Posts Tagged ‘Muslim Brotherhood’

‘…will make violent revolution inevitable’

August 23, 2013

President John F. Kennedy famously said in 1962: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” His words, if not his actions, were wise and inspiring, and I thought of them in connection with the Arab Spring and the Egyptian coup.

Thousands and thousands of Egyptians conducted peaceful—relatively peaceful—demonstrations in order to replace the dictatorship of President Mubarak with a democratically elected government.

The result has been set aside by the Egyptian military, which receives more than $1 billion a year from the U.S. government to buy military equipment which has been used mainly against Egypt’s own people.   In return the U.S. Air Force gets to use Egyptian air space and the Navy gets to use the Suez Canal.

If the U.S. government were genuinely interested in promoting democracy and helping the Egyptian people, and winning their good will, we would spend $1 billion a year to help Egypt pay down its external debt and to import food and the other necessities.

Instead we have empowered General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the leader of the Egyptian military, to make peaceful revolution impossible and violent revolution inevitable.


Chaos in Egypt: Links & comments 8/16/13

August 16, 2013
Source: Yahoo News

Source: Yahoo News

Back during the Arab Spring protests, I was heartened by the mass protests in Egypt and the protesters’ apparent success in achieving a more democratic government.  Now an elected government has been overthrown by the military, and protesters are being massacred.

Egypt, like many majority Muslim countries, is torn between its military, which wants a secular, nationalist state, and popular movements which want a religious state.  As an American who believes in both religious toleration and democratic elections, I can’t really root for either side.  But my government, by providing more than $1 billion a year to the Egyptian military, is taking sides.

Here are links to articles that helped me to better understand what is going on in Egypt.

Egypt’s Army Has More People Than Miami and Answers to Noone by Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.

Egypt’s army has ruled the country since 1952, when it staged a coup against King Farouk, a monarch installed by the British years before.  Since then there have been more coups, but the military has remained in control.  Egypt’s top military officers are a wealthy elite.  The armed forces control private businesses that account for 10 to 30 percent of the Egyptian economy.

The U.S. gives Egypt $1.5 billion a year in aid.  Here’s what it does by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post.

Why the U.S. should cut off aid to Egypt: An interview with Marc Lynch in the Washington Post.

The United States gives more foreign aid to Egypt than to any other foreign country except Israel.   Only $250 million goes to education, public health and economic development.  All the rest goes to the military to buy tanks, fighter planes and other equipment.  While I would have thought this gives the U.S. government some influence over Egypt’s military, apparently it doesn’t.  Egypt’s military would rather lose U.S. aid than lose their power, especially when Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states might make up the shortfall.

‘Horrible’: Christian churches across Egypt stormed, torched by Sarah Sirgany and Laura Smith-Spark of CNN.

When a regime or a political movement has no real political program, it incites followers against scapegoats.   The Muslim Brotherhood has incited its followers against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which is about 10 percent of the population.  Before the coming of Islam, Egypt was a Christian nation, so it is not as if the Copts are interlopers.

It is important to notice that not all of Egypt’s Muslims take part in these pogroms and some courageously stand by their Christian neighbors.

Hi, I’m Your New Axis of Evil by Pepe Escobar in Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar noted that a public opinion poll indicated that 69 percent of the Egyptian people oppose the coup, which is more than that 52 percent of voters who supported President Morsi in the Egyptian election.  He said President Morsi never got control of the Egyptian military, which he said has been plotting against him since he took office.

There is no good outcome on the horizon for the Egyptian people, Escobar wrote.  The country is descending into economic chaos, and neither the military nor the Muslim Brotherhood has a solution.  Escobar neither faction is hostile to the United States or to Egypt’s wealthy elite, but that the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia, for different reasons, saw the Brotherhood as a potential threat.


The risk of revolution

February 5, 2011

The risk for the U.S. government in getting rid of President Mubarak of Egypt is that it sets a bad example.  Egypt not the only country with a ruler who follows the wishes of the U.S. government rather than his own people.

The people of Pakistan have long been unhappy with the United States using their country as a base for our wars in Afghanistan, especially since the war has come back to Afghanistan itself.  I doubt if the people of Yemen are happy with the U.S. troops and agents shooting Predator missiles everywhere they think terrorists may be hiding out.  The odious regimes in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are hosts to U.S. bases.

If the United States turns against Hosni Mubarak too abruptly, all the other dictators allied with the United States will wonder whether our government can be trusted to support them when things get tough.

Another problem is that the outcomes of revolutions are unpredictable.  The pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt call to mind Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, or the Philippines when Ferdinand Marcos yielded power to Corazon Aquino.  But revolutions don’t always end happily from the point of view of us Americans.  Many Americans welcomed the fall of the Tsar of Russia in 1917, the Batista dictatorship in Cuba in 1959 and the Shah of Iran in 1979, but the Mensheviks were soon driven out by the Bolsheviks, Fidel Castro turned out to be a Communist, and Iran became a theocracy rather than a democracy.

Another bad possibility is that Hosni Mubarak or his henchmen will manage to stay in power even thought the United States has turned against him, as the former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein did after 1991.   He seemed like a lapdog in serving the interests of American foreign policy.  But he may have sharp teeth where his own power and wealth are concerned.

But if being openly pro-democracy is risky, so is siding with tyrants.  They always fall in the end, and their peoples remember who supported them.  If the Egyptian regime suppresses a peaceful revolt (and so far the demonstrators have been peaceful), the next revolt may be accompanied by assassinations, lynchings, bombings of public places and “death to America” banners.

The middle way, which is what President Obama seems to be taking, is to try to finesse the situation – to quietly ease Mubarak out and persuade his clique to accept a peaceful transition to democracy.  In other words, to help the democrats without breaking with the autocrats.

And that is the riskiest of all.  The risk is that the Obama administration alienates both sides – that U.S. government loses the allegiance of its client dictators without gaining the support of the popular forces.  It is better to be liked and respected than hated and feared, but worst of all is to be despised.

So there is a risk for the United States if the Egyptian people exercise the right of self-determination.  There is a risk for the United States if our government imposes a rule of torturers and kleptocrats.  And there is a risk in a balancing act.  So why not do the right thing?

Click on If the Egyptians want change, then they should have it for comment by Martin Kettle of Great Britain’s The Guardian.


Egypt’s democratic revolt

February 1, 2011

President John F. Kennedy once said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.The Egyptian protest demonstrations, which the protesters call the Days of Anger, may not strike the average American TV viewer as especially peaceful, but compared to what they could be, they really are.  What is going on in Egypt is the opposite of terrorism.

The anti-Mubarak forces are not tearing police and soldiers limb from limb.  They are not setting off bombs in government offices or shopping centers.  There aren’t any suicide bombers. Bodies of policemen and government officials are not hanging from lamp posts. Given the history of revolution, these are not things that can be taken for granted.  For their part, the Egyptian army announced late yesterday that it would not use force against nonviolent demonstrators.

Lenin’s Bolsheviks showed how a determined, murderous minority could seize and hold power through use of unrelenting force and propaganda and suppression of internal dissent.  Various Third World “national liberation fronts” that sprung up after World War Two took the Bolsheviks as a model.  They killed as many people among their own constituents to keep them in line as they did of their enemy.  Nothing like this is going on in Egypt.

Che Guevara and Regis Debray in their books on guerrilla warfare said that a revolutionary struggle could be ignited by a tiny group of terrorists (they didn’t call them that), provoking an over-reaction by government and drawing the masses into the struggle. These were the tactics of Osama bin Laden.  They are not the tactics of the current mass protests in Egypt.

Mass protests, especially nonviolent mass protests, are inherently democratic.  Leaders of mass protests have to gain and keep the confidence of the masses.  Their political power does not grow out of the barrel of a gun.  Rather it depends on stripping rulers of their power to make people obey out of respect for their authority and out of fear of their power.  It does not depend on killing police and troops, but on weaning police and troops from their allegiance.

Alex Madrigal of The Atlantic Monthly last Thursday published excerpts from a pamphlet distributed to Egyptian protesters that illustrates their nonlethal tactics.