Mark Steyn on Egypt’s accelerating slide into reprimitivization:
Washington has spent six decades getting Egypt wrong, ever since the CIA insouciantly joined the coup against Farouk under the contemptuous name “Operation Fat F***er.” We sank billions into Mubarak’s Swiss bank accounts, and got nothing in return other than Mohammed Atta flying through the office window. Even in a multicultural age, liberal Americans casually assume that “developing countries” want to develop into something like a Western democracy. But Egypt only goes backwards. Princess Fawzia is best remembered in the Middle East as, briefly, the first consort of the late shah of Iran, whom she left in 1946 because she found Tehran hopelessly dull and provincial after bustling, modern, cosmopolitan Cairo. In our time, the notion of Egypt as “modern” is difficult to comprehend: According to the U.N., 91 percent of its women have undergone female genital mutilation — not because the state mandates it, but because the menfolk insist on it. Over half its citizenry subsists on less than two dollars a day. A rural population so inept it has to import its food, Egyptians live on the land, but can’t live off it.
Ninety years ago, Fuad I’s kingdom was a ramshackle Arab approximation of a Westminster constitutional monarchy: Even in its flaws and corruptions, it knew at least what respectable societies were supposed to aspire to. Nasser’s one-party state was worse, Mubarak’s one-man klepto-state worse still, and Morsi’s antidote to his predecessors worst of all — so far. You can measure the decay in a tale of two consorts. After she left the shah, Princess Fawzia served as the principal hostess of the Egyptian court. In tiara and off-the-shoulder gowns, she looks like a screen siren from Hollywood’s golden age — Hedy Lamarr, say, in Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945). Sixty years later, no Egyptian woman could walk through Cairo with bare shoulders without risking assault. President Morsi’s wife, Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, is his first cousin, and covered from head to toe. If you were a visiting foreign minister, you were instructed not to shake hands, or even look at her. If you did, you’d notice that the abaya-clad crone bore an odd resemblance to the mom of the incendiary Tsarnaev brothers. Eschewing the title first lady, she preferred to be known as “first servant.” Egypt’s first couple embodied only the parochial, inbred dead end of Islamic imperialism — what remains when all else is dead or fled.
Egypt is far from the only country in the Middle East whose “progress” happens to be progressing backwards, of course — and as Mark hints at the end of his article, the same can be said of America as well.
This wasn’t the 21st century I had envisioned. How ’bout you?
Related: “Does Turkey Know What Backward Is?”, asks Michael Rubin at Commentary. “When Egypt holds new elections, let us hope the process of democratization can continue. In the meantime, let us hope that the Turkish government recognizes that it is Turkey that has moved backward, away from the 21st century and headlong into the past.”