Free Markets, Free People


Arab "Spring”? Or Arab Fall?

Last week I pointed out how Tunisia is starting the seemingly inevitable slide toward Islamic extremism.

Egypt too has failed to keep the promise of the “Arab Spring” uprising that saw Hosni Mubarak ousted from power.  There the Muslim Brotherhood has gained power and the Army seems intent on keeping power – at least in the short term.  We now are seeing deadly riots again in Tahrir Square in Cairo where the Army is clashing with protesters.  Thus far it is reported that 35 are dead in the three days of those clashes.

The eruption of violence, which began Saturday, reflects the frustration and confusion that has mired Egypt’s revolution since Mubarak fell in February and the military stepped into power.

It comes only a week before Egypt is to begin the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, which many have hoped would be a significant landmark in a transition to democracy. Instead, it has been clouded by anger at the military’s top body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to rule as head of state even after the vote. Activists accuse the generals of acting increasingly in the same autocratic way as Mubarak’s regime and seeking to cling to power.

The military says it will only hand over power after presidential elections, which it has vaguely said will be held in late 2012 or early 2013. The protesters are demanding an immediate move to civilian rule.

Again, in a country which has no democratic traditions or institutions the “hope” is the parliamentary elections will be “a significant landmark in the transition to democracy” has no foundation in reality.  Right now it appears that the Egyptian people have simply exchanged on boss for another.  And the result of the parliamentary elections, if they’re ever held, may see the ushering in of a third “boss”- the Muslim Brotherhood which has not really promised “secular democracy” if they take the majority in the Egyptian Parliament. Instead it seems clear they intend a steady move toward an Islamic state.

And the traditions of the Islamic state are to pay lip service to “democracy” (see Iran), no secularism (in fact one of the only secular Arab states, Syria, is in deep trouble right now – any guess what may replace that government?) and rule by Islamic law. 

I don’t think that the “spring” most of the initial protesters (and their supporters in the West) were hoping for when they turned out to oppose Mubarak and call for secular democracy.

As usual, it is the most organized and ruthless who will claim power.  Right now that’s the Army.  If and when an election is held and the Muslim Brotherhood takes enough seats to form a government it is likely the Army will reach an agreement with them to somehow share power.  And secular democracy?

No time soon in Egypt, count on it.  And watch Libya carefully as well.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks

13 Responses to Arab "Spring”? Or Arab Fall?

  • The Egyptian army knows that their welfare depends largely on those payments from foreign governments, so they will keep the money flowing, while keeping the politicians on a short string. This is Sadat/Mubarak/{name to be be determined later} at it’s best, as Sadat and Mubarak had most of their strength in office come from the military.

    • @Neo_ I agree, the Army was playing around and quite possibly the Army intended the Muslim Brotherhood to come out of the wood work and into the light where they could be dealt with much more effectively. From a personal view I believe if they end up going back onto the Sadat/Mubarak path it’ll be better overall for the Middle East and better for Egypt than the Brotherhood would ever be.

  • Transitions to democracy are difficult. Democratic systems are difficult to both create and maintain. The Arab world is, in my opinion, going through a transition caused by both demographics and globalization. It is good in the long run, it is in fact probably inevitable — the decrepit corrupt dictatorships were becoming obsolete, President Bush was right in that regard (indeed he was prescient on a number of matters before Iraq, even if the means of going to war with Iraq was wrong headed). But it will involve Islamic governments and political parties. Political Islam is going to be a major part of the future of the Arab world. It need not be violently anti-western, and it can be part of a gradual transition. Knee jerk fear of Islamic parties is short sighted. Not only is the Islamic world rejecting al qaeda like radicalism, but modernism is spreading, and political Islam is diverse. Beyond that, I don’t think we have a choice — cultures transition on their own terms, not following the dictates of others. I think patience is key — we’re talking a change that will take at least a generation, not a few years. But its a process of moving out of the Ottoman fog of authoritarianism and stagnation that the Arab world must undergo.

    • @scotterb “modernism is spreading” but so is Sharia Law. They may have some of the trappings of modernism, but even the most virtuous fundamentalist Christians would have a hard time living with a codification of law stuck in the 14th century. Muslims believe sharia is God’s law, which makes it easier to get modern Democrats to vote for Strom Thurmond.

    • @scotterb “modernism is spreading” but so is Sharia Law. They may have some of the trappings of modernism, but even the most virtuous fundamentalist Christians would have a hard time living with a codification of law stuck in the 14th century. Muslims believe sharia is God’s law, which makes it easier to get modern Democrats to vote for Strom Thurmond, than to change the law.

    • @scotterb “modernism is spreading” but so is Sharia Law. They may have some of the trappings of modernism, but even the most virtuous fundamentalist Christians would have a hard time living with a codification of law stuck in the 14th century. Muslims believe sharia is God’s law, which makes it easier to get modern Democrats to vote for Strom Thurmond, than to change the law.
      The fundamentals of Islam have it strongly connected to strong leaders and misogyny, so I don’t see much hope in my lifetime. Maybe in another 50 years, after the modernism corrupts the current view of Islam. Iraq is just the beginning of this transformation, not the end.

      • @Neo_ Sharia law is very diverse. It isn’t always the extreme cases of stoning for adultery, it can also be very modern. Still, I agree that such change takes time. The West arguably started really moving to modernism with Thomas Aquinas bringing Aristotle into the Church, and look at all the violence and difficulties in the 750 years it took to get us where we are now. I think Islam can change much faster with our help (but not force). Also note that Islam was once the most tolerant faith — far more tolerant and forward thinking than Christianity was before the Ottomans embraced an extremely conservative read of Islam, accepting all the Hadiths. The Islamic rationalists (some of how influenced Aquinas – Avicenna and Averroes) argued that the Koran was a guide that should be interpreted into different contexts through human reason. For awhile they were on top before pushed aside. Even today most Muslim reject extremism. Muslims in Europe might in fact be a very positive modernizing force.

        But you are right that the development got stuck in the 14th Century and it’s really hard to break out of that. Globalization is real and youth discontent is real. They’re starting a journey away from fundamentalism and authoritarianism. I think that is on the whole good (and again, recognition of the need for that is one important thing President Bush got right), but I’m under no illusions that it will be easy. I don’t expect western style democracy any time soon.

    • @scotterb “Knee jerk fear of Islamic parties is short sighted.” It isn’t the jerk of a knee to pay attention to history and see that 100% of “Islamic parties” consign women to second-class status. Hundreds of millions of human beings are treated like chattel, but you expect us to be open minded and expect that, maybe, the next theocratic bunch will be different than all the others before them.

      As for your claim that “modernism is spreading”, could you please give some evidence, beyond the existence of electronic technology imported from Western nations? Turkey has backslid from a secular, pro-Western nation towards Islamism. When dictatorships have fallen in Africa, the non-Muslim minorities are then in MORE danger than before. Where is the “modernism”?

      As for having patience, tell that to the women, non-Muslims, or other persecuted minorities. Then, consider the words of William Lloyd Garrison on the matter of abolition: “I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm: tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen;—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and i will be heard.” (The Liberator, January 1, 1831)

  • Note how unpopular al qaeda and Islamic extremism has become with the masses in the Arab world. Even in Saudi Arabia there are real efforts to push forward on issues like women’s rights. The US once had slavery, women couldn’t vote until 1920, and there were a myriad of problems. The west modernized with things like the holocaust, world wars, colonialism and ideologies like Communism. The West has been more violent and aggressive than the Islamic world through history. Yet we are a great civilization, with more to be proud of than to be ashamed of. That’s just how history develops.

    Obviously you can’t eliminate Islamic – any effort to do that would end up yielding crimes against humanity on the scale of the holocaust. But the authoritarian dictators can’t stay in power with the new technology and demands from young people — youth often with very modern tastes — rising up. Half the Arab world is under 23 years old. It’s a new generation which won’t except the crony authoritarianism of the past. So we have to let history play itself out. Just as the US would have found all Americans uniting against a foreign power who might have attacked in 1795 claiming slavery was evil and they wanted to eliminate it, cultures change slowly and over time. If we try to impose our values on a culture, it won’t work. It will breed rebellion and dissent — and strengthen the extremists. Just as the West went through horrors to get to where we are (and we still have a lot to learn), so too must the Islamic and post-Ottoman Arab worlds. We can help — but treating them as enemies and rejecting Islamic parties (not all of whom are extremist) out of hand because they don’t hold up western values would be self-defeating and hypocritical.

    • @scotterb “The west modernized with things like the holocaust, world wars, colonialism and ideologies like Communism. The West has been more violent and aggressive than the Islamic world through history. Yet we are a great civilization, with more to be proud of than to be ashamed of. That’s just how history develops.”

      You keep promising that the Arab Spring is a positive move, that “modernization” is taking hold and that, eventually, women’s rights are just around the corner. But I think that under any theocratic rule by an Islamic political party, women’s rights will always be “in the future”.

      The West has been great due to the Enlightenment. The Islamic world has yet to go through a cultural enlightenment.

      “Obviously you can’t eliminate Islamic – any effort to do that would end up yielding crimes against humanity on the scale of the holocaust. … If we try to impose our values on a culture, it won’t work … We can help — but treating them as enemies and rejecting Islamic parties (not all of whom are extremist) out of hand because they don’t hold up western values would be self-defeating and hypocritical.”

      You’re offering a false dilemma. I’m anti-war, anti-interventionist. I don’t want to meddle in their affairs.

      My objections to your comments is that you are making exceptionally optimistic projections in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence.

      • @myweeklycrime I think it’s a good thing because change to the region is inevitable; when scum like Gaddafi fall, I can’t shed a tear. When the corrupt despots of the region no longer can run their states like organized criminal gangs, that’s good. When Assad looks like he might finally bite the dust, that’s very good. But my comments probably sound more optimistic than they are because I’m trying to counter what appears to be engrained pessimism, so perhaps I over reacted. There can be a lot of violence, backsliding and tough times as they go through the transition. This is something that will take at least a generation, not just years. But I think that if we accept it as a virtually inevitable event in the region — the youth rising up against corrupt dictators — then we won’t be on the wrong side of history (helping fol like Assad and Gaddafi) and can maybe play a positive role. Anti-interventionism is important, I think, the worst then we can do is try to shape their future.

        I’m actually more conservative on this in the Burkean sense, when he objected to the French revolution and its willingness to cast aside tradition, religion and custom in favor of “pure reason.” He realized that cultures change slowly and efforts to radically alter them can lead to chaos. I don’t believe the Arab world will modernize in a western sense any time soon, and their path may take awhile, and they still have to deal with the extremists. I think in some ways Bin Laden was fighting against the French revolution, fighting against change coming to the region. But somehow I think change is inevitable — but you’re right to criticize too much optimism. That was the mistake of progressives in Burke’s day, and their optimistic joy about the French revolution…and we know where that went! But change ultimately did come to Europe.

michael kors outlet michael kors handbags outlet michael kors factory outlet