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Monday, August 05, 2013


Arab autumn?

Some thoughts on the military take-over in Egypt. David Warren

At last, good news from the Middle East. Democracy has been overthrown in Egypt. The generals taking over promise new elections in a few months, but with any luck they are lying....

In a democracy
You win by bamboozling the public; by shamelessly vulgar boasting & display; by making promises that can never be fulfilled; by colouring low motives with high-sounding phrases; by offering pay-offs in not-too-subtle ways. You win by mastering the methods of Hollywood and the entertainment media; by employing the tricks of mass advertising to “create demand” & “shape the marketplace.”

On the other hand, rule by generals ...

Generals, in the main, are men of little imagination, & simple tastes. They love order, to be sure, but in the balance of public vices, a little order is seldom a bad thing. They are not easily infected by ideology, or any other form of intellectual ambition; even those who acquire some may lose it after a while. They don’t much care what one is doing, so long as it will not threaten the peace, or otherwise interfere with their breakfast. Should the general be smart enough to fully understand his need to avoid free elections, he will become unobtrusive. He won’t go out of his way to antagonize anyone. He may line his own pockets, & those of his friends — for as Valéry said, “Power without abuse loses its charm.” But the odd billion into a Swiss bank account is a small price to pay for freedom.

It is the officer who may not be lining his own pockets whom we need to fear; the one possessed by revolutionary zeal, associated from the start with Party. Those, let me admit, give Generalissimos a bad name. No, it is only the career general I’m proposing to push forward: the sort already used to giving orders & having them obeyed; who will not feel the need to redesign his own uniform. Real generals, a little on the plump side, & entirely without charisma: that’s where to turn in a pinch. Not to hothead colonels.
We are seeing what Franklin meant when he answered the woman who asked him what kind of government they had created.   I had hope that the republic would have lasted a little longer.

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