The victory in the referendum on the constitution is the fourth straight Muslim Brotherhood success — including the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak’s regime with army assistance, the parliamentary election and the presidential election — in the process of taking over Egypt for the long-term and fundamentally transforming it into a radical Islamist state.
This last victory should be sufficient to go all the way.
This event is also producing a new stage of Western rationalizations that whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and rationalize support for Islamists being in power.
It isn’t that the constitution, as many Salafists would have liked, explicitly mandates a revolutionary Sharia state. Rather, the constitution sets up a framework that will allow the Brotherhood to do so. Between the president and the constitution, the Brotherhood will now march through every institution and remake it. Judges will be appointed, school curricula rewritten, army generals appointed, and so on.
As the Brotherhood shows patience in carrying out this process of gaining total, permanent control, many in the West will interpret that as moderation. Said a Western diplomat in Cairo:
The problem with [President] Morsi isn’t whether he is Islamist or not, it is whether he is authoritarian.
Wow, talk about Western misunderstanding of the importance of ideology. Perhaps whether or not he is an Islamist — and of course he is — has something to do with his being authoritarian?
Since his goal is a Sharia state, then that is an authoritarian destination for which authoritarian means are considered acceptable and are in fact a necessity. One might as well insert the words Communist, fascist, or radical Arab nationalist for Islamist.
There are three factors involved here in setting Western policy: ignorance, a desire to avoid crises, and a foolish belief that having a radical regime in Egypt will moderate the extremists.
To add insult to injury — literally — the New York Times, which has continually portrayed the Brotherhood in glowing terms, now explains to its readers that the opposition has nothing to offer:
The leading opposition alternatives appeared no less authoritarian [than the Brotherhood]: Ahmed Shafik, who lost the presidential runoff, was a former Mubarak prime minister campaigning as a new strongman, and Hamdeen Sabahi, who narrowly missed the runoff, is a Nasserite who has talked of intervention by the military to unseat Mr. Morsi despite his election as president.
“The problem with ‘I told you so’ is the assumption that if things had turned out differently the outcome would be better, and I don’t see that,” the diplomat said, noting that the opposition to the draft constitution had hardly shown more respect than Mr. Morsi has for the norms of democracy or the rule of law. “There are no black hats and white hats here, there are no heroes and villains. Both sides are using underhanded tactics and both sides are using violence.”
This is disgraceful, a rationalization for failure or worse. The idea is that it really didn’t matter who won, because they are all the same — so why not a Muslim Brotherhood government with a powerful Salafist influence?
Any leader of Egypt is going to be a strongman. The question is: a strongman for what causes? And if people were talking about unseating the democratically elected Morsi, that’s because they view him as the equivalent for Egypt of some new Khomeini, a man who will drag Egypt into decades of repressive dictatorship and war.
I’ve often written of the weakness and political incompetence of the anti-Islamist forces, but these are courageous people fighting for a good cause. True, their side includes leftist and nationalist extremists. But should that be used to discredit them all when the Islamists are constantly whitewashed?
And for U.S. interests, it certainly does matter who wins. Extend this wrongheaded analogy: the Iranian Islamists are no worse than the shah; Saddam Hussein was no worse than the oligarchs who ran Iraq before it went radical in 1958; the current Islamist regime in Turkey is no worse than the high-handed Kemal Ataturk; one might have well had Communist regimes in South America rather than military dictatorships.