You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone. —Rod Serling
By Barry Rubin
Ah, the gap between Middle East reality and official U.S. government-approved reality. Here are four examples:
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–“Here is the next challenge for the citizen movements that are advancing from Tunisia to Syria — and eventually, surely, to repressive non-Arab states such as Iran and China. Once they have toppled the secret police, the revolutionaries need to draft constitutions affirming the rights of the individual.” –David Ignatius, Washington Post
Yes, on the way to the Middle East utopia do stop off and adopt a Bill of Rights. It made such a nice adornment to the Soviet Constitution. Who says the secret police have been toppled? Any really democratic state will need them to deal with Salafist terrorists, while the Islamist-ruled regimes to come will need them to suppress democrats, secularists, Christians, feminists, and those who will be called Zionist and imperialist agents.
How much faith these people have in elections! One balloting won by anti-democratic forces and you’re home free.
–“There are many ways the Arab Awakening might veer off track, and religion-inspired constriction of freedom is one. But so far in Egypt, the greatest threat to democracy has come from the military rulers. In any true Arab democracy, Islamist parties will win a lot of votes. As long as they are willing to play by the rules, those parties should not be treated as a specter to be feared.” –Editorial, Washington Post
Here’s an interesting question. Other than the arrest of some bloggers and moderates who have been accused of criticizing the army and also the army’s terrible behavior toward the Christian demonstration at Maspero in which about 30 were killed, where’s this big threat to democracy from the military?
Yes, the Egyptian military proposed moving back presidential elections to 2013 but when challenged they returned to a June 2012 date within hours. They never stopped or interfered with the parliamentary elections. Parties ranging from Communists to Salafists were able to organize and propagandize without interference.
In fact, the big threat to Egypt right now is anarchy, including the security forces standing by and letting mobs attack Christians and also a massive crime wave. There has never been any serious reason to believe the military didn’t intend to yield power. It doesn’t want political power, just economic wealth.
What we have here then is a knee-jerk reaction. They’re soldiers so they must be against democracy. But Egypt today isn’t South America in the 1970s.
And of course focusing on the military obscures the real threat to democracy, the Islamists. It is easy to “play by the rules” when all you have to do is win an election by a landslide. And in the future it will be easy for the Islamists to “play by the rules” because they will be making the rules.
– “President Barack Obama defended his policy toward Israel at a political fundraiser on Wednesday, saying that Israel was the U.S.’s most important ally. … `I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration,’ Obama said. `We don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security … and that will continue.’” –Reuters
Don’t ever say that Obama isn’t unique as president. Who else would not just have such a giant ego but display it publicly by saying that he tries not to praise himself too much. As for the claim that the Obama Administration has done more for Israel than any previous administration, a decent mass media would expose that to ridicule. And I’m not saying that direct military relations haven’t been good. It’s just everything else.
So what are some of the compromises?
Installing antisemitic, genocidal-minded regimes in Egypt and Libya, helping to do so in Tunisia.
Whitewashing and going soft on Syria for three years followed by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood to lead the opposition.
Not lifting a finger as Turkey’s regime daily bashes Israel, uses terrorist surrogates to create a major international incident, virtually threatens war with Israel, etc.
You can add more examples.
–”Despite great odds, the elections this week drew millions to the polls. They are proof of how much Egyptians yearn for democracy….But the long years of political suppression — and the way the military tipped the field in the Brotherhood’s favor — also make it hard to figure out what these early results say about the country’s thinking or its future… What should be clear to the Brotherhood, which, on Thursday, denied any plans to form an alliance with the Salafis, is that most Egyptians have no interest in swapping Mubarak’s secular dictatorship for a religious one. –New York Times editorial
Are you nuts?
A. The Egyptians might not “yearn for democracy” but merely want to choose their dictator. Democracy is not just elections. Remember that these voters have chosen in favor of murdering anyone who converts from Islam and a long list of other rather undemocratic things.
B. The military “tipped the field” in the Brotherhood’s direction. Are you joking? The moderates demanded quick elections every day. They got them. The fact that they didn’t do better was their own fault. Maybe they should get a participation trophy. How did the military favor the Brotherhood in the November 28-29 elections? It didn’t.
C. “Hard to figure out what these early results say about the country’s thinking or its future”? I don’t think it’s hard at all. (If you know who Sam Kinnison was imagine me yelling this as loud as possible: THEY WANT A SHARIA STATE, YOU DOPES! Hard to figure out, indeed!
D. “Denied any plans to form an alliance”? Well, that means they won’t form a coalition government with them as that would give away their game of pretending to be moderate. But of course they will ally with them in writing an Islamist constitution and passing specific laws to implement their vision.
E “Most Egyptians have no interest in swapping Mubarak’s secular dictatorship for a religious one.” Really? Well they have a strange way of showing it then, don’t they? If that’s what they wanted why did they vote for the Islamists? Face it, they do want a religious dictatorship but it will be based on one specific democratic principle: majority support.
Middle East dictatorships have almost always enjoyed majority support. Wield the card of Islam or nationalism, and to some extent both; demonize Israel and the West; promise everything at no cost, mix well, heat in the fires of passion, and you’ve got a populist dictatorship, my friends.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com