Michael Totten Interviews Eric Trager: ‘The Truth About Egypt’

Full post here.

The United States has done a very poor job managing perceptions in Egypt. The administration assumed if it wasn’t critical about Morsi’s behavior domestically, they’d win his cooperation on foreign policy. The problem is that Morsi was only willing to cooperate with us on foreign policy in the short run. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to consolidate power in Egypt and then create a global Islamic state. It’s a key part of their ideology and their rhetoric. They talk about it with me. They can’t be our partners.

Worse, by not speaking up and criticizing Morsi as he tried to create unchecked power for himself, it created the impression that the United States wanted to replace Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s extremely damaging in a place like Egypt with such tumultuous politics’

We didn’t support the Brotherhood. We failed to speak up and manage perceptions. In the future, the only way to address this problem will be to make sure we don’t put all our eggs in one basket. We have to spread our risk by making sure we engage everybody.’

What kind of chance does the idea of democracy and democratic process have in Egypt given the endemic poverty, the oppression, and the lack of readiness in most of the people for it?

Placed against the backdrop of a longer-term Islamist resurgence in the Middle-East, pushing against Arab nationalism, and the answer is not too much.

Such a vision of ideal and pure one voice, one vote democracy in the most stable of countries can become a vehicle for majoritarian rule, leading to a quid pro quo politics of corruption, patronage, and vote-buying.

In Egypt, the democratic process was merely a stalking horse for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and now the military has cracked back down hard on the Brotherhood, and it’s getting bloodier.

Related On This SiteNancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Brotherhood’s Long Game’

Full post here.

Our author, Eric Trager, points out that working with the military (SCAF), and the other democratic coalitions are wise and necessary moves for the Brotherhood:

‘The Brotherhood’s arrangement with the SCAF is not surprising. It is consistent with the organization’s long-held strategy of avoiding confrontation with more powerful authorities by negotiating the extent of its political activities. In fact, Morsi was the Brotherhood’s point man in these negotiations during the last five years of Mubarak’s rule, using the dealings to coordinate the Brotherhood’s participation in parliamentary elections and limited interaction with various protest movements. As a cohesive, 84 year-old society, the Brotherhood typically places organizational goals, such as achieving power incrementally, over broader societal goals, such as ending autocratic rule more immediately. “Our program is a long-term one, not a short-term one,” Morsi told me in August 2010. “If we are rushing things, then I don’t think that this leads to a real stable position.”

The Brotherhood has stuck together for generations, and sometimes against very long odds.  They aren’t necessarily friends to the West, and if they manage to manage the game well in Egypt right now, this will likely become a source of conflict with Israel, and also potentially with other U.S. and Western interests in the region.

Related On This SiteFrom Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’