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August 01, 2004

Gamal Nasser, Quipster

I've been reading an excellent book called Containing Arab Nationalism. It's a close look at America's policies toward the mideast during Eisenhower's second term.

The book quotes the memoirs of the late Miles Copeland, a CIA honcho (and father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for the Police). According to Copeland, Gamal Nasser once told him:

The genius of you Americans is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which makes us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing.

This is funny. But it also illustrates a problem human beings often have in politics, which is thinking there's more going on in the minds of their opponents than there appears to be. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, there's actually less.

In other words, when you're President of Egypt and you find yourself asking, "Are these people really that stupid, or is this all part of some huge diabolical scheme?" the answer is: they really are that stupid. Powerful people are, generally speaking, the stupidest people on earth.

(And speaking of stupidity, let me also recommend the funny and profound book The Story of Stupidity. A college friend of mine lent me his copy. Which was pretty stupid of him, because I never returned it.)

Posted at August 1, 2004 06:21 PM | TrackBack

The entire Middle Eastern cafe conversation topic is "what is the weird diabolical plan the US has, because we just can't figure it out????" and when I, as an American, try to say "actually the US just has incompetent leaders who are bungling" they say "oh no WAY. No WAY you guys can be THAT stupid. There has to be a deep dark reason, something to do with Israel." So Nasser's legacy marches on.

Posted by: Anna in Cairo at August 3, 2004 05:26 AM

Oh, there's conspiracies, alright, but really dumb, obvious ones, like "let's make all our friends rich... nobody'll notice!" Sigh... There's a joke here about the hundred monkeys accidentally typing out the works of Shakespeare, combined with the fact that Dubya looks like an ijit monkey... ah, no, I guess there's no joke in that, after all.

Posted by: Michael Martine at August 6, 2004 12:09 AM
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