In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situation in Egypt, and CPAC.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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 – Remember when the military taking over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the Constitution was a bad thing?
Just sayin’. Because to hear some in this country, that’s the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread. Yes, the euphoria over what is happening in Egypt that has gripped an element of the fairly naïve here in this country has been truly breathtaking to behold.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d like as much as anyone to see “democracy flower” and everyone live happily ever after as true statesmen come to the fore and deliver Egypt from the tyranny of dictators and forever ensure one man, one vote, representative government and government of, for and by the people.
I just don’t live in moon pony land. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but it is to say that’s very unlikely to happen.
Well let’s consider the facts concerning this benevolent military takeover. It hasn’t taken over anything. The military has been in defacto charge of the country since Nasser.
Yes, Mubarak is gone. So what? Who replaced him? Omar Suleiman. He’s a product of the military, Egypt’s intelligence chief and named in a 2007 diplomatic cable found in WikiLeaks as Mubarak’s “consigliore”. He’s been in that position in 17 years and has been the main means of the Mubarak regime’s ability to oppress opposition. He’s now serving on the “Armed Forces Supreme Council “.
And speaking of the Armed Forces Supreme Council, others who serve on it are Defense Minister (and Lt. General) Anan and the new Prime Minister (and Air Marshal) Shafiz – both very stalwart supporters of Hosni Mubarak.
This 18 member body has dissolved the Parliament, suspended the constitution and banned labor strikes. And although it has promised elections in 6 months, well, that’s 6 months away, isn’t it? We really have no idea if that Council really means to actually hold the election or will find ruling the state to be much more to their taste than turning it over to the rabble.
The military – of all institutions – played this whole thing very well. It was in charge but it pretended it wasn’t. It took the side of the protesters, nominally, and removed one of its own to be replaced by 18 of its own. What has happened is a very well done defusing of a volatile situation while in reality nothing much has changed in terms of who is in charge of government.
That’s not to say some things aren’t different – for instance, that well-known “secular” organization (according to our chief of intelligence) the Muslim Brotherhood (yup, real secular name there, skippy) is attempting to take advantage of the situation as well and has applied for status as a political party.
And it appears, despite reassurances to the contrary, that the MB is setting itself up to be another in a long line of theocratic parties that use elections (at least once) to legitimize their rule. Read these two paragraphs carefully:
The Brotherhood’s charter calls for creation of an Islamic state in Egypt, and Mubarak’s regime depicted the Brotherhood as aiming to take over the country, launching fierce crackdowns on the group. Some Egyptians remain deeply suspicious of the secretive organization, fearing it will exploit the current turmoil to vault to power.
But others – including the secular, liberal youth activists who launched the anti-Mubarak uprising – say the Brotherhood has to be allowed freedom to compete in a democracy alongside everyone else. Support by young cadres in the Brotherhood was key to the protests’ success, providing manpower and organization, though they never came to form a majority in the wave of demonstrations.
The question is, once it has competed in “a democracy” and won, does it ever plan to compete again? Nothing has changed in the MB’s charter. And having watched other “Islamic states” come into existence, democracy is not one of their foundations – although it would certainly be useful in a peaceful takeover vs. having to do so through violence. Bottom line, though, the end state is the same. See any number of authoritarian regimes (such as Venezuela or Iran) which began with “free and open elections”.
To answer the question on the minds of some reading this, no, I don’t consider myself cynical about this, I instead see my pessimism grounded in observing the experiences of like states and the results that’ve unfortunately resulted. I consider my take to be quite realistic. And that’s a pity as I’d like nothing more than to see a magic flowering of democracy in Egypt.
The irony of course is the same people who said a democracy could never be established in Iraq are now saying democracy is spontaneously establishing itself in Egypt. Of course democracy in Iraq has been established, however tenuously, by the presence of the US military. However, in Egypt, those now ruling the country are from the military. I’d appreciate someone – anyone – pointing out why Egypt, without a US military presence or the presence of any other entity capable of forcing the country down the road to democracy will suddenly become a democracy?
In fact it seems the fox is guarding the hen house in Egypt. There’ll be a lot of busy work in the interim - a new or at least amended constitution (who is going to pass it or debate it with Parliament dissolved? The military council? The people?), the organization of political parties and elections, etc. All the while, I expect the military to quietly consolidate its power over the next 6 months while others are buzzing around doing the busy work that will keep them out of the streets.
Will the military willingly turn over its power to a president elected by the people? If I knew that I could probably make a fortune. Let me just say it like this – if the winner of the election is a candidate that is acceptable to the military (say some military officer from “the club’’), then probably “yes”. Accepting such a candidate would most likely keep the military’s grip on government in place, just with a new (and somewhat more benevolent) face.
If the winner isn’t acceptable to the military (such as a theocrat from the MB – one of the reasons they play this “we’re secular” game is an attempt to head off those sorts of charges.) I expect to hear charges of vote fraud, illegal activities and arrests to ensue, along with a declared “state of emergency” after which the military will retain control and begin the inevitable crack-down on dissent. It will also claim to want to hold new elections at some time in the unspecified future – to keep the West off its back and the people at home.
Not a rosy picture, that’s for sure – and I could be completely wrong. But unfortunately, I just don’t think so.
Call it wisdom – intuition, experience and observation combined to come to a conclusion. And it isn’t necessarily a pretty one.
There are a whole lot of folks who have been flapping their gums and saying the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) should be welcomed into the “process” in Egypt. Two things – right now the “process” is an active attempt to overthrow the government in place. I’m not saying it shouldn’t go or that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying let’s be cognizant of what the “process” is at the moment.
Two, as I’ve pointed out in the past and will continue to point out, the MB is a wolf is sheep’s clothing and quite content to say whatever the West wants to hear in order to be considered a legitimate organization bent on the democratic ideal of Western democracy.
To put it bluntly, that’s nonsense. They are and always have been an Islamist organization, i.e. their ideology is rooted in Islam and their method of choice is violent “jihad”. You simply have to look around the net and you can find countless examples of where their Arabic writings and speeches have been translated to understand the point. Don’t look at their English language site – it is designed to placate you. Root out what its leaders have been saying to, shall we say, more local audiences. When they talk of “liberation” they’re not talking about the type of Western freedom you and I assume by the word. They’re talking about something completely different.
Here’s an example from a book by Mustafa Mashhur, entitled “Jihad is the Way”. Mustafa Mashhur was the fifth General Guide, the official leader, of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from 1996 until his death in 2002. He makes no bones about the duty of all Muslims as far as he’s concerned – and he certainly would be seen to speak for the MB’s attitude given he was their leader for 6 years.
Jihad is the way. We need to be fully aware of this and to act and follow in its way. The faltering of faith has led the Muslims to their current state: one of laxity, disintegration, the dominion of Allah’s enemies over the Muslim’s resources, and the succumbing of some of them to abandoning their faith. The revival of the faith is the starting point for the revival and revitalization of the Islamic Ummah [nation], so that it can regain its power and be liberated and assume its rightful position which was intended by Allah, as the most exalted nation among men , as the leaders of humanity, and through this religion of truth they will deliver humanity from darkness unto light.
You can read the rest at the link, plus there is a link in the cite with the full pdf. Obviously, encapsulated in that paragraph are the fundamental religious beliefs of the MB as they apply to their politics. Notice how he uses the word "liberated". You are “liberated” if you come under the power of Islam. It certainly refutes the claim of a willingness to establish a secular government as we understand it.
I’m simply saying don’t be fooled by this organization’s expressed willingness to establish a “secular democracy” in Egypt. Like many organizations of its type, it is willing to say anything – and most likely do anything, at least for a while – to establish itself in power. Once there it will justify its takeover in the name of Allah – all things being fair when establishing a theocracy, since all moves will have been ordained by the religion’s all powerful being.
Together with the power of faith, there is no escaping from the power of unity among the Muslims to unify efforts. Then comes the power of arms and weapons, when nothing else will suffice, and this is the role of Jihad. The Imam (Muslim religious leader) and Shahid (Martyr), Hassan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) learned of the need for these three forces, from the biography of the Prophet [Muhammad], may Allah bless him and give him peace…
Fair warning – again.
I guess, perhaps, it is a function of being brought up during the Cold War and watching one "people’s revolution" after another – each promising democracy, freedom and enlightened rule – turn into murderous and oppressive regimes which has me highly suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt.
I’m also fascinated and perplexed by those who would accept at face value the MB’s declarations in that regard. Carefully reading the words of MB leaders doesn’t at all leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Instead I see much of the West falling hook, line and sinker for pernicious propaganda designed to fool them into believing something that isn’t at all in evidence.
For instance, Dr Muhammad Badie is the new leader of the MB. From their English language site (which I understand is much less inflammatory than their Arabic language site) he is quoted:
He concluded by telling reporters that the movement was open to new ideas hence their promoting of reform. The Brotherhood rejects violence and aims to achieve gradual reforms in a peaceful and constitutional way.
“We totally reject violence and denounce it in all its forms," the new leader concluded. [Emphasis mine]
Sounds great. Of course he is quoted as saying things like this on the MB Arabic website:
-Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. “They are disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme” over all non-Muslims.
–All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: "They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life." Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.
Mr. “non-violence” advocating … violence, as recently as October of last year.
Flip over to a little controversy of words between Conor Friedersdorf and Andy McCarthy. Friedersdorf is upset about the way McCarthy worded a particular claim in a recent article. In it McCarthy says, "Hamas is not merely colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood." . Friedersdorf responds with:
When Andy McCarthy says that The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas, the point he’s making is that we can anticipate how the group will act if it comes to power in Egypt, because we know how Hamas acts in Gaza, and the two groups are the same. In contrast, Eli Lake doesn’t believe we can know how the Muslim Brotherhood will act in Egypt if it comes to power, he describes a moderate faction of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that is quite different from Hamas, and even in the clip you cite, he isn’t arguing that The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas – he is arguing that one of its chapters – the one in Gaza – is Hamas, and that an Egyptian government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood might strengthen the hand of Hamas in its ongoing conflict with Israel.
Note the irrelevance of the argument in terms of the big picture. The fact remains, and even Friedersdorf admits it, that the Gaza chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas – a violent terror group (and one which fits perfectly in the new MB leaders “jihadist” framework, no?) We can quibble about whether or not that chapter represents the MB as a whole or not, but the fact remains, it gives total lie to the claim of the MB’s new leader eschewing violence (as do his own words, of course). You see, when it comes to Israel, the MB makes an exception to this declaration.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a translated clip of Muhammad Ghanem, Muslim Brotherhood Representative in London, calling for civil disobedience, including "halting passage through the Suez Canal … and preparing for war with Israel"
Here’s an interview with Khaled Hamza, the editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website. He is described by the interviewer as “a leading voice of moderation within the party, and is central to its youth-outreach efforts.”
One of the things the MB has talked about is “secular government”. They’re for it, well, sort of. I mean that’s what they talk about, but what do they mean when they say it? Well, here’s what they mean:
So the Brotherhood would support the maintenance of a secular government?
When the Muslim Brotherhood uses the word "secular," it does not mean no religion — we are talking about what we call a "civilized state." [emphasis mine]
Uh huh … and what makes a “civilized state?” Read between the lines, people.
Here’s the former MB leader introducing the new MB leader:
Akef addressed a word to the press conference, which had convened for the historical announcement of the eighth Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. He asserted that the movement was bound by a set of regulations however were and still are open to reform and progress suitable to specific incidents and specific times stressing that flexibility is a must for the success of any trend.
He called on the members of the movement to holdfast to its cause and not to waver or flinch in the face of possible oppression and tyranny. "Continue in your cause with head held high and follow through with integrity and reciprocated respect so that the banner of Islam may be raised. Support your leaders who are as one within your ranks". [emphasis mine]
There’s your “civilized state”.
Back to the Hamza interview:
Do you support the establishment of sharia (Islamic law) in the way the government of Saudi Arabia has established it?
The Brotherhood does not agree with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, because it is simply not democratic.
So you believe that there has to be a certain way to put sharia into place, but that establishing it through monarchy or by force is unacceptable?
Yes, democracy is the only way.
So the veneer of democracy is to be used to install what they all know they plan on installing – sharia law as a part of a “civilized state”. Once sharia is “chosen”, then they have inoculated themselves against criticism from the West. And, of course, as long as they’re in power, sharia will never be “unchosen”. Democracy is very useful in this way as most of those “people’s revolutions” demonstrated during the Cold War era. Organize for the post-government era so that the MB has the best political organization out there, ban the opposing party (that would be Mubarak’s party which the MB says would be banned from running for office), and win the election. Then implement the agenda:
What role would the Muslim Brotherhood have in creating a new state if it participated in the political process?
We would take part in Parliament and run in the elections for it. [Under Mubarak’s ban on the group, members of the Brotherhood must run for office as independents – Ed.) When people choose the Muslim Brotherhood, the West must understand that the people want it. [Emphasis mine]
There you go. And check out this sleight of hand in that same interview. The interviewer asks about the establishment of government in Egypt and whether or not the “Iranian model” is one the MB would follow:
What about the Iranian model?
The Iranians follow the Ayatollah; we do not believe Islam requires a theocracy. In our view, the ulema (clergy) are only for teaching and education — they are out of the political sphere. Iran has some good things, such as elections, but we disagree with all the aggression. We disagree also with the human rights abuses from the government and attacks on the population.
Remember, the former chairman invoked raising the banner of Islam, and this fellow has already told us that “secular” doesn’t mean “no religion”. And anyone who has studied Islam even a little bit understands there is no separation between the religion, law and governance. In fact, that’s how a country becomes a “civilized state”. So this statement is disingenuous at best. So is claiming that the clergy are only “for teaching and education”. And in fact, later on in the interview, he slips a bit. This in a discussion on the role of women in politics:
If the Brotherhood were in power in Egypt, what would be the rights of women to participate in politics? Could a woman serve in Parliament, or as President?
We believe in the complete participation of women in political life — except the presidency.
Except the presidency? Why is that?
Most ulema agree that the president must be a man. Women can run for any political office except president…In Islam there are ideas and options, and Islam says it is possible [for a woman to serve as President], but for now we choose the other option. We say it is a choice, from the religious thinkers or schools of thought. But there are other options and different choices. Some [Islamic] scholars say a woman can be President, but the Muslim Brotherhood, now, at this moment, does not agree with this. Maybe after some years they’d accept this. I think so. For myself, Khaled, I personally think a woman can be President, no problem. [Emphasis mine]
The “ulema agree”? Uh, if they’re just for “teaching and education” who cares? Or are they making "decisions” that government abides by? Sounds like the latter to me. And notice how casually he throws women’s rights to the political process under the bus with “but for now we choose the other option”. What’s to say “we” won’t choose any number of other options for the “civilized state” as decreed by the “ulema”? Stoning. Killing gays and infidels. etc.
Finally, on the subject of violence and Israel:
What about relations with Israel? What would the Brotherhood do regarding the situation between Israel and Palestine?
We think Israel is an occupation force and is not fair to the Palestinians. We do not believe in negotiation with Israel. As the Muslim Brotherhood, we must resist all this. They are an occupation force and we must resist this. Did you see what they do in Gaza, on the flotilla? Israel is a very dangerous force and we must resist. Resistance is the only way, negotiation is not useful at all.
So would the Muslim Brotherhood, if in a position of government, help groups like Hamas?
Do you recognize Israel as a state?
And this guy is a “moderate” and “modernist”.
Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing – the symbol of many a past “people’s revolution”.
Protests turned violent yesterday as "pro-Mubarak" forces clashed with "anti-Mubarak" forces (descriptions used by various media outlets) in Cairo.
The violence, though not really unexpected, is unfortunate but a fairly routine part of these sorts of confrontations. The question is – and I think we probably know the answer – were the "pro-Mubarak" forces real or recruited? I.e. was it a spontaneous grouping that finally came out in the streets to counter the other side, or was it an orchestrated "spontaneous" uprising on the "pro-Mubarak" side? I’m pretty sure most feel it is the former rather than the latter. If so, then Mubarak, et al, have decided to fight to stay on.
Speaking of orchestration, Robert Springborg is of the opinion that there has been some careful orchestration in the response by the Mubarak government, all aimed at seeing the military take control of the government when everything has run its course – thereby pretty much preserving the status quo with different leaders. While the administration has finally come out publicly saying Mubarak should step down, the best “realpolitik” foreign policy ending for the US could be such an outcome. But that means the death of any possibility of Egyptian democracy and the perpetuation of the autocratic “strongman” state under which Egypt has suffered for decades.
Egypt’s government hit back swiftly. The Foreign Ministry released a defiant statement saying the calls from “foreign parties” had been “rejected and aimed to incite the internal situation in Egypt.” And Egyptian officials reached out to reporters to make clear how angry they were at their onetime friend.
Separately, in an interview, a senior Egyptian government official took aim at President Obama’s call on Tuesday night for a political transition to begin “now” — a call that infuriated Cairo.
Not particularly surprising or unexpected. I’m not sure why Washington continues to fear this argument as it appears it does. It is going to happen at sometime during any event like this in the Middle East whether we sit on our hands or not. Even if its not true the US is going to be blamed. So we need to get over worrying about it and have our say.
Speaking of having his say, George Soros is out with a op/ed about how well Obama has handled all of this:
Revolutions usually start with enthusiasm and end in tears. In the case of the Middle East, the tears could be avoided if President Obama stands firmly by the values that got him elected. Although American power and influence in the world have declined, our allies and their armies look to us for direction. These armies are strong enough to maintain law and order as long as they stay out of politics; thus the revolutions can remain peaceful. That is what the United States should insist on while encouraging corrupt and repressive rulers who are no longer tolerated by their people to step aside and allow new leaders to be elected in free and fair elections.
About an mile wide and inch deep analysis Soros is trying to pretend that the army is a benign agent in Egypt and is claiming the Egyptian army is looking to us for leadership, which Soros claims Obama is providing. The alternate scenario, and the one that seems much more likely, is that one Springborg describes. IOW, look for an eventual government to emerge peopled by the military. And, of course, Soros buys into the charade involving ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood:
The Muslim Brotherhood’s cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who is seeking to run for president, is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system. But despite his claims to the contrary, ElBaradei is not as popular as he’d like to believe and is seen as almost an outsider who has spent very little time in Egypt in recent years. He is, however, a convenient front man for the Muslim Brotherhood – at least for the moment.
The main problem ala Soros? The Joooos:
The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.
Soros concludes that he’s very hopeful and enthusiastic about the probability of democracy and freedom breaking out in Egypt.
Speaking of ElBaradei, he’s now demanding Mubarak step down in 48 hours or else.
Egyptian uprising idol Mohammed ElBaradei has ordered Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave the country by Friday – or he will be a “dead man walking” and not just a lame-duck president.
Nice – peaceful, civil discourse with a threat he has no way of backing up with action. Not something that aspiring leaders should be throwing out there if they want to be taken seriously.
And, as Springbork suggests in his piece, all of this orchestration of events and postures assumed have been done for a purpose, one of which is to get the factions and groups to want normalcy again and be willing to negotiate a “peace”. Not so our friends in the Muslim Brotherhood:
The radical Muslim Brotherhood has become more vocal in its calls for Mubarak’s resignation, drowning out several opposition groups that have accepted an offer by newly-appointed vice president Omar Suleiman to negotiate.
It is not in the best interest of the Muslim Brotherhood for there to be peace, negotiation and accommodation (the NYT still buys into the “benevolent Muslim Brotherhood” nonsense). But it appears the regime, via the newly appointed VP and the Army, are attempting the old “divide and conquer” tactic. The “pro-Mubarak” faction’s (thugs) violence have tempered the fervor of some of the members of the populist portions of the uprising. Negotiations begin to steal the momentum from the protesters by peeling them away. Splitting off the “fair weather” protesters allows the regime (via the security forces that Suleiman ran for years) to begin to identify the hard-core extremist factions involved and deal with them. The army, of course, remains above the fray (and seemingly neutral) and positions itself to be the choice of most of the people as the moderate successor to the Mubarak regime.
Result? Pretty much the same set-up as now (except with uniforms – the VP and PM are Army or former Army) but possibly more anti-American than before. Of course George Soros won’t tell you that.
As Egypt burns: has the administration picked a side? And some on the left are still in “moon pony” land about the Muslim Brotherhood and the potential for a Muslim state emerging
I’m not sure how you might interpret this, but it seems to me, given what Secretary Hillary Clinton has been saying, that we’ve picked a side in Egypt.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure.
Granted it doesn’t tell Mubarak to give it up, it certainly doesn’t openly support the protesters, but make no mistake, in diplo-speak, this is pretty close to doing both. I’m not judging it one way or the other, I’m just sayin’.
Stipulating that, who does the administration think will lead the transition to that country having more “economic and political freedom?”
Well, she doesn’t say, but my guess is the administration would find Mohammad ElBaradei to be an acceptable choice. The question is does he really have the support to actually take power or, as many worry, if Mubarak flies off to Saudi Arabia – the country of choice for ousted dictators – will ElBaradei suddenly find himself on the outside looking in as more powerful factions compete for control?
Of course, there are those on the left here who are pretty sure that the Muslim Brotherhood running some sort of anti-American Muslim state is just a myth and nothing to worry about. Meanwhile, in the real world, Haarretz reports:
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group,is in talks with other anti-government figures to form a national unity government without President Hosni Mubarak, a group official told DPA on Sunday.
Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, told DPA that his group was in talks with Mohammed ElBaradei – the former UN nuclear watchdog chief – to form a national unity government without the National Democratic Party of Mubarak.
The group is also demanding an end to the draconian Emergency Laws, which grant police wide-ranging powers The laws have been used often to arrest and harass the Islamist group.
Nasser said his group would not accept any new government with Mubarak. On Saturday the Brotherhood called on President Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner following the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet.
So the moves within the opposition are beginning to become visible. Meanwhile useful idiots like ElBaradei are necessary to calm the rest of the world to give the “revolution” an acceptable face until power can be consolidated. And leave it to ElBaradei to cooperate fully, given the hubris of the man:
Speaking to CNN later Sunday, ElBaradei said he had a popular and political mandate to negotiate the creation of a national unity government.
"I have been authorized — mandated — by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government," he told CNN.
A couple of things to remember – the Muslim Brotherhood has been the opposition in Egypt, not ElBaradei. The MB is closely identified with the revolutionary nationalism that is now evident, ElBaradei has been in “exile”. The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned from having seats in the Egyptian Parliament, yet they’ve still successfully run candidates as “independents” to capture a portion of seats.
Also remember that Egyptian prisons have been the incubators of Islamic jihad and that the MB has been well represented in those prisons.
Or, to put it more succinctly, look for the MB to make its moves when Mubarak is safely out of the country and the consolidation of power is near complete (and one way they will do that is by refusing Mubarak’s party any part in a new government). At that point, Mr. Useful, ElBaradei, may not be useful enough to keep around as the MB will be powerful enough to control Egypt without caring much how acceptable they seem to the rest of the world.
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.
It’s difficult to have any sympathy for Hosni Mubarak, or any other member of Egypt’s current ruling elite. Egypt has been ruled by a succession of authoritarian dictators since 1954, when Gamal Abdel Nasser took control of the Government in 1954, a dictatorship continued by Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, in turn. One always hopes that a popular movement to overthrow a dictaror will be followed by a flowering of democracy, but, sadly, that rarely happens, historically, and is even less likely to happen if Mubarak is toppled.
In all probability what will follow Mubarak in Egypt will be a government run by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their allies. This means that Egypt’s most likely post-Mubarak government will be an Islamist, radical government, similar in many respects the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As Lawrence Wright points out in The Looming Tower, Mubarak’s jails have been an incubator for Islamist radicals. And why should we expect otherwise? The liberal, Western, Democratic states have been fairly supportive of Mubarak, and Sadat before him, ever since Sadat disavowed warfare as a method of destroying “the Zionist entity”, as Israel is generally known by the Arab states. Even among proponents of democratic reform inside Egypt, the support that the West has given Mubarak has made the West appear to be, at best, amoral, and, at worst, positively duplicitous. This has undercut the influence in the popular culture of Egyptian proponents of Western-style democracy.
As a result, it has been the Islamists who have seen their influence rise among the general population in recent years. Indeed, the Islamist influence on Egyptian culture is immediately noticeable by looking at the following pictures posted a year ago by Pajamas Media. The pictures are of the graduating classes of Cairo University in 1978 and 2004. Notice how the women are dressed.
The devolution from the modern era to a more conservative past is obvious.
The upshot of all this is that a post-Mubarak regime is likely to be undemocratic, Islamist, and hostile to the West in general, and the US–and, of course, Israel– in particular. With Egypt having such a large population and corresponding cultural influence on the rest of the Arab world, there is much reason to believe that that a post-Mubarak Egypt will be the cause of a significantly less stable, and more troublesome environment in the Middle East.
Our policy failures in Egypt have been bi-partisan, and made for ostensibly the best of reasons, but their results seem likely to be disturbing. Still, it’s difficult to see what other choices were available to us. Had we imposed too much pressure on the Mubarak regime to democratize, the end result would likely have been either a) much the same as we are facing now, or b) simply caused Mubarak to turn to China to replace the security and stabilization support provided by the West. Sadly, the policy options we faced were those presented by the real world, and not the idealized world we might wish for. Although, one notes, had we forced Mubarak into the arms of the Chinese, we might have more acceptable moral support to offer the proponents of Egyptian democracy at the present moment.
Now, we don’t even have that. The Egyptians are going to do whatever they’re going to do, and we have little choice but to sit by as passive observers.
As the story continues to unfold, all sorts of questions come to mind.
What is up with Turkey and why are they keeping this so hot? It’s prime minister has recently said:
“Now Israel has shown to all the world how well it knows how to kill,” he said. “People were killed and badly wounded, some from shots, even when bound. How human is this? There is no other way of explaining this to the world. All states condemn it, but this is not enough, we need results. People around the world need to know that one day justice will be revealed. If Israel does not immediately free all the detainees and wounded, the rift in relations with it will widen.”
Yet it has become clear that the boat was loaded with agent provocateurs from the Muslim Brotherhood whose sole intent was the initiation of a violent confrontation with Israeli forces. And, in fact, one of the “humanitarian agencies” represented on the flotilla is a Turkish Islamist group who advocated the overthrow of the Turkish government back in 2000.
So why is that government being so strident and confrontational? Don’t forget too – Turkey is a NATO member. Are we going to be faced, at some point, with choosing to support a NATO member or Israel?
And speaking of Israel, it appears that much of the country is upset with the raid and its outcome. Not so much in sympathy with the Islamists killed, but because it was so poorly thought out and executed. It was, as many are characterizing it, an ambush, and the Isrealis seemingly went into it blindly and were obviously unprepared (you don’t take a paintball gun to a real fight).
Jeffrey Goldberg sums up the feeling in Israel today:
There’s real pain in Israel today, pain at the humiliation of the flotilla raid, pain on behalf of the injured soldiers, and pain that the geniuses who run this country could not figure out a way to out-smart a bunch of Turkish Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers. And no, there is no particular pain felt for the dead on the boat; the video of those peace-seeking peace activists beating on the paintball commandos with metal bars pretty much canceled out whatever feelings of sympathy Israelis might have otherwise felt. Plus, most Israelis are aware, unlike much of the rest of the world, that these ships were not on a humanitarian mission, but a political mission, one meant to lend support to Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, so you might have to excuse Israelis for not sympathizing overly much.
There’s more specific “shame and embarrassment” as well. Goldberg goes on:
About that shame and embarrassment: I just met with the son of a friend who serves in an elite Israeli army unit, one very much similiar to Flotilla 13, the Naval commando unit deployed so disastrously against the anti-Israel flotilla, and he explained the shame this way: “These soldiers are the best we have. We are Israel’s deterrent. People in the Middle East need to think we are the best, and we are the best, except that when we’re sent into situations without any intelligence, without any direction, with paintball guns instead of sufficient weapons, with no understanding of who we’re fighting. Then we’re going to have a disaster. These commandos were beaten with pipes! They came onto the deck (of the ship) one by one down a rope and they were beaten by a mob! Commandos!
It is indeed obvious, with the normal benefit of hindsight, that the plan was ill conceved and poorly executed. And, as this friend of Goldberg points out, most of that can be attributed to insufficient, bad or totally inadequate intelligence.
But that begs the question, “why”? This flotilla hasn’t been any secret and it certainly seems many news organizations were gathering information about it. It seems almost inexplicable why the much vaunted Israeli intelligence network wasn’t on top of this or, if they were, how they got it so very wrong.
I don’t care who you are, or how good you are, when you piece-meal your force into a situation where the enemy contols the ground you’re going into, you’re screwed. And to add to the problem, you have a force inadequately armed for the situation (it is obvious by the fact that they were armed with paintball guns that they expected to meet little if any resistance) and an ROE tailored to a completely different situation.
Then there’s the public relations side of this fiasco. However right the Isrealis were in trying to stop these ships from running the blockade, with the deaths involved, they end up on the predictable short end of the PR battle.
And, as is now beginning to play out, there’s even a symbolic side to this that, per some critics, to which the Israelis government should have been more sensitive:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon are supposed to know history. They are supposed to know there was no greater mistake than that of the British with regard to the illegal immigrant ship Exodus in the summer of 1947. The brutality employed by the British Mandate against a ferry loaded with Jewish refugees turned the regime into an object of revile. It lost what is now called international legitimacy. British rule over the country ended just 10 months after the Exodus fiasco, The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was no Exodus. It carried not Holocaust survivors but provocateurs, many of them extremists. But a series of baseless decisions on the part of the prime minister and the ministers of defense and of strategic affairs turned the Marmara into a Palestinian Exodus. With a single foolish move, the Israeli cabinet cast the Muslim Brotherhood in the role of the victim and the Israel Navy as the villain and simultaneously opened European, Turkish, Arab, Palestinian and internal Israeli fronts. In so doing, Israel is serving Hamas’ interests better than Hamas itself has ever done.
There’s your “sad but true” statement of the day. That is what most of the rest of the world will compare it too. It will also grant “victimhood” to those killed even if it was the intent of those “victims” to martyr themselves. And the hypocritical Arab world will latch on to that publicly while privately celebrating the deaths.
As one of the flotilla participants, Muslim Brotherhood member of its Egyptian Parliamentary bloc is quoted as saying in March of this year:
“A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.”
And that was precisely their aim and the outcome. The death cult of radical Islam doesn’t deplore death, it welcomes it and celebrates it. But they also knew the predictable outcome of such “martyrdom” via the world’s reaction to them if they could provoke those deaths.
Now we have to see how this all plays out – but for right now, Israel has put itself between a rock and a hard place in a surprisingly un-Israeli fashion.