The world watches in fear and in hope as the mob rages in Egypt. American commentary has been rather optimistic, reflecting the democratic ideological assumptions of our land. Some journalists have even called the recent protests the Arab Tiananmen Square. That readily we confuse Arab Kotebists for Chinese anti-Communists should make us wary of our political senstivity and judgment.
Being no democrat myself and noting the likelihood of what “freedom” would mean for Egyptians, I think that a regime change would be quite ugly. Secular Arab nationalism has been problematic for the West, but at least it held Communism and jihadism at bay. For the most part, Copts in Egypt and Christian minorities in Syria and in Ba’athist Iraq have enjoyed far more freedom and security than their coreligionists elsewhere in the Dar al-Islam. Arab dictatorships were never truly friends of Western nations, but they have been allies of common interest in various conflicts. After imperial European rule, secular Arab nationalist regimes might be the best that we can get in the Mohammedan Middle East. If Egypt’s regime topples, its replacement will be worse.
Of course, the instability in Egypt harbors grave consequences for Israel. Barry Rubin notes the stakes in the Jerusalem Post: “Egypt crisis worst disaster since Iran’s revolution”. One would think that concern for Israel would be paramount for its American allies. After all, such allies are constantly attacked by their political enemies for being Jews only concerned about Jews or “ZOGs”—agents of a “Zionist Occupied Government.” You know—those dastardly neocons who get us into wars only to advance Israeli interests. Well, things are not so harmonious in the house that Irving built, as Jeffrey Goldberg notes in The Atlantic: “The Neocons Split with Israel over Egypt.” Goldberg observes that the neocons’ obsession with spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East has overriden their interest in Israel’s safety.
My main source in this crisis has been Lawrence Auster. For it is a perfect cocktail of his intellectual interests in that it concerns political stability, Israel, neoconservatives, the Mohammedan menace, and the contemporary West’s endemic inability to consider facts rather than its ideological commitments. For the last point, Auster commends Caroline Glick’s article on Real Clear Politics, “Clueless in Washington,” wherein Glick argues that the neoconservatives from the American Right and the anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist anti-Westerners from the American Left have both come to political agreement on the Egyptian crisis due to their own ideological blinders. The neoconservatives are championing democracy with the naive expectation that the fall of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime will result in a liberal, commercial republic that respects human rights. After all, all men hunger for freedom, right? The anti-colonialists always side with whatever movement seems farther removed from the West’s influence, even though such movements often result in misery and oppression for the Third World objects of Leftist compassion. Glick notes that both camps are driving our foreign policy while they handle the Egyptian crisis without regard to the facts, not to mention our national interests.
From View from the Right, see Auster’s posts “The ruinous alliance of neocons and leftists on the Egypt crisis,” “Is it true that the freedom-mad neocons have suddenly turned toward rationality?,” and “The Neocons Strike Back ... at Israel.” As a counterexample to Glick’s and Auster’s alliance of villains that are cheerleading catastrophe, leftist Richard Cohen in the Washington Post writes some sensible words, acknowledging his conflicted liberal soul: “A democratic Egypt or a state of hate?”
Majority rule is a worthwhile idea. But so, too, are respect for minorities, freedom of religion, the equality of women and adherence to treaties, such as the one with Israel, the only democracy in the region. It’s possible that the contemporary Islamists of Egypt think differently about these matters than did Qutb. If that’s the case, then there is no cause for concern. But Hamas in the Gaza Strip, although recently moderating its message, suggests otherwise. So does Iran.
Those Americans and others who cheer the mobs in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, who clamor for more robust anti-Mubarak statements from the Obama administration, would be wise to let Washington proceed slowly. Hosni Mubarak is history. He has stayed too long, been too recalcitrant - and, for good reason, let his fear of the future ossify the present. Egypt and the entire Middle East are on the verge of convulsing. America needs to be on the right side of human rights. But it also needs to be on the right side of history. This time, the two may not be the same.
It always fascinates me when Leftists demonstrate an ability to think clearly. I suppose that extreme circumstances, where the issue of survival surfaces and where there is no more room to dally with the decadent, luxurious vices that Leftists in wealthy, Western nations tolerate or support, even the eyes of fools must focus. Historian Benny Morris is a good example of how reality, hard and unrelenting, is the ultimate teacher for the most recalcitrant learners.