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As Egypt burns: has the administration picked a side? And some on the left are still in “moon pony” land about the Muslim Brotherhood and the potential for a Muslim state emerging

I’m not sure how you might interpret this, but it seems to me, given what Secretary Hillary Clinton has been saying, that we’ve picked a side in Egypt.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure.

Granted it doesn’t tell Mubarak to give it up, it certainly doesn’t openly support the protesters, but make no mistake, in diplo-speak, this is pretty close to doing both.  I’m not judging it one way or the other, I’m just sayin’.

Stipulating that, who does the administration think will lead the transition to that country having more “economic and political freedom?”

Well, she doesn’t say, but my guess is the administration would find Mohammad ElBaradei to be an acceptable choice.  The question is does he really have the support to actually take power or, as many worry, if Mubarak flies off to Saudi Arabia – the country of choice for ousted dictators – will ElBaradei suddenly find himself on the outside looking in as more powerful factions compete for control?

Of course, there are those on the left here who are pretty sure that the Muslim Brotherhood running some sort of anti-American Muslim state is just a myth and nothing to worry about.  Meanwhile, in the real world, Haarretz reports:

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group,is in talks with other anti-government figures to form a national unity government without President Hosni Mubarak, a group official told DPA on Sunday.

Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, told DPA that his group was in talks with Mohammed ElBaradei – the former UN nuclear watchdog chief – to form a national unity government without the National Democratic Party of Mubarak.

The group is also demanding an end to the draconian Emergency Laws, which grant police wide-ranging powers The laws have been used often to arrest and harass the Islamist group.

Nasser said his group would not accept any new government with Mubarak. On Saturday the Brotherhood called on President Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner following the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet.

So the moves within the opposition are beginning to become visible.  Meanwhile useful idiots like ElBaradei are necessary to calm the rest of the world to give the “revolution” an acceptable face until power can be consolidated.  And leave it to ElBaradei to cooperate fully, given the hubris of the man:

Speaking to CNN later Sunday, ElBaradei said he had a popular and political mandate to negotiate the creation of a national unity government.

"I have been authorized — mandated — by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government," he told CNN.

A couple of things to remember – the Muslim Brotherhood has been the opposition in Egypt, not ElBaradei.  The MB is closely identified with the revolutionary nationalism that is now evident, ElBaradei has been in “exile”.  The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned from having seats in the Egyptian Parliament, yet they’ve still successfully run candidates as “independents” to capture a portion of seats.

Also remember that Egyptian prisons have been the incubators of Islamic jihad and that the MB has been well represented in those prisons.

Or, to put it more succinctly, look for the MB to make its moves when Mubarak is safely out of the country and the consolidation of power is near complete (and one way they will do that is by refusing Mubarak’s party any part in a new government).  At that point, Mr. Useful, ElBaradei, may not be useful enough to keep around as the MB will be powerful enough to control Egypt without caring much how acceptable they seem to the rest of the world.

~McQ

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51 Responses to As Egypt burns: has the administration picked a side? And some on the left are still in “moon pony” land about the Muslim Brotherhood and the potential for a Muslim state emerging

  • Just a suggestion, McQ; change “Muslim” to “Islamist”.  It will be more clear.

  • Appearing on MSNBC this morning was a State Department lifer and former ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker (all of his major service came in Democratic administrations). He was pooh-poohing the strength of the Brotherhood as well as its radicalism. Sounded like an emerging theme to me, at least until whatever is happening in Egypt is done. He is the first person of any rank who I’ve ever heard downplay the strength and ideology of the Brotherhood, especially in Egypt. I’ve seen where mention of the Brotherhood is omitted from discussion of radical Islam, but not this sort of semi-official pooh-poohing. The bin Laden specialist Michael Scheuer (former CIA), for whom I have no particular feeling one way or another beyond vague annoyance, is certainly aware of the Brotherhood’s deep historical connection to Qaeda. Andrew McCarthy, meanwhile, observes that the Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas. So, it’s probably a smart idea to figure out who Edward Walker is speaking for, if he’s not simply a backchannel to the media from State.

  • Reality can’t be denied, and the reality is that Egypt (and perhaps other Arab states) are starting the great transition away from oppressive authoritarian rule.   The regimes are stagnant and anachronistic — and doomed.  If they last ten more years, it will make the transition that much more dangerous, especially if the US continues support.  The world is in a period of transformation.   Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to be kept from having absolute power, to the extent that’s possible, but probably must be part of the mix — after all, Egyptians should determine Egypt’s future.  However, to assume it will be like al qaeda is wrong; that is only one subset of that movement.   To assume Egypt is like Iran is wrong — if Saddam hadn’t attacked Iran in 1980, it’s likely the religious fundamentalists would not have been able to hold power.  Eight years of war (‘we must come together to fight the Arabs’) allowed them to entrench their regime.
     
    But the key here is that the world is in transformation, these kinds of regimes are not going to be able to last, it would be a huge mistake to pretend it’s still the 20th century and stable third world dictatorships can persist.   Ultimately, Islam will modernize (the Bin Laden message has been rejected by the Arab public, even if groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are sympathetic), and the Arab world will finally escape the yoke of the post-Ottoman political culture.  It will likely be a dangerous and difficult path, however.

    • The regimes are stagnant and anachronistic

      Just WTF does that mean?

      …it would be a huge mistake to pretend it’s still the 20th century and stable third world dictatorships can persist.

      Hmmm…  I guess Fidel, Chavez, the ChiComs, and the Norks are on the way out, too…  A safe bet…given enough time.  Remember, you heard it here first…!!!

      Islam will modernize (the Bin Laden message has been rejected by the Arab public, even if groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are sympathetic), and the Arab world will finally escape the yoke of the post-Ottoman political culture.

      Except the polling says the opposite from the Egyptians.  (Never mind).  Given enough time…  Some day…

    • Reality can’t be denied, and the reality is that Egypt (and perhaps other Arab states) are starting the great transition away from oppressive authoritarian rule

      >>>>  Or they’re just in the process of trading in one strongman for another over in Egypt. 

    • “Islam will modernize”
       
      Rushing forward into the 13th century.
       
       
       

      • …will finally escape the yoke of the post-Ottoman political culture.

        Except…Turkey…

        • Not even sure why that makes him happy, as hopeful as he is to have us all embrace a socialist set of concepts formulated in the Victorian age.

      • Islam will not “modernize” as in “reform”. Unlike Christianity when it did so, Islam has no central church with which to carry out any reform or modernization. Everyone knows that reformation, while it would be great, isn’t something at all likely to happen … ever. But some, even when the facts have been laid before them many times, prefer the myth.

        • it’s not modern technology that they fear, it’s the danger of the decline of their male dominated societies.

        • Reformation was a rough, bloody thing for Christians.  I am more optimistic that Islam can become un-Islamist.
          After all, it WAS…

        • Furthermore, all Muslims are fundamentalists with respect to the Qur’an. For Muslims, the Qur’an is not just a book containing the writings of men inspired by God, but a divine object that has always existed — practically like the triangle — and was revealed to humanity by Muhammad. It will be very difficult for Muslims to moderate away from the divine words of the Qur’an.

          At best IMO Muslims may secularize and tacitly turn their backs on Islam and become cultural Muslims, as many secular Jews have. Such Jews have a Jewish identity and may even keep to Jewish practices, but they have no real faith in God or the Torah.

          Christianity came with a fair amount of flexibility built into it. Christ did not teach that he was founding a state, much less that his followers should expand by military conquest.
          It looks to me like Islam will shatter rather than reform, and in an age of WMD becoming easier and cheaper, I fear how that will play out.

          • No, you are wrong Huxley.  There are many who follow the ideas of Islamic rationalists of the past like Averroes and Avicenna (the ones that so impressed Aquinas).  There are modernized Muslims in the US and Europe, influencing the region.  Young folk in the Arab world have rejected the fundamentalism of Bin Laden, and want the kinds of things people in the West have.  Islam is just as open to modernization as was Christianity.  Again, the Christian world got the ideas that pushed it towards modernism from Islamic rationalist scholars who argued that the Koran was the work of men and NOT a divine object that always existed, and that it could be interpreted to fit the times.  This was the dominant view of Islam for a long time before the Ottomans replaced it with the conservative fundamentalist form.  If it changed once, it can change again.

          • Except all those young people on those airliners, and elsewhere…
            Gawd, what a pile of delusional crap…
            Who knew that…not just all science…but the Reformation came from Islam.  Erp needs to call Obama, STAT!!!
            How funny…

        • That’s an odd rationale.  The church reformed when it split into numerous pieces during the reformation.  The reform was the result of the church ending its central dominance of the Christian world.   In fact, Islam showed the way to reform — it was the Islamic rationalist scholars, who once defined Islam’s dominant theology — that influenced Aquinas and caused him to bring Aristotle into the West.  Islam already has in its history a tolerant view towards other faiths and a progressive attitude about theology (the Koran can be interpreted to fit the times, humans must use reason, etc.)   While the Ottomans brought a very strict fundamentalist form of Islam to the fore in order to have it support their military dictatorship, the idea things can never change is sloppy thinking at best.  Change is inevitable.  Just as Pope Pius IX could not stop modernism (he tried — witness his syllabus of errors), neither can conservative Muslims.
           
          In Europe and the West, Islam is already modernizing.  Those ideas will spread.   As I note in my own blog today the change could be very violent, but it is coming.  Nothing can hold it back.  The idea that we can prop up brutal dictators and somehow treat third world populations like pawns in power politics games are over.  That generation has passed.  It’s a new era, with the Arab world starting down a path that Martin Luther helped set Europe along back nearly 500 years ago.   To think that Islam can’t change ignores current trends in Islam, Islamic history, and the debates among Muslims today.  It is likely a point of view that comes from reading too many right wing blogs and Islamophobic tracts.
           
          But a central church?  The reformation was the break up of the central Christian church!

    •  
      Scott Erb: What do you mean by transformation and how do you know it? One might suppose you would have supported the Iraq War on the brief you present here, but of course you did not.

      Sure, these nasty dictatorships won’t last forever, but there is no guarantee they will be replaced by something better, e.g. Iran.

      Likewise your proclamation that Islam will modernize and that Muslims have rejected Bin Laden. How do you know this?

      I’d like to believe so but the evidence looks grim. Bin Ladenism may not be the final destination, but overall it looks like Muslims and Muslim states are moving away from modernism and towards more conservative forms of Islam, including violent jihad.
       
      It’s hard to think of counter-examples. Malaysia looks to be the best of the bad lot, but it is plenty intolerant and I wouldn’t be surprised if it backslides towards Islamism.

      • I wrote about all that in my own blog today, looker.  Short answer: it may get much worse before it gets better.  But change is coming, there really is nothing the US can do to stop it.  The current system is anachronistic and unsustainable.  But even if the end point is better than the present, just like Europe during the wars of reformation on up through ideological battles, the holocaust, communist horrors/purges and world wars, we may be in for a bloody and difficult transition.  I don’t think anyone can hold it back though — perhaps it can be delayed, but that might make things even more difficult.  The 20th century is over, and that way of thinking is obsolete.

        • The current system is anachronistic and unsustainable.

          What happened to stagnant?!?!
          And WTF does any of that chant mean…???
          I think I’m sort of divining “transformation” as you use it.  Us sane people say “history”.  You just keep getting weirder and weirder…

        • Scott Erb: Change is always coming, and sure, things may get worse before they get better. These are empty platitudes. You’ve not said anything here nor have you answered my questions. I have no interest in Erb’s Deep Thoughts about obsolete 20th century ways of thinking, since everything I read of your way of thinking suggests it

          My point stands. Now or later Mubarak’s dictatorship will come to an end, but it may not be replaced by anything better, especially given the overall trend of Muslims towards more conservative and Islamist forms of Islam.

          Iran was one of the most sophisticated Muslim countries and provided a prime example of the modernized Muslims you keep yammering about. Nonetheless, after the 1979 revolution Iran headed straight back to the eleventh century and is now a dangerous theocracy. Why do you keep disregarding it as an example?

          What Muslim countries do you see becoming modernized (aside from fax machines and cell phones)?

    • Gee.  I’m kinda hurt.  Erp has not even TRIED to define the terms he’s been chanting here for two days…  I feel neglected…in a strangely happy sort of way!!!

    • Hmmm. This is pretty complicated and confusing. But I just loved getting rags and eliot worked up last week, so let’s see if I can come up with some trite, meaningless “analysis” to get them going back and forth with me again.

      Reality can’t be denied. Oh, that’s good. Can’t get much more generic and trite than that. And the reality is that Egypt (and perhaps other Arab states) are starting the great transition away from oppressive authoritarian rule. OK, not bad. Doesn’t really mean anything, and I can come back later under all sorts of outcomes and claim I predicted them.

      The world is in a period of transformation. Oh, baby, that’s a good one. Sounds all chin-pulling and serious. I’m going to have to remember to pull that one out more often. Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to be kept from having absolute power, to the extent that’s possible. Yep, nice and obvious. I mean, who wants those fanatics in power? Now that they would be making Obama look bad instead of making Bush look bad, anyway.

      But they probably must be part of the mix — after all, Egyptians should determine Egypt’s future. Oh, another good one! People in a country should determine that country’s future! Yeah, I don’t see how even rags could argue with that one. I’ll really sound wise and mature.

      However, to assume it will be like al qaeda is wrong; that is only one subset of that movement. I’m not sure what this means, but I have to have some kind of “on the other hand” thing to balance the whole thing about the Muslim Brotherhood being fit for any kind of power at all.

      To assume Egypt is like Iran is wrong — if Saddam hadn’t attacked Iran in 1980, it’s likely the religious fundamentalists would not have been able to hold power. Ooo, I just love making unprovable assertions like that. If anyone has the nerve to come back on me, I’ll just pull out the old advanced studies degree thing.

      But the key here is that the world is in transformation, like I said before. That one was so good, I just had to use it again. These kinds of regimes are not going to be able to last, it would be a huge mistake to pretend it’s still the 20th century and stable third world dictatorships can persist. OK, now surely someone is going to argue with that, since I just pulled it right out of my a##. I ought to be able to suck somebody into going back and forth at least a dozen times with that one.

      Ultimately, Islam will modernize (the Bin Laden message has been rejected by the Arab public, even if groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are sympathetic, and that has absolutely nothing to do with any actions taken by Bush in Iraq or Afghanistan, so don’t start), and the Arab world will finally escape the yoke of the post-Ottoman political culture. Really. It will happen. I decree it. Now let me back off a little: It will likely be a dangerous and difficult path, however. There we go, now I can proceed to handwave away any objections to my decree that Islam will modernize, for which I don’t have a shred of hard evidence, by just saying “well, I didn’t say it would be easy!” I am a genius.

    • Ah yes, the end of history again. It’s the 21st century, the Age of Aquarius has arrived.

      Oh, by the way, reality can be denied. We see you do it constantly.

  • There are now reports that say Mohammad ElBaradeiis too “weak”

  • … and of course there is this …

    one of the passengers on the returning El Al flight said that the Cairo demonstrations did not look as bad on the ground as they did on television.
    “We sat near Tahrir Square, people were walking around quietly, getting up occasionally and then coming back” the man said.

    … perhaps tomorrow’s “million man march” will be the real test.

  • “This is the most profound situation in the Middle East since I left office,” Carter said Sunday at a Baptist church in his hometown of Plains, Ga., where he teaches a Sunday school class, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

    Oh, SNAP…  Teh One could’ve gone all year without THAT comparison…

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/ronradosh/2011/01/30/the-muslim-brotherhood-in-egypt/3/
    Interesting perspective by Radosh, comparing the voices on the Left prior to Iran’s catastrophe with those emerging now.

  • Just caught “former State Department spokesman” Nicholas Burns, now of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, being interviewed by Shepard Smith. Burns is a man of substantial Doublethink (though not yet shuddered in the Doublethink basement like QandO’s resident Doublethinker), which is perhaps why he found his way to academentia. On the one hand, he says, we don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood. O.K. But then he eagerly opens the backdoor to the Brotherhood, praising El Baradei, the pony the Brotherhood is ostensibly backing. Yes, we all agree, he says, it’s a difficult situation. Difficult or not, what exactly is the situation? O.K., thousands of people in the streets, shouting slogans. Mubarek not, at 82, as sharp as he once was. Typical third world praetorianism with the military, evincing the foundation of a non-professional middle class. Yet the professional middle class of doctors and lawyers all Brotherhooded up.

    Anyway, Shepard Smith is the worst of the cable network news anchors. He’s a throbbing adrenal gland communicating with the barks of some weird, large bird. I only left him on long enough to listen to Burns.

  • Over at NRO, Victor Davis Hanson has called it “Obama’s deer in the headlights” policy toward Egypt.

    There goes Hanson again with his unwarranted optimism about Obama.

    I think that there’s going to be a case to be made that Obama is in the tank for the Brotherhood. They’re socialists, they despise America, and the U.S. conceivably faces yet another gathering threat with another Islamist cadre in power. What’s not to like for Barack?

  • From a pRESIDENT who’s middle name is Hussein and makes no secret of his distain for Israel…
     
    Do the math.

  • Glenn Beck seems revved up to lose his mind over this.

    • Yup. He’s like someone with a fever passing back and forth between rationality and delirium. In one segment he sounded like he was ready for a padded cell. Then, after a commercial break, he was lucid again. He’s part Shakespearian Fool.

      • I can’t take him any more seriously than I do Erb.
         
        He better get used to it, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, and all his raving won’t change a thing.

        • Glenn had a pretty good run when he stayed with his staff’s research into the who’s who of the Obama administration and its ideological backbone. But now he’s running off into world conspiracies — which I would define as non-realist instant mythologizations, nearly the equivalent of fantasies like the Da Vinci Code.

          He seems to go home every night in search of a new revelation and thinks that it’s important to report back on it, on the air, as it happens. He’s also absurdly self-referential and self-promoting, sometimes lapsing into a carnival barker mode.

          But he’s laughing on his way to the bank, as us Americans like to say.

  • In the ending of all this and under the orations and good tidings of Obama, Israel will find itself totally surrounded by an entire hostile world.  

  • Stanley Kurtz, today at The Corner: Obama OKs Muslim Brotherhood.

    Iran redux.

  • The outcome in Egypt and in the greater Middle East will not be what the dreamers hope it will be.
    It ain’t going to be pretty.
    God help us all.