Those are the wise words of Michael Ledeen’s Grandma Mashe and, in the case of Egypt, I think she’s right. While the situation there right now looks bad, the likely outcomes are even worse: harsh military rule or the ascension to power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks a society based on strict sharia law and sees itself in a long-term jihad against the West. The prospects for replacing the current authoritarian regime with liberal democracy is, in my opinion, minimal in a land that has never known democracy in it 6,000-year history and where the current regime has done little, if anything, to allow democratic opposition to grow — and in the process left the people only with radical Islam as an outlet for protest.
Anyway, in reading online I’ve come across some articles to pass along, the first from the aforementioned Mr. Ledeen, who’s always worth following: Revolution? By Whom? For What?
And what about us? We are supposed to be the revolutionaries, and we must support democratic revolution against tyranny. But we must not support phony democrats, and for the president to say “Egypt’s destiny will be determined by the Egyptian people,” or “everyone wants to be free” is silly and dangerous. Egypt’s destiny will be determined by a fight among Egyptian people, some of whom wish to be free and others who wish to install a tyranny worse than Mubarak’s. That’s the opposite of freedom. Think about the free elections in Gaza that brought the Hamas killers to power. For that matter, think about Khomeini, viewed at the time as a progressive democrat by many of the leading intellectual and political lights of the West, from Foucault to Andrew Young.
We should have been pressuring the friendly tyrants in the Middle East to liberalize their polities lo these many years. We should have done it in the shah’s Iran, and in Mubarak’s Egypt, and in Ben Ali’s Tunisia. It is possible to move peacefully from dictatorship to democracy (think Taiwan. Think Chile. Think South Africa). But we didn’t, in part because of the racist stereotype that goes under the label “the Arab street,” according to which the Arab masses are motivated above all by an unrelenting rage at Israel for its oppression of the beloved Palestinians. That myth went along with another: the belief that the culture of the Arab world (sometimes expanded to “the culture of the Muslim world”) was totally resistant to democracy. The tumult has nothing to do with Palestine/Israel and even a blind bat can see hundreds of thousands of Arabs fighting for democracy, as have their fellow Muslims in Iran.
We shoulda, coulda done better all along. But here we are. It’s quite clear that Obama is totally bamboozled.
The United States has huge stakes in Egypt and the region, but I fear our ability to influence events is limited by our lack of knowledge and by, quite simply, the fact that revolutions, once ignited, are almost impossible to direct. The winners are not always the largest force, but usually the most organized and disciplined, such as the Bolsheviks in 1917.
And speaking of disciplined forces, former UN Ambasssador John Bolton sees the situation becoming more dangerous, as the Muslim Brotherhood has become openly involved and the military wonders about its own survival:
I think after the Friday prayers the Brotherhood brought its people out. That’s why the protests are even more extensive today. That constitutes no doubt about it a direct threat to the military government, and I think the failure of the other security forces to bring the demonstrations under control also now explains the presence of the military.
Let me be clear here, this is not just the Mubarak-family government. The military has ruled Egypt since Gamal Nasser and they overthrew King Farook.
It’s the military that is the real government and they are not going to go peacefully.
I think the question is whether and to what extent the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamists have infiltrated the leadership. If the military holds firm it’s entirely possible, although bloody, that the government can hold onto power. That doesn’t necessarily mean Mubarak will be in power, but the military will be, and I think that is why this contrast makes it so important for people to understand, this is not a choice between the Mubarak government on one hand, and sweetness and light, Jeffersonian democracy on the other.
I don’t think we have evidence yet that these demonstrations are necessarily about democracy. You know the old saying, “one person, one vote, one time.” The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t care about democracy, if they get into power you’re not going to have free and fair elections either.
He also brings up the parlous situation of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who constitute roughly ten percent of the population and suffer regular persecution and pogroms. You can bet they’re terrified of the possibility of a Brotherhood-dominated government or a more nakedly military government that needs a convenient scapegoat to deflect the Islamists.
And the Brotherhood may be calling in markers, as its offshoot Hamas appears to be coming to its aid:
The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the MB. The MB has fully engaged itself in the demonstrations, and they are unsatisfied with the dismissal of the Cabinet. They are insisting on a new Cabinet that does not include members of the ruling National Democratic Party.
(via Power Line)
Only a fool (Or a TV talking head) pretends to be able to predict with certainty what will happen in Egypt, but Andrew Bostom reminds us of a University of Maryland survey showing that a disturbingly large number of Egyptians want a sharia-ruled state:
In a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org interview survey of 1000 Egyptian Muslims conducted between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007, 67% of those interviewed-more than 2/3, hardly a “fringe minority”-desired this outcome (i.e., “To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate”). The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate is strongly suggested by a concordant result: 74% of this Muslim sample approved the proposition “To require a strict (…) application of Shari’a law in every Islamic country.”
See also Michael Totten’s recent blog entry talking about other worrisome data points of Egyptian public opinion. Like Michael, I fear that Egyptians may just get what they wish, only to very much regret it later — like the Iranians in 1979.
LINKS: Obama adviser Bruce Riedel tells us we shouldn’t worry about the Muslim Brotherhood; Bruce Riedel is also a fool. At Big Peace, journalist Caroline Glick has a must-read article on Egypt and the Pragmatic Fantasy, while former Muslim Nonie Darwish calls Egypt’s situation a choice between bad and worse. At Threat Matrix, Thomas Joscelyn examines the longstanding ties between the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and the Shiite mullahs of Iran.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)