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Hillary opts for lame “transition” jargon on Egypt

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today a new US government position on Egypt, calling for a ‘transition to a democratic regime.’ This was also the old US government position on Egypt.

As this blog has pointed out, the “transition” word is a much-used device to appear to be in favor of democracy while in fact taking no position whatsoever. The democracy scholar Thomas Carothers is one who first pointed out the emptiness of the “transition” paradigm, noting a USAID description of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2001 as a country in “transition to a democratic, free market society.”

In this rhetorical make-believe, EVERY country is allegedly in “transition” to democracy, even if a dicatator is the status quo. Dictators are just a temporary delay, or even maybe themselves gradually “transitioning,” since the “transition” jargon leaves completely open WHEN democracy will arrive, or HOW SLOWLY the dictatorship will imperceptibly fade away.

Sorry, Hillary, you haven’t actually said anything yet, please let us know when you get a bit more enthusiastic about people demanding their own democratic rights.

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9 Comments

  1. Koheleth wrote:

    But the same is true of “corruption,” a concept about which Professor Easterly has had somewhat more to say. “Corruption” implies descent from some mythical state of administrative transparency and technocratic nirvana in which there is no such thing as the patronage networks that continue to make most countries go despite their genuflections to USAID.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  2. Language Police wrote:

    ‘Lame’ is ableist.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  3. Manuel wrote:

    Hey, prof. Easterly, give the Secretary of State a break! Final outcome in Egypt is highly uncertain, “an unknown unknown”, in the brilliant Rumsfeld taxonomy. How can possibly Mrs. Clinton honor the long-established tradition in American foreign policy of cheering for the winner?

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  4. Jacob AG wrote:

    “Dictators are just a temporary delay, or even maybe themselves gradually “transitioning,” since the “transition” jargon leaves completely open WHEN democracy will arrive, or HOW SLOWLY the dictatorship will imperceptibly fade away.”

    A lot of Marxists made the same mistake; the proletariat would INEVITABLY wake up and shed its bonds, so there wasn’t any rush. Not every Marxist made this mistake (e.g. Trotsky), but plenty of others did. I don’t think there’s any profound insight here, just an observation.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  5. ewaffle wrote:

    The audience that Mrs. Clinton is addressing with her transition remarks it certainly isn’t the people in the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Her boss and every President for the past 30 years has supported Mubarak. The United States armed forces are occupying Iraq having already engaged in mass slaughter there, are the only thing keeping Hamid Karzai in power and continue to “selectively” kill Pakistani civilians while hunting for the ever elusive al Qaeda leadership.

    She was talking to herself and those who might take her seriously.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink
  6. Elli Davis wrote:

    People are generally better off if they live in a democratic country but I still doubt whether the vision of democracy is what led the people of Egypt into the streets. It seems to be more of a struggle for some kind of economic prosperity that is happening in the country right now. And I am afraid if this prosperity is not achieved the US intervention will give those people a reason to accuse the Western world of having promised something which is impossible to obtain.

    Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:38 am | Permalink
  7. Clare Lynch wrote:

    Another favourite – uttered by Tony Blair on UK radio the other morning in reference to Egypt – is “we’re building a platform for change”.

    In other words, “we don’t want to change anything, merely make out we’re preparing for the possibility of change at some point in the future. Maybe.”

    Posted February 1, 2011 at 5:00 am | Permalink
  8. www.voxi.lt wrote:

    In other words, “we don’t want to change anything, merely make out we’re preparing for the possibility of change at some point in the future. Maybe.”

    Posted February 2, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink
  9. Taylor Nash wrote:

    Mrs. Clinton’s attempt to announce a “new” US government position on Egypt demonstrates how “political” politics have become. She essentially re-words the US’s already standing policy regarding Egypt. It seems that regardless of party affiliation, most politicians have lost the desire to stand up for what they believe in. They seem more concerned about the press and their wardrobe than they do about world politics, most recently the situation in Egypt. As Easterly says at the end of his post, Clinton hasn’t really said anything about how she really feels or what she thinks is the best way to resolve the problem. Isn’t that the job of a politician? To stand up for the ideas of the people they represent?

    Posted February 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

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  3. By Glückliches Arabien ctd | Rhetorik-Blog on February 2, 2011 at 11:58 am

    […] Hillary opts for lame “transition” jargon on Egypt […]

  4. […] as economist William Easterly points out, American-backed “transitions” have an unsavory […]

  5. […] backed him as leader of an “orderly transition.” Though as development economist Bill Easterly noted, American-backed “transitions” have a habit of not being so […]

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