubarak’s fall are less coherent than Telhami’s critique of Netanyahu. Ms. Honig claims “Obama ushered in chaos even if he chose Cairo as his venue for the 2009 speech in which he sucked up to Islam [sic].” Obama gave a speech on June 4, 2009 that supposedly caused street revolts in Cairo 18 months later. In reality, the revolt in Tunisia sparked the protests in Cairo and the revolt in Tunisia was caused by the usual combination of corrupt, failed, and autocratic leadership plus a random event. As even Honig concedes, Mubarak could not remain in power in any event because “Mubarak is old and ill.” He also had no successor with legitimacy that Israel would find desirable. Honig projects magic powers onto Obama – a speech, in English, by an American produced a national movement in Egypt.

But Rosner asks the right question, though he fails to ask it of his JPost colleagues: how was Netanyahu or Obama supposed to “control” either the Egyptian military or the protestors? Rosner finds the answer to that question about Netanyahu so obvious that it is clear that he considers the question foolish. Netanyahu could not “control” either the Egyptian military or the protestors. Netanyahu had no magic button he could push that would give him such control. Rosner sees all this with clarity. But he and his colleagues cannot see that Obama had no magic button. No one seriously believes that Obama can give a speech and cause the residents of Cairo to start or to end a revolt. The only conceivable magic button is bribery of senior Egyptian generals.

There are three crippling problems with the hypothesized Obama magic bribery button. First, what is supposed to happen if the bribe succeeds? “Successful” bribery would require the Egyptian army to kill, torture, and imprison enough Egyptians to terrorize the protestors to the point that the protests ended and did not resume. Even if the bribe and the repression succeeded, how long would Mubarak live and what destabilizing forces would the campaign of terror against Egyptians unleash? Second, the bribe would likely fail and blow up in the face of the nation offering the bribe. Imagine Al Jazeera interviewing an Egyptian general explaining that a foreign government offered him a $200 million bribe in return for a promise to order the Egyptian army to attack the protestors. Third, if Obama has a magical bribery button that can create a “successful” Egyptian army war of terror against the Egyptian people – then Netanyahu does as well. Mossad can run a “false flag” bribery operation of an Egyptian general by representatives of a pseudo-Saudi prince. Indeed, since JPost columnists have long employed their most derisive and insulting prose to demonstrate that the American government is hopelessly incompetent in understanding and influencing Arab and Iranian officials, Mossad should be dramatically superior to our CIA in arranging such bribes and directing the resulting campaign of terror against the Egyptian people. If Obama “lost” Egypt by failing to bribe the Egyptian generals, then Netanyahu “lost” Egypt. (Indeed, every major nation with a intelligence service “lost” Egypt under this “logic.”)

The U.S. should never Act as Israel’s “Shabbos Goy”
The three crippling problems with the magic bribery button theory also prompt a question: why do the JPost columnists think that Obama has a duty to act as Netanyahu’s “Shabbos Goy”? Is there some secret codicil to the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Accords under which America agreed to bribe the Egyptian military to terrorize and murder Egyptian civilians should they ever revolt? How many Egyptians did we agree to kill? If Israel felt it was essential to its national security to use bribery to spark a wave of terror against the Egyptian protestors then it was Israel’s responsibility to undertake that murderous strategy and to take the moral and strategic consequences of unleashing the terror. It is obscene for Israelis to criticize the U.S. for refusing to act despicably when Israelis (correctly!) refuse to engage in those same despicable acts. We should never act as Israel’s or any other nation’s Shabbos Goy.

Why didn’t Bibi order Mossad to bribe the Egyptian generals to order the army to attack Egyptian civilians? Because doing so would have been morally depraved, unsuccessful, and harmful to Israel. I am a white-collar criminologist. I study fraud and bribery by elites and have helped conduct investigations to detect it and systems to reduce it. Corruption is a severe problem in Egypt (and Israel), and corrupt senior leaders pose a risk to national security. But bribery has great limitations even in corrupt nations. A general who grows rich through kickbacks from defense contractors will typically refuse even huge bribes that would require him to murder fellow citizens who are peacefully demonstrating for change. It is easier to bribe the military to engage in terror when the nation is fighting a vicious civil war along ethnic divisions in which terror is the norm. That is not the situation in Egypt – and no Western nation understood that fact better than Israel. I predict that the Mossad did not present using bribery to instigate a wave of terror against the Egyptian protestors as an option to Netanyahu. I predict that the same is true of the CIA and Obama.

The CIA, contrary to JPost columnists’ typical derision, combined bribery, small units of special forces, and smart air strikes brilliantly in the initial campaign in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks. But the CIA also learned early in that campaign the limits of relying on bribery (and financial incentives such as rewards) to capture or kill the most senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders. Afghanistan also demonstrates the typical weakness of trying to create a reliable national government – seen by the population as legitimate – through bribery and the provision of ample opportunities for corrupt gain.

Mubarak lost Egypt – to the Egyptian people – who no longer feared or respected him or his children. None of us know what will come next. Mubarak’s successors could be far worse. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has a magic button to push that will determine his successors. There are great limits to U.S. and Israeli power and life is uncertain. That is the nature of the real world.

11 responses to “Why the Jews, Bibi or Obama?

  1. What is this obsession with Israel?

  2. More to the point, what is this obsession with JPost columnists?

  3. Professor Black thanks for doing the Racine interview. More people seem to be willing to call in and discuss what they know to be fraud since your visit.Isn't the Egypt problem similar to the Global problem? Isn't it a matter of control frauds, criminogenic environments, and unchecked growth? Doesn't an institution as it grows have greater financial needs? Doesn't a criminogenic environment support socio-pathic personalities who typically steal more and thus force the institution to engage in larger and ever increasing amounts of fraud to support the institution? Isn't that the answer to the question you posed in an earlier article?Again, thanks for bringing your voice to the WRJN listening area. Hopefully, you sold a few books in the process. Take care.

  4. Why an obsession with Israel? I would guess: because Israel's influence tends to dangerously distort USian foreign policy in the area most essential to maintaining our petroleum consumption…But if this site is going to venture into foreign policy matters, it would be appropriate to make the economic connections clear.The decades-long continuing debasement of the Zionist ideal is deplorable, a cause of great suffering now and possible disaster at any time… but it isn't economics!

  5. It's an obsession with fraud and corruption — my primary research interests plus an interest in developmental and peace economics. All these "who lost X" debates come down to the implicit claim that we can successfully use corruption and terror as a centerpiece of our policy to achieve our foreign affairs goals. This view has clear ramifications for development and peace economics because it creates the Guatemalas of the world. Reading the JPost columnists showed me that there are folks actively seeking to endorse endless war and conquest as a means of, for example, obtaining "energy independence." Other JPost columnists are stoking the "who lost Iran" and "who lost Egypt" claims that as I noted above implicitly rely on corruption and terror as the purported alternative. It's some of the most important and dangerous policy arguments going on in the world. Anyone that knows my work knows that I think that taking fraud and corruption seriously are essential to develop effective economic policies and theories. I'm writing in my core research focus. When you do the research necessary to understand an area you don't stop at one piece, you write a series of pieces on different aspects of what you've learned. Personally, I thought the obsession with obtaining skin-diving as a basis for theft was telling. -Bill Black

  6. Basically, at this point we've got a world largely governed by those 'control fraud' folks; they've been collecting bulk of the wealth in an increasingly 'Ponzi' economy, and applying it to gaining power over minds and governments… Of course people infatuated with 'winning via sociopathic behavior' have been with us since long before the current economic situation… I don't know if there's an 'effective' answer once the kleptocrats start running the criminogenic economy to suit themselves– except that their ability to control events is less than their ability to huff'n'puff.

  7. Interesting – what are the roots of this willingness to use corruption and terror to achieve foreign policy goals? Certainly, Israel and the Mossad were not the first to use these methods. I would think that for someone who researches fraud and corruption, they would have extended that search to include government institutions within the US. No mention is ever made of the fraud involved in the Gulf of Tonkin, Iran-Contra, or the assassinations of important US citizens, where the signs of so-called "intelligence" involvement eventually become exposed but are always "plausibly denied".The use of terror and fraud was raised to the level of an art form by the nazis. Many of those nazis, who would have met a more just fate if they had been captured by the Red Army, were instead welcomed into our "intelligence" organisations, which were developed by the head nazi-sympathizer, Allen Dulles. If one wanted to get a good grasp on the growth of fraud and terror in the US, a history of the development of "intelligence" from the OSS days following WWII would seem to be in order.Nevertheless, I think these are good pieces that Mr. Black has submitted. And I stand by what I've said in a previous post – it's a fools task to try and separate politics from economics.

  8. Bill,I think terror ranks right up there with fraud and corruption, but let's grant your point for the moment. Were you turning a blind eye to PLO corruption? Can you point to posts or articles you wrote in the PLO era? If not, I think these posts are more anti-Israel than anti-corruption.

  9. Governments are never truthful about their policies, especially ones that violate human rights and dignity. Officially, they portray themselves as being justified in their actions.Outspoken columnists are not to be feared. The more outspoken they are, the better. Their ideas can be challenged in the open for everyone to see. Not so for policy decisions made in secret and carried out behind our backs.

  10. Are Israelis buying what these people are saying?

  11. Bill,Why no post about Iran killing its own citizens who dare to protest the corrupt regime? Why the focus on Israel which is not? Instead of quoting a few meaningless JP bloggers, you might try the words of Iran's leaders who really do have the power to control Iran/