Free Markets, Free People

Egypt


Meanwhile “Arab Spring” stumbles on

In Lybia, the expected – at least for those who paid attention and had a rudimentary understanding of modern Islam – is beginning to happen:

Throughout this country, Libyans are discovering that their hard fought battle to win freedoms is at risk. Puritanical Muslims known as Salafis are applying a rigid form of Islam in more and more communities. They have clamped down on the sale of alcohol and demolished the tombs of saints where many local people worship.

[…]

Throughout Libya, Gaddafi’s fall has emboldened Salafis, who were persecuted and imprisoned under the now deceased leader. They have increased their public presence, taken over mosques, and even hoisted the flag of al-Qaeda over the courthouse in Benghazi where the revolution began eleven months ago. In the capital of Tripoli, Salafis have destroyed more than six shrines. In one incident, dozens swarmed mausoleums belonging to two Muslim mystics and dug up their bodies so that worshippers could no longer visit their tombs. They also burned the relics around the shrines.

The Salafis are the same group that has done well in the Egyptian elections.  Speaking of Egypt, Robert R. Reilly makes some important points about that country and Islam in general, taking apart a Matthew Kaminski article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Arab Democracy Is the Best Bet for a Muslim Reformation."  He points out the problems associated with the “propensity to project Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world, where they are largely irrelevant.”  It’s an interesting read. 

For instance:

"The appeal of political Islam… grows when religiosity is repressed." Islamism is a reaction to modernity, not to repression. It would grow regardless. With the shackles off in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, watch it grow even more. To think that it will diminish because it is not repressed is a dangerous fantasy. Thanks to the Arab Spring, it now has the opportunity to seize control, and most likely will do so. Democratic elections have simply revealed the strength of the view that "Islam is the answer."

And Reilly stomps on the notion that “democracy” will provide the necessary reformation of Islam.  Instead, he points out, the Islamists are the reformation:

Kaminski calls for a Reformation in Islam, without seeming to realize that Islamism is that Reformation. Be careful of what you wish for. One reason that the Islamic world became calcified is that the "gates of ijtihad" were closed in the Middle Ages. This meant that the authority for making original interpretations of the Koran or the hadith had been withdrawn because the sharia had, by that time, covered every possible situation in human life with a specific ruling. The Islamists today have reclaimed the authority of individual interpretation in order to wipe out the Islamic jurisprudence that stands in their way, most particularly in their use of indiscriminate violence and terrorism.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood:

"Salafists… practice Osama bin Laden’s creed of Islam." No, bin Laden’s creed of Islam is not Salafist, but came directly from the Muslim Brotherhood and is infected with its ideology, which was partially obtained from Western totalitarianism. His teacher in Saudi Arabia was Mohammed al Banna, the brother of the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, Hassan al Banna. Salafism, on the other hand, is an ancient and integral part of Islam.

Reilly points out that “[w]ishful thinking can be dangerous when it distorts reality.”   And that’s precisely what many in the West have done – engage in wishful thinking and project “Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world” where they simply don’t fit.

Engaging in an honest assessment grounded in at least an understanding of Islam and human nature should have disabused a rational person of such wishful thinking.  The information was there, the history was there, and the conclusions weren’t that hard to reach if objectively put together.

Unfortunately our government apparently prefers to engage in wishful thinking along with many others in the West.  The outcome in Libya and Egypt, given who was involved and how that has worked in other countries should have been obvious.  But instead many in the West, such as Kaminski chose to believe in fictions like the Muslim Brotherhood’s declared “moderation” and their supposed belief in sharing power with secularists.  Oh you may see that at least given lip service for a while, at least until they fully consolidate their power, but that’s not their plan.

These two “revolutions” made the Middle East a more dangerous and oppressive place.  Our government chose to ignore the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood’s extremism for a more sanitized and moderate model (which it used to justify its support) and aided and abetted the Islamists in Libya – while pretending they didn’t really exist — through direct intervention in a conflict that was simply none of our business.

Now, unfortunately, we have to live with the results.

Somehow both of these will be spun into “foreign policy successes”, just watch.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Meanwhile, in Egypt

Don’t worry, be happy – It will soon be a bright and happy day in that benighted land:

Relations between Egypt‘s military rulers and the United States threatened to hit a new low after Egyptian security forces launched unprecedented armed raids on a series of high profile human rights and pro-democracy organisations.

The raids included targeting the US-government funded National Democratic Institute – founded by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright – and the International Republican Institute, whose chairman is Republican senator John McCain. Both organisations are affiliated with the two major US political parties.

The orchestrated move by Egypt’s generals, apparently keen to play up to anti-US and nationalist feelings in the country, will be seen as highly provocative in Washington, which underwrites military aid to Egypt to the sum of $1.3bn (£843m) annually.

"We are deeply concerned," a State Department official told the Guardian.

Are we?  So no more applauding the “revolution” in Egypt and what it has brought? 

Or are we still breaking eggs so the omelet of freedom can be made?

Uh huh.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: “Hamas is our role model”

I guess some people have to have a whack over the head with a clue bat before they begin to realize that Egypt is headed down an Islamist path with a military twist:

Gaza’s Hamas premier was in Egypt Monday on his first trip outside the blockaded territory since the Islamists overran it in 2007, saying his meeting with his Islamic ideological mentors threatens Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh discussed Mideast politics with the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as the biggest winner in the first parliamentary elections in post-uprising Egypt, capturing nearly half of the seats so far.

Hamas is considered an offshoot of the Brotherhood.

Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie met Haniyeh at the group’s newly inaugurated headquarters in a Cairo suburb.

But, but … the Muslim Brotherhood is a “moderate” organization.  Why?  Uh, because they said so.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words.

The Brotherhood center has always embraced issues of liberation, foremost the Palestinian issue," Badie said, according to Egypt’s state Middle East News Agency.

He added that Hamas has served as a role model to the Brotherhood in its reconciliation with the Fatah movement and in closing the recent prisoner swap deal with Israel.

The Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s, but it supports Hamas in its "resistance" against Israel.

That’s how the “Brotherhood” can continue to claim it is a “moderate” organization while still remaining a radical terrorist organization … simply do the terrorism by proxy.  Hamas is their terror organization and it is fully funded and supported by the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood.  Oh, and by the way, don’t be surprised if you see a Hamas presence established in Egypt now.  The “moderate” Brotherhood will need a means of plausible deniability when acts of terror are perpetrated on enemies of the Brotherhood in days to come.  And of course Hamas will provide that means and, of course, the Brotherhood can then condemn its actions in public for the Western press even while giving it the next mission.

That way the can keep the façade of moderation alive among those gullible enough in the West to still believe that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Islamists tighten grip in Egypt with 2nd round of elections, violence flairs

Well “Arab spring” is going swimmingly in Egypt.  The second round of elections were just completed and guess who has taken even more control?

The Muslim Brotherhood party secured 39 percent of the vote, while the Salafi Al Nour party won 31 percent of the vote in the second stage of Egypt’s landmark post-Mubarak elections, according to unofficial results published on the website of Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday.

The unofficial results for the second stage of elections for the lower house of the Egyptian parliament also showed that the secular, liberal Wafd party won 22 percent of the vote.

Islamist parties won some 70 percent of the total vote, a similar result to the first stage of elections, which took place on November 28.

Of course this wasn’t supposed to happen this way and apologists for it are left with trying to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “moderate” organization.  It’s history tells a completely different story.  The classic wolf in sheep’s clothing in this situation.  With over 70% control, the Islamists will easily control any legislative body with very little need to compromise with the secular side of the house.

Meanwhile what had begun as peaceful protests in Tahrir Square have turned violent:

Egyptian security forces fought opponents of army rule in Cairo for a fourth day on Monday and the United States, worried by the violence, urged the generals to respect human rights.

Medical sources said the death toll had risen to 13 since Friday. Hundreds have been wounded and scores detained.

Police and soldiers using batons and teargas drove stone-throwing protesters out of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hub of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, overnight.

Hundreds had returned to the square by morning after security forces retreated behind barricades in streets leading to parliament, the cabinet office and the Interior Ministry.

The photos of the violence are shocking.  But they give good evidence of the fact that any “spring like” feeling is gone from this revolution.  It has, as expected, turned toward a military/Islamist takeover as expected and the Egyptian military is now showing its true colors as its powerbase is challenged.  This link from the UK’s Daily Mail contains photos and a video that show the results.   The photo I’ve included is just an example.

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Perhaps now, instead of apologizing for the outcome, those who’ve tried to blind themselves to its reality will face it square on.  Egypt is going to end up worse off than it was before Mubarak was deposed.  That doesn’t mean Mubarak was someone to support, it is simply a statement of fact.  Oppression is likely to be followed by even more oppression.  And, as the picture above demonstrates, one of the greatest losers in this particular mess is likely to be women.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Egypt: How many times did I say this?

What, you ask? How many times did I say the most organized and ruthless would win in Egypt?  Anyone?

Well, here’s the post-mortem for the Egyptian election I could have written a months ago:

The Islamists’ victory has been foreshadowed by preelection polls as well as by early unofficial reports about the elections’ outcome. But the official results showed just how thoroughly the young revolutionaries who plugged into social media to ignite a revolution that brought down President Hosni Mubarak in February had failed to excite voters. They won no more than 336,000 votes.

336,000 votes out of 9.7 million cast.  336,000!

Hampered by political naivete, egos and lack of funding, the young activists were overwhelmed at the polls by better organized Islamists. The multiphase elections, which end in January, have so far indicated that activists in the Continuing Revolution party have been unable to turn the passion they inspired last winter in Tahrir Square into political capital.

Emphasis mine.  Organized and ruthless vs. naïve and clueless.  Gee wonder who’s going to win.  Of course they were no more naïve than those here who thought their triumph was pre-ordained.

"Young revolutionaries have struggled with political inexperience at some points and suffered from lack of funds and organization at others," said Emad Gad, a political analyst with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "This didn’t enable them to reach voters or carry out strong campaigns like those of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian Bloc."

Result?  The better organized and more ruthless organizations – the Islamists — won.

And there are people who think they’re very plugged in who are absolutely shocked, shocked I tell you, that there’s an outcome other than that for which they hoped.

Faith is a wonderful thing except when it is confronted by reality and facts.  And the realty of this particular situation should have been evident to any keen observer of the area (and of human nature) from the start. 

Yet the moon pony and unicorn crowd remain shocked it didn’t turn out to be a triumph of secular democracy with the Twitter crowd installed in a new and enlightened Middle East democracy.

Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 04 Dec 11

This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale record talk about China, illegal immigration, and Egypt.

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.


Egypt: Here’s a surprise

Ok not really, at least if you’re from this planet and have observed the Middle East for more than a day:

Islamists claimed a decisive victory on Wednesday as early election results put them on track to win a dominant majority in Egypt’s first Parliament since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the most significant step yet in the religious movement’s rise since the start of the Arab Spring.

The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women’s participation in voting or public life.

Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats.

What does that mean?

The unexpected rise of a strong ultraconservative Islamist faction to the right of the Brotherhood is likely to shift Egypt’s cultural and political center of gravity to the right as well. Leaders of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will likely feel obliged to compete with the ultraconservatives for Islamist voters, and at the same time will not feel the same need to compromise with liberals to form a government.

“It means that, if the Brotherhood chooses, Parliament can be an Islamists affair — a debate between liberal Islamists, moderate Islamists and conservatives Islamists, and that is it,” Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egyptian-born researcher at the Century Foundation in Cairo, said this week.

Sorry, got to laugh at the use of “unexpected” in this case.  Unexpected by whom?  Oh yeah, those who thought “Arab Spring” would mean secular democracy would suddenly pop up in a place that had never seen it before.  Yup, naturally Islamists, one of the best organized and most ruthless blocs in the region, were going to roll over and cede the field to secular types. 

And what does this portend?

The Brotherhood has pledged to respect basic individual freedoms while using the influence of the state to nudge the culture in a more traditional direction. But the Salafis often talk openly of laws mandating a shift to Islamic banking, restricting the sale of alcohol, providing special curriculums for boys and girls in public schools, and censoring the content of the arts and entertainment.

Their leaders have sometimes proposed that a special council of religious scholars advise Parliament or the top courts on legislation’s compliance with Islamic law. Egyptian election laws required the Salafi parties to put at least one woman on their electoral roster for each district, but they put the women last on their lists to ensure they would not be elected, and some appear with pictures of flowers in place of their faces on campaign posters.

Sheik Hazem Shouman, an important Salafi leader, recently rushed into a public concert on the campus of Mansoura University to try to persuade the crowd to turn away from the “sinful” performance and go home. He defended his actions on a television talk show, saying he had felt like a doctor making an emergency intervention to save a patient dying of cancer.

Note his “intervention” was an attempt at persuasion.   Now that’s not going to be necessary, is it?  Persuasion will eventually turn to coercion – see “censoring the content of the arts and entertainment” above.

Back to the 12th century. 

Let freedom ring.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Has“Arab spring” skipped summer and fall and headed into winter?

Probably.  I assume, to some (and they will know who they are) this will come as an “unexpected” turn of events:

Six months after young, liberal activists helped lead the popular movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the hard core of these protesters was forcibly dispersed by the troops. Some Egyptians lined the street to applaud the army. Others ganged up on the activists as they retreated from the square that has come to symbolize the Arab Spring.

Squeezed between an assertive military and the country’s resurgent Islamist movement, many Internet-savvy, pro-democracy activists are finding it increasingly hard to remain relevant in a post-revolutionary Egypt that is struggling to overcome an economic crisis and restore law and order.

"The liberal and leftist groups that were at the forefront of the revolution have lost touch with the Egyptian people," says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. "These protesters have alienated much of Egypt. For some time they’ve been deceiving themselves by saying that the silent majority is on their side—but all evidence points to the contrary, and Monday’s events confirm that."

Rather predictable, at least among those who objectively observe how the world usually works.  As I said early on, the most ruthless and best organized will win this little bout and it was obvious it was the army and the Muslim Brotherhood that shared those attributes.  They also came to an early agreement/alliance between themselves.   At that point, you knew the movement started by the “young, liberal activists” variously described as “Arab Spring” and the “Twitter Revolution” was doomed.

Proof?

The backlash among rank-and-file Egyptians became evident on July 23, when a march by revolutionary activists heading to the defense ministry was assaulted by residents of Cairo’s Abassiya neighborhood. More than a hundred people were injured.

Egypt’s secular and liberal activists have been campaigning for postponing parliamentary elections, initially planned for as early as June, so that they could better organize themselves and compete against the more established Islamists.

Elections have been pushed to November, but the liberals and the secularists appear not to have taken advantage of the delay. Instead of organizing themselves into a coherent bloc, they have set up minuscule rival parties and feuded among themselves, say analysts and diplomats.

"There is a power game going on—and the liberals and the entire secular movement are the weaker element, while the Islamists and the army are strong," said Laila Soueif, a liberal activist and human-rights campaigner who teaches at Cairo University.

The secular and liberal activists let the revolution pass them by while they feuded and fought among themselves.    Meanwhile the army and Brotherhood took advantage of the situation and are now poised to take control of the country – “democratically” of course.  And they’re certainly not going to agree to a delay in elections to allow their rivals for power any chance of better organizing themselves.

I think it is probably pretty clear what the outcome of elections will be and who will end up being squeezed out.   The secular and liberal activists have missed their moment.   Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Hold up the tank sale until after Egyptian elections

This is just not very smart politics or foreign policy:

While everyone in Washington was concentrating on the debt crisis this week, the Obama administration attempted to slip through a questionable arms deal that requires serious scrutiny. Though it got little attention, the Defense Department officially notified Congress on Friday that it was authorizing the sale of 125 M1A1 tanks to Egypt as well as other weapons, equipment, parts, training and logistical support. While most of the military sales to Egypt have sailed through without objection in the more than 30 years since it signed a peace deal with Israel, this is the first such sale since the fall of the Mubarak regime earlier this year. Which is exactly why the sale ought to be held up until the unsettled situation in the most populous country in the Arab world is better understood.

Why?

In the wake of Mubarak’s fall from power, the Egyptian military seems to have retained a firm grip on power. But the army seems intent on sharing power with a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood movement that threatens the foundation of the relationship between the United States and Egypt. Since the 1979 Camp David Accords, the Egyptian military has gotten all the high-tech and expensive equipment it wanted so long as it was clear their new toys would not be used to threaten or attack Israel. But as Egypt lurches toward the election of a new government that will probably be made up of Islamist elements, that peace is in jeopardy.

Emphasis mine.  We have no assurance or reason to believe that won’t happen given the direction of the country and the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, an avowed enemy of Israel whose representatives have repeatedly said the treaty Egypt has with that country must be voided.

So here we are going along as though nothing has happened and preparing to sell 125 of the world’s most advanced battle tank to a country which could conceivably turn around and use them against Israel.  Since, as I noted in another post, we seem to have little if any leverage there and it appears the Muslim Brotherhood has little desire to talk with us, I would think we’d be leery of such a deal and perhaps use it as a method of gaining some leverage.   No?

Yes, I know we might see another country try to fill the gap by offering their tanks and equipment, but such a switch (Egypt is presently equipped with US military equipment) isn’t as easy as it sounds and it would be quite expensive.  It may be worth it to a Russia or a China (given the Suez Canal, etc.) to do that.

But at the moment this sale makes no sense – at least until the political situation is much more settled than it is at the moment.  125 tanks may not be enough to get the Brotherhood to change it’s mind, but it does represent more leverage than we currently have with their military – the institution that may be able to moderate the Brotherhood’s stance on Israel.  Why give away that sort of leverage for nothing?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


About the "Twitter" revolution in Egypt

Things have certainly gotten better there – especially for US interests in the area – haven’t they?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced the U.S. administration’s intention to officially renew dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. She said the move came as part of the administration’s readiness to talk with any peaceful group wishing to participate in the Egyptian elections, and that this dialogue would be a continuation of limited and intermittent contact that had existed between the U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood over the past six years.

Responding to Clinton’s statements in an article published on the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood, its secretary general in Cairo, Dr. Muhammad Al-Biltagi, wrote that the movement had no personal interest in engaging in dialogue with the U.S., except as part of dialogue between the U.S. and Egypt as a whole. He added that the U.S.’s supportive stance toward Israel, its aggressive policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its support of Mubarak’s anti-Muslim Brotherhood policies could not be ignored.

Or, “once we take over we have no intention of having the close relationship with the US that it had under Mubarak.  Oh, and as long as you support Israel and are in other Muslim countries, we’re not particularly interested in “dialogue” either.”

Sounds pretty much what we all warned those enthralled with the “Twitter” revolution, as well as the “benign” Brotherhood about.

Tiger.  Stripes.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO