Misplaced optimism in the media and inaction by the White House’s characterize their respective reactions to the situation in Egypt
I’ve been reading everything I can about the fluid situation in Egypt (as I’m sure you have), and have come to the same conclusion about one thing as has Barry Rubin:
Experts and news media seem to be overwhelmingly optimistic, just as they generally were in Iran’s case. Wishful thinking is to some extent replacing serious analysis. Indeed, the alternative outcome is barely presented: This could lead to an Islamist Egypt, if not now in several years.
“Oh, now”, you say, “you’re just scaremongering”. Well, let’s put it this way, the chances of a Islamist Egypt are, in my opinion, much more likely than it was believed to be possible for Iran with its revolution that overthrew the Shah. I mean, ask yourself, what has been the growing trend over the last 30 years in the Middle East? Islamic extremism expanding and growing – nations put under its thrall.
So what’s the sense of the nation of Egypt. What is it Egyptians prefer? Well according to a Pew poll, not a secular or modern government:
What did Egyptians tell the Pew poll recently when asked whether they liked "modernizers" or "Islamists"? Islamists: 59%; Modernizers: 27%. Now maybe they will vote for a Westernized guy in a suit who promises a liberal democracy but do you want to bet the Middle East on it?
I certainly don’t. And the pictures Dale posted below tell a pretty damning tale, don’t they?
As with all “revolutions” like the one in Egypt right now, any number of factions are joined in one mighty bit of resolve – remove Mubarak. That’s it – that’s most likely all they agree upon. So they’re allies of convenience right now. But once the government falls, then what?
The Muslim Brotherhood has been a powerful dissenting voice in Egypt for decades. And anyone who has followed the Middle East for a while knows that the MB has its tentacles in a lot of areas and associated with a lot of extremist jihadist groups. Call the MB the non-fighting part of the extremist Islamic jihad that is presently underway.
What should the US do? I’m not sure what the US can do, but it has chosen to essentially vote present on this one. The President and his advisors are wary of the possibility that if they say anything it may be interpreted as the US meddling in Middle Eastern affairs (and in this case the internal affairs of a Muslim country). Of course that’s much the same “strategy” that was employed in the Iranian situation recently and that turned out exceptionally well, didn’t it?
It is clear that the US will not take sides in this and it should also be clear that neither side will forget it – and one of them is going to win this confrontation.
The administration did indeed inherit this problem, but then, in foreign policy, that’s true of every administration. And the policies the US has followed there have been essentially amoral because of the huge weight Egypt carries in the region and the importance of the peace-treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. One of the obvious fears is that if the new government ends up being a radical Islamic government they may void that treaty. Obviously then, what Obama and the US have to hope for is a more moderate government that will live up to its treaty obligations. But there is no way to insure that and I think it is genuinely questionable as to whether that type of a government will actually emerge given the population’s apparent approval of a Muslim centered government. However, one way not to insure it is to sit idly by, refuse to take sides and expect the best and sunniest of outcomes.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
This is an important event – possibly the biggest foreign policy problem the administration could face. I’m not sure they understand that or that inaction is just as dangerous and the wrong action.