The PJ Tatler

David Brooks is mellow about post-Mubarak Egypt

One of the Paper of Record’s house conservatives reads the statistical tea leaves, then decides there’s not all that much to worry about if Egypt ousts Mubarak.

So I’ve been reading reports from the United Nations, the World Bank and other groups to see what they say about the strength of Egypt’s institutions. These reports give the impression that Egypt is a place where people are trying to lead normal, middle-class lives, but they are frustrated at every turn by overstaffed and lethargic bureaucracies.

For example, Egypt does a good job of getting kids to attend elementary school, high school and college. But the quality of the educational system is terrible, ranking 106th out of 131 nations in one measure. The U.N. Human Development Index, which is a broad measure of human capital and potential, ranks Egypt 101st out of 182 countries.

And so forth and so on. Since Mr. Brooks is evidently persuadable via statistics, let’s take a look at some that the Pew Foundation unearthed last year.  These stats and more are all wrapped up in this report by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Do you see what I see? In Egypt, about a third of the population recognizes that there’s an inter-Islamic sruggle between modernizers and hardliners, and of those who see that struggle, the majority side with the hardliners. In fact, Egypt’s percentage of hardliner-sympathizers is the largest out of all the surveyed countries.

Here’s another stat.

In addition to Pew’s numbers, Zogby finds that 92% of Egyptians consider the US and Israel the primary threats to their country. And that’s after decades of alliance with the US, and decades of peace with Israel.

It’s one thing to look at dry UN stats, quite another to look at hearts and minds. It’s the examination of hearts and minds in Egypt that leads me to be cautiously pessimistic about what is happening there.