It’s surprising to realize that the phrase “one man, one vote, one time” was initially a slogan for electoral reform; meant as the opposite to the slogan “vote early and often” which is now the beau ideal of liberals. “One man, one vote, one time” has now come to symbolize the cynical process by which strongmen use the democratic process to end it; using the vote to abolish voting. The principal has been restated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan as “democracy is just a tool, not the aim. Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.”
The Egyptian President has reached the stop. Or in the words of Mohammed Morsi, the man from the Muslim Brotherhood who was hailed by the administration as the harbinger of democracy and savior of the peace in Gaza, “political stability, social stability and economic stability are what I want and that is what I am working for. I have always been, and still am, and will always be, God willing, with the pulse of the people, what the people want, with clear legitimacy.”
He was referring of course to his assumption of dictatorial powers over Egypt. In the purple prose of the surprised Guardian. “A febrile and polarised Egypt turned on itself on Friday as widespread protests spread across the country pitting supporters of the Islamist president Mohamed Morsi against his political opponents over a controversial new decree granting him extensive new powers.” No one else was astonished. The words of the Guardian can be translated as ‘we on the Left thought the Muslim Brotherhood were Democrats. How foolish of the Egyptians to believe it.’
Now the judiciary will be ‘cleansed’. Morsi’s edicts are beyond judicial review. His powers are unlimited. As the AP puts it:
All laws and decisions by the president are final, cannot be appealed, overturned or halted by the courts or other bodies …
The president can take any steps or measures necessary to prevent threats to “the revolution, the life of the nation or national unity and security” or to the functioning of state institutions …
A new judiciary body of “protection of the revolution” is created to reopen investigations, prosecutions and trials of former regime officials, including ousted President Hosni Mubarak, for the killing of protesters during last year’s uprising.
In a word Morsi is the very kind of dictator which President Obama so vehemently denounced in Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian President had the decency to delay raising the Jolly Roger until he received billions in aid from the West via the IMF and until he had received billions in military aid from the most far-seeing administration in American history.
Yet all that Obama has changed by his touted “leading from behind” is in replacing one strongman friendly to the United States with a strongman opposed to it. The administration has the temerity to call this smart diplomacy. It is also another milestone on the road to a catastrophe in the Middle East.
Under his watch the Middle East has fallen apart. In fairness, perhaps it was going to do so anyway. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria. The Kurds at daggers drawn with Baghdad. The Iranians on the verge of a nuclear bomb. Hamas in Gaza newly rewarded with a sanctuary. Yet in the view of the administration things have never been better; peace has never been closer. No administration has ever thought itself more enlightened.
But perhaps the better word is blinded. The Middle East is a powderkeg. Egypt is on the verge of running out of both money and food. Morsi’s pharaonic scepter is cardboard, bought and paid for by the Obama administration. Libya is now overrun by al-Qaeda rebels, who whenever they are inflamed by videos produced by unknowns in LA, overrun the odd American diplomatic facility. Jordan is rocking on its foundations. Syria is already engulfed in civil war.
None of these things have happened suddenly. But with a breathtaking dishonesty each disaster has been represented as progress towards democratic peace; tokens of intelligent diplomacy when they were the very opposite: a terrible march to catastrophe orchestrated by a dishonest and ultimately incompetent administration.
It will be recalled how Hillary Clinton reassured the public of Morsi’s democratic bona fides when he purged the Egyptian army. “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met on Sunday with Egypt’s military chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and urged him to work with the country’s new Islamist leaders on a full transition to civilian rule. … But with the U.S. having already approved yet another massive delivery of military aid, it was unclear what leverage the Obama administration has as it seeks to stabilize Egypt and build a new relationship with America’s once ironclad Arab ally.” And what a package it was.
In 2011, the U.S. gave over $1.3 billion in military aid to the Egyptian government. According to the Congressional Research Service, 30 percent of the aid package to Egypt is typically dedicated to the development of new weapons systems…
Egypt also receives “hundreds of millions of dollars” a year in Excess Defense Articles, or military hardware that the U.S. no longer needs. In 2008, the U.S. sent 300 “excess” Chaparral Missiles to the Egyptian military; in 2006, it sent two Continuous Wave Acquisition Radar systems and a missile transporter. The U.S. doesn’t just give the Egyptian military its obsolete weapons — it helps the country produce new weapons as well. The M1A1 Abrams Tank (which has been replaced by the next-generation M1A2 in America’s armored corps) is assembled and partly produced in Cairo, with the help of U.S. personnel and contractors.
But the relationship goes beyond hardware, research, and production. The U.S. and Egyptian military engage in extensive bilateral training operations, including Bright Star, a program that the Congressional Research Service describes as “a multinational training exercise … that helps foster the interoperability of U.S. and Egyptian forces and provides specialized training opportunities for U.S. Central Command Forces (CENTCOM) in the Middle East.” The Egyptians also have the unusual ability to keep the monetary component of their military aid in an interest-bearing American bank account.
Congressional leaders warned at the time award of aid of the dangers inherent in the deal. But they went unheeded probably because the critics did not have the nice coiffure, expensive suits and scripted demeanor that some associate with sophistication.
What did Hillary promise Morsi as a reward for getting Obama off the hook on Gaza?
As the election showed, many in the public continue to believe that the administration is idealistically pursuing a program of peace. What it may really be embarked upon is a policy of buying off American enemies for temporary political gain. It was a case of anything to help Obama win in 2012. Now comes the anything.
One of probable reasons why the debacle in Benghazi had been downplayed, why Susan Rice lied famously to the public and why the danger signals were so fecklessly ignored was because nobody dared point out the increasingly obvious: the administration’s policy has been foolishness on a scale matched only by its vanity.