by Bruce Thornton
We don’t hear much anymore the breathless celebrations of Egyptian democracy that followed our abandonment of the creepy but reliable Hosni Mubarak. The “Facebook kids” who enchanted our media with their tech-savvy cool have been forgotten. It’s hard to find anymore the optimism of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who in Foreign Affairs called the Arab Spring a struggle for “democracy, dignity, economic opportunity, and involvement in the modern world.” Events in Egypt every day reveal that shortsighted enthusiasm to be singularly lacking in prudence, and almost delusional in its naïve understanding of genuine democracy. But our government continues to pretend that the Muslim Brothers running the show are democrats whose interests can align with ours.
As each day passes, the Muslim Brothers are consolidating their power and shaping a government that looks less and less like a liberal democracy. President Mohammed Morsi has removed a major check on his power, Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. He was the leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which had been running Egypt since Mubarak was ousted last February, and which countered the influence of the Islamists. Also sacked were his fellow council members, the acting chiefs of Egypt’s military branches. Morsi then annulled SCAF’s constitutional declarations that had kept Morsi from exercising legislative power. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the Muslim Brothers’ Morsi “now theoretically holds all the formal political power in the Arab world’s largest country. He can legislate, nominate members of the constitutional drafting committee, set foreign policy, and apparently shuffle the senior ranks of the military at will.”
Around the same time, Morsi went after newspapers that weren’t following the Muslim Brothers’ line. Editions of Al-Dustour, one of the few newspapers not run by the government, were removed from newsstands for “fueling sedition” and “harming the president through phrases and wording punishable by law,” according to Egypt’s official news agency. This follows the shutting down of a television network, el-Faraeen, and the Muslim Brothers-dominated parliament’s move to replace the editors of the state-run newspapers.
Finally, just a few days ago Morsi targeted the Egyptian judiciary, seeking to limit the courts’ power and remove anti-Islamist judges. The president of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, Sameh Ashour, pointed out the obvious intent behind Morsi’s actions: “These are monopolistic plans. The Brotherhood wants to control all aspects of the state.” The next step will be the drafting of a new constitution that will further emasculate the Supreme Constitutional Court, which has been an obstacle to the Muslim Brothers since Mubarak’s fall.
Of course, no one familiar with the Muslim Brothers’ aim to institute shari’a law in Egypt and, in the words of Muslim Brothers founder Hassan al Banna, to see “the Islamic banner . . . wave supreme over the human race,” will be surprised. Yet for the Obama administration, the mechanics of democratic elections trump the noxious ideology manipulating the machinery. Hence Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message to Morsi is that the United States is eager to “support the democratically elected government and to help make it a success in delivering results for the people of Egypt.” Clinton shows no awareness that the “results” the Muslim Brothers and their millions of supporters want to deliver are unlikely to be those compatible with liberal democracy and human rights. Similarly myopic is the invitation to the White House issued to a member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a notorious Egyptian terrorist outfit. State Department flack Victoria Nuland explained the visit by saying, “We have an interest in engaging a broad cross-section of Egyptians who are seeking to peacefully shape Egypt’s future.” Like her boss, Nuland seems oblivious to the sort of “future” the Muslim Brothers and other jihadists have in mind. She too should listen to al Banna, who wrote, “It is the nature of Islam to dominate not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations, and extend its power to the entire planet.”A similar blindness to reality lies behind the invitation to Morsi to visit the White House in September, which came right after the Muslim Brothers’ “Supreme Guide,” Muhammed Badi, in a Friday sermon preached “the necessity for every Muslim to strive to save al-Quds [Jerusalem] from the hands of the rapists [Israelis] and to cleanse Palestine from the clutches of the occupation, deeming this an individual duty for all Muslims,” as the Freedom Center’s Raymond Ibrahim has reported. Nor does Badi leave vague the means for achieving this aim: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.” And this “improvement and change” involves not just the destruction of Israel, but the institution of a global caliphate that will lead to Islam’s “mastership of the world.”
So it is that the United States is abetting an expansionist, illiberal ideology that openly proclaims its willingness to use violence to achieve its aims. We are legitimizing a regime that threatens our closest ally in the region by ending the cold peace with Israel that has left her southern border relatively secure for over 30 years, and emboldening the terrorist Hamas organization that runs Gaza and rains down missiles on Israeli towns and cities. We are turning our backs on 10 million Coptic Christians who already are being marginalized, threatened, brutalized, and murdered by Muslims. And we continue to finance, to the tune of $1.3 billion a year, a regime fired up by an ideology that hates us and everything we stand for. We’re not just selling the jihadists the rope they will use to hang us––we’re giving it to them for free.
What is astonishing about this inability to see past the pleasing banners of “freedom” and “democracy” is that this mistake has been made many times before. Moreover, we were warned against it over 200 years ago, by Edmund Burke in his classic Reflections on the Revolution in France. Like today’s enthusiasts for the “Arab Spring,” many in Europe back then were seduced by the cries of “liberty, fraternity, equality” coming from those who unleashed the horrific violence of the Terror and plunged Europe into a continent-wide war. Burke’s warning against such imprudent support still resonates today: “The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate, insulated, private men, but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Considerate people, before they declare themselves, will observe the use which is made of power, and particularly of so trying a thing as new power in new persons of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions they have little or no experience.”
Our own failure to heed this advice is all the worse because we do have experience of the “principles and tempers” of the Muslim Brothers and the other jihadist outfits whom we are supporting and financing. We can only wonder what it will take before we accept that the Islamists are acquiring power to do exactly what they’ve been telling us they intend to do––“see the Islamic banner wave supreme over the human race.”
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