Free Markets, Free People

Egypt

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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


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Aug 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Egypt, and the 2016 Elections.

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.


Assessing the administration’s foreign policy

You know, the folks who promised us engagement … “reset”, etc.  The one’s who told us how bad the other guy and his terrible foreign policy were.  You remember.  Well, here’s a CNN columnist’s view:

America’s foreign policy has gone into a tailspin. Almost every major initiative from the Obama administration has run into sharp, sometimes embarrassing, reverses. The U.S. looks weak and confused on the global stage.

Hey, if even CNN can’t spin this mess positively who can, and this lady doesn’t even try (well, she tries, but not very hard and certainly not very convincingly).  In fact, she hits upon a very concise description of our foreign policy’s state.  In fact, they’d like to have the state of foreign affairs George Bush left them.

For instance, recently in The Washington Post recently said, concerning our “reset” relationship with Russia:

U.S. relations with Russia officially settled into a trough this week when President Obama canceled a summit planned for next month with Vladimir Putin, familiar surroundings for two countries that regularly approach each other only to turn away in disappointment.

The White House decision to call off the summit, announced Wednesday, marked the end of Obama’s attempt to revive a relationship that by 2008 had reached its lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union!? … and some say before its fall.  Quite a “reset” – back 30 years.  Does anyone wonder why Russia felt froggy enough to keep Snowden?  See “weak and confused on the global stage”.

And then there’s this to ponder:

A headline in a major Egyptian state newspaper this week referred to the proposed U.S. envoy to Egypt as the “Ambassador of Death.” Posters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a center of pro-government rallies, depict President Barack Obama with a beard and turban, exclaiming his “support for terrorism.”

Another large Egyptian newspaper alleged Sen. John McCain, who traveled to Cairo this week in an effort to break a deadlock between the government and its Islamist rivals, has chosen sides by employing Muslim Brotherhood staffers in his office.

[...]

The moves highlight the depth of public distrust of U.S. policies, and draw from a “reservoir of anti-Americanism and conspiratorial theories,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and a former senior Obama administration adviser.

America, he says, has few fans in the country after the 2011 overthrow of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak and last month’s military ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi. “We’re caught in a situation of having to essentially try to find a balance between our values and our interests. It satisfies nobody,” Mr. Nasr said. “The Mubarak people are unhappy with the way he was shoved off without a thank you. The military thinks we coddled the Brotherhood and didn’t intervene to control them. And the Brotherhood thinks that we never supported them when they needed support, and then gave the green light to the military.”

Or said another way, this administration screwed the pooch about every way it can be done.  And that’s after that fabulous Cairo speech too.  Go figure?

Then there’s Benghazi, al Qaeda setting our open and closed times on Middle Eastern embassies, spying on Europe and giving Israel the cold shoulder … not to mention the apology tour.

Yes, it’s an unmitigated disaster.

But don’t worry – when Hillary finally runs for president, my guess she’ll still be haled as the greatest Secretary of State evah!

Just hide and watch.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 07 Jul 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Egypt, The Supreme Court, and an interesting and unusual 3rd Amendment case.

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.


So here we go: Egypt at the abyss – military said to have Morsi under arrest

The old means of changing government is back.  The Egyptian military is reportedly staging a coup.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is reportedly under house arrest after the military ultimatum expired Wednesday, reports Al Hayat TV.

Morsi’s spokesman denied the report, according to ABC News, but word of the house arrest provoked cheers in Tahrir Square.

This comes as Egypt’s military moved to tighten its control on key institutions before their afternoon ultimatum expired.

The military stationed officers in the newsroom of state television on the banks of the Nile River in central Cairo. Troops were deployed in news-production areas.

Officers from the army’s media department moved inside the newsroom and were monitoring output, though not yet interfering, staffers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the arrangements.

Apparently, this is the plan:

Under a plan leaked to state media, the military would install a new interim leadership, the Islamist-backed constitution suspended and the Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved.

And our position, as reported by ABC?

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is urging Morsi to address the people’s grievances and the White House is also warning Egypt’s military that a coup could jeopardize relations with the United States.

*sigh*

Oh, and where in the world is John Kerry?

~McQ


Springtime in Egypt, or “how’s that ‘smart diplomacy’ working out for you?

You remember the US position when the supposed “Arab Spring” began in Egypt – Mubarak had to go and the Muslim Brotherhood was not a radical organization, but a benign one which had trasformed itself over the years.  And their candidate for president would bring democracy to an oppressed people and make Egypt an even better ally of the US.

Yeah, right.  If that passes for “smart diplomacy”, then I’d hate to see dumb diplomacy (although, in this context, “smart diplomacy” seems rather Orwellian, doesn’t it?).

So now where are we?  Well certainly nowhere near where we’d like to be.   And, in terms of the best interests of the US, Mubarak looks pretty good right now.  Meanwhile Obama and Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador to Egypt are about as popular in that country as Paula Deen at an NAACP convention.

The demonstrators maintain Morsi has become a power-hungry autocrat who is intent on making the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt’s permanent ruling party.

They also blame the Obama administration and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson for propping up Morsi and facilitating the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab.

“We are very critical of the Obama administration because they have been supporting the Brotherhood like no one has ever supported them,” Shadi Al Ghazali Harb, a 24-year-old member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Youth Coalition, told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday afternoon during a telephone interview from Cairo.

The White House is “the main supporter of the Brotherhood,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the American support this president would have fallen months ago.”

Al Ghazali Harb specifically dubbed Patterson “the first enemy of the revolution,” claiming “she is hated even more than Morsi.”

Activists hung pictures of Patterson with a red “X” drawn across her face at Egypt’s Defense Ministry during smaller protests Friday afternoon.

“She’s done a lot to harm our relations with the United States,” Al Ghazali Harb said.

Oh.  But … we’re the good guys, right?

Well it all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?  Mubarak was bad but Morsi is worse and the coalition that opposed Mubarak now oppose Morsi.  But what they know without anyone having to have anyone spell it out is the US went to some lengths to back the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  And now that faction has become as bad if not worse than what it replaced.

I don’t believe the opposition coalition is much better organized than it was when Egyptians were trying to oust Mubarak.  But there is no question, given the huge numbers of protesters, that they’re not happy with Morsi or the Brotherhood.

They’ve discovered what we were telling you from the beginning – the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical, Islamist organization with marked totalitarian tendencies.  That argument is over.  The debate now is whether or not they can hold onto power in Egypt.  If I were a betting man, I’d be taking the protesters and give points.

Meanwhile, our rudderless foreign policy boat continues to drift without direction with Swiftboat Kerry and Lead From The Rear Admiral Obama at the helm.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 30 Jun 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss immigration reform.

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.


Meanwhile in Egypt, an Islamic Constitution is signed into law

And apparently, our current government, given their history, will really have no problem with it.   Why do I say that? Because their love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood extends back quite some time. Despite all the warnings that the Brotherhood was radical and Islamist, this administration and Democrats have been making overtures for years.

Going back to April 2007, Democrats made special efforts to link up with the MB when visiting then-House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., met with Dr. Saad el-Katatni, the MB’s parliamentary leader, at former U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone’s home, at a time when then-Secretary Condoleezza Rice has publicly refused to meet with the Brotherhood.

Mr. Ricciardone, who I can call a friend, once told me that his friendship with another MB leader, Essam El- Erain, extended for close to 30 years. Perhaps that was the catalyst for this meeting and subsequent meetings that took place at his residency.

A stream of meetings as well as public and private contacts followed between current U.S. Ambassador Ann Paterson and members of the Brotherhood since her arrival to Egypt shortly after the revolution. The ambassador seemed to favor the Brotherhood and the hardliner Salafis over the rest of the secular players in Egypt.

In fact, she has turned down requests for meetings from heads of political parties and other secular politicians, myself included, who opposed the Brotherhood.
In addition to the ambassador, other U.S. officials such as Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Sen. John Kerry made the pilgrimage to the MB headquarters and made sure to meet with their leader, Khairat El-Shater, at times even publicly praising him, as did Mr. Kerry. Those visits were made during a time where no political group had emerged as a leader in post-revolution Egypt.

The result, of course, is a state much more inclined to hostility toward Israel and the United States. Additionally, with the signing of the new Constitution, the secular state is dead. It will relegate women and minorities to second-class status. Additionally, given the Brotherhood’s history, Egypt is likely to lend more support to Hamas and Hezbollah. It is also likely, given the fact that it controls a border area on Gaza, that weaponry into that area will flow unimpeded.

I wanted to bring John Kerry’s role in this  to light, since it is likely he will be the next Secretary of State. Just as he provided propaganda fodder for the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war, he and other Democrats have provided “justification” for the Muslim Brotherhood’s move to establish Sharia law in Egypt.

The MBs used these high-level meetings to tell the Egyptian people that the U.S. was supporting them and did not object to their rule. Many of us reached out to U.S. officials at the State Department and complained that the U.S. policy regarding the MB was putting the secular forces in Egypt at a disadvantage because it seemed to be propping up the MB, but our concerns were dismissed.

We warned of the MB’s desire to impose Sharia law once in power and the grim effect it would have on the rights of the millions of Christians and moderate Muslims, including women and children, yet all of our warnings were dismissed. It seems that a policy decision was made to bring the MB to power in Egypt at all costs, and it happened.

As it turns out, the situation in Egypt, backed by Democrats and this administration, has made the country a less reliable US ally, has turned the cultural clock there back to the seventh century with the establishment of Sharia law, and has relegated a large portion of Egyptians to second-class status all the while becoming much more of a threat to the country of Israel.

If the purpose of foreign relations is to create situations that are favorable to the United States, this has been an epic failure.

~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

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