I love how some of my liberal friends are applauding the turmoil in Egypt and comparing it to the American Revolution. Except, Paul Revere wasn't a muezzin and TJ, George W. and Ben "C Note" Franklin weren't mullahs. A closer parallel could be drawn between Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is already claiming credit for the uprising's blueprint (never mind the difference between Sunna/Shi'a Islam, which can be sorted out later).
Hosni Mubarek's mortally wounded presidency is now popularly described as a corrupt, US-backed puppet regime that has kept a stranglehold on its huge, impoverished, illiterate population, trampling on human rights and systematically eliminating any opposition. The Western media has embraced this version, and has allowed anti-government entities to explain the riots to us. All the average Egyptian wants, we are told, is a voice and a chance to make a decent living.
Reasonable, right? After all, we're the descendants of people who fought and died for the same thing--and whose legacy is a government built on the Constitution.
But that's not what's really going on.
For one thing, during most of his presidency, Mubarek was not seen as a widely-loathed dictator who displayed the heads of his enemies on Cairo's city walls. He was seen as an honest man and an Egyptian patriot, if a bit heavy-handed in his response to silly little acts of mischief like terrorists blowing up cafes with nail bombs. Yes, his regime has regularly been called to task for violating human rights. And yes, that did solidify support for the "martyrs" who were caught, imprisoned, probably tortured and then executed for assassinating "apostates." But then, you don't bring tea and crumpets to a gun fight, and Mubarek can hardly be blamed for addressing the Islamists in the only language they understand.
Even before Mubarek came on the scene, Egyptian leadership has been in a life-or-death struggle against militant Islam, especially as manifested by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since the 1920's, later metastasizing into offshoots like Hamas, al-Qaida, and hundreds of other groups. The Brotherhood is dedicated to forming a worldwide Islamist society, where shariah will replace civil law. (I will go into more detail about the Brotherhood in another post.)
In countries where the Brotherhood or its spawn have gained a toehold, the strategy is this: they place themselves in opposition to the status quo, demand free elections, field a candidate, win the election, and then create an Islamic state. Government resistance, such as throwing out the results to those elections, results in war. (For a practical tutorial on this, read up on Algeria.)
Once the Islamist state has been established and acknowledged, the "free elections," "grassroots democratic ideals," and "social liberties for all" are quickly dispensed with.
Do people not pay attention? The Brotherhood could win an award for having the Least Hidden Agenda ever. They have never tried to disguise their intentions regarding political takeovers. They have always pursued their Islamist goals, with violence if necessary, but preferably by using the very elements developed by Western democracies--which are, by definition, built on the electoral process. As soon as the goal of Islamicization is achieved, democracy is no longer relevent.
It isn't hard to build popular support for Islamist groups, not when the county (in this case, Egypt) has a booming population and a shaky economy that can't keep the wolf from the door. Islamists who go to a village to build schools and clinics win a lot of friends. It's all PR: the government spends more on the infrastructure, but the Brothers get the credit. They also assume the authority to then "suggest" a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, which is why women in these areas go from Western attire to full covering, and not the other way around.
Mubarek has tried to modernize Egypt and improve her standard of living. He also has tried to accommodate Islam--not enough for the Brotherhood, but way too much where the moderate Muslims, and the Coptic Christians, are concerned. Islam is taught in the public schools, and the government funds Al-Azhar University (considered the leading school of Muslim thought in the world). He's walked a tightrope for a long time, but moderation in not what the Brotherhood wants. Unless Mubarek imposed shariah on all Egyptians and further marginalized anyone regarded as secular, he too is an enemy of Islam.
The events of the past week have been disturbing, and a lot of coverage has been devoted to anti-government vs. "pro-government" clashes. I think that's misleading: why would people fighting the anti-government forces be NECESSARILLY pro-government? If the anti-government forces are Islamist, maybe the crowds fighting them are anti-ISLAMIST.
No one seems to want to mention this, possibly because Obama's administration is now saying we should "re-examine" our policies regarding the Brotherhood. Now there's a thought! Why not re-examine our policies regarding al-Qaida? Maybe Obama can invite the Brotherhood's honchos to a "beer summit" like the one he hosted after the Henry Louis Gates debacle. (Not that the Brotherhood guys drink beer--maybe Biden can crack open a can of non-alcoholic O'Doul's.)
Here's what is going to happen in Egypt--et cetera--or possibly is happening at this very moment:
*Mubarek's government will be replaced by an Islamist entity. Whether the Brotherhood or its minions operating under another name will be calling the shots, the Brotherhood's policies will be put in place.
*Similar revolutions are already happening all over the Muslim world. These revolutions will plunge these countries into the 7th Century.
* Why should we care what happens in Egypt? Because Egypt, Israel, and the US have been each other's allies and, whatever flaws in those interactions, these three countries have provided what little stability there is in the Middle East.
* The Brotherhood is dedicated to wiping out Israel and has already hinted that force may be used against Israel.
*If that happens, war with Egypt is inevitable. We will have to defend Israel on both a moral and practical basis: she is our ally, but also, she is strategically important to us as the only democracy in the region.
*If the US falters in her support of Israel, there will be no stopping Islamism from bulldozing through the region and beyond, up into Europe and then on to the Americas. It is likely that the current administration here will try to address this through "dialogue." This will be perceived as weakness. It will fail.
I don't know if there's a solution to all of this. The only possible solution is for the US to explicitly throw our support behind Mubarek, but deploying troops to Egypt and propping up Mubarek's government would be hugely unpopular here, and it would be pointless unless the Islamists were firmly and decisively dealt with. It would also be a very short-term solution, and we would have to go after the Brotherhood and all its offshoots wherever they show up...that means criminalizing groups that have Islamist mandates, even if they promote themselves as "civil rights organizations" here in the US.
And for our own survival, that showdown will happen sooner or later.
So you might want to record the coverage of the riots in Egypt. That may well be the streets of Paris or London in about ten years....or for that matter, Washington DC.