The anti-Morsi, anti-Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore anti-Obama demonstrations in Egypt are the biggest in human history. It’s quite something, an historic event. Whatever the outcome, we should pay attention. What does it signify? Are we now in a new world? Has there been a paradigm shift? Does it portend similar huge protests elsewhere, even here in the USA? Does it require rethinking basic policy options? Or is it just an Egyptian thing, or maybe an “Arab street” thing?
If you’ve been following Spengler, as you should, you know that Egypt is a failed state, where there is a real danger of starvation, and it is tempting to describe the demonstrations as a reaction to misery, as an act of desperation.
No doubt that’s a big part of the monster demonstration. How could it not be? On the other hand, politics is an independent variable, and I think that, alongside those threatened with starvation, many Egyptians don’t want to become “the new Iran.” Those millions of Egyptians look to me more like “the people” — all classes, heterogeneous convictions, even multigender — than a sociological, political, or religious category.
Egypt under the fist of the Muslim Brotherhood was looking more and more like Khomeini’s vision of Islamic government, and millions of Egyptians don’t want to go there, let alone do that.
The Muslim Brotherhood organized its takeover of Egypt by following the same strategy as Hezbollah in Lebanon: offering social services the state was unable to provide, organizing the faithful and telling them that their government was failing because it was godless, and assuring them that Allah would bless a regime that followed his dictates. The Egyptians got the Brothers’ version of sharia, hence less freedom, alongside the hunger pains. The biggest demonstration in human history thus pits Sunni Muslim against Sunni Muslim, not Sunni against Shia, or Muslim against infidel.
The biggest demonstration in human history is a blow to Obama as well as a humiliation of Islamism. And you might expect Obama — who has favored the Muslim Brotherhood ever since he insisted they sit in the VIP seats at his Cairo speech to “the Muslim world” — to have worked out some sort of effective strategy for this crisis, which was not hard to foresee, and which was announced well in advance. So what did he do? True to his principles, the president is sticking with the Islamists. He’s even sent “crowd control” experts to Cairo to give advice to his pal Morsi (is there such a thing as an “expert” capable of “controlling” more than ten million people en masse? I don’t think so). He instructed his ambassador to lecture Egyptian Coptic Christians about the importance of supporting the Brothers, even though the Copts are being attacked in the streets and killed in their churches.
It’s reminiscent of the worst moments of the first Bush presidency, when George H.W.B. called on the Ukrainians to resist the temptations of independence and stick with the just-become-former-Soviets in his infamous “Chicken Kiev” speech. Like Bush The Elder, Obama is sticking with the tyrant he knows and likes, rather than rallying to the side of Morsi’s suffering people, who cheekily embrace American values, even as they express their contempt for an American leader who supports the Brotherhood.
Obama is hoping that Egypt 2013 will be a replay of Iran 2009, that the people will be crushed, and that the regime will survive.
History’s on his side. Most revolutions fail. On the other hand, tyrannies are the least stable form of government, and ours is a revolutionary epoch. The Muslim Brothers may well be the Bolsheviks of the Arab world, but they don’t have Lenin’s evil genius for enforcing their will on the masses, Kerensky didn’t have Twitter, and Morsi doesn’t have Felix Dzerzhinsky (Islamists don’t put Polish Jews at the head of the security service, so far as I know).
Time will tell, but Obama’s luck may have run out, both in Egypt and in Syria. His pals in the Brotherhood — and their Salafist fellow travellers — may crash and burn, and Bashar Assad — best thought of as the factotum of the Russian and Iranian tyrannical counter revolutionaries — may prevail over the “Syrian opposition.” And for extras, Obama’s close friend and advisor, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, is facing demonstrators against his Islamist government, which is increasingly stressed by economic and demographic stresses and strains.
Claire Berlinsky, who writes from Istanbul, should get a Pulitzer for her wonderfully informative and delightfully written accounts of events in Turkey for City Journal. Take this one, for example, in which she reports that “during the initial days of the crackdown, CNN Turkey aired a documentary about penguins precisely as the international media showed the chaos on Istanbul’s streets to the rest of the world.” Isn’t that terrific? And she goes on to compare it with the weak performance of the U.S. ambassdor in Ankara. Read the whole thing.
With all the excitement, it’s hard to tell who’s winning, even with a good score card, so let’s do a preliminary tally. In Syria, Obama’s supporting the largely Islamist opposition, and says “Assad must go.” In Egypt, he’s with the Islamist Morsi and the Brothers. In Turkey, he’s with the Islamist Erdogan. Can you spot a trend? They’re all radical ideologues who condemn the United States as a force for evil. (To be sure, the Syrian case offers no attractive “solution,” but that is largely because Obama failed to support the opposition when it was seemingly politically and religiously moderate). His guys are under siege, as is Obama himself, and not just in the Middle East.
His African expedition produced stern moral lectures about gay marriage from the presidents of Senegal and Kenya, and a cold fish in the face from Vladimir Putin, who trampled Obama at their latest get-together. The Russian president has thrown more cold fish regarding the Snowden affair.
Add it all up: embrace radical ideologues, abandon those who advocate greater freedom, and what do you get? Contempt, which Machiavelli tells us is the most dangerous reaction to any would-be leader.
Contempt is fully justified; Obama is constantly overtaken by events. “Leading from behind” is simply another way of admitting that this president doesn’t understand the dynamics that are roiling the world. Well, what did you expect from a product of our failed educational system? Our most prestigious colleges produce graduates who know very little about the real world; they get indoctrinated rather than educated. They are ignorant, yet they are firmly convinced that America is the root cause of the world’s problems, and they sing the false incantations of political correctness: that all cultures (except ours) are equally worthy of respect, and all men (except ours) are basically good.
You can find true believers in the dormitories of our best liberal arts universities, often side by side with their professors. One of them got himself elected president, and he is producing the ruinous results you’d expect from such a misguided worldview.
Unable to cope, incapable of leading, Obama is dragged along in the wake of a geopolitical tidal wave. He takes “credit” for whatever actually happens, and pretends that it’s a Good Thing. This worked for a while, thanks in large part to a sycophantic media and a pathetic opposition in Washington, but Obama’s dropping popularity suggests that time is now working against him. The world see through the fluff and feathers.
When the president of the United States only attracts a handful of admirers to hear him speak in Berlin, and gets booed in Soweto, you know that things are not going well.