Stop worrying about the Muslim Brotherhood so much, losers

How Democracy Became Halal – NYTimes.com

For the Egyptian people, the Brothers are not an enigma — they have been around since 1928. Unlike the revolutionary mullahs of Iran, who wrote books that almost no one outside the clergy read, the Brotherhood has spread its word to the Egyptian public for decades.

It’s also important that Egyptian Muslims are Sunnis. Unlike Iran’s Shiites, whose history revolves around charismatic men, Egyptians have no Ayatollah Khomeini. The Brotherhood is an organization of laymen. It has always had a tense relationship with Al Azhar, the great Sunni seminary of Cairo.

Although Hosni Mubarak has done his best to suck the life out of Egyptian society, the shadows of once great parties, like the Wafds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and nearly forgotten forces like the Liberal Constitutionalist Party will try to resurrect themselves in fairly short order. Ayman Nour and his liberal Ghad Party are already established.

Once President Mubarak is gone, and if his minions don’t try to maintain the military dictatorship, a quick transition to democracy is likely to produce a plethora of parties, with a few in position to form a coalition.

The Brotherhood will undoubtedly be one of the big players, but it will have to compete for votes. And, as the Brotherhood’s aborted platform clearly reveals, the organization is going to have to do better than chanting, “Islam has all the answers,” the easy retort of men who know they don’t have to compete for power.

What we are likely to see in Egypt is not a repeat of Iran, where fundamentalists took undisputed power, but a repeat of Iraq, where Sunni religious parties did well initially but started to fade, divide and evolve as the powerful Sunni preference for laymen of no particular religious distinction comes to the foreground. Sunni Islam has no clerical hierarchy of the holy — it’s tailor-made for nasty arguments among men who dispute one another’s authority to know the righteous path. If the Brotherhood can be corralled by a democratic system, the global effect may not be insignificant.

We have a chance in Egypt to be lucky. Democratization there, like democratization of Iran, could thwart the ideologies and fear that move poor countries to spend fortunes on nuclear weapons. The United States is not without influence. We can push hard for a quick transition to democratic rule. The Egyptian Army, historically no friend of democracy or civil liberties, is now dependent on American money and advanced weaponry. If it continues to stand behind Mr. Mubarak, if Egyptians start to die in large numbers, Washington shouldn’t hesitate to play hardball.

Elections should not be at the end of some long, undefined democratic transition, which Mr. Mubarak or his minions would surely use to abort democracy. Egypt needs elections sooner, not later. More convincingly than any president before him, Barack Obama can say, “We are not scared of Muslims voting.” He can put an end to the West’s deleterious habit of treating the Middle East’s potentates respectfully and the Muslim citizenry like children.

 


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26 comments on “Stop worrying about the Muslim Brotherhood so much, losers

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  1. the author was a guy saying how popular Bush would be Iraq because of the invasion, IIRC.

    I do believe he also said that democracy would be right around the corner after the Baathists were ousted.

  2. @ fuster:
    I don’t consider Gerecht infallible by any means, but he’s usually smart enough, and a good enough writer-analyst, to restrain himself when tempted to make unhedged predictions of the sort you’re attributing to him. More than a few of us lost our heads in ’02-’03 and beyond, though, so I suppose he may have joined the club. But I’m now going to waste a few minutes seeing if I can scare up his writings from the relevant period. Any you can recollect more specifically?

  3. @ fuster:
    The Gerecht pieces I could scare up from the pre-OIF period tend to be less Polyannish than you described. They suggest that good things might flow from being “feared rather than loved” in the ME, that bad things might flow from being seen as weak, and that certain fears from the anti-war side were overblown. You have to count him as bottom-line pro-intervention, whatever his analytical-prognostical successes and failures, so, if you’ve decided the “fiasco” was a fiasco, then you can count him as having been on the wrong side, but if you’re going to call him a fool and a crank, you should bring better evidence to the table.

  4. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/151afgru.asp

    That’s the “feared than loved” piece, from April ’02.

    The Necessary War piece argues, from the perspective of Oct ’02, that reversing course would be devastating to US cred, and therefore to the WOT – both of them by then fully identified with Bush.

    Even if you stipulated that OIF was ill-conceived, immoral, and badly executed, too, Gerecht’s argument might remain tenable from a realpolitik/Machiavellian perspective. What it really means is that the war train was already heading down the tracks at speed by late 2002, and that only a major political derailment, breakdown or breakthrough, was gonna stop it.

  5. I respect Gerecht’s view more than most, h e was pointing out in the months before September 11th, how totally inadequate theintelligence
    establishment was in gauging the situation, he is an unapologetic partisan for democracy, Of course, many of the same persons during
    this difficult 2003-2006, was arguing that Iraq showed that it needed
    a strongman, preferably one of those stout ex Baathist generals

  6. Furthermore I would genuinely like to see, a liberal option prevail, that would be the antipode of both Mubarak’s Pharoanate state, and the
    IM, but where is the evidence of that.

  7. yes, I see. a guy’s not walking toward you, really, but you think he is.

    Once you yell “Stop or I’ll shoot” it’s important that you plug the guy because if you don’t, the other guys won’t believe in your resolve.

    Of course, the other argument he was making, the one that went that the other guys are going to continue to do what it is that they think to be in their best interest with little extra regard for your actions, might not smoothly mesh with this one.

  8. miguel cervantes wrote:

    a liberal option prevail, that would be the antipode of both Mubarak’s Pharoanate state, and the
    IM,

    there are a few people from our neighboring countries in the Caribbean basin that came over here because of the prevailing liberal option.
    I also have a couple of neighbors from Egypt here for similar reasons.

    I’m not sure that there’s any more evidence that a liberal state can follow in a certain unnamed presently strong man ruled Castribbean island than in Egypt.

  9. Does Egypt have a Sistani, a moderate leader of the Ummah, committed against Salafism, Gerecht has written many columns
    on that pecularity of regional political development

  10. fuster wrote:

    yes, I see. a guy’s not walking toward you, really, but you think he is.
    Once you yell “Stop or I’ll shoot” it’s important that you plug the guy because if you don’t, the other guys won’t believe in your resolve.

    Now you know that’s a bad analogy, and the question wasn’t whether Gerecht’s arguments were perfectly sound, but whether he made foolish predictions.

    Of course, the other argument he was making, the one that went that the other guys are going to continue to do what it is that they think to be in their best interest with little extra regard for your actions, might not smoothly mesh with this one.

    Again, you can argue that his picture was faulty, but there’s no contradiction in asserting that inability to follow through on your major initiative might alter others’ calculations about how best to safeguard their interests across a wide range of situations.

  11. @ miguel cervantes:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Gomaa

    However, as Gerecht points out, it may not be a big help.

    “Liberal democracy with an Egyptian character” may need a very long time to develop. Internal and external forces may prevent a rapid evolution that affects more than a sliver of society, or does much more than open a somewhat larger space for a democratic civil society to develop. We’ll see. That doesn’t mean that the events of the last couple of weeks are unimportant.

  12. @ miguel cervantes:
    Barry Rubin, Barry . Rubin….. I remember this name. Yes. I do.

    The guy might not be able to call anybody a “moderate” If an Arab pulled Rubin’s kids out of a burning car, Rubin would figure that it’s trick and part of a long-term strategy to harm his kids.

  13. And as for Glick’s latest attempt to portray Israel’s predicament as absolutely hopeless practically and morally, why exactly would anyone find overwhelming negative opinions of Jews among Palestinians, Lebanese, and Egyptians surprising? Glick ascribes what is at base an anti-Israeli attitude to every other explanation other than the behavior of Israel. She notes the prevalence of extremist anti-Semitic propaganda in the Arab world, especially in Egypt, without asking why the populace might be susceptible to it.

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