Democracy or More Dictatorship for Egypt?
by Eric Margolis: A
Gentle Voice of Reason for America
Egypt is celebrating
the first anniversary of its historic revolution that overthrew
the 30-year Mubarak dictatorship.
the reaction of the United States, the world’s most vociferous exponent
of democracy, to this important event and to the convening of Egypt’s
first democratically elected parliament has been muted, to say the
This is curious
and revealing. Many Americans still believe the Bush administration’s
claim that their nation went to war in Iraq to promote democracy
in the Mideast.
a quarter of the Arab world’s people. So here is a golden opportunity
to implant genuine democracy in the Mideast’s most important nation.
saw this myself, mixing with crowds of demonstrators in Egypt’s
historic uprising for freedom in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
best response Washington could muster to the most significant political
event in the Arab world since Gamal Abdel Nasser’s revolution in
1952 was a few half-hearted platitudes that further damaged America’s
already battered image in Egypt.
The first ever
fair, free vote in Egypt produced a landslide for Islamist parties
– as this author had predicted in his 2008 book on how the US rules
the Muslim world, "American Raj." Dr Ron Paul recently
named this book as one of three on his must-read list.
Muslim Brotherhood won some 48% of the vote, confirming it as the
primary voice of 81 million Egyptians. In North America, the Brotherhood
has long been wrongly branded an extremist, even terrorist organization
by the seriously misinformed. This view is not only wrong, but harmful
to US Mideast policy.
Brotherhood is made up primarily of middle class, middle-aged professionals:
doctors, engineers, lawyers. It is seriously stodgy and conservative.
Many younger Egyptians derided it as "your grandfather’s party."
It sits squarely in the middle of Egypt’s political spectrum.
political arm, its new Freedom and Justice Party, was patterned
on Turkey’s highly successful, Islamic-lite AK Party of Prime Minister
Recep Erdogan. Like Turkey’s AK, the Muslim Brotherhood is primarily
concerned with social justice, education, health and welfare, areas
almost totally neglected by the former Mubarak dictatorship.
So far, the
Brotherhood has said or done nothing to challenge the United States
or Europe except for calling for justice for the Palestinians. But
this, of course, was the primary reason why the US kept dictator
Husni Mubarak in power for thirty years: he secretly colluded with
and aided Israel, and maintained fierce opposition to US foes Iran
the Brotherhood has been in close contact with Egypt’s military
in a not so secret effort to work out a modus vivendi. An accord
between the two power centers is possible, provided the military
ends its repression and cedes some important powers to parliament.
Salafists won a quarter of the seats in the new People’s Assembly.
Relying on rural support, the Salafists want the nation run under
Koranic Sharia law, a view oppose by most urban Egyptians and the
nations nine million Coptic Christians.
Like the Brotherhood,
the Salafists and their Nour Party are almost entirely focused on
local issues. They may be unable to compromise with the more moderate
Brotherhood, and even become antagonistic.
In spite of
ardent support for Palestine, neither the Brotherhood nor al Nour
is calling for war with Israel. I didn’t meet a single Egyptian
who favored this idea.
quarter of the seats were won by the venerable, liberal Wafd Party,
and a small number of young, western-oriented independents, the
same Blackberry, iPhone generation who were originally ballyhooed
by the social-media infatuated western media as vanguards of Egypt’s
revolution. In the event, their influence was minimal.
The first job
of Egypt’s new parliament is the difficult task of naming a 100-member
panel to draft a new constitution that will then be validated by
a national referendum.
Even if parliament
achieves this task, it will then have to confront Egypt’s 500,000-man
military and equally numerous internal security forces. So far,
Egypt’s military, which is financed, armed and sustained by Washington,
has thrown former dictator Mubarak to the wolves to appease popular
anger, but it has barely given an inch on other key issues.
A year after
the Tahrir Square revolution, Egypt remains a brutal police state
where opponents of the regime and critics disappear, are tortured,
and jailed in the thousands. Male and female rape and savage beatings
remain standard punishments for protestors and bloggers. The military
and security forces still control much of the nation’s high ground,
including most of the media, academia, the courts and industry.
military has been used to ruling Egypt for two generations. The
generals own between a third and two thirds of Egypt’s key businesses
or real estate and enjoy lavish perks and a cushy lifestyle.
senior officers have been trained by the US, vetted by CIA, and
are joined at the hip to the Pentagon in much the same manner as
were Latin America’s generals in the 60’s and 70’s.
gives Egypt’s military $1.3 billion annually, controls its flow
of weapons and spare parts, and provides many tens of millions in
"black payments" to the military, security forces, and
feared intelligence service, the "Mukhabarat."
it’s difficult to see Egypt’s plutocratic military easily giving
up all of its political and economic power to a rowdy civilian parliament,
particularly when the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, France, Canada
and Israel are all quietly backing the military regime.
If the military
further cracks down on parliamentary forces, it will drive the opposition
underground and to violence. This is an outcome that will be a disaster
for Egyptians and foreign powers.
cause is best serve by encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood and the
development of real democracy in Egypt. Washington would be wise
to press its allies in the military to quickly cede power to a responsible
civilian government and relinquish the habit of governing. Otherwise,
Egypt’s military will face either a split in its ranks, as younger,
Nasserite-officers try to seize power, or a bloody urban guerilla
Egypt and its
foreign backers have an historic opportunity to achieve justice
and stability in a new Egypt. Hopefully, they will be wise enough
to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2012 Eric Margolis
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