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19 January 2014


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Patrick D

"If that occurred, he feared that Egypt could start linking up with similar groups in Tunisia, Syrian, Libya and Yemen which would be catastrophic."

To anyone with the relevant knowledge,

Putting aside the details of how this would be catastrophic to the actual, vital national interests of the United States, if secular Arab nationalists of various stripes could not pull off the United Arab Republic is there reason to believe diverse groups of Islamists could?

Even if something like the UAR is too high a bar for the meaning of "linking up", wouldn't some degree of success at Islamist coordination/unification represent another "tip of the kaleidoscope" resulting in the somewhat neutralizing alignment of regional interests opposing it?

William R. Cumming

So is there a common vision driving the Islamists?

William R. Cumming

Do worshipers of Islam have a fundamental tenet in their beliefs of ETHNIC CLEANSING?



You keep asking the same questions. This is a bit like Catholics "shopping" for a priest who will give them the answers that they want. Islam is a universalist religion. It seeks brotherhood among humans within the Islamic community. Islam is not an ethnicity. What do Islamists want? They seek salvation through obedience to what they see as God's will. There is a lot of variation among the as to what they think is God's will. pl

Alba Etie

Col Lang
It might be worth noting that Erdogan is in trouble in Turkey and may not get re -elected . It also might be worth noting that perhaps there is an opening in the Iranian /West relationship that might counter balance some of the worst tendencies of the Salafist such as al Nusra.

Alba Etie

correction worth noting ..

William R. Cumming

Thanks PL!


It is so amazing to me to hear so many of you champions of liberty and democracy favor denying citizens of the Middle East democracy and liberty to choose their own leaders. Egyptians elected Muslim Brotherhood to power, but according to Richard Sale, Egypt is a secular country and support their military. You guys favor overturning, by force, the popular will of the people for the purposes of suporting vital American interests.

Do you know how that sounds to people outside of the America first bubble? "Democracy for USA, but not for anyone else." "If you don't do things our way, we will forcibly, immorally kill you and install our own pro-USA people."

Why do u not have faith in people? in democracy? In the free will of people to choose their own leaders?

Im sure I will be chastized by you PL for being unpatriotic or a Marxist. But what I am is someone who has consistent moral values, not skewed only towards people of America, but for all people on planet Earth.



If you favor medieval theocatic tyranny then your position makes sense to me. pl


Democracy can not survive the election of an authoritarian party to power. The authoritarians will chip away at the democratic institutions until there is nothing left to block their dismantling the remnants of all civil rights. This is what Morsi started to do before his overthrow and what Hitler succeeded in doing. Egypt can only return to the path that leads to a secular democracy by outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood, just as Germany has outlawed the Nazi Party.


it may sound cynical, but the Egyptian generals and the people who support them have, in ousting the MB, exercised their liberty to choose their own leaders, in face of an elected government that would have imposed policy anathema to the urban Egyptians. The military couldn't have pulled off the ouster of Musri without some substantial popular backing.

When Syrians support, as many do, Assad and oppose the Muslim Brothers and Jihadis in the Syria, they do this in spite of Assad's illiberalism and because of his tolerance in all things religion but Sunni exclusivism. Assad couldn't have held out so long without some substantial popular backing across religious factions in Syria, incling loyal Sunnis, Christians, Druze, Shia, Alawites. The opposition is not nearly as diverse.

Maybe that bit of tolerance is worth more than just having a poll that will allow the majority to lord it over the rest, and even outweighs the illiberalism?

Democracy in form of majpority rule as determined by a poll is no cure all, and it doesn't work everywhere.

What the Swiss have probably won't work in any place much bigger than that country. Some other countries have republics. Speaking of which, the American model probably sort of works for America, but as far as I am concerned, I am quite happy we don't have it here, for I am acutely aware of its flaws in cnteporary practice. Some other places are better off with monarchies. Others prefer constitutional monarchies. The Brits like that. Israel prefers to be an ethnocracy. And so on.

Here's a serious problem: What to do if a democratic election votes into power an illoyal majority, which has decided to impose itself on the minority and is intent on perpetuating itself?

What's your idea of how to tackle such a problem: Get out in the street singing cumbaya? Have feminists bare their breats and shriek at Mursi that he is a mysogynist and that he, pleace, will respect woman rights and spare ethem the veil? Inspite of the fact that Mursi's religious views forbid him that?

Maybe a coup is a practical solution for an otherwise intractable problem in places where loyal majorities and oppositions are sorely lacking? The largish number of Egyptians that suppot the Generals have for themselves decided that this is so.

As Mr. Lang put it: Mursi's, Erdogan's and probably any other democratic Islamist-in-a-business-suit's idea of elections is 'one man, one vote, one time'.

In Iraq the majority has imposed itself on the minorities, and the result is strife.

What's your holy cow? Having a poll and stick to it, and everybody lived happily everafter? Or do you want individual freedoms and liberties?

The two can me mutually exclusive, and as Iraq shows, having had that poll, a purple fingered one even*, didn't help them a lot, much less did it protect individual freedoms and liberties if you're Sunni.

Praying to the God of democracy is not coing to get you out of the conundrum that illoyal majorities pose.

* o/t on purple fingers: I once met a devoted Republican who went on to fulminate on the perils of voter fraud, that damnable group ACORN, and the dire, dire need for voter ID laws so that people only vote once. I suggested that the US, to be super safe, and since it worked so well in Iraq, could just purple finger the US electorate and spare themselves the costs of implementing such laws. He was appaled - purple fingering was for savages.


98% is pretty overwhelming.

The best Hosni Mubarak ever got was 97%.


Democracy as we (here in the USA) know it is predicated on being a Republic first. It (usually) requires an overwhelming majority to change the meta-rules - the Constitution - so big changes can happen, but not until almost everybody is on board. Those founders were pretty smart, eh?

By most measures, I'm probably at least as "liberal" as Walter (above), but I'm obviously more sanguine about Democracy. Recent history (100 yrs?) offers many success stories and many abject failures. I'd count most of Europe & South America, plus some Asian countries in the plus column. AFrica, not so much, perhaps excepting S.Africa. Middle Eastern "democracies" all have problems, often rather different ones.

Israel is wildly democratic, but lacks protections for non-Jews. Turkey is decent example of a military dictatorship evolving into a democracy (unfortunately, that's been somewhat cyclical). Lebanon seems relatively successful, given the cards they've been dealt (location, sectarian divisions), but that "success" may just be the failure of all the strong-men who have tried to take over. I think Iran counts as the next oldest Democracy in the region, even though it also counts as a Theocracy.

It sounds like Tunisia has a chance to crawl into the win column, but the jury is still out. On the other hand, there's Libya.

If we (USA) had made a priority out of encouraging democracy in Egypt, they might have been ready for it by now (yes, that's condescending). But instead, our foreign policy in the region has been - until recently - skewed toward only two things: supporting Israel, and keeping the oil flowing.



Maybe you should ask ethnic Tutsi how they felt about majority rule coming to Rwanda?


Without real protections for the minority (and a commitment to abide to them), "democracy" is just tyranny with a different name. The Muslim Brotherhood and their ilk have shown zero interest in respecting the rights or interests of nearly half of the population when they have come to power.


"have shown zero interest in respecting the rights or interests of nearly half of the population"

They do that because they think anything else is inconsistent with the demands of their creed. Who are they to disobey the command of Him?

That is to say, they don't intend to 'disrespect' women for instance when they want them to wear the veil. They see it as protecting their dignity and doing them a favour. The result for the more unwilling subjects of their attention is of course the same.

It's like the thing with the courtesy of helping a little old lady over he street. By itself a laudable thing.

Imagine, our particular little lady doesn't want to get there and is in fact loudly protesting the help, and starts beating her helper with her handbag.

Her helper proceeds undeterred, since to him her protesting doesn't matter. After all, every reasonable person would want to be at the other side of the street, thus the protesting is at best misguided and at worst purely spiteful - and can be ignored either way. If it is the former she will be grateful later and if it is the latter - she clearly needs to be punished for her spitefulness. What a thankless job ...

Thus are the blessings of having seen the light.

It is that attitude that with state power becomes a potent and dangerous thing.


Juan Cole has an optimistic piece about Tunisia, contrasting it with the mess in Egypt:


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