The news from Egypt on the day before Americans celebrate the Fourth of July is that the military has stepped in to remove its Prime Minister, Mohammed Morsi, and have replaced him with the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court. The Egyptian constitution has been suspended as well. We can only hope this results in a government that Egyptians can accept as a legitimate democracy. The one they’ve had has been a disaster.
Even though Americans had a long period of time to develop self-governance in the thirteen colonies prior to the Revolution that required them to come up with a unified system, the original effort, the Articles of Confederation, failed and had to be replaced by the U.S. Constitution. Americans have celebrated 237 years of its success with an interruption for the Civil War, 1861 to 1865, a terrible slaughter for both sides.
Egyptians, whose history goes back to 6,000 BC and whose dynasties date from around 3150 BC when King Menes unified the nation have not had any experience with self-rule. Brett Stephens, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, recently noted that a series of “pharaohs, caliphs, pashas, and strongmen for 6,000 years” was the only experience Egyptians have had with government.
More recent governments from Nasser to Mubarak ranged from hostile to friendly and all had a military strongman leading them. Nasser was an Islamist who took on Israel and lost twice. His successor, Anwar el Sadat concluded a peace treaty with Israel in the 1970s and was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood for doing so. Mubarak took over and stayed in power until he was forced by public protests to resign as president on February 11, 2011.
What followed were elections that elected Mohammed Morsi, a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, as president on June 24, 2012. His margin of victory was just 51% in a sharply divided nation. As testimony to the utterly fascist nature of the Brotherhood, it only took a year for the vast majority of Egyptians to once again fill Tahrir Square in Cairo and squares in other cities to demand he resign. That should be taken as a sign of progress.
I think historians will look back and conclude that the Internet has been a major contributing factor to the overthrow of dictators in the Middle East. It has allowed people in the region’s nations to learn what was actually going on without being dependent on local media. There has also been a growing secularism in the region, from modern Turkey that was founded with a strict separation of mosque and state in 1920 to present times. The elections of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist, have led to increased protests there as well.
Egypt had enjoyed relative peace between Muslims and the Coptic Church that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity, bit under Morsi that era of peace ended. Islam is not famous for tolerance. Within Islam, the conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis, date back to its earliest years following the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D. Islam demands jihad—holy war—until the entire world submits to its domination, making it one of the most unpopular religions wherever it existed. The protests in Islamic nations in the Middle East demonstrate a growing secular resistance to it.
The resistance to the authoritarian rule by Islamists in Egypt has other factors that are not widely known in the West. Writing in the Middle East Forum, David P. Goldman, an author, economists, and noted demographer, pointed to Egypt’s unfixable economy that will, he said, turn it into a failed state. I had a professor of history who once said that no nation is more than two weeks away from revolution if it fails to feed its people. Egypt, under PM Morsi, has some serious problems that include the collapse of its tourist industry, long gas lines, and rising food prices.
“Egypt remains an essentially pre-modern society with a 45% literacy rate and a dysfunctional higher education system unable to produce a competent labor pool to meet the demands of a globalized economy,” says Goldman. “Over the past decade, Cairo’s annual imports soared from $10 billion to $60 billion, mainly due to rising food prices.” Although more than 70% of Egyptians are involved in farming, the country imports half of its food consumption.” Its current wheat stockpiles, estimated at 68 days, will rapidly dwindle.
Islamist governments are unable to function in the modern era of globalization. They represent conflicts that constantly threaten the stability of the Middle East. There is a horrendous civil war between Sunni supremacists in Syria, and on-going bombings in Iraq from the same forces. The nations in the region are on a constant military alert and it should be noted that the U.S. withdrawal from the region in Iraq and forthcoming in Afghanistan will only exacerbate tensions.
The United States has real interests in stability or the lack of it, but the Obama administration has demonstrated a complete failure to adapt to the realities occurring in Egypt, Libya, and other nations in turmoil. President Obama has demonstrated a strong tilt toward the Muslim Brotherhood and that has led to growing hostility to America.
© Alan Caruba, 2013.