A word from David Rieff

David Rieff is a principled man of the left whom I greatly respect. He last wrote in to comment on “R2P or not R2P.” Today he writes to comment on “Contain this” and Egypt’s food crisis:

I actually share your skepticism about the Arab Spring, but having spent the last five years writing a book about the crisis of the global food system, I’d caution you that linking the food crisis in Egypt to the Morsi government is unwise (see this 2008 link). The crisis is global and affects countries with very different political systems and ideological biases. And in the specific case of Egypt, if anything, the global spike in food prices and, more importantly still, the increasing volatility in the price of food staples over the past decade, is generally thought in the development world (and by groups like Stratfor) to have played some role in undermining the Mubarak regime — though unsurprisingly there is no consensus about the extent of that role.

Moreover, while you are right to tax USAID for not attaching human rights conditionalities to American food aid, in fairness it should be pointed out that in this it is simply pursuing the same approach of what might politely called non-interference it did during the 30 years of Mubarak (and for which human rights groups taxed it at the time).

I am grateful to have Mr. Rieff’s knowledgeable comment on this important subject and hope he will check in with us again when his book is published.

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