Saturday, July 30, 2011

News from the Arab Summer

Events in the Middle East have moved off the front pages of our newspapers. The fearless pundits who gloried in the advent of secular, liberal Arab democracy have moved on to other causes.

After all, liberal democracy is not breaking out in our new friend, Syria. The situation in Yemen has not gotten very much better. Iran has increased its influence in the region. Turmoil is sweeping the region, and that is probably not a good thing.

In the places where it is not being suppressed, the Arab Spring seems more likely to be seen as a stepping stone to Islamism than a move toward liberal democracy. Even Turkey seems to be on a path to Islamism.

Anyone who is surprised has not been paying attention.

Remember when Tom Friedman and Nick Kristof were camped out in Tahrir Square inhaling the winds of liberal democracy? Remember when Lara Logan was reporting from the same Tahrir Square... better yet, let’s not think about that.

When today’s media shows such a marked disinterest in events that are vitally important to America’s national interest, it can only mean one thing. The situation is getting worse.

Since the mainstream media has largely become an arm of the Obama re-election campaign, it does not report stories that show our intrepid commander-in-chief in a less than flattering light. If it does, it buries them in places where normal citizens would never look.

A few months ago, fresh from his shoot-out with Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama decided that it would be politically beneficial to oust the Libyan dictator.

He assembled an alliance of NATO countries and declared a time-limited, scope-limited military operation to rid Libya of Moammar Qaddafi. Then we could install a new government, led by rebels. We did not really know who the rebels were or what they stood for, but everyone loves a rebel, don’t you think?

As always, Obama was not implementing policy. He was directing a grand theatrical production: The Fall of the Evil Dictator, Part 2. Or was it, Part 3.

With Obama, it’s the drama, stupid.

Anyway, the situation in Libya has dropped off of the front pages. This means that the war is not going very well. Admiral Mullen called it a “stalemate.” The French and the British have softened their demands that Qaddafi leave the country.

Those bright-eyed optimists who believed that a few missiles and rockets would cause the dictator to fold up his tents and turn himself in to the International Criminal Court in the Hague have been proven wrong.

Unless we get lucky enough to eliminate the dictator, you will be hearing less and less about Libya.

As Mark Steyn writes: “The Libyan war never caught the imagination of the American public, even though you're paying for most of it. But in Tehran and Moscow and Beijing they're following it. And they regard it as a useful preview of the post-American world. Absent American will, even a tin-pot desert drag queen can stand up to the great powers and survive. The lesson of Obama's half-hearted little war isn't lost in the chancelleries of America's enemies.”

Life goes on, regardless of whether the mainstream media decides that it is worthy of our attention.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the situation is not very good. Things are taking a turn toward Islamism.

To its credit, the New York Times is reporting the story. It’s not good news.

Anthony Shadid opens his story with an ominous observation: “Tens of thousands of Egyptian Islamists poured into Tahrir Square on Friday calling for a state bound by strict religious law and delivering a persuasive show of force in a turbulent country showing deep divisions and growing signs of polarization.”

If you believe truly in the historical dialectic, you might find this to be an encouraging sign. After all, the Egyptian people are expressing themselves freely in their nation’s central square.

If you have not drunk the dialectical Kool-Aid, you should be able to recognize that some socio-cultural and political groups should be suppressed.

As we know, serious intellectuals do not think this way. They like to see vigorous and open public debate. They like to think that History is being directed by a really big Idea... the oppressed masses rebelling against oppression.

When the open debate leads to a situation where debate and dissent are outlawed, these great intellectuals go scurrying back to into their tents.

The tens of thousands of people who assembled on Tahrir Square last Friday were not crying out for secular, liberal democracy, the kind that brings warm feelings to the heart of Tom Friedman. Not at all. They want to suppress anything that resembles democratic freedom, and secular liberalism.

Who knew?

The New York Times describes the situation well: “After days of negotiations between the rival factions, the demonstration Friday had been billed as a show of national unity, but adherents to a spectrum of religious movements — from the most puritan and conservative, known as Salafists, to the comparatively more moderate Muslim Brotherhood — vastly outnumbered other voices in a sun-drenched Tahrir Square. The numbers of Salafists, in particular, represented the most definitive declaration yet that they represent a formidable force in Egyptian politics, riding an ascent since the revolution that has surprised and unnerved many secular and liberal activists — and poses new challenges to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Link here.

Happily the Times labels the Muslim Brotherhood: “comparatively more moderate.”

This same Muslim Brotherhood worked hard to support Nazi Germany during the 1940s and has a long history of terrorism. Yet, our government is now willing to deal with it, because the administration, led by those two great foreign policy mavens, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, has decided that the Muslim Brotherhood is a force for moderation.

How do they know this? Well, Tom Friedman traveled to Cairo a while back and met with its leaders in person. And Friedman liked what he saw. He went on the Charley Rose Show and declared that these people were fine citizens, moderates he could relate to, not at all to be feared.

There you have it. Forget its history, forget what it stands for, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were nice to Tom Friedman... ergo, they must be liberal democrats, good people we can deal with. Certainly, a lot easier to deal with than the Tea Party.

Is it too much to imagine that the Muslim Brotherhood is simply masking its game, the better to lull unsuspecting liberals into supporting its power grab? Apparently, it is.

You might have guessed it, but the Islamist forces on the Square were not exactly tolerant of liberal democrats. The Times reports: “Though the rally was peaceful, the few secular activists who attended contended that they were silenced; some said they were escorted from the square.”

It concludes: “Some activists were already calling Friday’s demonstration a turning point — a remarkable display of the Islamists’ ability to monopolize space, be it Tahrir Square, the streets or the coming elections, and of their skill at organization and mobilization, which for secular activists served as a bitter contrast to their own shortcomings.”

It’s been a long, hot Arab summer. And it isn’t over yet.


Hugh G. said...

When Egyptians start starving to death this fall, you may see some mention of that in the news. Capital flight, food inflation, largely illiterate population, crap economy, and no money to import food. Plenty of resources to wage war against Israel, however.

Gary said...

And wage war against Israel they will. The "Great Patriotic War" against the "Zionists" will cover all the failures of the "moderate" leaders that our foolish govt encouraged to take Egypt over.
As the US implodes, the world will explode.