Back during the early days of the Tahrir Square protests I wrote:
59 percent of Egyptian Muslims want democracy and 95 percent want Islam to play a large part in politics. 84 percent believe apostates should face the death penalty. That is what Egyptian democracy will look like. A unanimous majority that wants an Islamic state and a bare majority that wants democracy. Which one do you think will win out? A democratic majority of the country supports murdering people in the name of Islam. Mubarak’s government does not execute apostates or adulterers. But a democratic Egypt will. Why? Because it’s the will of the people.
Here we are almost a year later and we have gotten the democratic Egypt that anyone who understood the realities of the region should have expected. An Egyptian parliament divided between the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a country divided between the Islamists who want to chop off heads now and the Islamists who think that it’s wiser to consolidate their power before chopping off heads.
The purpose of this article is not to berate the leftists and leftover neo-conservatives who supported the overthrow of Mubarak in the name of democracy. It’s a waste of breath and time. Ideologues who are committed to an ideology that explains the world in a way that seems moral and right do not stop what they are doing just because the consequences are disastrous.
Now they want us to intervene in Syria. Who else wants us to intervene in Syria? The Emir of Qatar, better known as the man behind Al Jazeera, which pushed the whole Arab Spring lie into an international myth to overthrow non-Islamist regimes across the region. The Emir is tipping his hand a little transparently by calling for troops to invade Syria instead of sitting back and letting his Al-Jazeera propagandists do the hard work of selling the West on an independent democracy movement, but the pro-democracy crowd isn’t paying attention.
They didn’t pay attention no matter how many times they were told that the Muslim Brotherhood was the dominant force behind the “pro-democracy uprising” and that they would be the beneficiaries if Mubarak were overthrown. It was all just noise to them. Democracy would conquer all and the same Twitter activists they were so chummy with would write the new constitution.
So here we are down the long road and Egyptian democracy wears a sword and a burqa. “I’ve got to hand it to the MB. They have played this revolution like a fiddle. And still do. Brilliant work.” That quote comes from Sandmonkey, one of the favorite activists of a lot of the bloggers and pundits endorsing the removal of Mubarak. There’s no more room for illusions. Supporting the removal of Mubarak was a mistake and it’s time to admit it and look at the available options.
Option 1. Pretend the Muslim Brotherhood or some wing of it is moderate. This is the approach on the left which is busy explaining that the Muslim Brotherhood is our best hope for restraining the Salafists and that the moderate Salafists are the best hope for restraining the extremist Salafists. These are the people who locked up with a tribe of cannibals would start dividing the cannibals into moderates and extremists, and feeding the moderates their own fingers to keep the extremists at bay.
Option 2. Pretend that the Brotherhood will comply with the democratic process long enough for Egyptian liberals to get their act together and start winning elections. Let’s call this strategy reading Locke to the cannibal tribe. And it comes from the same people who thought El Baradei would be ushering in a new age of democracy in Egypt right about now.
Option 3. Back the Egyptian military and support their use of whatever means necessary to stay in power and exercise absolute power. Not a pretty sentence I know. It means backing the people behind the virginity tests and plenty of things uglier than that. It means doing what we were doing all along, backing Arab dictators who sneer at human rights and rob the country blind. It’s also the only option on the table.
Now I don’t just mean it’s the only option on the table if you’re worried about the rise of Islamists and the transformation of Egypt into another Iran. I mean it’s the only option that actually exists.
You can support the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian military, or El Baradei and a magic troop of dancing democracy gnomes, and the end result will still be another dictatorship backed by a secret police that terrorizes dissidents and robs the country blind. That’s the only form of government that exists across the Muslim world.
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