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Roger’s Rules

Alfred E. Neuman in the driver’s seat

January 31st, 2011 - 5:35 am

The Obama administration has made one little-noticed but  deeply significant policy appointment recently: it has installed Alfred E. Neuman at the center of is decision-making process for the Middle East. “But wait,” you may be saying, “I thought his name was Bruce Riedel, late of the CIA, now advisor to Obama and scholar at the Brookings Institution for Triangulation, Appeasement, and Reasons to Blame America First?”

Between us, his name is Bruce Riedel. But just as two things that are equal to a third thing are also equal to each other, so Mr. Riedel is equal in wisdom and general outlook  to Mad Magazine’s house philosopher. He has enjoyed superior dentistry, but his motto is the same: “What, me worry?”

Everyone is nervously eyeing Egypt, wondering if strong man Hosni Mubarak will survive or whether he will be toppled by the multitude clamoring for  . . .  what exactly are they clamoring for?  Therein lies the rub.  Most responsible commentators, I would argue, worry that although “freedom,” “democracy,” and “self-determination” are on their lips, sharia and theocratic tyranny may well be in their hearts.

Mr. Riedel-Newman is having none of it. In a remarkable piece for the Daily Beast called “Don’t Fear the Muslim Brotherhood,” he assures readers that the Brotherhood has long since renounced violence and may well be the “most reasonable” option for Egypt. To listen to Mr. Riedel-Neuman, you would think that the Muslim Brotherhood was nearly indistinguishable from a Great Society social welfare program: “it has an enormous social-welfare infrastructure that provides cheap education and health care.” It even worked hard, according to Mr. Riedel-Neuman, to assure fair elections in Egypt last time around.

The truth about the Muslim Brother is somewhat — no, it is categorically different. Andrew McCarthy has a tart and illuminating rejoinder at NRO. Entitled “Fear the Muslim Brotherhood,” the essay injects welcome elements of historical context and political reality into the discussion. As Andy shows, Riedel-Neuman’s history “is selective to the point of parody. The Brotherhood did not suddenly become violent (or ‘more violent’) during World War II. It was violent from its origins two decades earlier. This fact — along with Egyptian Islamic society’s deep antipathy toward the West and its attraction to the Nazis’ virulent anti-Semitism — is what gradually beat European powers, especially Britain, into withdrawal.”

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