Views on the crisis in Egypt: the Muslim Brotherhood gain supreme moral authority
THE mayhem and murder in Egypt has not been helped by stupid Western secularists and liberals who have handed to the Muslim Brotherhood supreme moral authority over the questions of democracy and freedom. Meanwhile, as the West rows of abuse of women on Twitter, scores of churches burn in Egypt.
Barack Obama is clueless.
Islamists are being massacred. Don’t we care?
Some views on the crisis:
“Democracy is not magic. The Demo, remember, stands for people, who are deeply imperfect. Democracy is simply the best method we know of for preserving freedom. When accompanied by a simple and brilliant constitution that restricts government power, guarantees equality under the law and protects minority rights, democracy has been proven to preserve freedom for, oh, yea about 232 years or so. But when it doesn’t do what it’s meant to do, guess what? Democracy is no better than any other method of stomping on people. . . . What I see in Egypt today is a tragedy — a tragedy woven into the fabric of a nation with no good choices. I’m really sorry for the people there; I am. But I’m not sorry they tossed Morsi out.”
Unfortunately, this manages to combine a bad policy of supporting the Egyptian military regime with the insulting pretense that the US is merely a passive observer, instead of a patron, of the offending government.
Much like Obama’s Syria policy, his reaction to the violence in Egypt seems guaranteed to please no one in Egypt or the US. The US isn’t in a position to improve conditions inside Egypt, but it does have control over how it reacts to events there. By law, the US is obliged to suspend military aid to Egypt because of the military’s role in deposing the elected president. Following this week’s brutality, Washington has the perfect excuse to do what it should have already done weeks ago.
“America’s credibility in the Middle East, thanks to the delusions of both parties, is broken, and it cannot be repaired within the time frame required to forestall the next stage of violence. Egypt’s military and its Saudi backers are aghast at American stupidity. Israel is frustrated by America’s inability to understand that Egypt’s military is committed to upholding the peace treaty with Israel while the Muslim Brotherhood wants war. Both Israel and the Gulf States observe the utter fecklessness of Washington’s efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
What happened in Egypt… is sad, disheartening and about as completely unsurprising as any such event can be. . . . al-Sisi and associates believe in the “strong horse” theory of political legitimacy, and they are now in the process of applying that theory to Egyptian realities. Might doesn’t necessarily make right—that’s not at all how Islamic jurisprudence on such matters reads—but it’s good enough for government work failing other, gentler institutional alternatives. The Middle East lacks the warm, fuzzy affection for the underdog that many Americans take to be second nature. The dominant view of what is still a patriarchal, hierarchical and still clingingly pre-modern set of Muslim Middle Eastern societies is that the weak deserve whatever depredations they suffer. It’s a kind of ur-Social Darwinism that has been at work for many centuries before Darwin himself ever saw light of day.
As I also said before, I think Egypt’s military leaders are right about this. And I suspect they recognized that the longer they waited to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood encampments the better prepared the MB would be to resist. And they have resisted, and are still doing so. Several score policemen are dead among the many hundreds of MB protestors in Cairo and around the country. So are hundreds of mostly innocent Copts, who have no recourse but to be on the wrong side of the Brotherhood’s murderous intolerance. Indeed, spending energy and resources to kill Coptic civilians and burn down their churches while Muslim police are bearing down on you with shotguns furnishes about the best example there can be of how MB fanaticism completely swamps its capacity for rational planning of any kind.
[T]he U.S. does fund unsavory regimes that brutalize and oppress their own people. That’s what makes Egypt so different from, say, Syria or Iran, where the U.S. isn’t tied directly to any faction by its bountiful support. And this, in turn, is exactly what makes Obama’s failure to take decisive action amid Egypt’s crisis all the more feckless. The president can not mention, if he so chooses, that the U.S. overwhelming supports one side of the current crisis, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Admittedly, the Muslim Brotherhood protests aren’t the same as those by the students in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese protests were largely spontaneous, the protesters didn’t belong to any one organization, and they didn’t represent a (despotic albeit elected) previous government. Nevertheless, at least 700 people have died since the Egypt military assumed power in a coup July 3, most of them unarmed civilians. And it is just mendacious to suggest, as the Egyptian government does, that responsibility for the killing lies with the Brotherhood — no matter what the organization’s faults, and despite its members fighting back.You have to ask: How would the world be reacting if the victims in Cairo were secularists or anti-communists?
Just six weeks after overthrowing the government in a military coup, the armed forces opened fire on civilians protesting the removal of President Mohammad Morsi and killed more than 500 people, prompting President Barack Obama to cancel joint American-Egyptian military drills.
Springtime never came to Cairo at all. In some ways, Egypt is right back where it was when Hosni Mubarak still ruled the country. The political scene is exactly the same. Two illiberal titans—a military regime and an Islamist opposition—are battling it out. But in other ways, Egypt is in worse shape now than it was. It’s more chaotic, more violent. Its economy is imploding, its people increasingly desperate.
I recently interviewed Eric Trager, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He’s a real expert on Egypt and has been more consistently right than just about anyone. He called out the Muslim Brotherhood as an inherently authoritarian organization while scores of other supposed “experts” falsely pimped it as moderate. And contrary to claims from the opposing camp, that the army “restored” democracy with its coup, he saw the recent bloody unpleasantness coming well in advance.
The Egyptian military holds all of the cards. And the guns. And the credibility with non-Islamists. It is not clear whether Egyptian nationalists prioritize the protection of the rights of Islamist minorities, which is one reason why the military can act with relative impunity and with immunity (to an extent) from a blow to their standing.
The U.S. relies on Egypt for counter-terrorism intelligence, and this relationship has been more or less continuous since well before September 11. Countries (like Russia) have used intelligence sharing as an excuse to get away with activities that diverge from U.S. policy interests. They understand that, since 9/11, the U.S. government has invested heavily in the concept of a grand global alliance against terrorism, and that the relative importance of a country’s intelligence relationship with U.S. counterparts is much higher.
I think it’s been fairly clear for over a month that the Egyptian military began planning all of this in the spring, possibly even earlier. It was rolled out very carefully, very strategically, and very ruthlessly. And while Mohamed Morsi may have been no saint, it probably didn’t matter. The military never had the slightest intention of allowing true civilian rule, whether from the Muslim Brotherhood or anyone else.
The president kept tripping over himself, first claiming that America follows its values, then talking about American interests, and making no attempt to synthesize the two. His announcement about the military exercise must have the junta in Egypt laughing to themselves, especially if the exercise consisted of shooting unarmed people in the head, which is something they seem good at even without (more) American training. But again, the problem is not that Obama looks weak per se; it’s the policy behind the weakness. He hasn’t tried to use aid as leverage (and still refuses to use the word “coup”), he hasn’t (one assumes) put much pressure on American allies who are backing the Egyptian military, and he hasn’t even attempted to lay out the reasons that military rule in Egypt might, in the long term, play against American interests. One need only look to the Middle East and Pakistan to see how military repression can lead to extremism, and rampant anti-Americanism. It was notable that Obama took time to mention that Morsi’s undemocratic actions undermined his case for rule, but not that the military’s much more violent and undemocratic actions did the same.
Photo: A supporter of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi poses with a homemade gas mask during clashes with Egyptian security forces in Ramses Square, downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013.