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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Hope vs. experience

It is said that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Right now, the optimism that I hear from the administration and the MSM in the midst of a very fluid situation sounds very much like the hope for the second marriage.

The problem with the optimism that many are expressing for the revolutions in the Middle East is that, while there are many examples of happy marriages, there are no examples of democratic Islamist regimes. The Middle East was substantially converted to Islam following the dictates and example of Muhammad whose rule and religion was spread by the sword. This situation has not changed substantially since Mohammad’s death in 632. Before Mohammad the region was ruled by Romans, king and Pharaohs; after him it was ruled by Caliphs. There is no - zero - example of Democracy in the Middle East with the exception of Israel and a very shaky state – Iraq – which was created, nurtured and shaped by the American military following the invasion under George Bush. To repeat, there is no history or political culture of representative government in the Middle East.

The one unifying factor in the region is Islam, a religion that demands submission to its political and theological dictates on pain of death. Not since Henry the Eight created the English church and became its political head have rulers held such secular and religious power.

It is said that in every human breast there is the desire to be free. Perhaps, but it’s also true that in many human breasts is the desire to force others to our will. To believe what we believe and agree with our ideas. In the dominant culture in America that wish is expressed in the demand that Glenn Beck should be fired, that Rush Limbaugh should be banned and Sarah Palin should shut up. In many Islamic countries it’s expressed in beheading, hanging or stoning.

The Egyptian people have been misruled by Mubarak for decades. But he’s not the first or the worst. The people in the Middle East have been misruled for centuries. If the levelers in America were truly concerned about wealth discrepancies, they would slink away from criticizing American wealth disparities and focus on the truly incredible differences between the rich and the poor in Africa and the Middle East.

With no history of democracy and a culture and religion that disdains individual freedom, the concept that democracy will spring from the revolutions that are now engulfing the region is unrealistic. Remember what we were told about the revolution in China: that Mao was an agrarian reformer. Castro was sold as a freedom fighter. We helped overthrow the Shah to usher in a repressive theocracy despite a population that favors Western values.

And, God help us, we have a President who really doesn’t like the America he was elected to lead.

I would like to be wrong, but Democracy is a rare flower; repression and authoritarianism is the global rule not the exception. Hoping and wishing that the people of Egypt will throw off the yoke of literally millennia of repression – all by themselves – and usher in the rule of law and a representative government is as believable as the Easter Bunny.

I pray I’m wrong, and would love to have to eat my words in a year. But the odds are loaded heavily in my favor. The problem is, if I’m right, we lose and so do the poor people of the Middle East.

UPDATE:  There is another realist at the PJ Tatler: Egypt: Reasons for Abject Despair and Pessimism.

On free elections in the Palestinian territories:
The laudable Bush project of democratizing the Middle East took a major hit when, in January 2006, the Palestinians elected the Islamist movement Hamas to lead their government.  Given the choice of free elections for the first time in their lives, they chose what amounts to the repressive religious war party.  Granted, their other choice was terrorist Fatah, but they chose the more radical option.

On Iraq, where we built a model for the rest of the Middle East:
It was just five months later that Iraqis, freed from secular despotism by American arms, wrote Islamic sharia law into their constitution. In their 2005 and subsequent elections, Iraqis have chosen to empower Islamist political parties. The Islamists don’t have absolute or even majority control in Iraq, and as long as American troops are in country they will not. But our trajectory there is to draw our troops out. What will Iraqis choose when we leave?

Where's the hope? the case of a religio-political ideology like Islam, it appears to create the very environment in which people choose with their vote to give up freedom and empower radicals they believe to be holy or spiritually driven, even when the choice means a loss of personal freedom and increases the chances of war and death. The past five years have been quite instructive on this point: Honor killings in the free West, the creep of sharia worldwide, the empowerment of Hamas in Palestine, the slow but steady Islamization of Europe and Canada, and so forth. People who have been fed a steady diet of this religio-political ideology will not suddenly turn into Jeffersonians in a snap. It hasn’t happened in London; where is the evidence it will happen in Cairo?

It's the culture that shapes government.  The culture is deeply embedded and wrong.  I am beginning to believe that Ann Coulter's advice was prophetic.

Clueless in Cairo? Do US Leaders and Journalists Understand Egypt?
Clueless in Cairo? Do US Leaders and Journalists Understand Egypt?
Clueless in Cairo? Do US Leaders and Journalists Understand Egypt?

UPDATE 3: Meanwhile the "Arab Street" is confirming my analysis:
Anti-Mubarak Protesters Scream for "Jihad" While Attacking other Egyptians

Out of a week of chaos in Egypt comes the bloodiest day yet. Early Thursday morning, the military and anti-Mubarak protesters clashed while small groups of people opened fire on others. The causality toll is quickly rising, as news stations show live streaming video of people being literally lit on fire and others being lynched in front of the camera.

Just as chilling is the fact that hundreds if not thousands of anti-Mubarak protesters have been screaming for "jihad" as they beat other Egyptians, possibly to death.

"Look, a squirrel"
This also comes after much of the Main Stream Media, particularly MSNBC, said the Muslim Brotherhood had "no" or "almost no" influence in Egypt. "Analysts" on the station also stated that conservatives were intentionally inflating the Muslim Brotherhood's influence in the country.
It doesn't look good for Israel: 
Ghannem stated that gas flowing from Egypt to Israel should stop immediately, “in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime.”...Talking about what the Muslim Brotherhood is prepared to do, Ghannem stated that “the people should be prepared for war against Israel.” This implies that a war with Israel could be inevitable if the group takes substantial power in Egypt.

Further making the situation tense is the fact that Jordan warned that, should Mubarak be kicked out of power, their peace treaty with Israel would likely end. It has been one of the Muslim Brotherhood's major platforms to "prepare Egypt for war" with Israel.

The Revolution Wanders From The Script
On balance, the US administration has probably helped the government, and Washington’s intervention in the crisis is not (yet) turning out very well. Public pressure on President Mubarak to step down has allowed the Egyptian authorities to wrap themselves in the national flag. “Let’s find an Egyptian solution to Egypt’s problems,” they can say. “President Mubarak will not be running for re-election; do not let the Americans dictate our timetable for change.” Many in the Egyptian army who normally might have wanted to shed Mubarak quickly will now want to let him hang on through the fall to spite Obama if for no other reason. At the same time, foreign pressure gave the government an opening to crack down on foreign (and domestic) journalists, helping to deprive the revolution of the attention and television coverage vital to keeping public excitement and mobilization alive.
Read the whole thing.

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