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For Independence Day Egypt shows us how little love for democracy remains in America

4 July 2013

Summary: We see how far America has drifted from its roots that before Independence Day we hear words defending democracy similar to those of the Founders — and we mock them, siding with the Army overthrowing these elected representatives and the mob cheering them.

I had an inspiring post for the fourth, but events have provided a more powerful topic.

A frequent response of governments to protests: a wiff of grapeshot

A frequent response of governments to protests: Napoleon’s “whiff of grapeshot”

Contents

  1. Words in defense of democracy
  2. About those protests
  3. How did the US lose the American people?
  4. Analysis of the coup’d etat
  5. For More Information

(1) Words in defense of democracy

Words like those spoken by Patrick Henry & Sam Adams:

“It is better for a president, who would otherwise be returning Egypt to the days of dictatorship, from which God and the will of the people has saved us, to die standing like a tree. Rather than be condemned by history and future generations for throwing away the hopes of Egyptians for establishing a democratic life.”
— Ayman Ali, spokesman for President Mursi

“There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president. We will not allow the will of the egyptian people to be bullied again by the military machine.”
— Gehad El-Haddad, official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood, speaking at their protest camp in a Cairo suburb near the presidential palace and several military installations

Are these people sincere? For an answer we cannot rely on US experts and news media for an accurate answer. So many of them cheered as America supported military coups against elected governments. They cheered when we helped to overthrow elected governments (e.g., Iran, Chile). They cheered as we supported tyranny’s irrespective of how they treat their people (one former US ally, Efrain Rios Montt, is being tried by his people for genocide).

We don’t come to this event with clean hands, and do not deserve a presumption of moral superiority.

(2) About those protests

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“A mob is no less a mob because they are with you.”
— John Adams in the play 1776

It’s wonderful to see so many American conservatives exuberant at large-scale protests, regarding them as representative of the Egyptian people. How odd that such protests in America are not seen as legitimate. Instead, as seen with the Occupy and 2003 anti-war protests, they are considered to be mobs deserving brutal oppression by the security services.

But the protest was the largest ever in human history! This claim is all over conservative websites, playing to their famously gullible audiences.

BBC protestsFrom Mark Joseph Stern at Slate (red emphasis added:

Nabuib Sawiris is a wildly wealthy businessman who chaired Orascom Telecom Holding when it lucratively launched North Korea’s first cell phone operator. In recent years, Sawiris has dipped his toes into politics, founding the Al Masreyeen Al Ahrar party, which opposes Morsi. In 2011, Sawiris, a Coptic Christian, was accused of racism and Islamophoboa after tweeting an offensive cartoon. He is a vocal supporter of the anti-Morsi protests.

Sawiris’ tweet cites the BBC, but when I asked the outlet’s publicist, he doubted whether the organization had put forth such a statement. “I can’t find any BBC source for this and I’m not aware of one,” he said, although given their “vast amount of output,” he couldn’t say for certain.Whether or not BBC made the claim, it is almost certainly untrue. A number of previous demonstrations, including the February 15, 2003 anti-war protests, have probably drawn more people.

(3) How did the US lose the American people?

How Did the U.S. Lose the Egyptian People?” by Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg, 2 July 2013

So here’s a question that’s nagging at me as we watch millions of Egyptians express their loathing for Mohamed Mursi, their hapless, power-grabbing president, and for his Muslim Brotherhood movement: How exactly did the U.S. come to be seen by Egyptian secularists and liberals as the handmaiden of a cultish fundamentalist political party whose motto includes this heartening sentiment: “Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope”?

I mean, how did the U.S. fail to formulate a strategy that would advance both American interests and American values in the largest and most crucial Arab state? Within a span of just a few years, Egyptians have somehow convinced themselves that the U.S. has been an ally of both Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and Mubarak’s main enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood.

As usual with Goldberg, whose columns are usually straight but skillful Israel propaganda,this consists of layered flawed assumptions and bogus logic. Let’s just focus on the essentials.

Given the history of US involvement in the Middle East, the people in the street might assume that whatever is good for them — America opposes it. Our support for Israel’s ongoing oppression of the Palestinians and theft of their land. Our support for tyrants, and role in overthrow of elected governments in Syria (1949) and Iran (1953).

Second, other nations are not “ours” to “lose”. This mad hubris has been a perennial of US foreign policy error since the “who lost China” madness in 1959s, which wrecked the State Dept and distorted US foreign policy until Nixon.

We can still learn from Egypt

We can still learn from Egypt

(4) Analysis of the coup’d etat

This section will be updated.

(a) In Egypt, Democrats vs. Liberals“, Samer S Shehata (Assoc Prof of Middle Eastern Politic, U OK), op-ed in the New York Times, 2 July 2013 — Excerpt:

 Egypt has a dilemma: its politics are dominated by democrats who are not liberals and liberals who are not democrats. [..] integrating Islamists is essential if Egypt is to have stable, democratic politics. Movements like the Brotherhood are a core constituency in Egyptian society; democracy requires their inclusion.

If the millions in the streets want the Brotherhood out of power, they must learn to organize and campaign effectively, and vote them out. That would be the best way to establish liberal democracy in Egypt. Removing Mr. Morsi through a military coup supported by the secular and liberal opposition could well be the worst.

(b) This is Not the End of Islamism in Egypt: Beyond the Pro- and Anti-Islamist Divide“,  Elizabeth Nugent (PhD student of politics at Princeton; now in conducting pre-dissertation research), The Monkey Cage, 4 July 2013 – Excerpt:

It would be a mistake to read the mobilization against the president and in support of the military as simply anti-Islamist, as a political ideology. These protests and mobilization have been anti-Muslim Brotherhood, as a political entity – albeit an Islamist one – whose political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, has failed its constituents.

Egypt has a dilemma: its politics are dominated by democrats who are not liberals and liberals who are not democrats. [..] integrating Islamists is essential if Egypt is to have stable, democratic politics. Movements like the Brotherhood are a core constituency in Egyptian society; democracy requires their inclusion. If the millions in the streets want the Brotherhood out of power, they must learn to organize and campaign effectively, and vote them out. That would be the best way to establish liberal democracy in Egypt. Removing Mr. Morsi through a military coup supported by the secular and liberal opposition could well be the worst.

The Tamarud campaign which first initiated this week’s mobilization focused solely on the political failures of Morsi in terms of substantive domestic and foreign policy issues, outlined in the petition circulated and signed by over 22 million Egyptians, without referencing any issue pertaining to the relationship between religion and state. One, then, would be hard pressed to describe current events in Egypt as a referendum on Islamism – unless one incorrectly equates Islamism, in Egypt or more generally, exclusively with the Muslim Brotherhood. While the FJP’s governing days may be over, it is too soon to declare the end of Islamism.

Islamism can be defined as support for the introduction of Islamic tenets into political life through the implementation of sharia. This admittedly vague definition allows us to classify both parties (those with political platforms promoting sharia) and individuals (those who agree with the concept of implementing sharia) as Islamist.

(c)  Other useful articles:

  • The Coup in Egypt“, Jeremy Pressman (Prof of Political Science, U CT), The Monkey Cage, 3 July 2013
  • Downfall in Cairo“, Marc Lynch (Asst Prof of Political Science, George Washington U), Foreign Policy, 3 July 2013 — Morsy is out. The military is in. But it doesn’t look good for anyone

(5) For More Information

Posts about Protests in Egypt from 2011:

About Protests:

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Laurie Hansen permalink
    4 July 2013 1:09 am

    What a bunch of propaganda you are pushing, this blog is created by the global elite! It’s not working, the lies make no sense and people are waking up to it, maybe you should switch to controlled opposition blogs cause these lies are hilarious!

    Like

    • 4 July 2013 1:51 am

      Wait a minute! If I am working for the “global elite”, where is my money? Nobody has offered cushy jobs, cash, or valuable perks.

      Like

  2. merocaine permalink
    4 July 2013 1:40 am

    If it ends in America, that’s how it will go, to the sound of loud cheering.

    Like

    • 4 July 2013 2:19 am

      Exactly my thought! They can even run the same Tweets from the wire services. Read these as from some date in the future, substitute USA for Egypt.
      .
      CBS Egypt
      .
      AP Egypt -1
      .
      .AP Egypt-2
      .

      20130704-AP-Egypt-1

      Like

  3. RRoss permalink
    4 July 2013 10:39 am

    Is democracy secular and inclusive or religious and narrow? Do women have equal rights? Do minorities have equal protection?

    Seems to me Fabius that the Egyptians got it wrong the first time. Hopefully in time they will find their way–minus mullahs or priests. Deadbeat patriarchs. Fundamentalism–no matter what religion it hides behind is essentially a political movement for theocratic bondage.

    Like

    • 4 July 2013 1:56 pm

      It is obvious you do not like religion, or some forms of it. I think you are entitled to that view of life, just as others are entitled to their views.

      I believe the idea of democracy is that people are best able to evolve as a society if allowed to do so through self-determination. That means voting on the kind of issues you list, stumbling forward — just as America did.

      Armies crushing the elected representatives seldom facilitate that process. The military coups that the US has incited or supported have left a horrific record behind them. Amidst our pious advice and cheers, we seem amnesiac about that history.

      I think America would look quite different if its military officers intervened during the past, in the “best interests” of its people, of course. Composing a list of what the Army might have done would be an interesting exercise.

      Like

    • 4 July 2013 3:44 pm

      RRoss,

      Section 3 “Analysis” of this post has two excerpts by experts that address the points you raise (better than I can).

      Like

  4. North permalink
    4 July 2013 11:37 am

    The Survivalist on the Kremlin“, Fiona Hill, Project Syndicate, 4 July 2013 — Adapted from a speech at the London School of Economics on June 10, 2013. Fiona Hill is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a co-author of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.

    Well, tell me where she lives? It is childish if not inadequate to “impose” democracy to anyone, especially if behind the pretty words you run the neocolonialist, monkey business. These people still live in the cold war time but blame others for that.

    Maybe supporting religious fundamentalist in cannibalizing their countrymen is her understanding for liberalism, the “progressive” kind, no doubt.

    Why the only thing that connects “conservatives” and “liberals” in the states is the destruction and looting? Nihilism of a kind? Authoritarian monkeys in service of their masters?

    Considering the latest behavior of their european counterparts, it is about preserving the status quo at a ANY price. Good! :) The surest way to fail. Well it may get a bit bloody at home, but hey, look it at the bright side, the wet dreams of your “conservatives” will be at last fulfilled.

    Like

    • 4 July 2013 2:12 pm

      “especially if behind the pretty words you run the neocolonialist, monkey business”

      One thing I learn repeatedly from comments: lots of people write better than I. What a great phrase!

      That is a useful comment on the 4th, reminding us of our debt to the small number of men and women whose ideas and insights build America — and the hole left behind when they leave.

      After Lincoln came the horror show of Reconstruction and its premature end.

      Then there was FDR, with the vision and intelligence needed to lead America — and so the world — into a post-colonial world after WW2. Without him, we fell into support of brutal colonialists, injecting a poison into our foreign policy that lingers to this day. We see a world of people plus a rabble of wogs and ragheads, the latter better for nothing but being crushed by tanks when they grow disobedient.

      Like

  5. Breton permalink
    4 July 2013 11:17 pm

    Sad state of affairs for poor Egypt.
    Desperation is obvious.
    Poverty is probably palpable and income disparity is the midwife of such chaos.
    A country hollowed out for many years by Mubarak and those colonialists before that family.
    Was this inevitable? After Morsi suspended the Constitution it was clear all was not well.

    When will the US suspend moneys to these barbarian Militarists?
    When will we cease educating these sons of the Generals?
    (no breath holding, please)

    Breton

    Like

    • 4 July 2013 11:34 pm

      Good point!

      We spent roughly $100 billion in Afghanistan. Imagine if we used that to rebuild the country rather than reshape it through force.

      Like

  6. Duncan Kinder permalink
    5 July 2013 6:01 am

    According to this article in Foreign Affairs Magazine, “The Egyptian State Unravels Meet the Gangs and Vigilantes Who Thrive Under Morsi,” Egypt appears to have been, not a democracy, but rather yet another nation state in decline.

    Note that the article states:

    Meanwhile, the looming specter of violence has inspired nostalgia for the days of military rule. Earlier this month, protesters gathered outside of the Ministry of Defense to demand that Morsi transfer power to the head of the armed forces. But the restoration of martial law would be a superficial and ultimately unsustainable solution to a security vacuum that requires much deeper institutional reforms.

    http://tinyurl.com/l9qo6o2

    So it appears that the coup is a last gasp effort of the Egyptian nation state to maintain itself before the 21st century consigns it, like other nation states, to the dustbin of history.

    Like

    • 5 July 2013 1:42 pm

      First, there is little if any evidence the nation-state as an institution is weakening– let alone going away. Repeating it does not make it so.

      Emerging nations’ governments have been chronically unstable since WW2. That doesn’t tell us much about the State, overall.

      Second, Foreign Affairs has a strong conservative bias. Force by US is good. Governments by anti-US forces is bad. It is a house organ of the IS empire, like the Council on Foreign Relations that publishes it. While interesting, it should be read like Pravda.

      There was no need to read FA to learn they didn’t like Morsi, and yearned for the old reliable military tyranny.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      5 July 2013 5:53 pm

      Whatever problems Foreign Affairs magazine might have, this particular article asserts many items strongly suggesting that the Egyptian government has no monopoly of force and that things Egyptian resemble, say, things Mexican.

      I don’t see how this particular article advances ” Force by US is good. Governments by anti-US forces is bad.”

      Like

    • 5 July 2013 9:42 pm

      I think you read a different article.

      First, the article hints at but does not clearly state that Egypt is in the midst of a revolution, with an elected government formally but not actually controlling the apparatus of a kleptocratic police state — which is working to reverse the results of the election (and appears to have successfully done so).

      There is little in this article about the on-going oppression of the Egyptian people by that machinery — such as yesterday’s firing on crowds — or condemnation of the “gang” of kleptocrats who ran Egypt for so long.

      Revolutions often take years or decades to complete. Often they don’t end well. That doesn’t mean that people should follow the device of most FA authors and passively obey like sheep. Even FA authors mention this:

      “Crime waves are to be expected in post-authoritarian transitions, and the tradeoff between democratic reform and insecurity has been widely studied in the context of the Soviet Union’s demise. So it is perhaps unsurprising that violent crime rates have soared since the collapse of the Mubarak regime. In particular, Egyptian criminologists attribute the uptick both to the presence of a significant number of escaped criminals who broke out of jails during the revolution and to first-time offenders who have resorted to crime for lack of legitimate job prospects. (Unemployment in Egypt now stands at a record 13.2 percent.)”

      Second, the reflexive American assumption that every revolution ends as a failed State is false. That is as true today as it was in America during the 1770s and 1780s, in which gangs of local Committees of Public Safety drove out loyalists and stole their property.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      6 July 2013 12:35 am

      I think the article was written before the current coup/whatever.

      The article’s principal shortcoming, IMHO, was that it failed to grasp the significance of the slums of Cairo. Cairo is the sleeping giant of the Middle East, a mega city, surrounded by slums, similar to the other megacities that Mike Davis discusses in _Planet of Slums_.

      Yes the article does mention crime / disorder with respect to Cairo and seems to grasp that much of this is slum – related. But it does not focus on this; you have to mine for that data and re-assembl3e it.

      Like

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