Sunday’s massacre of protesting Copts is heartbreaking; from the initial reports, several thousand Christians marched to protest the military government’s blind eye towards Muslim violence when they were “were attacked by thugs carrying swords and clubs,” according to one Copt. The Egyptian government says that the Christian protesters began firing live ammunition at soldiers. That stretches credibility.
Meanwhile, according to today’s summary of the Egyptian press:
The state-owned [newspaper] Al-Dostour reports on an “insane” increase in the prices of commodities and services that has left citizens “screaming,” presumably in despair. In its report, Al-Dostour claims that the “current state of lawlessness has left merchants and businesses with no supervision,” giving them free reign to raise prices without fear of repercussion. After a string of powerful metaphors depicting consumers as helpless prey in the grips of some fiercer yet unspecified predator, the report turns into an onslaught of numbers and percentages – food products up 80 percent since January of this year, LE7 for a kilo of sugar and LE13.75 for a liter of vegetable oil, 50 percent increase in the price of flour and LE22 for a kilo of duck meat, and on and on. LE9 for a kilo of humus, too.
No-one appears in charge. Central bank foreign exchange reserves are down to just $19 billion, or four months’ imports, the Financial Times reported last week. “After negotiating a loan from the International Monetary Fund, the military council decided to scrap it, partly on fears of popular criticism – the IMF has a negative reputation in Egypt because of its association with harsh structural adjustment programmes. In addition, only $500m of some $7bn of promised aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have arrived so far.”
Egypt literally will run out of food. It imports half its caloric consumption, mainly wheat (although Egyptians eat less wheat than Iranians, Moroccans, Canadians, Turks and Russians). Egypt spends $5.5 billion a year on food subsidies. Its social solidarity minister wants to change the system (which subsidizes some people who can afford to pay more than the penny a loaf the government charges), but seems deeply confused. “‘We need to change consumer habits so that we are not consuming so much bread. In Mexico, for example, they rely more on potatoes. Why can’t we start shifting toward that?’said Saad Nassar, adviser to the agriculture minister.” Mr. Nassar seems unaware that Mexicans eat more corn than wheat or potatoes. This discussion would be comical if not for the fact that Egypt is about to run out of money to pay for any sort of food.
It does not appear to be a source of comfort that the Egyptian army is in charge. This is an institution whose Golden Rule is: “Don’t report bad news up the chain of command.” One recalls the June 1967 debacle, when President Nasser and his top generals had no idea how badly they had been beaten until days after the events because no-one in the field would tell them.
I have been warning since Feb. 2 that the so-called Arab Spring represented the terminal convulsions of a doomed society. It seems eons since The Weekly Standard complained last April about “grudging” support for Arab democracy, arguing that “the Arab Spring deserves to be greeted with enthusiasm and support.” The Arabs might even be an inspiration to us: “Helping the Arab Spring through to fruition might contribute to an American Spring, one of renewed pride in our country and confidence in the cause of liberty.”
Meanwhile, we can’t punish Pakistan for sponsoring an attack on America’s embassy in Kabul because we supposedly need Pakistan to help us stabilize Afghanistan. And Nouri Maliki, the leader of the supposed Iraqi democracy we spent a trillion dollars and 4,000 lives to put in place, is backing the Assad regime in alliance with Iran. We can’t attack Iran to neutralize its nuclear weapons program because that might destabilize Iraq (which seems an odd concern given that Iraq is an Iranian ally).
The problem is the faulty premise that American ingenuity, blood, and treasure could stabilize the Muslim world by building democracy. That premise is exploding in every single theater one cares to mention: Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Stability is a mirage in the Muslim world. Instability, though, can benefit American security interests, and under certain conditions we should actively destabilize hostile entities rather than attempt to stabilize them.
That’s why I wrote How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too).