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Rubin Reports

Egypt Democratically Adopts an Anti-Western Dictatorship

December 17th, 2012 - 8:07 am

It might not sound nice to some people, but the main task of Western diplomats is not to worship democracy, but to try to promote behavior in other governments favorable to their own country’s interests. In those terms, Mubarak or Shafik is better than Morsi. And since Morsi doesn’t even stand for real democracy, the choice is even more obvious.

And there is a dire implication here: if there is no real democratic opposition, then the United States doesn’t have to help it. Is this principle thus extended to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia? Are Islamists the only alternative, or to put it in a slightly less obviously objectionable way, should we accept and even help Islamists because everyone is the same?

Wow, has the Western elite lost its way.

There is so little sense of who is a friend and who is an enemy, the lesser of two evils, the strategic interests of their own country that one can only despair of any lessons being learned from experience.

It’s ironic that Obama has spent so much time talking about how past U.S. support for pro-American dictators has been a mistake that led to a legacy of crisis, when he is now supporting an anti-American dictator.

The argument presented by U.S. officials — that compromise is in the Brotherhood’s interest — is laughable. Do people in Washington know what the Brotherhood wants, and the conditions in Egypt, better than the Brotherhood leadership? We have seen this same mistake made many times before by Western governments and editorial writers, this lecturing of a radical regime that it would accomplish more by being totally different.

What is most disturbing is not that the Obama administration is supporting this regime — which is bad enough — but that it is not even suspicious of the Egyptian government’s intentions and behavior. It thinks the Brotherhood is going to curb the Salafists while it actually uses them as storm troops. And so, in the coming months, we will see more obfuscations and apologies about Cairo’s behavior.

The sad truth is that it is too late for U.S. leverage — which the Obama administration doesn’t want to use anyway — to have an impact. The Brotherhood is already in power. If the United States gives it money and support, the Brotherhood will use that to consolidate its rule while mobilizing the people against the United States. If Washington doesn’t, the Brotherhood will then mobilize the people even more effectively in that way. A U.S. policy coddling the regime will be seen as the weak and stupid response of enemies; a tougher policy will be portrayed as hostile.

True, if Obama doles out money and military equipment to the regime with conditions and slowly, Morsi has an incentive to go slower and more carefully. Yet it also strengthens the regime’s ability to fulfill its goals and to entrench itself in power. But the army isn’t going to do anything against the regime even though, at this point, it will not repress the opposition for Morsi. The Islamists aren’t going to be won over by the United States. And Obama isn’t going to be serious about using pressure except for meaningless statements and phone calls. The administration will speak nice language about protecting women’s and minority (Christian) rights while it looks the other way when these are violated.

Understandably, the democratic opposition — like its counterparts in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iran — has leared that the United States will not help them. As one sign at a demonstration put it: “Obama: Our dictator is your bitch.” One day, decades in the future, an American president might be apologizing to Egyptians for a U.S. policy that backed a repressive Islamist regime in their country.

What are the next steps for Morsi? To out-wait the opposition demonstrations, which might well diminish since the constitution is now an established fact; to begin the transformation of Egypt’s institutions; and to figure out how to handle the problem of parliament. Can he reinstate the results of the earlier election — with a 75 percent Islamist majority — or will he have to hold a new vote next year that might yield a much smaller majority?

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