Archive for February, 2011

Our Problems With Egypt and the Middle East

We have a problem with Egypt. And Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Yemen, among others. The problem isn’t the disintegration of the established order and the emergence of revolution. That is only one symptom among many. The real problem is our failure to recognize those symptoms and correctly diagnose the problem.

One symptom is the current administration’s failure to recognize, and repudiate, the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton have both refused to object to the brotherhood’s presence in Egypt, and their role in fomenting, or at least encouraging, the revolution. It’s not for lack of knowledge that Obama refuses to act. If I know that El Baradei is a brotherhood functionary, then I’m sure Obama does, possessed as he is with a large intelligence apparatus. So if he knows, then his failure to object can only be based on one of two things. Either he agrees with their presence, or he feels that the situation is too delicate to object. I find the first to be slightly unbelievable, and the second just too preposterous. In either case, our failure to object to evil is morally indefensible.

The bigger problem, not just for our Middle East policy, but for our foreign policy in general, is our insistence on promoting democracy throughout the world. I believe that this is a short-sighted policy, doomed to failure in the long run, and based on basic misapprehensions about the nature of man and government.

If we listen to the talking heads, political prattlers, and professional pundits, we would hear almost universal approval of this Egyptian revolution. Both sides of the political spectrum, and the middle, seem to believe that this democratic uprising is a good thing. But I’m not so sure.

We’ve already seen that the average Egyptian Muslim is, by western standards, an uncivilized brute. As I pointed out in a previous column, 80 percent of Egyptian Muslims believe in stoning women for adultery, death sentences for converting away from Islam, and hand removal for theft. As much as we might admire the Tepesian efficacy of such measures, nobody with any pretensions to civilization would actually wish them to be employed. However, even if we assume an entire lack of participation by the Muslim Brotherhood, we can expect that a democratically elected government would enact all those measures as an expression of the popular democratic will. What would prevent them?

We didn’t have to wait too long for violence against Christians to rear its head after the uprising began, either. And what is there, in a new democratic Egypt to prevent enshrining anti-Christian sentiment in law or practice? And how long will it be before women are forced out of the schools and into burqas? After all, if it is the will of the people, and achieved democratically, then we’ll all support it, right?

The problem is that we, in the west, have been told time and time again that, in terms of government, that democracy is not just the highest good, it’s the only good. This, if believed, results in a disordered system that rejects one form of dictatorship for another. In the case of Egypt, it replaces an autocrat like Mubarak with a group of autocrats like hand-amputating Muslims. It will also replace the King of Jordan with Hamas, or Hezbollah, or the Brotherhood. It is amusing, in a schadenfreudish sort of way, to watch the people that decry the narrow-mindedness of those who see things in black and white terms to lecture the world on the black and white choice of governments.

Real governments are collections of people; people who are, in turn, stupid, selfish, greedy, criminal, charitable, brave, noble, and loyal, among others. All any government can do is moderate the more base motivations of man, and encourage the more noble aspirations. There are different forms of government that are more or less suited to the conditions that surround them, and therefore are more or less suited to achieving the desired effect of exalting the good and inhibiting the bad.

A true democracy, being a government driven directly by the people, is least able to moderate the passions of the mob. Which is why the drafters of the American constitution specifically rejected a democratic style government, and instituted a republic. The republican form of government moves slowly enough to dampen mob urges and instincts, but quickly enough to respond to society’s needs. But not all countries are ready for a republic, or for that matter, even a democracy.

We in the west tend to think of the government as having only that power with which we endow it. We place the government subordinate to the natural integrity of the individual. But that attitude is an outgrowth of fifteen centuries of Christian civilization. The belief in the autonomy of every individual, and the inherent dignity of each person, are ideas that took centuries to establish. Only when those ideas are put into practice are people capable of fully exercising self-rule. Until those ideas are internalized, both in society and in individuals, enlightened self government is impossible.

Unfortunately, the middle east, with one glaring exception, is under the dominion of a religious structure that places submission to their god above all else, even the freedom of conscience that we take for granted. As long as that structure holds sway, democracies in the region will be truly “mob rule.”


Categories: Uncategorized

Obama and the Loss of Egypt

February 3, 2011 1 comment

Barack Obama has become the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st century, surrendering first Iran and now Egypt. This doesn’t include the dominoes of Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. In each case, Obama has appeased the militant forces of Islam, while at the same time claiming that the US is the friend of Islam. To make this point concrete, has has continued aid to countries that use that money to kill Americans, he has sacrificed the principle of freedom of conscience by failing to stand up for Aasia Bibi, and now he and his administration have tossed Mubarak under the bus while leading the cheers for the bus driver.

He claims that he supports the “democratic aspirations” of the Egyptian protestors, yet he ignored the protestors against Iran’s theocratic thuggery. Apparently, his concern for democracy only applies when it serves to appease the aims of the Muslim Brotherhood or one of its offshoots like Hams, Hezbollah, or AlQueda.

Let’s look at what democracy in Egypt means to the Egyptians themselves, from a survey was conducted April 12 to May 7 by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.

30% of Muslims in Egypt offer favorable views of Hezbollah, 50% are pro-Hamas, and one in five view AlQueda in a positive light.

The survey also finds that Muslim publics overwhelmingly welcome Islamic influence over their countries’ politics. In Egypt, 95% of the respondents say Islam is playing a large role in politics and they see this as a good thing. The remaining 5% say Islam is playing only a small role, and they say this is bad for their country. To clarify, the five percent who say Islam is a small influence wish it were a bigger influence. When this question was asked of Christians, two-thirds said Islam played a large part, but the same two-thirds said that was a bad thing.

54 percent of Egyptians believe that segregation based on sex should be the law in Egypt. Oddly enough, the view was shared about equally between men and women.

About eight-in-ten Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan (82% each) endorse the stoning of people who commit adultery; 77% in Egypt favor making whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery the law in their countries.

When asked about the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion, 84% of Egyptian Muslims say they would favor making it the law.

And yet, in an amazing display of cognitive dissonance, support for those harsh punishments coexists with support for democratic governance. 59 % of Muslims in Egypt say democracy is preferable to any other kind of government. Assuming, I suppose, that those that disagree will become Orwellian non-persons.

A majority of Egyptian Muslims also believe that suicide bombings can be justified. And this support is independent of education, sex, and economic differences.

Yet, 61 percent of Egyptians are at least “somewhat worried” about extremism in Egypt. When a majority support stoning, amputation, and death penalties for apostatism, one can only shudder at what they must consider “extremism.”

Having taken a good, long look at what the Egyptians want for themselves, who will provide it for them? Let’s take a look. According to Reuters, the Muslim Brotherhood, seen as Egypt’s biggest organized opposition group, said on Thursday that President Hosni Mubarak and his government had to go. “We demand that this regime is overthrown and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions,” the Brotherhood said in a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera.

So both Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood want the Mubarak regime gone, and the Brotherhood is poised to step into the power vacuum. Given that the Brotherhood is behind Hamas, Hezbollah, and AlQueda, we certainly have picked an odd bedfellow. Mubarak is certainly no saint, but he has been an ally for some 30 years, and has helped hold back the tide of Islamic intolerance. There are no completely good guys in Egypt right now, ElBaradei included, but there are better choices, and worse choices. In terms of the middle east, Obama continues to make the wrong choice.

Think it doesn’t matter? Oil is now over 90 dollars a barrel, with the Jihad poised to control the Suez canal. It will only get worse, although everyone who voted for Gore should be happy when gas creeps over 4 dollars a gallon, considering that was one of his goals. And with Obama’s public antipathy towards domestic production of oil and coal, it won’t be long before 4 dollars a gallon looks good.

And beyond economics, there is the human cost. As soon as internet service was restored in Egypt, news of a massacre of two Christian Coptic families by Islamists just emerged from Upper Egypt. The massacre took place on Sunday, January 30 at 3 PM in the village of Sharona near Maghagha, Minya province. Two Islamists groups, aided by the Muslim neighbors, descended on the roof of houses owned by Copts, killing eleven Copts, including children, and seriously injuring four others.

It’s time to get serious, and realize that a nation doesn’t have friends, it has interests. While we can’t always satisfy all our interests simultaneously, we can certainly avoiding harming those interests, which is a lesson that’s been lost on Obama.

Categories: Uncategorized
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