The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Egypt

Egypt’s a Disaster: A Totally Expected Disaster

So, there’s a lot  of terrorism in Egypt these days.

Since 2013, terrorism has increasingly disrupted life in Egypt, especially in the Sinai. The Egyptian hinterland has witnessed more than seventeen hundred attacks over the past four years, according to a tally by the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. The Sinai Province, the local ISIS affiliate, has claimed credit for some eight hundred of them. Lately, the attacks have been creeping closer to Cairo and targeting more civilians.


The Muslim Brotherhood won the Egyptian elections fair and square. Then, the military overthrew them in a coup, outlawed them, seized their territory, and locked up or killed a pile of them.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whatever one thinks of their ideology, was basically peaceful: They took care of the poor. They were popular because they cared for people.

At first, the violence hit mostly military and police targets, but as it has been taken over by people far nastier than the Muslim Brotherhood, the violence has hit civilians far more.

This should not be a surprise. If you prove that peaceful elections don’t work and subsequently outlaw the most successful, peaceful Muslim organization, they aren’t going to be replaced by nice people. You’ve just proved that “nice does not work.”

Now you get to deal with the unpleasant people.

And, hey, it turns out the military can’t run the economy well, either. What a surprise.

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Egypt’s Freely Elected President, Morsi, Sentenced to Death

Really?  Really?

An Egyptian court has pronounced death sentences on ousted president Mohammed Morsi and more than 100 other people over a mass prison break in 2011.

And people wonder why Islamic groups become more and more radical over time. There is one set of rules for non-Islamic groups and another for Islamic groups. If they win fairly and within the rules (as when Hamas won the Palestinian elections), they are denied the fruits of their gains. If you claim that fair elections and democracy constitute legitimacy, then overthrow those who win when you don’t like them, no one can take your criteria for legitimacy seriously.

Peaceful means have now failed, legitimate means have now failed; expect those who support Islamic government to become more radical and violent. Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood was defeated militarily before, but this is not then: Islamic groups are on the rise, and often on the offensive, all through the region.

If you won’t let the reasonable people in the opposition take power, you will soon meet the unreasonable people.

Note also that Sisi has set a precedent with his executions. When the next Islamic group takes power in Egypt, they will follow suit. They will almost certainly purge the deep state in a bloodbath.

In this respect, Sisi has provided the perfect Machiavellian lesson to the opposition: You cannot leave men with guns in their positions when they oppose you. You must eliminate them.

Legitimate ways of transferring power are supposed to eliminate the need for Machiavellian practicalities. The men with guns, the deep state bureaucracy–even if they don’t like the new government–bow before them, precisely so that each new regime doesn’t feel it has to destroy the previous regime. This is so that society is not wracked by purges.

Al-Sisi and those who back them will reap as they have sowed. I feel very little sympathy for them, but I do feel great sympathy for Egyptians as a group. They tried.

At the time the Egyptians rose, I was castigated for my “cynicism.” It turns out to have been realism. Those who ignore where the real power lies in society in favor of mealy-mouthed niceties about “people power” are, too often, leading their flocks into a slaughter.

Allah bless Egyptians. They are going to need it.

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Egypt: those who make peaceful change impossible —

To point out the obvious, Egypt’s judges have effectively gone over to the junta.  What this means, if you are in the opposition (violent or otherwise) is that if there is another revolution, those judges go.  You completely sideline them from power and rip out the heart of the current judiciary, along with ALL senior civil servants (since they sabotaged the previous, democratic government, by making sure basic services like power didn’t work.)

You can’t have a revolution in Egypt which accommodates anyone who was in bed with the previous regime.  Sadly, this will include much of the secular opposition, who supported Sisi’s coup.  Having proved that they do not believe in democracy, and that they can’t be trusted not to back the military, they will have to be sidelined, though since they have no actual power nor the willingness to engage in violence, they need not be killed (they don’t have the guts, themselves, to pull of a coup.)

This is a basic application of JFK’s maxim that that those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.  I don’t like how the Muslim Brotherhood ruled, but Sisi is far, far worse.  Those who oppose him are entirely justified in their use of violence, and have so far been more discriminate in its use that the army or the police.

Egypt’s economic situation will continue to get worse over the long run.  The country cannot feed itself, and offers little that the world needs.  The fat classes (and in Egypt it easy to tell who is part of the system and who isn’t, because their poor people aren’t fat), will eventually lose power.  When they do, those who take control will not be, as Morsi was, willing to make accommodations with the old regime.  Nor should they.

As Egypt Continues its hard slide to Despotism

Here are the numbers:

Since Mr Morsi’s overthrow his Muslim Brotherhood group has been the target of a fierce crackdown by the military-backed authorities. More than a thousand Brotherhood members have been killed and more than 16,000 people, many of them Islamists, have been arrested.

Then, of course, there was the death sentence for 529 protestors for the death of one policeman.

Al-Sisi, the General who overthrow Morsi in a coup is now “running for President.”  He has also kept the Gaza crossing closed more often than not.

Meanwhile, the resistance has, actually, gone out of its way to attack targets like police stations, which are, frankly, legitimate targets.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and anyone else, in my view, has an entirely legitimate right, in this case, to violent revolution.  A democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup.  The Brotherhood claims not to be behind the violence, but whoever is, is not in the wrong, unless you believe that political violence is never justified.  (In which case, Americans, please start paying your taxes to the Crown.)

More to the point, the Brotherhood was legitimately the most popular party in Egypt. They did win the election fairly, after having their preferred candidates disqualified by judges appointed by the old government. They did run the clinics, distribute food and so on in much of the country.  The outlawing of the Brotherhood and seizure of all their property was a huge blow for ordinary people, even as it enriched the government.  Note that, as in Iran, the Egyptian military is a huge economic power in Egypt, owning many businesses.

The entire situation stinks to high heaven, suggesting that the original demonstrations were allowed to succeed by the military so that they might later undertake a coup.  The deep state also, clearly, deliberately sabotaged Morsi at every step, in particular power supplies suddenly became unreliable right after he was elected.  Contrary to the army’s propaganda, that’s not something Morsi could have caused, and that it was so is indicated by the fact that right after the coup, the power suddenly became much more reliable again.

The original demonstrations succeeded when the army decided they wouldn’t support the government, remember.  Let this be a reminder to you that if you do not have control, physical or ideological, over those who have the ability to inflict violence in your society, you do not actually rule: you are only in charge as long as they want you to be.

Meanwhile, with the largest and most popular party in the country outlawed and 16,000 of its supporters in jail (imagine 16,000 Democrats or Republicans in jail for protesting), I’m sure al-Sisi will cruise to victory and become “President”.

98.1% Approval For Egypt’s New Constitution?

Is anyone stupid enough to believe this demonstrates the will of the Egyptian people?

Exactly 98.1% of Egyptians said yes to the new constitution in this week’s referendum. The outlawed Muslim brotherhood says it does not recognize the vote, which saw some 20 million, or over 38% of registered voters, participate.

Outlaw the most popular political party, get less than 40% turnout (and who knows if it was even that), and declare yourself winners?  And have the Western press echo your propaganda?

98.1%?  Could they at least try to pretend the vote was representative? This is USSR style “democracy”.

Egypt bans the Muslim Brotherhood

This includes seizing all their money and assets.  Among other things, this is a humanitarian disaster: who do you think feeds many of the poor in Egypt?  Who runs the clinics?

One of my friends worked in Egypt, for the Mubarak regime, for a while.  He’s a man with a strong stomach, but they disgusted him.  His most telling observation was this: “the middle class are all fat.  Obese.  Everyone else is skinny.”

I’ll be straightforward: the Muslim Brotherhood has the right to resist this violently.  They’ll probably lose, but they won the election fairly and the results of a democratic election were thrown out by a military coup.  You really can’t get any more legitimate reason to commit violence than that, except straight-up genocide.  So I don’t want to hear hand-wringing when the bombs start going off: it is the logical consequence of what the military has done, which includes gunning down unarmed civilians in the street.

As for the “liberals” who supported the coup, they have disgraced themselves.  If the Muslim Brotherhood or some much nastier successors do win, you can be sure liberals will have NO meaningful influence in Egypt’s government.  Perhaps they had very little under the Brotherhood, and certainly the constitution was unfair, but this was a coup, and they supported it.  It will not be forgotten, least of all because a lot of blood has been spilled and far more will be.

(Why did the Muslim Brotherhood win the election and not liberals?  Because they had consistently opposed Mubarak and paid the price for it, and because they, not liberals, fed the poor and cared for the sick.)

Why Egypt’s Regime Must Double Down

There have been more killings in Egypt today of Muslim Brotherhood supporters.  Of particular note is the death of Asmaa al-Beltagi, daughter of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, Dr. Mohammed al-Beltagi (h/t MFI).  Martial law has been declared, the streets are being cleared, and military governors are being appointed.

A cynical man might say that clearly Egypt’s military and deep state want a civil war.

More to the point, the deep state—the Mubarak era civil servants, the military, police, the businesspeople in bed with them, and the judiciary, must now not lose power for the forseeable future.

It has been noticed that, miraculously, post coup, power problems, for example disappeared.  The belief of many (and I agree) is that the deep state sabotaged Mursi.  When the coup occurred, the government started working properly again.  The regime claims that Mursi was incompetent, but basic logistical matters like power distribution rarely fix themselves overnight unless they weren’t really broken in the first place.

What Mursi did not do, despite sacking some high level apparatchniks, was purge the state of Mubarak era supporters who were in any position to sabotage his new government.  Any new, actually democratic government, will likely learn that lesson, and if they take power, they will purge, purge, purge, as was done in Turkey, even if it requires being unjust and unfair, they will decide they cannot risk allowing Mubarak supporters to continue in any positions of power.

Having played their hand, having sabotaged Mursi, and having engaged in a coup, the military and its supporters are all-in.

Mursi did what he could, but I expect he feared a backlash if he purged the deep state.  He also, in my opinion, overreached in the constitution.  He tried to turn a temporary win, an electoral victory, into a constitution which locked down Egypt along the lines the Muslim Brotherhood wanted, and would keep it locked in that state even if secular forces won an election outright in the future.  That enraged a lot of people, and made them more willing to be cat’s paws of the military and the deep state.

Egypt has another fundamental problem.  It cannot feed itself.  Any government which takes power in Egypt, it truly wants to pursue the policies which will make it prosperous, must have a plan which will allow Egypt to feed itself, and which during the transition period allows it to buy food in a non hard currency.

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