“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” –Edmund Burke (1770)
By Barry Rubin
On the eve of the Egyptian election, I’m really disgusted with the collapse of the moderate forces. While the Muslim Brotherhood is disciplined, united, working hard, and on message, the moderates are running around in circles. There is not the slightest sign of unity among the three main moderate parties (Wafd, Justice, and Free Egyptians) and the dozens of smaller ones.
Consider that instead of putting their energy into organizing, uniting, and getting out the vote, they are engaged in thoroughly useless demonstrations in Tahrir Square. What is the goal of these demonstrations? On one hand, they demand that the turnover of power be moved up; on the other hand, moderate politicians speak of postponing the balloting. Muhammad ElBaradei, once the Americans’ favorite candidate (before the Obama Administration switched to backing the anti-American, antisemitic Muslim Brotherhood) is actually creating his own virtual government! What a putz!
Think about it. How can the moderates demand an immediate turnover of power? Turnover to whom? There is no executive authority. Clearly, no serious thought has gone into this campaign. If anything they should be demanding that the military stays in power longer since it is the only thing standing between them and the Muslim Brotherhood.
And yet while the moderates are doing their Three Stooges routine over the turnover of power, the issue has already been resolved! The Brotherhood made a deal with the army junta and moved up the presidential elections by a full year. Instead of June 2013, presidential elections will be held around June 2012. That’s only seven months from now. And unless the moderate leaders drop their own candidacy and get behind Amr Moussa, the Brotherhood will win that one, too.
If it weren’t such a horrible tragedy it would all be a farce.
These are people who think that organizing a demonstration is a great accomplishment; the Brotherhood knows that organizing a mass movement is what’s needed.
But that’s not all! While the Brotherhood successfully courts the armed forces, the moderates are fighting against the soldiers. The moderates view the military as their main enemy when they should understand that the Muslim Brotherhood plays that part.
The moderates are playing “occupy Wall Street” while the Brotherhood is playing “seize state power.”
What do you think the result of the moderates strategy is going to be? Why, to push the military and the Islamists together of course! In other words, the moderates’ strategy of dealing with the army as if it were some evil dictatorship from which freedom is demanded might feel good but it is a total disaster.
I’ve always maintained that the generals don’t want political power and I feel more certain of that than ever. They just don’t want anarchy and they don’t want a government that will take their money. The Brotherhood will be happy to implement a deal on both of those points. And don’t forget that there are a lot of officers who are pious Muslims quite willing to live with the Brotherhood.
It’s the same picture we saw in Tunisia (four bickering left and liberal parties throw the election to the Islamists) and Turkey (incredible incompetence among opposition politicians), where the anti-Islamist forces committed suicide.
Yes, we would like moderates to win and create a stable and democratic Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey, with a prosperous mixed economy, plus equal rights for women and minorities. But it isn’t happening. In some places, repression—notably Iran and Syria, where the outcome is far from clear–is the main problem. In others, though it is the lack of leadership, ideology, skills, and unity among the moderates.
Am I being too harsh on the moderates? Certainly, they had a difficult task and it is their lives that are ultimately at stake. But this experience is like watching a stupid character in a horror movie who practically asks to be eaten by the zombies, axed by the escaped lunatic, or lasered by the space aliens. You want to cheer for the potential hero but quickly end up being dismayed by his acting like a hapless victim. Against your will you start thinking that he had it coming.
I’m simultaneously crying and booing.
Here arises an interesting question. Western interests, even though Obama and many others don’t understand this, require that the moderates win. Supposedly, the Western democracies have some notion of how to operate in a democracy. In theory, they should have been working with the moderates behind the scenes, providing advice, money, training, and even pressure for them to work together. Only so much influence can be attributed to the West but that margin of power has not been used.
Instead, Western states have been courting the Islamists or doing nothing. If there’s any conscious reason for this, the excuse is that if the West helps the moderates this assistance would be used to discredit them.
Guess what, the worst-case scenario is happening anyway.
Some of these people will cut their own deals with the Islamists as we are starting to see with the coalition government in Tunisia. That will give the Brotherhood the illusion of cooperation and moderation for the time it needs to consolidate control and transform national institutions. Those who collaborate in this manner will have the advantage of getting eaten last.
One day, people will be amazed and disgusted at how the Western democracies stood by—and at times cheered—while Middle East countries were taken over by their worst enemies. They will be amazed and disgusted at how the moderate forces committed suicide. I already feel that way and so do lots of horrified Egyptians.
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