Monday, February 28, 2011


"To Jerusalem We go, for us to be the Martyrs of the Millions."

Revolutions are funny things. Consider the perception of revolution on the left and on the right. The left tends to romanticize revolution and embrace it as a wonderful means of achieving victory and justice. They often idealize the concept as a golden era of achievement and equalizing unfair circumstances, of the oppressed overthrowing the oppressor, and of the weak being empowered.

Meanwhile the right tends to be suspicious of revolutions. Almost none end well for the people involved, often ending up with a situation as bad or worse than the one it replaced. The litany of miserable, horrific revolutions is long and well known with examples such as China, Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, and France. Eventually, with enough time, France ended up being better off, but not from revolution as the root cause.

Conservatives by nature are happy to see people longing to and reaching out to embrace liberty, but fear that quick change rarely works and that the people who are great at leading revolution are rarely good at running a country when they've won. So while the left was overjoyed watching the Egyptian people rise up and fight for liberty, the right was more cautious in its praise.

The legacy media tended to brush over, ignore, or downplay the bad side of events, and leftist leaders tended to treat real concerns with a shrug, even to the point of President Obama's intelligence chief claiming that the Islamic Brotherhood is mostly secular in its outlook and non violent. He later claimed he hadn't studied the data and got his ideas from watching TV reports of Egypt.

Conservative pundits and writers spoke of hopes that Egypt would be truly free and not taken over by radical Islam like Iran before it - a country which was quite similar in situation to Egypt and whose revolution had much the same character. The left mocks this and acts like the right doesn't care for democracy and change, being so very conservative.

Now that Hosni Mubarak is out of power and the army is in charge, the press has largely moved on to other areas, such as Libya. What is happening in Egypt these days? Here's a few stories to give some impressions.

First we learn that the Muslim forces and even the ruling Army are attacking Coptic Christians. This is nothing new, as the Copts have dealt with anger, hate, and violence for centuries in Egypt:
For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army's use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday's army attack.

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.

"When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen," said Monk Ava Bishoy. "Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest."

The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.

Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. "The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying 'Lord have mercy' without running away. This is what really upset them," he said. "As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting 'Allahu Akbar' and 'Victory, Victory'."

He also added that the army prevented the monastery's car from taking the injured to hospital.
This is just one such example. During the rioting and revolt, some Muslims took advantage of the chaos to loot, attack, and kill Coptic Christians and their places of worship.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Army is not putting up with any dissent. Egyptians took to the streets again, trying to pressure the interim government to guarantee the liberties they revolted for to begin with. The military responded:
But by early Saturday, the military made it clear there would be limits to further dissent as soldiers and plainclothes security officers moved into the square, beating protesters and tearing down their tents, witnesses said.

In a day that had begun with equal parts carnival and anti-government demonstration, protesters’ called for the quick cancellation of the Emergency Law, which for three decades has allowed detentions without trial, and the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general appointed by Mr. Mubarak days before he stepped down.
Salma Said was asleep in a tent when it began to fall down on top of her. Outside people were screaming, and she emerged to see people being beaten by soldiers and armed plainclothes security officers wearing masks.

“They had their faces covered like criminals,” she said, “They only showed their eyes.”

“One of the officers threatened to shoot us and said he was going to set our tent on fire,” she said.
The military tried to stay neutral earlier, but now they are in power, they aren't putting up with any disagreement.

Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi was exiled by the Mubarak regime for being too inflammatory, anti-Semetic, and radical. He has returned, and is no more moderate than before. Meanwhile, common TV interviewee and "face of the new Egypt," Google employee Wael Ghonim tried to speak about a moderate, modern Egypt and was kept off the stage by al-Qaradwi's security forces.

Some fear that Qaradawi is Egypt's Khomeni, who took over Iran and turned it to radical Islam. The problem, as renowned and respected Middle East Historian Bernard Lewis explains:
Lewis, 94, set out his thinking on the current Middle East ferment in a conversation with me before an invited audience at the home of the US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, a few days ago. Excerpts:

Does the current wave of protest in the region indicate that, in fact, the Arab masses do want democracy? And is that what we’re going to see unfolding now?

The Arab masses certainly want change. And they want improvement. But when you say do they want democracy, that’s a more difficult question to answer. What does “democracy” mean? It’s a word that’s used with very different meanings, even in different parts of the Western world. And it’s a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world.
This happened again and again and again. You win an election because an election is forced on the country. But it is seen as a one-way street. Most of the countries in the region are not yet ready for elections.

Yet in Egypt now, for example, the assumption is that we’re proceeding toward elections in September and that seems to be what the West is inclined to encourage.

I would view that with mistrust and apprehension. If there’s a genuinely free election – assuming that such a thing could happen – the religious parties have an immediate advantage. First, they have a network of communication through the preacher and the mosque which no other political tendency can hope to equal. Second, they use familiar language. The language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses.

In genuinely fair and free elections, [the Muslim parties] are very likely to win and I think that would be a disaster. A much better course would be a gradual development of democracy, not through general elections, but rather through local self-governing institutions. For that, there is a real tradition in the region.
President Bush pushed hard for democracy and freedom for the people of the middle east, believing that if they were truly free, then the radical segments of Islam would lose their power and influence and the problem of terrorism could be done away with from within. This was part of his three-pronged doctrine: destroy the ability of terrorists to wage global war, intimidate their supporters into backing off, and democratize the hotbeds of terrorism from within.

However, the Bush era programs and efforts were either ended or slashed in spending once President Obama took office, leaving them unable to continue working and the revolutions to take place without assistance and guidance from nations who do have such a history and concept in them. It isn't that these areas cannot be free or self-governed, its that they aren't ready yet and need help achieving that. Without that assistance, they all too easily will fall into the very familiar pattern of another strong man, another tyrant, but this time a Muslim one.

For the pattern of how this works out, consider the palestinian settlements, where when Hamas took power the people were told that they were Muslim but would let people live as they wished. Now, that has changed, and Hamas is beating and imprisoning people who dare vary from their idea of Muslim life. Even if they started out honestly meaning not to do this, their radical faith requires it, in the end.


Philip said...

President Bush pushed hard for democracy and freedom for the people of the middle east...However, the Bush era programs and efforts were either ended or slashed in spending once President Obama took office, leaving them unable to continue working and the revolutions to take place without assistance and guidance from nations who do have such a history and concept in them.

Okay, I'm at a loss here. Some weeks back, you pilloried President Bush for 'unconstitutionally' spending money to ensure Egypt's elections were "nice" and you praised President Obama for cutting those programs. Now there's the above posting.

How do you square blasting him for unconstitutionally spending money that's to ensure that Egypt's elections were held correctly (or as you termed it, "nice") with "assistance and guidance from nations who do have such a history and concept in them"?

Christopher Taylor said...

I can agree with an action in principle and its positive results while realizing it was unconstitutional and hence illegal.

Once the work had been done, it started to bear fruit, and then the rug was pulled out from under the peoples' feet; that is worse than having done nothing at all. I agree in principle with defunding unconstitutional legislation but that's never without a cost.

That's why we should never start doing it in the first place.