Free Markets, Free People

Arab spring


Why the surprise at Egypt’s implosion?

There are reports out that while the administration refused to call what happened in Egypt a coup, it has, nevertheless, stopped aid to the Egyptian military.

I’m still in the dark about the administration’s apparent love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least it’s willingness to back it to a point.  Here’s an extended excerpt from Roger Cohen in the NY Times giving his analysis:

In Tahrir Square in 2011, at the time of the uprising, nothing was more uplifting than seeing Westernized Egyptian liberals and the Muslim Brotherhood make common cause in the idea of citizenship based on equal rights for all. Here, it seemed, lay the possibility — however fragile — for the largest Arab society to escape the tired, deceptive secular and Islamist labels and so open up the possibility of a representative and inclusive society.

It was not to be — and this failure will have devastating consequences, inside and outside Egypt. Islamist ire has been fed and the perception of Western hypocrisy reinforced at the very moment when ways out of this impasse appeared possible.

In fact the violent splits nurtured over decades under Mubarak — Westernized liberals against backward Islamists — proved insurmountable. By last month, just a year after the nation’s first free election brought the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi to power with 51.7 percent of the vote, millions of decent Egyptian liberals were roaring in the streets for the military to oust him. The army obliged in the July 3 coup that will not speak its name.

Now the Saudi-backed Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s military leader, rails against “the terrorists” who (he insists) constitute the Brotherhood, and has his newly subservient media echo the refrain. More than 1,000 Egyptians are dead. There is talk of banning the Brotherhood; certainly its participation in any future election is impossible to imagine. In its absence no vote will be meaningful. Egyptian democracy was stillborn.

Far from overcoming the divisions of the society where close to 25 percent of the world’s Arabs live, the developments of the past two-and-a-half years have sharpened them. Egypt’s polarizing spiral, evident in Islamist attacks on Coptic Christian churches and the killing of at least two dozen police officers in Sinai, seems unstoppable.

For the United States and Europe, this amounts to a colossal strategic failure. Nothing — and certainly not the outcome in Afghanistan or Iraq — was more important than getting Egypt right. President Obama, who began his presidency with an attempt to build bridges to the Arab and Muslim world through a speech in Cairo, has seen his greatest failure in that very city. Post-Tahrir Egypt stands now as a monument to America’s declining influence in the world, even in a nation receiving $1.5 billion in annual aid.

All that American money translated into no ability to restrain a largely American-trained military (including General Sisi). It translated into little ability to persuade Morsi to reach out beyond the Brotherhood and refrain from railroading through a divisive constitution.

The Obama administration has appeared hesitant and wavering, zigzagging from support for Morsi to acceptance of his ouster. The critical moment came before the July 3 coup (“a violent or illegal change in government” according to the Oxford English Dictionary). A military intervention was almost certain to end badly. It was a terrible precedent. But Secretary of State John Kerry offered the view that the army was “restoring democracy.”

Just as bad, Obama said this: “While Mohamed Morsi was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians.” Those are dangerous words from an American president. They seem to relegate the importance of a free and fair vote.

So why post all of that?  Well there are a lot of things to take issue with in there and some to agree with.  But the last sentence is one that stands out to me.   Let’s be clear, “free and fair” elections do not equal “democracy” or a democratic society.  It’s one of the things which always rankles me.  Many seem to think that if a country can only have a “free and fair” election, it is suddenly a Western-style democracy. 

No.  We’ve talked about that at length.  Unless you have the institutions in place which characterize such a democracy, it’s just a freakin’ vote.  Unless those selected in that vote actually do represent the best interests of all the people, it’s not going to be a free country or a Western-style democracy no mater how hard one tries to characterize it as that.

All things we pointed out any number of time during “Arab Spring”.  Yet, we constantly get these op-eds which essentially express surprise at the outcome given the “free and fair” vote.  Really?

And clueless Kerry?  Well, if you wonder why, other than Obama being president, our foreign policy is shipwrecked, just turn your eyes to Swift boat Kerry.  We all know “weak and wavering” is no way to go in foreign affairs, because it leads to things like this:

The U.S.’s closest Middle East allies are undercutting American policy in Egypt, encouraging the military to confront the Muslim Brotherhood rather than reconcile, U.S. and Arab officials said.

But I’m still in the dark about those with a seeming desire to legitimize the Brotherhood.  The op-ed says there is talk of banning it again.   And there are apologists which say it is a legitimate movement that should be respected. 

Sometimes the wayback machine is a useful thing.  Let’s travel back to the ‘50s and remember something concerning the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt:

CBS’s Ned Calmer and this reporter (for Newsweek) arrived in Cairo Jan. 25, 1952, acting on a tip picked up in Tunis, that something "big" would soon take place in Cairo.

Next day, Cairo erupted in what became known as "Black Saturday" and the "Big Cairo Fire." It was huge. Some 300 buildings were torched, including the old Shepherd’s Hotel where we were staying.

Martial law was decreed throughout Egypt. Losses to fire included 30 major companies and banks (including Barclays), 310 stores, 117 residential units, 92 bars, 73 coffee shops, 13 hotels, 40 movie theaters, either automobile showrooms, 10 weapons stores and 16 clubs.

Casualties were comparatively light — 26 killed and 552 injured.

It was the handiwork of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The plan was to create maximum chaos as a way of forcing a degenerate King Farouk and a weak coalition government to bow to the "religious saviors."

Three weeks before the big fire, Muslim Brotherhood terrorists torched three Christian churches in the Suez Canal zone, under British control until 1956. The Egyptians blamed the British, always reluctant to take on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nothing has changed.  The thin veneer of respectability came off the second the Brotherhood won power.  Their intent hasn’t changed one whit since the 1950s. With the fall of Mubarak, but the with solidity of the Egyptian armed forces in tact, the Brotherhood chose what they considered the most expedient means to power – “a free and fair” election.  They are, purely and simply, a extremist group bent on taking power and imposing their religion on everyone.  The “free and fair” election coupled with the fact that they were the most organized group at the time seemed to bode well for them. So they lied to Egypt’s liberals to get them to back their push for power. As they figured, the Brotherhood could use the liberals backing to grab power without having to forcefully take it.  They could use one of the institutions of democracy to take power and begin implementing their agenda.

And they did.  The only surprise as far as I’m concerned is that the army stopped them dead in their tracks.

Regardless though, Cohen is right … this has been a colossal strategic foreign policy failure for the US.  And, indeed, the administration’s conduct has made it look weak and wavering on the world’s stage.

Some are surprised by that as well.  I’m not sure why when you have someone who has never done anything or run anything as president and a pure political dilettante as Secretary of State.  They’re doing the very best they can, for heaven sake.

~McQ


Laugh of the day: Arab Spring

I do love this title in The New Republic … TNR of all places: “Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought Mohammad Morsi Was a Moderate”

I do admit to laughing out loud when I read it, but I also thought that it was a bit too specific. In fact, and when you read the article I’m sure you’ll agree, the title should have read “Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought the Muslim Brotherhood Was Moderate.”

But if that sort of article can show up in TNR, it indicates that at least some Western Liberals may have taken off the blinders and are now, finally, dealing with the reality of what “Arab Spring” brought. In Egypt’s case an extremist Islamist with dictatorial tendencies.

Granted Hosni Mubarak wasn’t exactly a peach of a guy. A dictator by any other name is still a dictator. But in terms of the interests of the United States and peace in the Middle East, he did a fair job on keeping a lid on the Islamists in his country like, well, Morsi.

It appears, though, and I hate to say we told you so, but a) the best organized group took power (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) and b) they’re reverting to form (i.e. Islamist totalitarianism).

Oh, sure, there are demonstrations and riots going on in Egypt right now against Morsi’s move, but you had better believe the Muslim Brotherhood is mobilizing to counter them. The only reason Morsi hasn’t stomped them right now is likely two-fold. World opinion (he just got a huge pat on the back for the Israeli/Palestinian cease fire – one “aw crap” negates any “attaboys”) and the fact that he likely hasn’t consolidated power to the point that he feels comfortable in doing so via the army. But his power grab certainly removes all doubt about his “democratic” leanings or lack thereof, doesn’t it? And, like I said, he’ll let the Brotherhood do the heavy lifting if it comes to that.

I’m sure this is quiet disappointing to the liberals who were sure democracy would flower in a country with no democratic institutions, no democratic history and an organized extremist group poised to exploit the troubles and sieze power, but then they’re the same sort of “fellow travelers” who thought Uncle Joe Stalin ran a heck of a good gulag show in the good old USSR, weren’t they?

~McQ


Egypt’s Morsi grants himself new powers – So much for Arab Spring

It’s a bit of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” but with an Islamist slant:

Egypt’s president on Thursday issued constitutional amendments that placed him above judicial oversight and ordered the retrial of Hosni Mubarak for the killing of protesters in last year’s uprising.

Mohammed Morsi also decreed immunity for the Islamist-dominated panel drafting a new constitution from any possible court decisions to dissolve it, a threat that had been hanging over the controversial assembly.

Liberal and Christian members withdrew from the assembly during the past week to protest what they say is the hijacking of the process by Morsi’s allies, who they saw are trying to push through a document that will have an Islamist slant marginalizing women and minority Christians and infringing on personal liberties. Several courts have been looking into cases demanding the dissolution of the panel.

The Egyptian leader also decreed that all decisions he has made since taking office in June and until a new constitution is adopted and a new parliament is elected — which is not expected before next spring — are not subject to appeal in court or by any other authority. He also barred any court from dissolving the Islamist-led upper house of parliament, a largely toothless body that has also faced court cases.

In essence he has declared himself (by issuing his own handy “constitutional amendments”) supreme and above the law.

I’m not sure why anyone is particularly surprised.  He promised no one from the Muslim Brotherhood would run for president and then ran for president.  He claimed that they’d do the will of the people and now he’s actively making women and religious minorities into 2nd class citizens.  And his government will have a pronounced Islamic theocratic slant all written into law.

He also supports the terrorists in Gaza.

Yup, that “Arab Spring” thing is just working out about as well as one could hope, huh?

Forward.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Sep 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the week’s events.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood takes over in Libya

Yes sir, that Arab Spring is really what we all wanted, isn’t it?  So much so that the US and NATO helped this particular one along.  In Libya:

While the elections for a 200-member National Congress is unlikely to grant a majority to any one faction, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies are confident they can join their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt at the helm of leadership.

Negotiations between the Muslim Brotherhood and a secular-based political movement led by former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril have focused on forming a post-election government as soon as the result is known.

An adviser to Mr Jibril said the former prime minister was likely to take the post of figurehead president with Mustafa Abu Shagour, currently interim deputy prime minister of the Muslim Brotherhood, taking the prime minister’s slot as head of government.

The Muslim Brotherhood would dominate the ministries.

And what pan-Islamist faction is positioned in Syria along with its militant al Qaeda brothers to take the reigns there when the current government eventually falls?

Why the same Muslim Brotherhood now ascendant in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

All good, right?

Exactly what we expected and wanted, right?

Foreign policy success, right?

Caliphate?  What Caliphate?

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Egypt’s Arab Spring looking more and more like bust

From the Wall Street Journal:

Egypt’s highest court ruled on Thursday to allow a former regime loyalist to run in presidential elections starting Saturday and to dissolve both houses of Egypt’s parliament, in verdicts that could add another pressure point to Egypt’s already fraught transition from military rule to democracy.

Actually it’s a little worse than that:

According to Ahram Online, a news website owned by the Egyptian government, a constitutional court judge announced that the ruling effectively dissolves both houses of Egypt’s parliament.

Taken together, the verdicts return the military—and the civilian cabinet it appointed—to full authority over the country, unhindered by an elected parliament.

One assumes there may be some resistance to this.

On Wednesday afternoon, Egypt’s ministry of justice endowed the military and intelligence services with expanded powers to arrest and detain people for participating in protests and disseminating media the military finds offensive—a decision that human rights groups said smacked of a return to the draconian justice of the former regime.

You think?  Probably cut down a lot on the molesting of women in Tahrir square too … well maybe.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Meanwhile, in Libya

Unicorns are dancing, fairy dust is in the air and Arab spring continues to flower:

Libyan revolutionaries captured and killed Muammar Gaddafi more than seven months ago, but the dictator’s brutal tactics and antidemocratic ways live after him. Human-rights workers say that’s true not only within the high walls of the dictator’s former Ain Zara torture center but at other jails and penitentiaries across the country. Abdul is among at least 20 Ain Zara inmates whose relatives accuse guards of subjecting detainees to severe and regular beatings with everything from fists to sticks, metal rods, and chains. Family members say some of the prisoners have been repeatedly beaten on their genitalia, a form of punishment that—in addition to being excruciatingly painful—could leave its victims infertile. Others, according to relatives, have been tortured with Taser-style electroshock weapons.

R2P, baby, R2P.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


“Farewell sex” to be legal as Arab Spring continues to flower in Egypt

I’ll just put this up here with minimal comment and let you folks provide the narrative:

Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives – for up to six hours after their death.

The controversial new law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

It will also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women’s rights of getting education and employment.

Yup, much better than before.  A veritable leap into the 21st century, no?  Definitely a secular and liberal triumph, right?

Oh … and out of curiosity, what if he waits till 7 hours after death, what happens?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


How good is Obama’s foreign relations record really?

One of the supposed areas in which President Obama has done well is in the area of foreign relations.  And, of course, the press has dutifully helped create the myth of success.

But have foreign relations really been a success for him?

Don’t forget, this is the man who thinks he was responsible for “Arab Spring”.  In both Egypt and Libya, radical islamists have begun to take charge.  And this morning, a rocket launched from Egypt hit Israel.

Of course relations with our staunchest ally in the region – Israel – are terrible. 

Then there is Russia.  They way they’ve treated the US Ambassador to Russia is indicative of their belief that Obama is weak:

The Kremlin sees the Obama administration as weak and indecisive, making it a perfect, nonthreatening partner that can be bullied and provoked using the same tools Moscow routinely employs against opposition leaders and civil and human rights activists at home. This was the approach that the Kremlin used against the Estonian ambassador to protest the relocation of a monument to Soviet soldiers from downtown Tallinn. By Moscow’s reasoning, if such tactics are permissible when dealing with "weak" Estonia, why not use the same methods against a "weak" United States? Why should Putin and his cohorts show respect for the U.S. ambassador? On the contrary, it is better to put him in his place.

And they have used a “Kremlin-sponsored media campaign aimed at discrediting, pressuring, provoking and defaming him.”

Nice reset.

Of course in the anarchy of world politics, weakness is something to be exploited, and Russia sees the opportunity to do exactly that.

You’d think, in the midst of all this failure, he could at least maintain good relationships with his allies.  But Israel would beg to differ.  And, surprisingly, so would Canada and Mexico.  But you won’t read about it in the US press.

Investors.com reports:

Obama’s neglect of our nearest neighbors and biggest trade partners has created deteriorating relations, a sign of a president who’s out of touch with reality. Problems are emerging that aren’t being reported.

Fortunately, the Canadian and Mexican press told the real story. Canada’s National Post quoted former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson as saying the North American Free Trade Agreement and the three-nation alliance it has fostered since 1994 have been so neglected they’re "on life support."

Energy has become a searing rift between the U.S. and Canada and threatens to leave the U.S. without its top energy supplier.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Obama the U.S. will have to pay market prices for its Canadian oil after Obama’s de facto veto of the Keystone XL pipeline. Canada is preparing to sell its oil to China.

Until now, NAFTA had shielded the U.S. from having to pay global prices for Canadian oil. That’s about to change.

I talked about that yesterday when I noted the ultimate cost of Obama’s fit of pique that led to him disapproving the Keystone XL pipeline.

And Mexico?  Is it as bad as Canada?

Things were even worse, if you read the Mexican press accounts of the meeting.

Excelsior of Mexico City reported that President Felipe Calderon bitterly brought up Operation Fast and Furious, a U.S. government operation that permitted Mexican drug cartels to smuggle thousands of weapons into drug-war-torn Mexico. This blunder has wrought mayhem on Mexico and cost thousands of lives.

The mainstream U.S. press has kept those questions out of the official press conferences, while Obama has feigned ignorance to the Mexicans and hasn’t even apologized.

As usual, we’re poorly served by our media which somehow seems to have managed to miss all the points the Canadian and Mexican press have noted.

Yes, this president has a record he has to run on finally and it seems his foreign relations record isn’t, in reality, much better than his domestic one.

Of course it will be up to the GOP to point that out since obviously, the US press isn’t going too.

Bottom line for the Obama record? 

#FAIL

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Meanwhile, in the Arab world, spring has sprung

Michael J. Totten brings us up to date on Tunisia which is credited with starting “Arab Spring”.  Guess who the new enemy of freedom is there?

“People here think the United States is cooperating with Ennahda,” said local journalist Ashraf Ayadi, referring to the Islamists who won 42 percent of the vote in the election last October. Even though a majority of Tunisians voted against them, they still got more votes than any of the other various parties, so they got to choose the prime minister.

“People here are against the United States helping Ennahda,” Ayadi continued. “All Americans who come here are against the Islamists, but the American government is supporting them. I wish we had a good, modern, respectful Islamic party. I’m a Muslim and I’m proud of it, but I’m not proud of this party.”

Now this may be no fault of the US – elections, winner, etc.  However, it is perceived that the US is supporting an Islamist party by establishing diplomatic relations with them.  Meh, you say?  They’re wrong, that’s what governments do. 

Well, okay, but you have to ask why the US (and Qatar for some reason) is being singled out as a supporter of an Islamist government? Doesn’t matter … perception is reality and the majority of Tunisia believe the US is enabling an Islamist regime.  And, by the way, those complaining are the “liberal” and “secular” portions of the population.  Ironic.

Meanwhile in Libya, a mess continues to grow messier. Western intervention has left a country in chaos:

Libya is now effectively ruled by the militias that ousted Gadhafi, and some militias run parts of the country as their own fiefdoms independent of any national authority. The most powerful militias in the western cities of Zintan and Misrata have refused the government’s calls to disarm. These militias believe that remaining armed allows them to retain political influence in the new order that they fought to create.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of abuse and torture of detainees by local militias, and there have been many reports of reprisals against civilians living in perceived pro-Gadhafi areas. Militia rule is made possible by the weakness of the NTC, which never had real control over armed rebel forces during the war, and still does not. Plus, the council’s opacity and corruption have been rapidly de-legitimizing it in the eyes of Libyans.

So much for “saving the civilians”.  And, as it turns out, the overthrow of the Gadhafi government has had a negative spillover effect in the area:

But the Libyan war’s worst impact may have occurred outside of Libya. The neighboring country of Mali, which also happens to support U.S. counter-terrorist efforts in western Africa, has been roiled by a new Tuareg insurgency fueled by the influx of men and weapons after Gadhafi’s defeat, providing the Tuareg rebels with much more sophisticated weaponry than they had before. This new upheaval benefits al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and the Tuareg uprising threatens the territorial integrity of Mali. The rebellion has also displaced nearly 200,000 civilians in a region that is already at risk of famine, and refugees from Mali are beginning to strain local resources in Niger, where most of them have fled. "Success" in Libya is creating a political and humanitarian disaster in Mali and Niger.

Brilliant.  I’m sure that was all thought through and considered before the first attack sortie was approved.

Finally, and hopefully, it has shown the doctrine of R2P to be a sham:

Paradoxically, the Libyan war and its aftermath have had the unintended consequence of undermining the doctrine of "responsibility to protect" (R2P) that was originally used to justify the intervention. Many advocates of intervention believed Western involvement would strengthen the norm that sovereignty may be limited to protect a civilian population from large-scale loss of life. Instead, the Libyan intervention helped discredit that idea.

A key requirement of the "responsibility to protect" is that intervening governments assume the "responsibility to rebuild" in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.

And that’s exactly what the intervention in Libya has provided.  But hey, it’s “Arab Spring”.  It’s all good.

Right? 

Hello out there …

Is this thing on?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO