How’s That Democracy Thing Working For You? Egypt and the U.S. Face Reality

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

This is not looking good.

According to this report in The Wall Street Journal, the secular, pro-democracy movement in Egypt received a beat-down by the Egyptian military and ordinary Egyptian citizens who are increasingly backing the Army and Islamist groups like The Muslim Brotherhood.

CAIRO—Mobs of ordinary Egyptians joined with soldiers to drive pro-democracy protesters from their encampment in Tahrir Square here Monday, showing how far the uprising’s early heroes have fallen in the eyes of the public.

Six months after young, liberal activists helped lead the popular movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the hard core of these protesters was forcibly dispersed by the troops. Some Egyptians lined the street to applaud the army. Others ganged up on the activists as they retreated from the square that has come to symbolize the Arab Spring.

Squeezed between an assertive military and the country’s resurgent Islamist movement, many Internet-savvy, pro-democracy activists are finding it increasingly hard to remain relevant in a post-revolutionary Egypt that is struggling to overcome an economic crisis and restore law and order.

As if this is not bad enough the Muslim Brotherhood used this occasion to demonstrate its muscles, gathering “hundreds of thousands” to Tahrir Square a few days before:

Monday’s turmoil in Tahrir followed a massive Friday demonstration on the same square by hundreds of thousands of Islamists, who called for transforming Egypt into an Islamic state—and railed against the liberal and secular youths who had helped motivate millions to rise up against Mr. Mubarak.

The Islamists’ numbers dwarfed those of the activists who have re-occupied Cairo’s central square since July 8, criticizing the slow pace of reforms, calling for police accountability and pressing for speedier trials of Mr. Mubarak and his associates. The Tahrir sit-in was organized by the April 6 Movement, one of the uprising’s main planners, other youth groups and relatives of protesters killed in the weeks before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11.

The repercussions of an Islamist Egypt could hardly be worse.  Besides the obvious threat to Israel, there is every chance that Egypt could align itself closely with the increasingly Islamist Turkey and join what appears to be the makings of an Islamist Bloc including not just Turkey, but Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Gaza.

The timing could hardly be worse for U.S. interests.  Under the just-completed debt ceiling legislation, defense spending could be slashed with dire consequences for U.S. force-projection capabilities.  Compounding this is the ongoing refusal of the Obama Administration to take the choke-hold off of oil and gas leasing approvals, resulting in an increasing shortage of domestic production and ever-greater dependence on foreign oil.  Add to this the growing influence of China and Russia in the Middle East and the U.S. is facing the prospect of having very little influence in this critical part of the world at a time when we need it most.

Perhaps worst of all, the WSJ piece ends on a note that reverberates right here in the United States:

Unlike in previous skirmishes, the activists interviewed Monday didn’t allege to be the victims of thugs paid by the government.

“The people were beating us and helping the army,” said protester Mahmoud Abdallah, catching his breath in a side street off Tahrir as an army truck hauled away detainees. “The people don’t know what is good for them. They don’t have any awareness. They just want to make money.”

As he spoke, Tareq Shawky, a 42-year-old toilet equipment vendor, interrupted the conversation. He said he had heard about the army moving against the protesters, and drove to the square so he could help dismantle the encampment.

“The Egyptian citizen wants only two things—security and low prices,” Mr. Shawky shouted. “The millions of Egyptians will do anything that the army tells us to do.”

This is the bottom line, isn’t it?

When Government-provided security and subsidies become the paramount concern of citizens, then democracy no longer exists.  There are no, real limits on Government under this mindset.

Egypt seemed to be emerging from an authoritarian legacy with dreams of founding a new society where basic, human rights were protected and valued.   Sadly, it seems that most Egyptians care more for safety and free bread.

And here in the United States, in a little over 200 years, we have, generation by generation, bartered away our independence for Government promises of security and subsidies:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance,Pell grants, Minimum Wage, Farm subsidies, Ethanol subsidies… the list is endless.   Even when faced with imminent, national bankruptcy, the thought of any change whatsoever to these entitlements is unthinkable for most Americans.   To merely revise bargaining rights of a public employee union results in riots and the occupation of government buildings.

In the recent “crisis” over the debt ceiling, several polls showed that a lopsided majority of Americans wanted government to reduce spending, but not at the expense of any of their favorite programs.  There is only one place where this attitude leads:  systemic failure leading to societal collapse leading, inevitably, to authoritarianism.

But, hey, why let a little thing like financial collapse ruin the party?

  • http://www.firstcontactproject.org/ Warbucks

    I think the right side of history will prove to be for the US to embrace the Arab Spring regardless. We should be enabling the power of phones, internet and radio & underground t.v.- communications, even cultural exchanges in the form of movies (both ways), to insure these protests reach the free world. This chaotic unruly movement first has the power to purge decades of corruption so entrenched that no one knows what to do except occupy, bomb, shoot, and kill in response what some of us believe was a False Flag attack from the start. Good for the protesters if they can enjoy a month of liberty and we help enabled it. Let them topple these dictators with the power of transparency. Democracy is a messy affair that may even overrun would be future tyrants within the Arab Brotherhood. There’s no going back.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    But Rich, there are those of us who claim that there is no such thing as the “Arab Spring.” It’s only a creation of our overactive imaginations. Wish fulfillment. Something is going on, all right, but not quite what we think.

  • http://bit.ly/FirstContact3 Warbucks

    Nothing ever is what it seems. Sometimes each of us has to just run on gut instinct and my intuition is that tyrants will face new political realities bringing them down. No one knows how this is going to end. But if the Arabs truly want to retain their former place in the sciences, free trade, and industry as the great thinkers and innovators of their golden age, before Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), I think history will show the Arab youth are no different than us in their desires, once they taste even a moment of liberty and freedom and realize they can topple corrupt governments be they theocratic, or secular. They will eventually succeed.

  • TS Alfabet

    I am struck in all this by the contrast between the attitude expressed by the toilet equipment vendor (cited in the article) and the sentiments expressed by so many in the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

    The Egyptian summed up peoples’ feelings that they just wanted security and food and, so long as they had it, they would be willing to do whatever the government told them to do. This attitude ensures that a country will move only from one tyranny to the next. The oppressors may change, but the oppression will never cease.

    The sentiments expressed by Americans in 1776 were entirely different. “Give me liberty or give me death,” said Patrick Henry. Thomas Paine wrote: ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

    Similar sentiments can be found in the Civil War and in the 20th century as well.

    What is the so-called “Arab Spring” ? There certainly seem to be some groups of people in Egypt and Syria who are willing to die for a society that protects the rights of all and is secular in its outlook. See, for example, Michael Totten’s blog (http://pajamasmedia.com/michaeltotten/). Michael may be one of the very best journalists today who have lived and worked among the Arabs and have interviewed many of the people the Obama Administration seems to know so little about. But, in the end, it appears that the Islamists have the upper hand in Egypt. The U.S. should certainly support any group in Egypt or Syria or Libya (and especially Iran) that are legitimate friends of freedom, but we should be under no illusions about the basic, barbaric nature of Islamism and its hatred for liberty.

  • http://www.firstcontactproject.org/ Warbucks

    Point well taken TS. You do express yourself well. I like the rhythm of your words and the wisdom of your thoughts.

    Early Islam was much different from post Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) Islam. I listened to a number of scholars on this matter over the years. What we have today is an Islam in need of reformation, i.e. a working, functioning ability to actually criticize itself and correct error.

    Islamic Reformation is not pretty as it will likely be in sync with another round of Christian Reformation as to our always changing perception of the western idea (shared with Islam) of our own God-Head., i.e. our very definition of God. In Islam this nature might be referred to as the Sufi mystical non-dual nature of the Sufi’s oneness of all people, compared to the almighty being floating in the heavens above us comprising the dual nature of the God of Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. Christianity carries the same dual and non-dual elements, mystics and non-mystic mainstream. A people living within a duality based system of God are driven by fear and faith, a people based in a non-dual oneness can be driven by fear but tend to lose the terror of death as they perceive the world much differently.

    There is a strong willingness in the West to redefine God, and that definition seems more and more to take on characteristics of a more ancient and universal perception of God shared with the ancient world and blended with expanded scientific knowledge, harmonizing metaphysics with science and religion.

    I’m inclined to nonetheless enter this era with optimism that we will not be mislead if we choose the path of an ever extended hand of friendship and love to those among erstwhile enemies.

    In this regard such a path seems to require we constantly remind ourselves we are not at war with a people, we are instead a constant resistance force in an open and transparent and constitutional process against tyranny and repression and a supporter of the rule of law.

    All of this is ramping up all at the same time. Who knows how it all comes out? The barbarian nature of fundamentalist Islam of 2011 may be the love child movement of 2016. I believe the right side of history is to support the Arab Spring, enabling the power of phones, internet and radio & underground t.v.- communications, even cultural exchanges in the form of movies (both ways), to insure these protests reach the free world.


You are currently reading "How’s That Democracy Thing Working For You? Egypt and the U.S. Face Reality", entry #7342 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Egypt,Foreign Policy,Islamic Facism,Islamists and was published August 3rd, 2011 by Glen Tschirgi.

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