8.15.2013

AMERICA'S COMPLICITY IN EGYPT'S COLLAPSE


The United States carelessly allowed Hosni Mubarak's trusted regime to fall without a plan for the future.

by James Towe

I didn't expect the removal of Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi to result in an escalation of violence that today flirts with civil war. My feeling at the time of the July coup was that Egypt's armed forces were sufficient in power and influence to curb the inevitable response of the Muslim Brotherhood.

What has to be understood is that the pro-Morsi demonstrations have nothing to do democracy. This is a hard-line, fundamentalist segment of the Egyptian population using elections as a means to an end. Sharia is the goal, democracy be damned. Morsi's government was slowly consolidating power while attempting to infiltrate the Egyptian military with Islamists. The military coup was prudent and supported by tens of millions of Egyptians.

From its founding in the 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic) grew slowly from a social organization spreading the virtues of Islam to a highly partisan political entity involved in violence against British colonial rule and later Egyptian regimes (Link).

I felt that President Obama's 2009 Cairo speech was dangerous with the potential to damage Egypt's power structure. The wisdom of past American administrations from Truman to Bush, eleven presidents and 60 years of foreign policy, were abandoned. This audacious and inexperienced president knew better than his predecessors. Colonial vestiges and America's strategic interests were to be condemned and replaced with a new focus of human-kind. No longer would the White House propagate the West's narrow goals of nationalism and self-interest.

Enter Hosni Mubarak. He had been a strong American ally with his support of Israel and a real strategic partner operating in a very dangerous part of the world. Yes, he was a dictator and yes he jailed and oppressed his opponents. He was a suppressor of free-speech and human rights. I agree and understand. But, as a friend of mine from Singapore explained to me in graduate school, Western forms of democracy aren't for everyone and won't succeed in many parts of the world.

The president declared, as so many in politics and journalism, that the radical elements within the Islamic world are a miniscule minority. Yes, those who engage in attacks are quite small in number, but the number of Arabs and Muslims sympathetic to violence and partaking in hate speech are far greater. A PEW survey last spring found that 40% of Palestinians believed suicide bombings were "always or sometimes" justified (Link). Interestingly, in that same sampling, 29% of Egyptians supported suicide bombers.

It was almost predictable that the only organized political entity in Egypt, the Brotherhood, would win the election. Yet, the United States supported this effort in the name of 'democracy'. Mubarak was abandoned and our 'evils' of the past were being corrected by an 'enlightened' president.

The irony is that the very intellectuals who embrace cultural relativism are themselves mired in narrow, euro-centric thinking. Our policy makers lacked a useful understanding of the traditions and values of this region, yet pushed forward. The result: a once pillar of the Arab world has spiraled into the mass slaughter we see today and the worst may be yet to come.