Defund Egypt's Generals to Give Democracy a Fighting Chance

The big question on the minds of Egyptians right now, notes Amir Taheri, is who’ll die first: Mubarak or the revolution? In other words, who’ll prevail: The military establishment or democracy? It sure as hell won’t be the latter, if America keeps sending aid to the former.

Many conservatives who were gung ho about George Bush’s Freedom Agenda of spreading democracy, by the gun if necessary, in the Arab world are getting cold feet when it comes to democracy in Egypt because it isn’t producing results they had hoped for. The parliamentary elections last year handed major victories to the Muslim Brotherhood and the presidential elections last week seemed to be trending in the direction of Brotherhood candidate, Mohamad Morsi, all of which is giving some members of the neocon establishment heart burn.

To be sure, an Islamist group controlling all branches of government is not a happy prospect. Its something that Egyptians themselves are deeply worried about, as I noted here. But, unfortunately, decades of political repression has thwarted Egypt’s democratic infrastructure, leaving only the military and the Brotherhood with the organizational capability to contest elections that the more liberal groups simply can’t match yet. Worry about the Brotherhood, however, is one thing and alarm is another.

The Brotherhood hasn’t governed for a single, full day yet given that the military dissolved the parliament at the prospect of a Morsi presidential victory. But that didn’t stop The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes from waxing nostalgic over the halcyon days of the Mubarak regime and the mortal danger that the Brotherhood poses to Egypt’s minorities. Here’s what he said on Fox News a couple of days ago:

“[S]ome people, including me, will look back and compare it [the military] to the Muslim Brotherhood who are taking over, Mubarak looks not as bad as we thought, and particularly, if you are a Christian. You know, the 10 million Christians in Egypt, are they going to be protected, or are they going to be persecuted.  I think they're going to be persecuted. And Mubarak at least protected them. 

Never mind that the Brotherhood in its public statements has stressed its commitment to pluralism and protection of individual rights. It certainly pledges allegiance to sharia – as all candidates, secular and non-secular do – and wants to segregate the sexes. But whether it intends to impose Saudi Arabia or Iran-style restrictions on women is far from clear given that its platform has shifted from favoring an "Islamic state" to a "civil, democratic state with an Islamic reference." 

The demonization of the Brotherhood might turn out to be completely justified – although there is some reason to hope that Islamists who come to power through quasi-fair elections (a la Turkey) would behave palpably differently from those who do so through a coup or a revolution (a la Iran). That’s because they have to worry about getting reelected – and widespread and bloody repression is not exactly conducive to that. Perhaps the Brotherhood intends to follow the time-honored Arab custom of “one man, one vote, one time” once it has consolidated its hold on power and Egypt’s machinery of repression, precisely the prospect that the Egyptian military and its Western apologists such as Barnes are raising. But how is that any worse than the military overturning even the first election?

 At any rate, between the military and the Brotherhood, the military has less incentive to reform. Why? Because that would mean giving up its chokehold on the economy – its lifeblood and the source of its power. It needs political control to maintain economic control and it needs economic control to keep its perks and privileges intact.

The military controls vast swaths of the Egyptian economy – how much is anybody’s guess. Estimates range from 15 to 40 percent. Khaled Fahmy, head of history at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that the military’s holdings are a “grey” area, a giant secret. “We know very little of them, they are not subject to any Parliamentary scrutiny, the Egyptian government auditing office has no control or knowledge of them.” What’s more, notes Al Jazeera:

The military has, over decades, created an industrial complex that is well oiled and well funded. In over 35 factories and companies it produces everything from flat-screen televisions and pasta to refrigerators and cars.

It owns restaurants and football grounds. Much of the workforce are conscripts paid below the average wage. And it is not just manufactured goods: the military provide services, managing petrol stations for example.

The influence extends far beyond Cairo across Egypt. They are huge landowners in the country.

It is no coincidence that Ahmed Shafiq, the military’s presidential candidate challenging Morsi, despite the dismal state of Egypt’s economy, ran not on a platform of economic reform but restoring law and order, which, admittedly, is going from bad to worse. (In one particularly ugly recent episode, a mob in Tahrir Square sexually molested women protesting sexual harassment and demanding a new, post-Mubarak Egypt.)

By contrast, the Brotherhood, whom the military has always kept on a short leash, has few economic privileges to worry about. Hence, not only did it put Egypt’s economic – not its religious or security -- health, front and center in its campaign. It’s platform also touts a surprisingly free market agenda which involves not only divesting government (read military) assets but also free trade with America. Notes Shadi Hamid of Brookings Institute:

The Brotherhood’s economic vision is unabashedly free-market oriented, which has left it open to an additional barrage of attacks from liberals and leftists. In its economic program, the FJP [Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm] states its support for an “Egyptian economy built on the principle of economic freedom.” “Economic freedom,” it goes on, “is the guarantor of economic creativity, progress, and development, with the state playing a strong monitoring role in ensuring competition and preventing monopolies.” In another section, the FJP affirms that “the private sector has a fundamental role to play in Egyptian economic life,” and that “values and morals should not be separated from economic development, as they are two sides of the same coin.”

 The long and short of all this is that Egypt’s story can’t be reduced to a Manichean struggle between the good guys and the bad guys. Heck, contrary to the assertions of Fred Barnes and his fellow neocons, it is not even possible to tell the lesser from the bigger evil.

The proper course for America in the face of such endemic uncertainty is to let events take their course in Egypt. That would require ending the $1.4 billion in annual arms and fighter jet shipments that the U.S. dispatches to Egypt. Such aid not only intensifies the fight for the spoils, it also boosts the machinery of repression at the military’s disposal, giving it an artificial advantage.

Military aid to Egypt was meant originally to offset U.S. military aid to Israel and maintain a regional arms balance. But even that dubious rationale is no longer operative. As Steven Lee Myer reported in The New York Times in March, the big reason this administration decided to keep aid flowing to Egypt’s military, despite the military’s obvious contempt for democracy, was to avoid arms manufacturing-related job losses in the U.S. Wrote Myer:

A delay or a cut in $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt risked breaking existing contracts with American arms manufacturers that could have shut down production lines in the middle of President Obama’s re-election campaign and involved significant financial penalties, according to officials involved in the debate.

Since the Pentagon buys weapons for foreign armed forces like Egypt’s, the cost of those penalties — which one senior official said could have reached $2 billion if all sales had been halted — would have been borne by the American taxpayer, not Egypt’s ruling generals.

The companies involved include Lockheed Martin, which is scheduled to ship the first of a batch of 20 new F-16 fighter jets next month, and General Dynamics, which last year signed a $395 million contract to deliver component parts for 125 Abrams M1A1 tanks that are being assembled at a plant in Egypt.

“In large part, there are U.S. jobs that are reliant on the U.S.-Egypt strong military-to-military relationship,” a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under rules set by the department.

In other words, the America military-industrial complex takes money from American taxpayers so that Egypt’s generals can thwart democracy in their country and President Obama can buy re-election in his. It’s a win-win!

Perhaps Obama can put in a good word for Egypt’s generals with the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Or he can do the right thing and defund them – and give democracy a fighting chance in Egypt.

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  • Pi Guy||

    Ah, I see. It's just a version of Fast and Furious: arm everyone, let Loki sort 'em out later. Got it.

    Another Nation-building success story.

  • ||

    This is a textbook definition of "dilemma". It doesn't get much worse than a military dictatorship, but I don't trust the Muslim Brotherhood as far as I could collectively throw them.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's important to remember that some things really aren't up to us.

    The Egyptian people decided to overthrow Mubarak whether we wanted them to or not. Just like Libya. They were going to fight a revolution against Gaddafi whether we wanted that or not.

    Syria is the same.

    We might be able to tip the scales one way or the other for a little while, like we did in Iran circa 1953, but over the long run, what Egypt, Iran, Libya and Syria end up with is up to the Egyptians, Iranians, Libyans and Syrians.

    We can't choose the nature of their government over the long run; over the long run, all we can do is choose the nature of our relationship with them.

  • John||

    And when we let the Islamists take over in Iran, they have never left power even though the population hates them. And they never will give up power. And the only reason the revolution in Iran was successful was because the US wouldn't support the Shah in taking the necessary steps to support it. We are just as responsible for the Mullahs as we were for the Shah.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We didn't let the Islamists take over Iran. They just took it over.

    However much brutality it would have required to keep the Iranian Revolution from happening, if it would have required more brutality than the Shah was already dishing out, then it was more trouble than we were willing to dish out, that's for sure.

    It would have been another Vietnam. We left Vietnam because it was in our best interests to do so. The reason we stopped supporting the Shah was because no amount of brutality we were willing to mete out would have been sufficient to keep the Iranian Revolution from happening.

  • John||

    The Shah dished out very little brutality. He could have assassinated the leaders and been done with it. The reason he didn't was because the US threatened to cut off support if he did. The Shah lost his nerve.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Does the term "SAVAK" mean anything to you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAVAK

  • Ken Shultz||

    He could have assassinated the leaders and been done with it.

    Actually, it looks like he tried. He just couldn't--be done with it.

    Abrahamian estimates that SAVAK (and other police and military) killed 368 guerrillas between 1971–1977 and executed something less than 100 political prisoners between 1971 and 1979 - the most violent era of the SAVAK's existence.[20]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S....._and_after

  • Tulpa the White||

    Ken, that doesn't say what you apparently think it says.

    You do know what "less than" and "guerrillas" mean, right?

  • Timon 19||

    Remember who you're asking. When the context goes to anything involving Muslims, the blinders go on and the foam starts to form in the corners of his mouth.

  • Tulpa the White||

    That is seriously unfair, Timon19.

  • Timon 19||

    Oh, come off it.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Oh, and Timon, you realize that Shultz was one of the concern trolls opposing the Park51 mosque in Manhattan because it was "disrespectful"? Watch who you're painting as a friend of Islam.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's a lie.

    I said repeatedly that they should be free to build a monument to the hijackers on their property--if that's what they wanted to do.

    I also said the Imam who was doing it was a jackhole for doing what he was doing.

    At some point, Tulpa? You go from being silly and ignorant to being willfully dishonest.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Generally if you consider a person doing something a "jackhole" it means you oppose doing it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Generally if you consider a person doing something a "jackhole" it means you oppose doing it.

    I think Obama is a jackhole. Does that mean I opposed what we did to help the Libyan rebels?

    You probably need that spelled out for you: the correct answer is no.

    Watch who you're painting as a friend of Islam.

    I came within a couple of inches of converting to Islam a few years ago--something I've talked about extensively to other commenters here while it was happening.

    I've never seen anyone else so stubbornly insist on making an ass of himself--over and over again. And you never learn anything from the experience either!

    You'll do it again tomorrow.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I think Obama is a jackhole. Does that mean I opposed what we did to help the Libyan rebels?

    You don't consider him a jackhole FOR DOING THAT. Not the same thing.

    If it were Joe Al-Blow from Missoula who wanted to open a mosque near the WTC you would have had the same reaction. Which indicates it's the mosque-opening itself that would be offensive.

  • Timon 19||

    And who said I was painting anyone anything, you stupid fuck?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Actually, all we can do is overthrow (Hussein/Gaddafi) and/or pull the rug out from under (Mubarak) the current boss, and then watch in feigned surprise as chaos unfolds afterward.

    The two equally bad alternatives for Egypt going forward make it 0/3 for the interventionists actually improving things. But I'm sure you guys will keep trying.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Pull the rug out? What does that mean?

  • Tulpa the White||

    BO told the army they would lose our financial support if they put down the Cairo protests, which pulled the rug out from under Mubarak.

    Now, I'm not terribly in favor of our supporting an army that kills peaceful protesters -- I don't think we should support their army regardless, but that's another thread -- but you can't deny that we had a role.

  • Alan||

    The surest way to promote religious extremism in the Arab world is to act against the religious parties.

    When religious parties are illegal, only extremists join - and without moderate voices in the party the parties become more and more extreme. There are moderate forms of Islam, and they used to dominate the middle east - until "secular" forces (tyrants) attempted to root out the people's religion.

    The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may be the last, best chance for secular societies throughout the middle east. It will be far from perfect, but it could be better than any other alternative I can see.

  • TMF||

    Muslim brotherhood does not equal secular by any measurement.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm about as pragmatic as anybody, but there comes a time when standing up for democracy against the dictators is the most pragmatic option.

    Our strategy of support for Mubarak (and by extension the Egyptian military) was initiated within the context of the Cold War. Before the U.S. became Egypt's largest foreign donor, that honor belonged to the Soviets.

    But things that made sense during the Cold War don't necessarily make sense anymore.

    We should have been looking for a way out of our relationship with various dictators since the wall came down--and I can't think of a better excuse for getting out of Egypt than seeing our former allies squash a democracy there.

    Pragmatically speaking, there's no need for a universal rule here either--no reason we can't continue our relationship with the vicious dictators in Saudi Arabia, for instance, if that's in our best interest for the moment. But as opportunities to wind such support down present themselves, it's in our best interest to take advantage of them. No matter what the Egyptian people replace their dictators with, the less we're associated with their dictators, the better off we'll be.

    If we want to be seen as being on the side of the Egyptian people, we're staring a great opportunity in the face. And the alternative? As bad the Russians sending attack helicopters to Syria was seen, I suspect our support of the Egyptian military isn't seen as being so substantively different.

  • Alan||

    Well said.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I'm about as pragmatic as anybody

    How's Libya doing these days, Ken?

    I seem to recall you lecturing us about cost-benefit analyses back when you were stumping for kinetic military action (weeks, not months).

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't think you understand the meaning of the term "pragmatic".

    I'm sure I've never used the term "kinetic military action" in my life.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Where I come from "pragmatic" has something to do with acting to produce the best possible outcome. Which is manifestly NOT what happened in Libya. Maybe you have a different dialect.

    Whether you used the term "kinetic military action" for it, you were certainly stumping for it. And excusing Obama's violation of the WPA.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Uh. Libya's actually doing pretty well. This is probably the best possible outcome-for them. A liability for us.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You certainly don't go from thirty-odd years under a vicious dictator to hunky-dory liberal democracy overnight--all without any hiccups.

    Whatever Libya needed to do to transition to a democracy, it wasn't going to happen so long as Libya was under a vicious dictator.

    I imagine Libya will make all sorts of mistakes--just like the U.S. did when we were a young democracy.

    Hell, if they can transition without going through a civil war like we did, I guess some might say they'll be doing better than we did.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Hell, if they can transition without going through a civil war like we did, I guess some might say they'll be doing better than we did.

    ?????

    Please God let the registration system have failed so that this could be a spoof Ken Shultz rather than the real one. It's just too stupid to believe.

    What the FUCK do you call what they just went through?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Armed Group Briefly Seizes Tripoli Airport

    Security in Libya remains tenuous and shootings, kidnappings and general mayhem committed by militias are frequent. This month, armed men attacked the Tripoli headquarters of Libya’s prime minister leaving at least four people dead. And in April, at least 22 people were killed in a firefight between rival militias in the west of the country.

    In a troubling sign, an elite unit created by the Libyan government to combat the militias was itself accused of kidnapping and savagely beating a well-known surgeon, the Guardian reported.

    Members of the Supreme Security Committee had seized the surgeon, Salem Forjani, who incidentally sits on Libya’s missing persons commission, on May 17 and held him for five days at different locations before releasing him. He was beaten unconscious and left with a ruptured testicle, the Guardian reported.
  • Tulpa the White||

    Death Illustrates Issues With Loose Weapons Stockpiles in Libya

    The checkpoint had been fought over by rival Libyan militias three nights before. The groups were quarreling over access to 22 shipping containers of Qaddafi-era munitions, according to the aid group’s investigation, the findings of which were described this week to The New York Times.

    One of the containers was struck during the fighting and caught fire. The explosion that followed ruptured at least 11 containers, heaving into the air a poorly stored collection of grenades, rockets and mortar rounds, some of which landed almost 500 yards away.
  • Tulpa the White||

    Our strategy of support for Mubarak was, at this point in time, essentially to keep the peace between Egypt and Israel. Originally the Cold War was a factor but it still made sense pragmatically even after 1991 (assuming you don't care about intervening in other countries' mutual affairs).

    Pragmatically speaking, there's no need for a universal rule here either--no reason we can't continue our relationship with the vicious dictators in Saudi Arabia, for instance, if that's in our best interest for the moment.

    The problem is that determining "our best interest for the moment" in these complicated situations can be very tricky business, and the slightest amount of wishful thinking or unawareness of something happening behind the scenes can make your cost-benefit analysis nonsense. There are a shitload of ways our support for the Saudi regime could backfire (and already have ahem ahem). You're almost better off just sticking to a sensible rule and not trying to feign omniscience with each situation individually.

  • BenDFW||

    Why is it that we expect democracy to ever have good results? I mean Palestine elected what they were for years. Why would we expect different from the Egyptians? And wasn't Hitler popularly elected? I mean in the United States we have been electing guys to destroy our freedom every single cycle. We rarely ever get any pushback and when we do, team blue acts as if we have had a totally freemarket deregulated economy. Shouldn't we just start supporting the Hong Kongesque style of benine neglect and neglectful tyranny with a representative parliment. I would love for us to instal Ron Paul as a dictator somewhere just to see how well it would work out.

  • John Thacker||

    I think that you claim a bit too much, Shikia, by invoking "neocons" so often in this article. There are also quite a few notable cases of neocons not taking the tact that you describe. Consider Elliott Abrams here:

    Those who oppose them must be wondering whether an Islamist victory in the presidential election, as well, might be advantageous in one way: If they are given full responsibility for the government and the economy, that sets up more liberal and secular forces to ask the local version of Ronald Reagan’s question when the next elections are held, five years from now: “Are you better off now than you were five years ago?” But of course, that won’t work unless there actually are free elections five years from now, and at this stage it isn’t even clear if and when a new constitution will be written — much less what it will say.

    The realists, who oppose the neocons, have generally been the loudest in saying that we should have backed Mubarak. (Elliott Abrams as well was certainly one of those, like most neocons, who cheers the initial protests.)

    The opinions of those on the left and center-left are as similarly confused. I don't think that opinions on Egypt fall in the neat categories that Shikia's strawman sets up.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The demonization of the Brotherhood might turn out to be completely justified

    If any "demonization of the Brotherhood" has occured, it's due to the Ikhwan's own rhetoric and actions.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Perhaps the Brotherhood intends to follow the time-honored Arab custom of “one man, one vote, one time” once it has consolidated its hold on power and Egypt’s machinery of repression, precisely the prospect that the Egyptian military and its Western apologists such as Barnes are raising. But how is that any worse than the military overturning even the first election?

    Because the Egyptian military's agenda is not to cleanse Egypt of all infidels, nor is it to make women second-class citizens, nor is it to provoke another war with Israel. Shall I go on?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm not convinced you're preventing that stuff by using the military to quash it for a time.

    Sometimes, if you act like that, you just end up with some radicalized fundamentalists like they did in Iran.

    To be perfectly honest, the mullahs in Iran probably had a lot more leeway than they would have had otherwise if the Shah hadn't been on such an aggressive westernization program.

    I wish the Brotherhood would moderate its views just as much as the next libertarian, but maybe that moderation needs to come from within. And maybe that internal moderation process cannot happen under an oppressive military dictatorship.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'm not convinced you're preventing that stuff by using the military to quash it for a time.

    Algeria is going over 20 years strong since its military heroically overthrew a bunch of democratically elected Islamist savages.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Oh, it can happen. We managed to install democracies in Germany and Japan, too. Took a lot of money, a ton of American casualties, some carpet bombing campaigns, and a couple of atom bombs.

    The Algerian Civil War was something like that.

    1991-2002, that's 11 years and 150,000 lives. Widespread massacres of women and children. Brutal repression.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algerian_Civil_War

    We don't want to be associated with something like that in Egypt.

    If the Egyptian government controlled by the military started behaving like that to quash the Muslim Brotherhood, I'd think we should definitely cut all aid to the Egyptian military immediately.

  • John||

    Nothing says libertarian like Muslim brotherhood. It sounds like a great idea to let them in power to discredit themselves until you realize once they get in power they will destroy the mechanisms that put them there and they will never leave.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Once again, it isn't really up to us. What form of government the Egyptians have? It's not that's it's none of our business--it's that it's ultimately beyond our control.

    That being said, if you were an Egyptian, how long would you want to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out and a military junta in?

    Just until a majority of people didn't want the Muslim Brotherhood anymore? How unpopular did the Muslim Brotherhood become while Mubarak was in power? Didn't they become more popular, the more Mubarak's government worked with the military to marginalize them?

  • John||

    how long would you want to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out and a military junta in?

    If I were Egyptian forever if I had to. It is easy for you to wax philosophical about democracy, you don't have to live with the consequences. Suppose the US went insane and elected a Christian party to 80 seats in the Senate, the white house and a huge majority in the house and planned to institute a real theocracy. Wouldn't you want the military to step in? I would.

    Radical Islam is a lot like communism. It is a totalitarian ideology that once it takes over a country it never lets go. When we were fighting communism we supported some pretty nasty people. And in every place where we did, it ended up turning out better in the long run than it did in places where the communists took over. Where would you want to live today Chile or Cuba?

    Shaika's claim that the Brotherhood is more likely to reform than the military is just fucking laughable. Is it our business? Not if you believe that the Middle East falling victim to the Islamic vampire in no way affects us, which seems pretty debatable.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Suppose the US went insane and elected a Christian party to 80 seats in the Senate, the white house and a huge majority in the house and planned to institute a real theocracy. Wouldn't you want the military to step in?

    Perhaps. That used to happen all the time in Turkey:

    The military had a record of intervening in politics, removing elected governments four times in the past. Indeed, it assumed power for several periods in the latter half of the 20th century. It executed coups d'état in 1960 (27 May Coup), in 1971 (12 March Coup), and in 1980 (12 September Coup). Most recently, it maneuvered the removal of an Islamic-oriented prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan in 1997 (28 February Process).[47] The military executed the first democratically elected prime minister Adnan Menderes.[48]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....h_politics

    It should be noted that when the Turkish military finally let an Islamist party take control of the government, that being forced to govern and compete in elections moderated that Islamist party like being in the shadows beholden to nobody ever could.

    The other side of the Christian fundamentalist government scenario you were talking about, John, is how you would look at a foreign power that was supporting the military to keep Christians out of the U.S. government--if you yourself were a Christian.

    I suspect I would become radicalized. I suspect I would see that foreign power as my enemy.

  • John||

    People are very pessimistic about the future of Turkey Ken. You are clearly in the minority in thinking the Islamists. And at best you are making the case for the military supervising and reserving the right to seize power if they go to far. That doesn't sound like Democracy to me.

    And no I wouldn't be radicalized. And I think you are racist as hell to think the Egyptians are so stupid that they will join a death cult to avoid foreign influence.

    Did the Chileans become communists because we supported Pinochet? They should have according to your theory. It doesn't work like that. You are just giving another spin on the whole, they only way to fight something is to surrender because resisting just makes it stronger bullshit.

  • Ken Shultz||

    And at best you are making the case for the military supervising and reserving the right to seize power if they go to far. That doesn't sound like Democracy to me.

    I didn't say that was democracy--you were saying you'd rather have the military step in than see the government go Islamist, right?

    I think you are racist as hell to think the Egyptians are so stupid that they will join a death cult to avoid foreign influence.

    There isn't anything racist about it. If a foreign power were colluding with a military dictatorship to keep people of my faith out of my government, I would consider that foreign power an enemy--whether I were Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Zoroastrian or a Scientologist. I'd feel that way if they were keeping me out of power because I was white, black, pacific islander...

    Don't see what race has to do with it.

    P.S. Playing the race card, John? Really?!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Did the Chileans become communists because we supported Pinochet? They should have according to your theory.

    There's no question our support of vicious dictators made us more enemies in South and Central America than we would have had otherwise. We were in direct competition with communists, however, communist expansion was one way the communists could have hung on a lot longer than they did.

    Conversely, we are not in direct competition with Muslims. Muslims are not our enemy.

    One really good way to convince them of that fact is by not treating them like the enemy. ...by not trying to deny them participation in democracy--within their own countries--specifically becasue they're especially Muslim.

  • Timon 19||

    Muslims are not our enemy.


    Remember, this is John you're trying to have an argument with regarding dark people who prostrate themselves 5 times daily. You're not starting from the same assumptions...at all.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Oh of course. John doesn't agree with you therefore he hates Muslims/'dark people'. Please fuck yourself.

  • Timon 19||

    No, John's repeated posts concerning this subject quite clearly point out that he does not start from the same assumption (Muslims are not our enemy) as Ken is. John has repeatedly shown himself willing to collectivize that entire portion of human civilization which is precisely what Ken is trying to caution against.

    They're arguing at total cross-purposes. Someone like Ken cannot have a reasoned debate with someone like John because as soon as the word "Muslim" is mentioned, John gets ultra G.I. Joe, Internet Tuff Gai.

  • Alan||

    I've visited Turkey. The Turks are some of the nicest people I've met anywhere, and their religious fundamentalists are a lot like American religious fundamentalists, in that they can seem quite scary until you realize that they actually have a number of traditions which prevent the worst abuses of power.

    I won't pretend that Islamists will never make mistakes, and won't make a few things a little worse, but frankly I have more confidence in moderate Islamists than I do in the secular forces attempting to gain control in the middle east.

    We should stop trying to bring the Islamic world to be in step with our modern values: besides the fact that a few of our values (drug war, anyone?) are rather perverted, they just aren't ready for it. A child has to learn to stand before they can walk, and to walk before they can run. If we want any change in that region to be long-lasting, it will have to be something that the people of that region decide for themselves, not changes imposed from the outside by people who understand little to nothing of the local culture and traditions.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Anatolia is very different from the rest of the Islamic world, and has a history of secularism and partial democracy.

    Egypt does not.

    Fact of the matter is, many of these cases end up being "one man, one vote, one time" as was the case in Czechoslovakia and other Warsaw Pact states. Islamists have a nasty habit of integrating themselves into government and civil apparatus and not letting go regardless of the will of the people -- take a look at southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, for example.

    John is right. There's no point in deluding ourselves with romantic notions about democracy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Anatolia is very different from the rest of the Islamic world, and has a history of secularism and partial democracy.

    Egypt does not.

    I'm not convinced that Egypt has no history of secularism.

    I'm not convinced that the Ottoman Empire left a legacy of democracy either.

    Certainly if you think the Ottomans treated minorities well, I'm sure you can find some Armenians and Kurds who will be happy to disabuse you of that notion.

    We all have to start somewhere. We here in the U.S. didn't start out especially democratic either. We went through everything from landowner suffrage and slavery, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and a civil war, etc. Hell, we're still fighting both the government and religious fundamentalists to make them respect our rights. Everybody has to start somewhere.

    We had to start somewhere. The Turks started somewhere, too. The Egyptian people will never be free so long as they're governed by a military dictatorship. They haven't even gotten started yet.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I don't think he was talking about the Ottoman history, Ken. He's probably talking about the Ataturk era.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Tulpa got it.

  • Cytotoxic||

    John's right. It would be extremely easy for the MB so seize power forever. Messy but doable Egypt's institutions are weak and its culture is pretty degenerate. A Turkey it ain't.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It would be extremely easy for the MB so seize power forever.

    No question about that.

    But doesn't it look like the Egyptian military is seizing power forever, too? You're worried about the MB seizing power and never holding a second election, when the people in power right now a) may not abide by the first election and b) the military just rescinded the results of the last election?!

    I wouldn't look to the Egyptian military to save Egyptian democracy.

    Regardless, once again, this isn't really our call anyway. Our call is about whether we should continue to support the Egyptian government and the Egyptian military given the way the military is behaving right now.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Tulpa got it.

    That's nothing brag about.

    Did you get that neither Turkey nor the United States started out as being especially democratic?

    The U.S. had slavery, brutal repression of Native Americans, and you want to talk about religious fundamentalism? I suspect a lot of people in the Muslim Brotherhood would think our fundamentalist ancestors were way too extreme.

    Somehow democracy found a way here anyway.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Anatolia had the millet system and Istanbul had been a cosmopolitan center of trade for both the Islamic world and Europe for centuries. The US had a tradition of common law and the Enlightenment going back centuries, as well. Both modern-day Turkey and the US were intentionally crafted as semi-democratic secular states at the get-go by their respective founders.

    And for the record, democracy has not been a boon for either state. I wish that the Supreme Court had gotten its way over democratically-elected and supported Andrew Jackson when it came to the eviction of the Cherokee, and that we had had a court that was less compliant when it came to the democratic decision to put Japanese in camps during WWII.

    Democratic input is useful, but it is ultimately a means to an end. In the case of Egypt, I see very little which shows democratic governance as a means to protecting the human rights of *all* of its citizens.

  • Tulpa the White||

    That's nothing brag about.

    Typical Glibster tactics.

    Completely miss the point of a comment, insult the person who made that comment, and insult the person who corrected you.

  • jdgalt||

    What a shallow article.

    Egypt's voters have shown they support the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to both abolish human rights at home and start another war of aggression against Israel.

    Clearly, each of those aims must be stopped, by any means necessary.

    Fuck the voters.

  • John||

    Exactly. I am thinking if the voters in the US, where she would have to live with the consequences, decided such a thing, Shika would look at it a bit differently.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Voters in the US already have voted for people who abolish human rights at home and start wars of aggression overseas. So it's not even a hypothetical.

  • ReformRealist||

    Any means necessary!?

    Give me a break with that nonsense. That is a dangerous sentiment.

    Explain to me why it is good for the United States to fund a repressive military? It is this military that has been trampling on human rights for decades. Withdrawing financial support for corrupt military rulers does not equate to support for the Brotherhood despite how you are framing the issue.

    I'm no fan of the Brotherhood, but could you please provide evidence for your assertion they plan to start a war with Israel? I know they dislike Israel, but I have seen no evidence that they intend to attack. That would also probably be very foolish given Israel's military superiority and the poor state of the Egyptian economy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm no fan of the Brotherhood, but could you please provide evidence for your assertion they plan to start a war with Israel?

    Some people think they'd be even more aggressive than Iran, apparently.

    Egypt's voters have shown they support the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to both abolish human rights at home and start another war of aggression against Israel.

    Egypt's voters weren't unanimous.

    And of those that voted for the Muslim Brotherhood, many of them were just voting for what they saw as the best organized opposition to the Mubarak regime, especially when MB candidates were running against Egyptian military candidates and former Mubarak regime officials.

    What you're saying is like saying that people who vote for Mitt Romney aren't really voting against Barack Obama--what they really want is RomneyCare.

    Absurd.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I'm no fan of the Brotherhood, but could you please provide evidence for your assertion they plan to start a war with Israel? I know they dislike Israel, but I have seen no evidence that they intend to attack. That would also probably be very foolish given Israel's military superiority and the poor state of the Egyptian economy.

    Well, there's this.

    And this.

  • MWG||

    Your first link suggests they don't like the treaty and/or it's terms. It does not suggest the MB is itchen' to go to war with them.

    The second link doesn't even mention Israel.

  • Tulpa the White||

    That's the usual result of asking people for links around here.

  • ReformRealist||

    I would also point out that the liberal parties of Egypt hardly view the military as an ally.

  • Mike M.||

    When it comes to the Islamist lunatics, Dalmia and the cosmotarian birdbrains have their head so far up their ass that they can see their own intestines.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Well, obviously, calling people names means you're way beyond my intellectual capacity. Maybe Shikha Dalmia can survive something like that, but name calling is so devastatingly persuasive to me, I guess I have to change my position now.

    In the face of such genius, what else could I possibly do?

    P.S. Don't you have anything to add? Don't you base your opinions on anything?

  • Alan||

    Most Muslims are not lunatics. Oppressing Islamic political parties makes those parties more extreme and more influential over time, not less.

    Most Muslims just want to live their lives in peace, like anyone else. There are some serious problems with Islamic tradition, but there are some serious problems with Christian tradition too. All change has to come from within, and supporting the dictators has slowed down that process in the Middle East.

  • SIV||

    Shikha is no cosmotarian. Cosmotarians look like paleo-libertarian anarchists in comparison.

  • Alan||

    The Muslim Brotherhood wants to establish human rights at home, and they have promised to respect the treaty with Israel.

    Mubarak's security forces attacked Christians and pinned the blame on Muslims. During the Egyptian protests, many Muslims joined Christians at their services when terrorist groups threatened them, and Egyptian Christians protected Muslims when they observed their prayers during protests, so that security forces could not attack them when they were vulnerable.

    The Islamist parties in Egypt have a number of problems, but they are certainly no worse than what already exists. We should let the Egyptian people work things out without undue interference.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    That's a joke, right? Since when has the MB *ever* been about "human rights"? Was this before or after they tried to suppress the other emergent parties in an unlawful manner? Was this around the time when they promoted a series of populist laws that have reduced economic freedom and kept the Egyptian economy in the crapper? Was this when they were busy telling people that the Jews drink the blood of Egyptian children, and that the Copts were in league with them? Was this around the same time that they voted for the death penalty for apostates in overwhelming numbers? Oh yes, those defenders of fiqh and Islamic jurisprudence in social matters are regular Thomas Jeffersons. There's naïvely hopeful, and there's flat-out delusional. This is the latter.

  • ReformRealist||

    But the military does not care about freedom either. I think Alan has a point above when he says that repressing Islamist political parties only makes the more influential in the long run.

    The only thing that will help Egypt is time and development. The US' ability to fundamentally change Egypt is very limited, which is how it is for pretty much every nation. Just because the MB is bad does not mean we should be funding the repressive Egyptian military.

  • Tulpa the White||

    What the MB does within its boundaries is none of our business. I think they're smart enough to know that war with Israel would be suicide.

  • MWG||

    ^This.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'd like to think they are smart enough to know that. I'm worried they will allow proxies to work out of Sinai.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I'm worried they will allow proxies to work out of Sinai.

    Israel has occupied Sinai before and will again if that happens.

    I'm certainly no fan of Israel's behavior (and presumably neither is the MB) but definitely don't advise their neighbors messing with them.

  • mr simple||

    Especially if we don't fund their military.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You know what's really troubling?

    The idea that libertarians are somehow afraid of other people's freedom--because if some people were free to choose for themselves, they might make the wrong choices.

    Everybody sees why that's troubling coming from libertarians, right?

    Right.

    If we're talking about short term strategic goals within the context of a war or something, that's one thing.

    Hell, I criticized the Bush Administration for not thinking about the regional implications of taking Saddam Hussein out of the picture myself, but we're not talking about anything like that.

    Should the Egyptian people be free to choose their own leaders? What the hell kind of question is that for libertarians to be asking each other?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Most people here are fine with Egyptians choosing their leaders, just apprehensive about the choice they made. Nothing unlibertarian about being concerned.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Voting is not not equivalent to a choice that one makes for oneself. Your premise is faulty.

    We should stay out of it, but I and other libertarians are not nearly as sanguine about democracy in Egypt for the same reasons that we aren't optimistic about same in other third-world countries (or for that matter, developed countries): it can easily become an excuse for institutionalized violence against disfavored minorities, as well as an enforcer of norms which prevent change away from this institutionalized violence.

    India voted itself straight socialism for 40 years after independence.

    Most of sub-Saharan Africa is wracked by weak democratic institutions giving way to military dictatorships.

    There isn't much in either the Middle East or the Third World in general which shows democracy to be particularly stable or humane, even assuming a stable democracy. Egypt's transition in specific leaves much to be desired.

  • mr simple||

    Yes, democracy can be a problem. This is why they need a constitution before any national elections are held and a republic is superior to a straight democracy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Being able to pick your own leaders probably isn't the best part of democracy. I suspect the best part of democracy is that, when it works properly, you get to kick the old leaders out periodically.

    I won't celebrate Romney winning the presidency, but I'm gonna have a party if Barack Obama gets thrown out on his ass.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Defund Team Blue to Give Limited Representative Government a Fighting Chance"

    FIFY'd. No charge.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Never mind that the Brotherhood in its public statements has stressed its commitment to pluralism and protection of individual rights.

    Indeed, 'never mind' is the operative phrase here. If you even consider the MB's pledges in this regard to mean anything then you are as dumb as your detractors say you are Shikhia.

    I hope democracy loses. We should still cut the aid.

  • mr simple||

    I admit to not knowing much about the MB, so feel free to provide links showing how bad thy are. It's not up to us to decide who they elect. They're rhetoric suggests maybe the more moderate members rose to power in these elections. Not all Muslims are terrorists. We need to let the Egyptians decide their own fate until they actually start attacking other countries.

    We need to cut all aid to the country and let them work out their own fate.

  • Fantocone||

    thats kinda crazy when you think about it.

    www.Fresh-Anon.tk

  • ||

    My simple response to Ms. Dalmia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ture=share

  • ||

    Of course, it's possible that the video merely shows "campaign rhetoric". I've heard other politicians say stupider shit.

    But I have my doubts....

  • Timon 19||

    Hate to break it to you, but that video is not of who the poster says it is. Morsi doesn't really look like that at all.

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