Curtis Dahlgren
Win one for the Gipper (and think like an [honest] Egyptian; a book review)
By Curtis Dahlgren
February 6, 2011

"I don't like them fellas that drive in two runs and let in three." — Casey Stengel

I am the Captain of the Pinafore,
And a right good Captain too! . .

I always voted at my party's call . .
Never thought of thinking for myself at all.

Things are seldom what they seem,
The skim milk masquerades as cream.
— Sir William S. Gilbert (1836-1911)

RONALD REAGAN WAS BORN THE YEAR GILBERT DIED, AND WHAT A BIRTHDAY PARTY THEY'RE THROWING FOR HIM IN DALLAS! Over one hundred thousand people and a military flyover on his one-hundredth birthday! If the Gipper were still with us, he might grab the P.A. microphone and say, "I suppose you wondered why I gathered you all here today . . . " (just kidding). But as Robert McFarlane once said of Reagan:

"He knows 'so little' and accomplishes so much!"

Maybe more about Reagan next time, but today I want to do part 2 of a book review, "My Father and I" by Camelia Sadat. Anwar elSadat was another man who was born poor, in a rural village of Egypt. He came up through the military to be president of Egypt. While the United States has gone through eight presidents, Egypt has had two. Stability isn't always a bad thing, at least not in that part of the world.

I remember one of the first questions I ever asked my mother, perhaps when I was about 3 years old: "How do wars start?" Thankfully, I was too young to comprehend what was going on in the world from 1942 to 1945, though my parents were news junkies and I must have overheard a lot of horrible stuff. Well, that's partly why I want to post some excerpts from "My Father and I." We start at a point exactly 40 years ago last week — February 4, 1971 — when Sadat addressed the parliament with a proposal:

"The gist was that if Israel would withdraw her forces in Sinai, Egypt would reopen the Suez Canal, more the Egyptian army to the East Bank, extend the Rogers Plan cease-fire . . restore diplomatic relations with the United States, and sign a peace agreement with Israel . .

"Looking back on that initiative, Father wrote in In Search of Identity, 'If the United States or Israel had shown enough interest in that initiative, the October War [or Yom Kippur War] would not have taken place and the process of negotiating peace would have started in February or March 1971.'

"The United States did not take Father seriously. William Rogers, the U.S. secretary of state, tried to shift the burden of blame onto him . . . The U.S. also regarded Egypt as a client of the Soviet Union. However, in reality the Soviets were of virtually no help to Father's government . . As for military support to replace losses of the Six-Day War or strengthen the Egyptian military, the Soviets repeatedly made promises but delivered little.

"[By July 1972] Father had lost faith in the Soviet Union, which was giving neither arms nor diplomatic priority to Egypt. Father expelled some fifteen thousand Soviet experts. They withdrew, taking with them Egypt's four MIG-25 planes . . . Father began preparing for a war.

"At 2:00 PM on October 6, 1973, Egypt launched 222 supersonic jets across the Suez Canal. The first wave completed its mission in twenty minutes. Much to Father's sorrow, his youngest stepbrother Atif, a pilot, died within the first minutes of the war . . [but the Egyptian Air Force] had restored the world's confidence in us . . .

"The United States had been monitoring the war via satellite. Things were going so badly for Israel that . . 'now two American rockets were fired at two Egyptian missile batteries and put them both out of action completely. I later came to learn that this was a new U.S. rocket called the TV-camera bomb . . "

[At this point Sadat said, "I knew my capabilities. I did not intend to fight the entire United States of America," and a cease-fire went into effect on October 22, 1973. This little historical excerpt is fascinating as a lesson in how to prevent a war, how to blunder into a war, and how to end a war, from the unique perspective of the Egyptians themselves. I pray it will throw some "light" on the current situation in Cairo. In conclusion, we now shift gears to 1974 and a visit by President Nixon with his former "enemies."]

"In the spring of 1974, President Nixon was scheduled to make a state visit to Egypt. Festivals began several days before Nixon's arrival date. Egyptians were excited because Nixon would be the first U.S. president ever to visit Egypt. There was a widespread opinion that Egypt would be well served by improved relations with the United States. . .

"Since my father had kicked the USSR's experts out of Egypt in 1972, it was doubtful help would be forthcoming from that quarter. The U.S. interest in Egypt was clear, since Secretary of State Kissinger had been involved in shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel since the October War in 1973.

"Father was so enamored of Kissinger that the phrase 'My friend Kissinger said . . ' became routine in his speeches. In Egypt, people jokingly exchanged greetings with one another by saying, 'Hi, my friend Kissinger!' . . .

"The trip to Egypt came shortly before Nixon would resign the presidency. Upon the visit of foreign heads of state, it was customary for the Egyptian government to ask the schools to send the children to line the streets as part of the greeting. If they had not been there, the streets still would have been packed the day Nixon arrived. Balconies were near to overflowing. There was such a sea of humans that TV cameras could not get a clear view of Father and President Nixon in the procession.

"There were scores of parties, and for the first time, Father posed with [his wife] Jihan and their family for photographers and for television camermen. Unlike many other countries, where the families of rulers are considered public property, Egyptian rulers' families had been shielded from the press. . .

"Photos of the Sadat children had never been presented in the press. However, on this occasion, President Nixon had brought his wife along. Previously, state visitors to Egypt had not been accompanied by family members. Father evidently decided that he would match Nixon's style."

[This is all "ancient history" by now, but for one thing, it is very, very interesting that other governments in the world had a higher regard for Nixon than his own did. I have an 18 by 24 inch framed photograph of Nixon on the wall of my hall. It was a gift from Nixon to a family member, and while discarded once, I display it for the very reason that "foreigners" repected Nixon quite highly. That visit to Cairo was the symbolic beginning of a friendship with Egypt that has continued about 40 years. God forbid that "exuberant enthusiasms" and excesses in the streets could again threaten relations with the U.S. (and potentially threaten the Suez Canal).

P.S. I wrote this stuff partly to take my mind off Super Sunday (that big Reagan birthday party in the Big D). This is in part a reminder that there are other things happening this week — things other than football. For example, I have heard that Somali pirates are holding 31 ships right now and over 700 sailors (who are being treated worse than Anderson Cooper in Cairo).

And the U.S. Navy is doing "what?" about it?! Turning submarines into co-ed dormitories (which accomplishes exactly

You can't figure out why we "don't get no respect" from the Arab countries anymore? Hey, we still lead the world in some things: drug use, child porn, porn of all kinds, and some public schools are combining the drugs and the porn and the sex right in the classroom.

The bad news is, a second grade class in Oakland recently featured partial nudity and sex acts — not by the teacher but by the students; the good news is they didn't disclose what the subject of the class was at the moment.

The bad news is that students of another public school were caught smoking marijuana in school; the good news is that they weren't second graders (they were sixth graders). I could go on and on, but my typing fingers are getting tired. More to come.

PPS: As Jenkin Lloyd-Jones used to ask, "Have we reached the stomach-turning point yet?"

Alexis de Tocqueville said:

"The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals . . That is a commonplace truth, but one to which my studies are always bringing me back."


© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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