Start Worrying: Details To Follow

Over the transom comes a link to an analysis of the Egyptian situation by foreign-policy analyst Barry Rubin. Some salient excerpts:

There is no good policy for the United States regarding the uprising in Egypt.

…There is no organized moderate group in Egypt. Even the most important past such organization, the Kifaya movement, has already been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. Since 2007 its leader has been Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a virulent anti-Semite.

Muhammad el-Baradei, leader of the reformist movement, says that if he were to be president he would recognize Hamas as ruler of the Gaza Strip and end all sanctions against it.

…That is not to say that there aren’t good, moderate, pro-democratic people in Egypt but they have little power, money, or organization. Indeed, Egypt is the only Arab country where many of the reformers went over to the Islamists believing—I think quite wrongly—that they could control the Islamists and dominate them once the alliance got into power.

Nothing would make me happier than to say that the United States should give full support for reform, to cheer on the insurgents without reservation. But unfortunately that is neither the most honest analysis nor the one required by U.S. interests.

In my book, The Long War for Freedom, I expressed my strong sympathy for the liberal reformers but also the many reasons why they are unlikely to win and cannot compete very well with the Islamists.

The Brotherhood’s new leader sounds quite like al-Qaeda and has called for war on both Israel and America.

…it is also being said that the Brotherhood is not so popular in Egypt. Then why did they get 20 percent of the vote in an election when they were repressed and cheated? This was not just some protest vote because voters had the option of voting for secular reformers and very few of them did.

Having said all of this, U.S. influence on these events, already rejected by Egypt’s government, is minimal. It is morally good to speak about freedom and seem to support the protestors but also quite dangerous and will not reap the gratitude of the Egyptian masses in the future. After all, aside from the likely radicalism of their leaders, a revolutionary regime would be hostile toward the United States since America would be blamed for supporting the Egyptian dictatorship for decades. President Obama will not charm them into moderation.

The Egyptian elite wants to save itself and if they have to dump Mubarak to do so—as we saw in Tunisia—the armed forces and the rest will do so. But if the regime itself falls creating a vacuum, that is going to be a very bad outcome. If I believed that something better could emerge that would be stable and greatly benefit Egyptians, I’d be for that. Yet is that really the case?

Consider this point. Egypt’s resources and capital are limited. There aren’t enough jobs or land or wealth. How would a new regime deal with these problems and mobilize popular support? One route would be to embark on a decades-long development program to make the desert green, etc. Yet with so much competition where would the money come from? How could Egypt try to gain markets already held by China, for example?

More likely is that a government would win support through demagoguery: blame America, blame the West, blame Israel, and proclaim that Islam is the answer. That’s how it has been in the Middle East in too many places. In two cases—Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—democracy (though other factors were also involved) has produced anti-democratic Islamist regimes that endorse terrorism and are allied to Iran and Syria.

Is America ready to bet that Egypt will be different? And on what evidentiary basis would that be done?

The emphasis, then, should be put on supporting the Egyptian regime generally, whatever rhetoric is made about reforms.

Read the whole thing here.

See also here.

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  1. Sadly, I started worrying when the protests started.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 12:38 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    I started worrying sometime in middle age.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink
  3. “There is no organized moderate group in Egypt.”

    On the basis of very little expertise I would humbly suggest that the Egyptian army qualifies not least because from what I read elsewhere most of its generals are in the back pocket of the American Defence Dept. They, it seems to me, are the queen on this particular chess board.

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Apparently Hillary has developed some “new information” since the Sunday morning talk shows:

    Appropriate title Malcolm, details are following:

    Posted January 30, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  5. Fraser Nelson of The Spectator sums it up rather neatly:

    “I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the events in Egypt and Tunisia – but, as I say in my News of the World column (£) today, the citizens of the Arab world all too often have a choice between a Bad Guy and a Worse Guy. Egypt looks like its choice is between the status quo, the Muslim Brotherhood or a military coup. This is not a 1989-style revolution, there is no Arabic equivalent of Scorpions singing Wind of Change. Successful revolutions normally have a well-organised alternative government, with a clear route towards democracy. Where is the Egyptian Lech Walesa, or the Tunisian Vaclav Havel?”

    Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:08 am | Permalink
  6. howsurprising says

    Scott Atran talks about the “bumbling” Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

    Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  7. howsurprising says

    An interested comment from a conservative.

    Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink