Moreover, is Friedman correct, and Mursi wrong? Is the world really going to cut off the money to Egypt if it keeps getting more Islamist? Will the U.S. insist the IMF stop aiding the Egyptian regime, or even … stop sending it free weapons?
Aide: “President Obama! The Muslim Brotherhood is grabbing more power and not being inclusionary!”
Obama: “Jumping Saul Alinsky! We must cut off aid at once! Then he’ll learn that he must be open to the world in order to unleash Egypt’s potential for growth!”
But wait! Egypt doesn’t have a potential for economic growth. It isn’t going to happen. The country has too many people and not enough resources. What if Mursi knows that Egypt isn’t going to be the new China, with shining cities of high rises, factories pumping out consumer durables for export, and so on?
If he knows that there is no real chance for economic prosperity … maybe that is why he follows the policies he does! Might it be that Mursi knows more about Egypt than Friedman, or even Obama?
Perhaps Mursi could intimidate or blackmail those with oil and gas, as his predecessor Gamal Abdel Nasser did. And, after all, the Arab nationalists faced precisely the same problem as Mursi does, and yet stayed in office for 60 years. Yes, they had the USSR, but that hardly gave a lot of economic aid. Why can’t the Islamists run Egypt for the next 60 years?
Aide: “President Mursi! We must abandon Islamism! We can’t afford it!”
Mursi: “Oh well, I guess the IMF is more important than Allah. Mwa-ha-ha! Just kidding!”
If you know anything about societies like Egypt, you would understand that these societies have a lot of flexibility. People can get along with far less than in the West, and be a lot more passive in the face of suffering, because that’s the way they always had to live. This is a largely agricultural society. Some can go back to the villages, or be sustained by extended families, or tighten their belts. They have low expectations. And the “Arab Spring” has not changed that fact, at least for a majority. What proportion of the Egyptian public participated in those romanticized events before the Mubarak regime was overthrown in 2011? Say, 100,000 out of a population of 70 million?
And many of them were Muslim Brotherhood cadre.
The Egyptian people also know they face repression, and they have a deeply embedded ideology to comfort them and to drive them onward. And why are they so poor and miserable? It’s not Mursi, but America, the West, Israel, and now even the Saudis who are blamed for their suffering. Obviously, not everyone is going to believe this, but enough will — or will get bopped upside the head — to keep the regime in power. Wait until you see what’s going to happen in Syria as a new dictatorship takes control there as well.
The one ray of hope in Egypt is that there are now four Islamist parties: the Brotherhood, “moderates,” radical Salafi, and “moderate” (i.e., pro-regime) Salafi. If the democratic opposition wasn’t led by such a bunch of quarreling incompetent egomaniac politicians, there might actually be some hope of defeating Islamists in the parliamentary elections due in a few months.
This is all a tragedy for the poor victims in the Middle East, and a farce for the well-paid, much-honored careerist opportunists and ideologues in the West.
What’s so frustrating about this mess: not only are the policies so bad, not only is the permitted debate so narrow, but these people don’t even try to come up with logical arguments because they know they can get away with any old trash and still get applauded.