So, now what?
Traditionally, since the time of the pharaohs, Egypt has always been believed to have a timeless rhythm. Its contact with the outside world limited to the ports of the Nile and the Nile delta, from Rhakotis in the west (a tiny port which Alexander the Great would turn into Alexandria) to Pelusium in the east, Egypt lived on its own time.
The Nile flooded with clockwork regularity (usually), enriching the soil for the farming that the Egyptians used to do so well. It wasn’t always fun for the common people – when they weren’t farming, the people were usually rounded up by the pharaoh to build a pyramid here or drag a giant statue there – but it gave Egypt a basis in tradition and a self-confidence to go its own route.
Way back in those days, the Egyptian people were often spectators to developments in their own land, with few of those developments really worthy of attention. The Hyksos. The Hebrews. Akhenaten (who, with his wife/sister, gave the world the famous Tutankamen – “King Tut” – which explains a few things). The Philistines. The Persians. The Ptolemies. The Romans. Few of them mattered. As long as the Nile did its annual flood, things would be all right.
(Well, not always. In formerly free-wheeling Alexandria, they once had a play mocking the Roman Emperor Caracalla for, among other things, having his brother and co-emperor Geta murdered. The play left the people of Alexandria laughing riotously. Then, in response, Caracalla came in for a visit and murdered 20,000 of them. The Alexandrians stopped laughing.)
That Egypt, the Egypt of the pharaohs, was multiple millennia, multiple epochs ago. Like the Meidum Pyramid, most of it has collapsed with a “foomp!,” never to be rebuilt. Much of ancient Alexandria has sunk into the sea due to tectonic shifts in the earth’s crust. The Nile no longer floods thanks to a shortsighted, disastrous decision by Gamal abd al-Nasser to build the Aswan Dam. Yet, just like the Pyramids, just like the Sphinx, just like the Pharos Lighthouse (OK, maybe not the Pharos Lighthouse, which was toppled by an earthquake and is now sitting in pieces on the bottom of Alexandria’s East Harbor), some elements of the character, the timelessness of Ancient Egypt, remain. Whatever happens, Egypt survives, Egypt endures.
When millions of protestors take to the streets in any country, it is, as Joe Biden would say, a “big [effing] deal.” But when millions of protestors take to the streets in Egypt, it is a … well, what is a bigger expletive than [effing]? Because this is something they have only very rarely done through their thousands of years of history.
Yet, here it happened. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand the removal of Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power. And, miraculously, they succeeded.
So, now what?
This course Egypt has been on has more twists and turns than did the Nile before the Aswan Dam flooded the lower cataracts and more strange bedfellows than Kim Kardashian. See if you can follow all this:
In 1981, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who signed the Camp David Peace Accords with Israel, was murdered by the Islamofascist, anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood, in large part because of said peace accords. He was replaced by Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt as a dictator for 30 years with the backing of Egypt’s very large and very influential (though not necessarily very effective) army and kept the Muslim Brotherhood, the spiritual parent of al Qaida, largely underground. The United States supported Mubarak for the entirety of that era, largely out of knowledge that if he was removed from power the Muslim Brotherhood would take over, especially if there was an election.
But Barack Obama withdrew support from Mubarak and the Egyptian army, which, as it did with the Shah in Iran, helped facilitate Mubarak’s ouster. His ouster freed the Muslim Brotherhood from under the thumb of the Egyptian government.
Sure enough, after early elections for which the US pushed, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies (including an odious party of Salafists called Nour; more on them in a minute) won a bare majority of what was acknowledged as a largely clean vote and Muhammad Morsi was put into power.
And equally sure enough, once in power the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies proceeded to act like the Muslim Brotherhood – trying to impose barbaric shar’ia law, forming rape gangs targeting women traveling alone, punishing non-Muslims and Muslims who, just weren’t Muslim enough; burning Coptic Christian churches, trying to get alcohol banned, palling around with the Iranian mullahs, threatening to destroy the pyramids as “un-Islamic” (according to the Nour, for whom not even the Muslim Brotherhood was Muslim enough), putting a terrorist in charge of the tourist sites at Luxor. That last one may have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, no pun intended.
For reasons known only to Barack Obama and the US State Department, the administration supported Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood government despite their record of murder, mayhem, and hatred for the US.
But shar’ia law means no beer and bikinis. No beer and bikinis means no tourists. No tourists means no money. No money means no food. No food means a lot of hungry people – hungry, angry people.
So, those hungry, angry people became the aforementioned millions of protestors taking to the streets to demand the removal from power of the Muslim Brotherhood government that they had elected by the Egyptian military that they had the Muslim Brotherhood replace.
Got all that? Hope so. It gets better.
The Muslim Brotherhood now keeps saying ‘But … but … we won the election. You can’t remove us. WE WON THE ELECTION!!!’ Conveniently leaving out the fact that the they were working very hard to make sure the election they won would be the last election Egypt ever had. For reasons known only to Barack Obama and the US State Department, Barack Obama and the US State Department seem to have been nonplussed by this popular removal of an anti-US government, and hatred for the US:
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force…
I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
In other words, “But … but … democracy!!!” Which is indeed valid, to a point. That point is when the democratically elected leader is acting to end democracy and the people decide to vociferously object. And, as most observers not associated with Obama’s foreign policy establishment figured out, that point would be and was reached very quickly with the Muslim Brotherhood. Either Obama never figured that out, or he does not care.
This seems to be a pattern for Obama. In 2009, the Honduran army removed the elected president Manuel Zelaya from power on the grounds that he was acting to end the Honduran democracy. The removal was perfectly legal under Honduran law, and was supported by the vast majority of the Honduran people. To boot, Zelaya was also a protégé of Hugo Chavez and hated the US. Yet, for reasons known only to Barack Obama and the US State Department, the administration supported Zelaya and condemned Honduras for its actions that were legal, moral, and actually in US interests.
But … but … democracy!!!
And let’s not forget the Iranian “elections” of 2009. Elections in Iran are never free thanks to the ruling mullahs, but in 2009 they were especially not free, and Mahmoud Ahmadenijad was elected in elections that were widely panned because of fraud, ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. In effect, there was no election, but there was an “election” and that was good enough for Barack Obama. The widespread popular protests and perhaps our best chance in 30 years to remove a vile regime who has been at war with the US for those 30 years and whose goal is destruction of the US and establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate were largely ignored by the White House.
But … but … democracy!!!
Maybe Obama and his people don’t understand, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy does, that elections are not democracy:
The democracy fetish would be worth having if it were about promoting real democracy. Instead, as illustrated by media coverage of the military coup that ousted Egypt’s popularly elected Muslim Brotherhood president, we’re still confusing democratic legitimacy with legitimate democracy.
The latter is real — a culture of liberty that safeguards minority rights. Attaining it is a worthy aspiration, but one that requires years of patient, disciplined, and often unpopular work. The former is an illusion — the pretense that if a Muslim country holds popular elections and elects totalitarian Islamists, voila, it has a “democracy,” and progressives the world over will regard it as such.
Indeed, it is hard to have democratic legitimacy when one or more of its major actors is committed, as the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies including the Mour party are, to using that democracy to end it.
Which is a common tactic for Islamists. In discussing the secular international order established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 that ended the catastrophic Thirty Years’ War, Roger Kimball highlights the mockery the Islamofascists make of the international system and even turn that same system against it:
“[E]very major war of the modern age has been an ideologically driven attempt — no two alike — to overthrow and replace the Westphalian international state system.” The French Revolution. Communism. That variant of Communism that Hitler peddled under the name National Socialism. All endeavored to replace the procedural Westphalian system with a world order based on a substantive ideology. Islamism endeavors to do the same. The roots of this ambition date at least from the dissolution of the Caliphate in 1924. But it moved definitively into the realm of practical politics in 1979 with the ascension of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. The overthrow of the shah and institution of an Islamic theocracy was, as Hill argues, “a world-historical event possessing the ideological potential of the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 — each one a fundamental challenge to the established international order.” Here, for the first time in history, the Ayatollah Khomeini brought to power “an Islamist regime in full control of a state with the international state system and with a theologically grounded agenda which rejected every core principle of international order […]
This is where the Islamic “sharia state” comes in. “It is the opposite of the procedural Westphalian state; it is an idea of the sacred in political form. Pluralism is anathema to the Islamist state; its logical consequence would be a single al Nizam al-Islami, a single Islamist governing system for the world.”
McCarthy boils it down to the microcosm of Egypt:
Democratic processes — elections, referenda, constitution-drafting — must be conditioned on a preexisting democratic culture. Otherwise, in a majority-Muslim country like Egypt, you end up giving totalitarianism the patina of democratic legitimacy.
Which may have been what was – and possibly still is – happening in Egypt. In that sense, the measured, cautious response from the White House might be understandable and even preferable – if we had confidence in Obama’s foreign policy team. Given that the James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told members of Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was “a largely secular organization” – hint to Mr. Clapper: if it says “Muslim” in the name, it prolly ain’t secular – I have my doubts.
So do the Egyptians. In a world where the only philosophy on which everyone can agree is that the United States is at fault for everything, it is only to be expected for the Egyptian people to blame the US for their own election of a Neanderthal for president. Except, while these massive protests have seen plenty of signs ripping specifically Barack Obama, US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, and even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, signs ripping the US have been largely absent, at least from the media coverage. It seems the Egyptians are able to make the distinction between the American people and their leadership.
More amazing to me to read the comments on the major international affairs sites and blogs concerning the removal of Morsi. This is just based on my eyeballing it, but it seems the messages from Egypt and Egyptians around the world are generally supportive of the move. The majority of the posts critical of the move seem to come from the US.
But … but … democracy!!!
If those criticisms could be summed up in one op-ed, it would be Marc Lynch’s piece in Foreign Policy titled “Downfall in Cairo: Morsy is out. The military is in. But it doesn’t look good for anyone.”
This is on my short list for least insightful piece of international affairs analysis I have ever seen that was not written by a former member of the Carter administration. A taste:
“Nobody should celebrate a military coup against Egypt’s first freely elected president, no matter how badly he failed or how badly they hate the Muslim Brotherhood. Turfing out Morsy will not come close to addressing the underlying failures that have plagued Egypt’s catastrophic transition over the last two and a half years. The military’s intervention is an admission of the failure of Egypt’s entire political class, and those now celebrating already probably know that they could soon rue the coup.
This new uprising certainly upends what U.S. policymakers considered to be their best efforts to support a shaky democratic transition. Few in Washington are sorry to see Morsy go. But few believe that this process, a mass uprising culminating in a military coup, will restore stability or lead to a more democratic outcome. The Muslim Brotherhood performed atrociously in power, but the real problem was always the weakness and illegitimacy of the political institutions. If the coup and uprising solve the first at the expense of the second, then the political reset will fail.”
On the contrary, all Egyptians and Americans should be celebrating. And “coup” is such a dirty word these days. “Coup” presumes a lack of popular support, while there was obviously majority support for the removal of Morsi. And contrary to Lynch’s assertion here, the political reset would have failed, the democratic outcome would not have come about, had the Muslim Brotherhood remained in power.
Like many others in the foreign policy community, Lynch fails to see how Islamists use our own values, our own institutions against us to destroy those same values, those same institutions. And that is precisely what the Muslim Brotherhood was planning and pursuing.
As McCarthy explains:
We disfavor military coups because we are a liberty-loving people who defend civil rights. In Egypt, at this stage of its development, liberty lovers remain outnumbered. The massive protests against the Muslim Brotherhood administration are an encouraging sign that Egypt’s democrats are growing in strength, but they should not be mistaken for a wholesale rejection of sharia supremacism… It is by no means certain that Egypt’s military is up to this daunting task, but it remains the best hope.
But … but … democracy!!!
So, now what?
Basically, the Egyptian people are trying to get, at least in the short term, a do-over. We in the United States and all of Western Civilization should recognize that without ancient Egypt, we would not be here today. So we should all root for the Egyptian people to get this right. And there are encouraging signs, not just for Egypt but for the world at large.
It cannot and must not be overlooked that millions of Egyptians took to the streets to remove an Islamist regime. And they succeeded. The Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaida and Islamofascists in general got what they had wanted and been working for for almost a century – rule of a major Arab country. Not just any Arab country, but the largest: Egypt. They promised Islamic rule. They started providing Islamic rule. And the people hated it, so much so that they took to the streets and threw them out of power.
Is the Muslim Brotherhood now discredited? Yes, at least for the time being. Is Islamism discredited? In Egypt? In the wider Arab world? In the even wider Muslim world? That remains to be seen.
I’d love to think that the Egyptian people will get this Democracy 2.0 thing right. That the army is just stepping in to preserve the viability of the country (as they used to do in Turkey before Recep Tayyip Erdoğan messed thing up with his own brand of Islamism). That the Egyptian people will realize the barbarity of Islamism in general and will elect secular, liberal political parties to power.
But I have my doubts.
As McCarthy said, elections are not democracy. And there is something to be said for the notion that anyone who is stupid enough to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood in the first place may simply be too stupid to vote. As he points out, Morsi submitted a proposed constitution to a popular election a constitution drafted by Islamists that was approved by a whopping two-thirds of Egyptians. The constituent assembly was boycotted by non-Islamists when they realized they did not have the numbers to stop shar’ia supremacists.
“Quite predictably,” McCarthy says, “when Morsi put the draft constitution to a countrywide democratic vote, the vast majority of Egyptians used their self-determining liberty to enshrine liberty-devouring shar’ia as their fundamental law.”
There are signs that the military leadership is just as Islamist as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Nour Party, the friendly neighborhood Salafists who want to destroy the pyramids for being “un-Islamic” turned on their Muslim Brotherhood allies at the last minute and are now trying to play kingmaker in the new regime.
And there are numbers that should give even the most naïve of optimists pause. From Andrew Bostom:
[T]he most valid—and irrefragable—evidence of Egypt’s overwhelming, vox populi Sharia supremacist views derives from the published findings of independent polls based on face-to-face interviews with large, population-based samples of Egyptians. These data reveal that 74% of Egyptian Muslims supported making Sharia the official state law of their society; 70% favored Sharia-based mandatory (“hadd”) punishments “like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery”; 80% supported the hadd punishment of stoning for adultery; 88% favored the hadd punishment of execution for “apostasy,” while 67% desired to re-create the transnational Caliphate—whose goal is the universal application of Sharia via bellicose jihad conquests. Lastly, at present, as opposed to a merely “aspirational” goal of Sharia supremacim, female genital mutilation (FGM) is sanctioned by the predominant Shafiite school of Islamic law in Egypt, leading to current rates of this misogynistc barbarity among Egyptian women of 95%.
How do you resolve the obvious disparity between what the Egyptians say they want and … what the Egyptians say they want.
Egypt is the land of the Nile, one of very few rivers in the world the flow from south to north. It should hardly surprise us if Egypt charts a course all its own.
But will this particular Nile flood produce a bountiful harvest for everyone, or a tsunami of hatred and death?