From Al Jazeera: ‘Egypt Cracks Down On Satirists And Media’

Full post here.

There’s been a long battle for control of the deep state in the wake of an oppressive regime, between the SCAF after Mubarrak’s ouster, and Morsi’s new Islamist coalition:

‘Rivals accuse Morsi, who won Egypt’s first freely contested leadership election in June, of polarising society by foisting a divisive, Islamist-leaning constitution on the country.

In the case against the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm, the presidency accused the paper of “spreading false news representing a danger to civil peace, public security and affecting the presidency”, the paper said.’

It’s reasonable to envision the inertia of the old, corrupt, oppressive Egyptian bureaucracy slowly being taken over by the new Islamist coalition and being as, or more, illiberal.  It might be possible to leverage Morsi to make as broad a tent as possible, but the Egyptian Constitution will make that difficult.

Life’s going to get tougher for most of the Egyptians who pushed for social change, but didn’t necessarily have the full force of the minds of the people nor enough economic opportunity and education to control the forces unleashed.  A free people wasn’t necessarily ready to cleave to a broad constitution and sacrifice to make the institutions necessary to support freedom as we understand it.

Western ideas only go so far, and I suspect a major reason behind the Islamist resurgence in the Middle-East is that many Muslims feel overrun by Western ideas and interests, have low opinions of the West, and remain tribal and kinship based, with Islam as the glue.

Oftentimes, Muslims don’t really understand what we mean by individual liberty unless they’ve lived in the West.  Even then, some Muslims have reacted violently against it.  Many Muslims understandably resent our involvement in their backyard, and many clearly resent their own oppressive leadership (tribal, authoritarian, military dictatorship) exacerbated by an exploding youth demographic (a lot of what the ‘Arab Spring’ was about).

Many people in the West assume their ideas of freedom are universal.  It’s important to keep in mind that Islam hasn’t undergone a reformation (they’ve also never had a central authority like Rome) nor the challenge to Christian doctrine and earthy power that occurred during the Enlightenment.

Islam doesn’t leave it up to you to not drink, watch porn, go to stripclubs, ‘freely mix’ with women, lend money etc.  It prohibits these activities through strict control of the laws, politics and the public square.   Right now, rather extreme groups like the Salafists are seeking such very restrictions in Egypt, for everyone, as part of the ruling coalition.

We should make our foreign policy accordingly to deal with these strategic realities, and I believe we can still aim for broader understanding, for avoiding unnecessary war, for being smart about pursuing our interests and smarter about our partners.

My two cents.

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 Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

Francis Fukuyama At Foreign Affairs-’Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose on Charlie Rose’

 John Mearsheimer’s offensive realism (Israel can’t go on like this forever, the Israel lobby leads to bad U.S policy decisions): Repost: From Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington….is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

From Via Media: ‘Morsi Calls Referendum, Egypt’s Liberals Helplessly Protest ‘

Full post here.

‘It’s always hard to understand the fast changing politics of a revolution in progress, but in Egypt the Islamists and the military seem to have reached an accommodation: The Islamists will leave the military alone and let the soldiers shape high politics while the military will stand back as the Islamists lead a conservative social revolution in the country.

Left out of this are the liberals, the Christians, secular Egyptians, and some of the business leaders and officials who were powerful under the old regime.’

There is still a bit of hope for other Egyptians, but the SCAF and the elected Islamists are still mostly calling the shots.

Morsi flees palace.

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So what’s the larger strategy to deal with the rise in Islamism?

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Possibly related, a quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s new book on Syria, not Egypt, as discussed in the video:

[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

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 The Daily Mail: “Muslim Brotherhood Has ‘Started Crucifying Opponents Of New President’, Claims Website”

Full piece here.

The Daily Mail is picking up on reports out of Egypt.  Hopefully, it’s not that bad.

The Mubarak regime and then the SCAF after Mubarak’s fall were the only entities acting like a lid upon most Egyptians beneath the regime: a majority who live in grinding poverty, who were accustomed to deep bureaucratic corruption and oppression while forced to rely on that bureaucracy and regime for order, and who have little to no institutions otherwise.  The habits and institutions of rule by the people, which we in the West are generally familiar, are not there for many reasons.

The business and educated class had many foreign ties, and it’s safe to say that they were and are a smaller minority in Egypt. Many, too, had to get in good enough with Mubarak or the regime if they were high-profile enough to survive.  After Morsi won the election, it was a struggle between the remnants of the old regime and the SCAF, and Morsi’s Brotherhood-led coalition.

Now, it’s looking pretty grim if the reports are true.

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From Nancy Okail’s guest post at Adam Garfinkle’s blog:

‘However, the more serious problem is that over the past 18 months the decrees issued by the SCAF, and later by Morsi, have not been founded on legal or constitutional grounds; rather, they indicate that the transitional path has been merely the continuation of haphazard, interest-based populist decisions. With the continued absence of rule of law and the gravity of the problems that Egyptians face, it is far from certain that things will remain calm. There are no guarantees that the civil divorce will remain civil’

Indeed.

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Addition:  From Foreign Affairs:

‘It thus stands to reason that Morsi’s sacking of Egypt’s top national security and defense officials might in part represent a shift in Egyptian foreign policy away from the United States. Toward what country, however, remains unclear. There is no other power that could be Egypt’s patron, yet Cairo might not need one.’

This could make U.S. Foreign Policy much more difficult, and hopefully not as antagonistic as Iran after the Revolution.

Related On This Site:  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’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘NYT, WaPo Get It Mostly Right on Egypt, Libya’

Full piece here.

‘As regards Egypt, both the New York Times’ and the Washington Post’s main stories corroborated and detailed the gist of what I have been saying over the past week or two: the military is negotiating the results of the presidential election. It is trying to work a deal in a situation where it holds most, but not all, of the leverage.’

and:

‘The way things stand now, Morsi is supreme over the façade of the Egyptian state, but the SCAF rules the “deep state.” This resembles in some ways the situation in Turkey from the mid-1920s all the way into the 1990s (not that Egyptians deliberately modeled the current mess after the Turkish experience). Thus arrangements like this can last a long time—or not. Time will tell’

And as Garfinkle points out, the U.S. has almost zero say in what happens.  A previous post on here was perhaps giving the Muslim Brotherhood (out of fear of dealing with a Brotherhood led Egypt) too much credit.  Perhaps also the leading edge of Western involvement to change Egypt (however much it could) was a more liberal internationalist, coalition-based, often hopelessly protest-based vision of liberal democracy coming to Egypt.  This will validate, for some, such an approach (the Arab Spring worked!…the Arab world has tilted toward greater freedom and human rights) come what may.

Related On This Site:   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’

From Foreign Policy: ‘No Brothers In Arms In Egypt’

Full piece here.

A more tense relationship has developed between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council Of The Armed Forces, which is essentially running the country.

As Murad Mohamed Aly, a Morsi campaign official, told me, “The Egyptians did not revolt to get rid of Mubarak … to get another Mubarak — Shafiq or someone.” And this same logic could apply to Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s former foreign minister who currently leads most national polls. “We have strong doubts that Egyptians will elect someone who is connected to the previous regime,” said Aly. “If [Moussa is elected] through interference, we will protest.”

A previous quote from Walter Russell Mead:

What we are seeing in the streets of Cairo is less a revolution seeking to take shape than a haggling process.  The leaders of the Egyptian political parties want to be able to choose all the parliamentary candidates through naming them to parliamentary lists.  That would make party leaders the chief power brokers in a parliamentary regime.  The military wants more MPs to be elected as individuals, weakening the parties and making it easier for the real powers in the country to manipulate the parliamentary process.’

Related On This SiteWalter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’……James Kirchik At The American Interest: ‘Egyptian Liberals Against the Revolution’

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

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