Most articles about the Egyptian coup have focused on the conflict between Islam and democracy. They have analyzed the events by saying that the military was forced to overthrow the government of Mohamed Morsi because he had tried to institute an Islamist power grab.
Those who believe that liberal democracy is a panacea have been disappointed with the postscript to the Arab Spring.
Then again, as I have been saying and as Fraser Nelson points out in the London Telegraph today, the Arab world needs capitalism far more than it needs democracy. One thing is certain, the Islamist governments that have popped up around the Middle East are not going to promote capitalism.
David Brooks said it well in his column today:
It has become clear — in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere — that radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government. Many have absolutist, apocalyptic mind-sets. They have a strange fascination with a culture of death. “Dying for the sake of God is more sublime than anything,” declared one speaker at a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo on Tuesday.
So, perhaps we should not feel overly chagrined at the premature ending of the Morsi presidency.
The fall of Mohamed Morsi also exposes the errors of conventional American wisdom about foreign policy.
Caroline Glick has never been fooled by anyone’s conventional wisdom. Yesterday, she wrote:
The American foreign policy establishment's rush to romanticize as the Arab Spring the political instability that engulfed the Arab world following the self-immolation of a Tunisian peddler in December 2010 was perhaps the greatest demonstration ever given of the members of that establishment's utter cluelessness about the nature of Arab politics and society. Their enthusiastic embrace of protesters who have now brought down President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime indicates that it takes more than a complete repudiation of their core assumptions to convince them to abandon them.
For those who are still tempted to see the Egyptian coup in terms of a yearning for liberal democracy, David Goldman has, as always, tried to show us the reality on the ground. The Egyptian people turned against the Muslim Brotherhood because… they were starving.
Goldman had noted it previously and I have reported it on this blog.
Yesterday, Goldman said:
Starvation is the unstated subject of this week’s military coup. For the past several months, the bottom half of Egypt’s population has had little to eat besides government-subsidized bread, and now the bread supply is threatened by a shortage of imported wheat. Despite $8 billion of aid from Qatar and smidgens from Libya, Turkey, and others, Egypt is struggling to meet a financing gap of perhaps $20 billion a year, made worse by the collapse of its major cash earner — the tourist industry. Malnutrition is epidemic in the form of extreme protein deficiency in a country where 40% of the adult population is already “stunted” by poor diet, according to the World Food Program. It is not that hard to get 14 million people into the streets if there is nothing to eat at home.
Nearly half of Egyptians are illiterate. Seventy percent of them live on the land, yet the country imports half its food. Its only cash-earning industry, namely tourism, is in ruins. Sixty years of military dictatorship have left it with college graduates unfit for the world market, and a few t-shirt factories turning Asian polyester into cut-rate exports. It cannot feed itself and it cannot earn enough to feed itself, as I have explained in a series of recent articles. Someone has to subsidize them, or a lot of them will starve. Unlike Mexico, Egypt can’t ship its rural poor to industrial nations in the north.
By Goldman’s analysis, the Egyptian people turned to the military because they knew that the Saudis would offer financial aid. As the old saying goes… beggars can’t be choosy.
Egypt’s people embraced the military because they remember that the military used to feed them. In fact, the military probably can alleviate the food crisis, because — unlike the Muslim Brotherhood– Egypt’s generals should be able to count on the support of Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz congratulated Egypt’s military-appointed interim president on Wednesday night, while the United Arab Emirates expressed “satisfaction” at the course of events.
Like Glick, Goldman recommends that we get over our belief that we must honor the outcomes of all elections. The willingness of America’s foreign policy elite to endorse the Muslim Brotherhood was unseemly, to the point of being delusional.
No one should mourn the Brotherhood, a totalitarian organization with a Nazi past and an extreme anti-Semitic ideology.
The notion that this band of Jew-hating jihadi thugs might become the vehicle for a transition to a functioning Muslim democracy was perhaps the stupidest notion to circulate in Washington in living memory.
Obviously, the Obama administration foreign policy team is completely out of its depth. For having backed Morsi, it has lost its credibility with the Egyptian people. In the absence of effective American leadership, the Saudis, especially former ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, are now in charge:
In the Beltway, to be sure, the same folk on left and right who thought the “Arab Spring” would usher in a golden era of Muslim democracy are wringing their hands over the tragic fate of Egypt’s first democratically elected government. These include Republicans as well as Democrats, whom I qualified as “Dumb and Dumber” in a May 20 essay forTablet. The sequel — call it “Dumb and Dumberer” — is still playing on CNN and Fox News. No matter: the important matters are now in the competent hands of Prince Bandar, whose judgment I prefer to that of John Kerry or Susan Rice or John McCain any day of the week. The best-case scenario would be for the grown-ups in the region to ignore the blandishments of the Obama administration as well as the advice of the Republican establishment, and to do what they have to do regardless.
Given the importance of the crisis in Egypt, President Obama convened his National Security Council yesterday. Conspicuous by his absence was Secretary of State John Kerry.
Caroline Glick emphasizes that while Egypt was burning John Kerry was indulging in yet another fruitless effort to reconcile the Israelis and the Palestinians:
Secretary of State John Kerry was the personification of the incredible shrinkage of America this week as he maintained his obsessive focus on getting Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
In a Middle East engulfed by civil war, revolution and chronic instability, Israel is the only country at peace. The image of Kerry extolling his success in "narrowing the gaps" between Israel and the Palestinians before he boarded his airplane at Ben-Gurion Airport, as millions assembled to bring down the government of Egypt, is the image of a small, irrelevant America.
And as the anti-American posters in Tahrir Square this week showed, America's self-induced smallness is a tragedy that will harm the region and endanger the US.
It needs to be noted that while the Obama foreign policy team was working on the Egypt crisis, Secretary of State John Kerry was not there. He was in Nantucket on one of his yachts.
The Boston Herald reported a sighting:
Secretary of State John Kerry is spending a sun-splashed Fourth of July on Nantucket, even as a chaotic overthrow of the government rocks Egypt and continues to test diplomatic relations in Washington.
Kerry, who has a house and a yacht on the ritzy island getaway, was seen strolling down Federal Street away from July Fourth festivities on Main Street, a source told the Herald.
Some will say, with some justice, that it is better for John Kerry to be on vacation. He can do far less damage on his yacht than he can in the corridors of power.
Thanks to Barack Obama American influence in he world has diminished. Like a ship without a captain, a world without a leader is heading for trouble.