…well, not really, but reading some of the commentary coming out of the US, one gets the feeling that the fall of Mubarak might just lead to the next Bin Laden.
The fears, of course, stem from the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the protests and, presumably, in the elections that will eventually decide the first new Egyptian government in 30 years. The theory is simple: Mubarak falls and the vacuum is filled by freedom-hating, extremist loving, Israel-attacking Islamists that will lead to the destruction of all stability in the Middle East. Thus, though most American conservatives talk a tough democratic game, there is the requisite small print: not all democracies are equal – it is only democratic when the ‘right person’ wins. The Muslim Brotherhood, for many, is not the ‘right’ group to lead Egypt. So democracy here is undesired?
[tweetmeme] The ‘danger’ of democracy leading to undesirable results for the US is exactly why the US has supported dictators across the region. Where democracy is dangerous to US interests, it is unwanted and dictators are propped up. This happened (or is happening) in Pakistan, Tunisia, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan… It is exactly the reason why neoconservatives are retreating from the front lines of democracy promotion in the last few days in regards to Egypt. If the Brotherhood wins control of Egypt, the world is doomed:
The [Muslim Brotherhood (MB)] supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the MB would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide. That is a very big deal.
Logically, then, the US should not try to engage with them or recognize the popularity of the group. Ignorance is the best policy:
The Muslim Brotherhood is a serious threat, but it has not been at the forefront of the protests. Perhaps the Egyptians are finally realizing that Islamism in itself is not an answer. Let’s hope so. We should do nothing to empower the Brotherhood and by nothing, we must think twice before making its members by making them partners for engagement. We forget that engagement isn’t a neutral act, but that by agreeing to sit down with others, we empower them.
Not only would an elected MB government in Egypt destroy US interests, but it would apparently destroy Israel as well:
“If regime change occurs in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would take the helm, and that would have incalculable consequences for the region,” says Shaked. The Israeli government has noted with concern the fact that, even after 30 years of peace, Egypt’s army is still equipped and trained mainly with a possible war against Israel in mind.
A cancellation of the peace treaty would open up a new front with the 11th largest army in the world, which is equipped with modern American weapons. But what Israel fears more than a — somewhat unlikely — armed conflict with Egypt is an alliance between an Islamist regime in Cairo and Hamas, which considers itself an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Clearly it is time for Obama to put the brakes on this whole organic, massive drive for political freedom from an American backed dictator. Even Jeffrey Goldberg is fighting the magnetic poles of democracy and American control:
Fifty years of peace has meant [the US] propping up dictators for fifty years.
3) Is that such a bad thing? Friends of mine like Reuel Gerecht believe that Arabs, given their druthers, might choose Islamist governments, and that would be okay, because it’s part of a long-term process of gradual modernization. I’m not so sure. I support democratization, but the democratization we saw in Gaza (courtesy of, among others, Condi Rice) doesn’t seem particularly worth it.
In other words, forget everything I said about democracy and freedom, there is a superficial blanket of peace covering a mass of societal woes. Yet the uneasiness that was felt by Ben Birnbaum about democracy in Egypt is palpable in Goldberg as well. Dictators or Muslim Brotherhood… Illegitimate repressive regimes or democracy? While it seems pretty clear that, in the long run, supporting repressive dictators to ensure peace is like putting a band aid on a broken bone, Goldberg still thought about it, despite his love of the democratic. Fortunately, it seems Goldberg has slipped to the side of reason:
The Muslim Brotherhood might not end up in power; just as in Pakistan, the Islamists in Egypt represent only a minority of citizens. Which is not to say that the Brotherhood couldn’t wind up in power, but it’s too early to call the rise of the Brotherhood inevitable. If the Brothers do end up in power, then the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which is responsible for 30 years of stability in the eastern Mediterranean, would be in mortal danger, but even if Egypt were to break relations with Israel, this does not mean that war would necessarily follow. And what is more likely is that the Egyptian Army continues to play an important and stabilizing role, and the Egyptian Army, of course, depends on the United States for much of its budget, and it does not want to lose access to American-made weapons systems, which is what might happen if Egypt were to abrogate the peace treaty.
Fortunately, those calling for the US to support Mubarak against the wishes of the Egyptian people are small in numbers and light on influence. With Egypt coming closer to the brink with the army somewhat siding with the people. While the US government is not fully backing the protesters, it is calling for a transition in Egypt and has sent a representative to talk to Mubarak, supposedly to encourage the old man to step down. There are, of course, calls for the US to do more, including to cut aid to Mubarak, though it seems as though the President has this one under control.
Indeed, today could be the beginning of the end as there is a scheduled million person march planned (tweets have the group gathering now at 10AM to march to the presidential palace). Could today be the day when Mubarak falls, leading the way for an apocalyptic Brotherhood leader to hold hands with Bin Laden in the presidential palace shouting ‘down with America’?
Photo from Speakers Corner