What if the Problem in Egypt Really is the People?

Sultan Knish

A thousand talking heads and neo-conservative experts on the region assure us that a bright future stretches out before Egypt like a magic carpet. “Democracy,” “Freedom”, “Representative Government” are the buzzwords that trickle wetly out of their printers. All cynicism is disdained and skepticism swept into the dustbin. History is being made here. But the tricky thing about history is that it isn’t a point on a map, but a continuous wave. Like the tide, history is made and remade over and over again, formed and repeated, washed and beached on the shores of time.

Mubarak is the problem, we are told. And he certainly is their problem. The pesky 82 year old air force officer standing in the way of their dreams of a new Egypt. If not for him, Egypt would be a liberal model for the region. Just like Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq. But is it the dictator or the people who are the problem? The protesters are unified by a desire to push out Mubarak. But what do they actually stand for, besides open elections.

59 percent of Egyptian Muslims want democracy and 95 percent want Islam to play a large part in politics. 84 percent believe apostates should face the death penalty. That is what Egyptian democracy will look like. A unanimous majority that wants an Islamic state and a bare majority that wants democracy. Which one do you think will win out? A democratic majority of the country supports murdering people in the name of Islam. Mubarak’s government does not execute apostates or adulterers. But a democratic Egypt will. Why? Because it’s the will of the people.

The cheerleaders shaking their pom poms for Egyptian democracy don’t seem to grasp that the outcome could be anything other than positive. It’s an article of faith for them that freedom leads to freedom. That open elections give rise to human rights. That the problem can only be the dictator, not the people. Never the people. That is their ideology and they will stick to it.

Ever since World War II, we have been working off the “Hitler Paradigm”. The “Hitler Paradigm” says that there are no bad nations, only bad governments. The people themselves are perfectly fine, but occasionally a tiny minority of extremists size power. This allows the liberally minded to reconcile the need for occasional wars with their faith in mankind. Instead of fighting wars against nations, they fight wars to liberate nations from their despotic regimes. And ever since we have been fighting these “Wars of Liberation.”

We fought to free Korea and Vietnam from Communism, but we lacked one basic thing. Ground level support from the people we were fighting to protect. Today South Koreans like Kim Jong Il more than they like us. We fought to free the tyrants of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein. As a reward, they financed the terrorists who have been killing us ever since. We fought to free Iraq from Saddam, and the entire country imploded into armed camps. Our “Victory in Iraq” came about because we cut a deal with the Baathists against the Shiites and Al Qaeda, essentially restoring a broken version of Saddam’s old status quo. We fought to liberate Afghanistan, and now we find ourselves allied with some Muslim warlords who abuse women and rape little boys– against the other Muslim warlords who abuse women and rape little boys.

Handing out democracy like candy does not fix existing cultural problems. It does not end bigotry, free women or stop murder in the name of Allah. Open elections are only as good as the people participating in them. And the 84 percent of Egyptians who want to murder apostates have issues that democracy will not solve. The problem with Egypt is not Mubarak– but the Egyptians.

Let’s take another example. In Jordan, the next target on the freedom tour, King Hussein passed a bill to criminalize the honor killings of women. And their democratically elected parliament voted 60 to 25 to strike the bill down. It took them only 3 minutes. That’s what democracy would mean for the Jordanian girls murdered by their husbands, brothers and fathers. The right of the people and their duly elected representatives to legalize the murder of women.

The Hitler Paradigm says that all you have to do is take away the dictator and his staffers to usher in democracy, freedom and mutual amity. But what if the dictator is not the problem, but the symptom of a larger cultural problem?

Take the Cold War. We defeated Communism without a massive war. The Berlin Wall came down. Democracy came to Russia. Except here we are back to square one. The situation in the region has been reset back to before WW2, with a chaotic Eastern Europe and a predatory Russia. Economic liberalization and even the end of Communism did not change the underlying pattern. Despite a brief period of democracy, Russia reverted to a totalitarian regime with designs on the rest of the region. And that should have shocked no one, because it is exactly what happened after the fall of the Czars culminating in the Bolshevik takeover. All the reforms and liberalization did not give the average Russian what he wanted most– stability, order and a strong nation.

Freedom is culturally determined. It is not the same thing as democracy. Nor is democracy as ubiquitous and universal as its advocates would like us to believe. Like all forms of power, it can only be exercised by those who are ready for it. Much of the world is not ready for it, no more than 12th century Europe was ready for the Constitution. Given the power to choose, they will choose tyranny. They will choose the known over the unknown, the stable over the unstable, and order over freedom.

A society with a social hierarchy embedded in its culture will preserve that hierarchy even with democratic elections Such elections will not give women freedom or rights to religious minorities or freedom of expression to unpopular views. These are things which stem from legal guarantees such as the Constitution, they do not arise out of the natural course of open elections. And the pundits who are busy pretending that this is how it works in the columns of every major newspaper are playing the fool.

The United States has freedom due primarily to its culture. Those freedoms were an outgrowth of the rights of Englishmen and the Enlightenment. They cannot be exported to another country– without also exporting the cultural assumptions that produced them.

Egypt’s period of greatest liberalization was under British rule. Since then its cosmopolitan nightspots have been torched and it has drifted closer to Islamization. Even Egypt’s current level of human rights under Mubarak is above that of most of its neighbors. And the reason for that is Mubarak’s ties to America. The more democratic Egypt becomes, the more its civil rights will diminish. Its rulers will see social issues as an easy way to compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood. As Egypt’s cultural ties to the West diminish, so will its freedoms.

The Islamists understand this far better than the neo-conservatives. That is why they campaign so ruthlessly against Western culture. They understand that it is cultural assumptions that dictate behavior, more than any law. While we try to export institutions to the Muslim world, they export Muslim culture to us. And they have had far more luck changing us, than we have had changing them. Institutions are shaped by culture, but cultures are not shaped by institutions. Export every aspect of American government to Egypt, and it will run along Egyptian lines, not American ones. And within a year, Egypt’s government will run the same way it does today. Only the window dressing will be different.

Mubarak is one of the last of the Janissaries, the Western trained army officers who seized power across the Arab world in order to implement some twisted semblance of a modern system of government. When the army’s grip on power fails, then Egypt will fall even further. The loss of power by the Turkish military meant a descent into Islamism and terrorism. It will mean the same thing in Egypt.

The “Hitler Paradigm” is the ideological blindspot of so many liberals and the liberally minded who insist that an entire nation cannot be bad, only a dictator, just as a religion cannot be bad, only a tiny minority of extremists. Their knee jerk response to every crisis is to insist that a change of government will change everything, that opening up the system will inherently and inevitably mean freedom. As is so often the case, a single bad idea can lead to tremendous folly.

A people who do not believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will not be free no matter how many times they go to the polls. You can place voting booths outside every home and run elections every week, and it will still do no good. Freedom may be the birthright of every man, woman and child on earth– but it cannot be theirs until they claim it. As long as they believe in the right of the majority to oppress the minority, in the value of order over liberty, and the supremacy of the mosque over any and all civil and legal rights– then they will never be free. Never. Their elections will either give rise to chaos or tyranny. That is how it is in the Middle East. That is how it will always be until they claim their birthright by closing the Koran and opening their minds.

February 9, 2011 | 23 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

23 Comments / 23 Comments

  1. A reliable knish; unfailingly perceptive.

    Excellent article.

    Amen. Greenfield knocked another one outa the park.

    Just one correction to the statement, “Those freedoms were an outgrowth of the rights of Englishmen and the Enlightenment.” Englishmen did not have religious liberty. [The English]… were expelling the Jews

    Well, actually, that “expelling” part was no longer the case, Jeff, by the time of the American Revolution; in fact, by then, it hadn’t been true for 120 years.

    Jews had been expelled from the British Isles under Edward I [1290] and were PNG there for just under four centuries: until the Oliver Cromwell Protectorate in 1656, when they were readmitted — partly in response to the personal petition to Cromwell [& the English Council of State] of the Amsterdam rabbi, Menashe ben Israel. And there was probably an established Sephardic community living in London even before that, though their religious matters, at that point, would’ve had to be kept unofficial (quieter anyway than their commercial activities).

    2006 was the 350th anniversary of the readmission.

    And to say that “Englishmen did not have religious liberty” is to miss the point that these things don’t arrive on the scene whole and complete. Religious liberty in the British Isles was gradual in coming, and was already well underway in its sociological development there even before most of the American colonies were founded. The recent massacres of Coptic Christians in Egypt is just a tiny piece of evidence that the cultural basis of democracy has yet to acquire so much as a toehold in that country.

  2. The article deliberately ignores the rate of change that is occurring globally regarding the spread of liberal (classical) democratic (small-d) values. It does that because this site’s owner(s) appears to have a fascistic, land-grabbing, Zionist agenda, and a liberal revolution succeeding in Egypt would more than hamper it.

    Mr Usher, actually “a fascistic, land-grabbing, Zionist agenda” is precisely what I support. Land grabbing is exactly the way our great generations of 19th century Americans stole this whole damned continent from a bunch of stone-age Indians, while the Australians were doing precisely the same thing to their Aborigines, the Mexicans and white Latinic South Americans and Central Americans to their local Indians, the Russians to their Asiatic tribesmen, etc, etc.

    Here in the good old USA, I tell anyone who mouths off about Israel that if they feel so strongly about the rights of such peoples, then they should give up their jobs to some Indian, African, Mexican or whatever, and to vacate their suburban row houses or McMansions and sign the title deeds over to some Winnebago, Navajo, Mandan, Cheyenne or whatever tribal gang it should rightfully belong to. Otherwise, just close your damned mouths, forget about foreign events, set your asses down in front of your TV sets and focus on the football players mauling each other for millions of dollars per game.

    Do I worry about the rights of any of these shouting, stomping Arabs waving their shoes at television cameras in a Cairo square? Actually, I couldn’t care less about them, including whether or not the Egyptian army uses their tanks to squash them into the pavement.. And neither do most real Americans. Because when push comes to shove, the only hypocrites in this country are the ones we elect to pretend they are running the world as well as the country, from the comfort of their guarded home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    The whole of Aretz-Yisrael — the Land of Israel as defined in the original Bible — belongs solely to the Jewish nation. It will stay that way, and if necessary, will be defended, possibly with weapons of mass destruction of the type invented by members of our Jewish nation who brought nuclear physics to realization some 70 years ago. Because the Jews — or at least those who already are settled in Aretz-Yisrael — are getting tired of playing Jew-hating kick-me games of the world’s goyim.

    Does that reinforce the prejudices against real Jews that seem to ooze out of every word you have written here? I sure hope so. I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed by chasing a false premise.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  3. Good corrective to all the unicorn talk.

    It’s rare that the majority of a population of people is smart enough to keep the political process under control – to see behind the essential Ponzi Scheme nature of political promises, for example. Judging by what is happening in the US it may not only be rare, but non-existent.

    On the other hand, even populations with very low average intelligence (eg parts of Africa) can sustain and develop a thriving market system (ref Peter Bauer).

    Perhaps it’s the difference between the visible hand of the magician/politician hiding what the other hand is doing, versus the invisible hand of the market.

  4. BikeBandit ShyGuy hit the nail on the head. He wants Mubarak to resign immediately and told him so when he met with him at the White House on 2/10 so he (Obamma) can support the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt. Obamma is pushing for the Islamization of the U.S. and every corner of the globe and the Muslim Brotherhood is his primary partner (along with his illegitimat staff of Nazi’s running the gov’t) in achieving that objective. Am I racist toward Muslims, You bet, and the sooner we run them all out of the country the safer we’ll all be.

  5. Great exchange of opinions, especially those from both ends of the ignorance and political agenda extremes. Is Egypt ready ready for a democracy or republic? The predominant religion of Egyptians today is Islam. Do you know what that word means? IT MEANS SUBMISSION! Enough said.

  6. ellen goldin says:
    February 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    The staying of Mubarak is still just a question of time. He is not well at 82.
    The activism started when the top Egyptian army persons away were in Washington DC, on the invitation of Obama. What a coincidence!

    According to all the media Mubark is gone Army in Control

  7. It is Biblical principles (not Bible mandated laws, but principles)

    Explain the difference? And what do you mean by biblical principles?

    The French revolution did not bring democracy and freedoms to France until long after the revolution.

    It was a true Judo/Christian culture

  8. The point is not whether an Egyptian democracy (if one should arise) will do what we want or not. Despotism cannot be the basis for long term peace. If democracy comes to Egypt (which remains in serious doubt), and that democracy is more than “one man, one vote, one time”, then the Egyptian people will be able to express their will, elect and remove administrations and create the basis of true stability. Pinning our hopes in an 82 year old dictator or his kleptomaniacal son, is simply irrational.

    Neither the US or Israel started this turmoil in Egypt, and neither can really control its outcome. Supporting Mubarak HaTzadik (the Saint)is however ultimately useless and violates our own belief in the rule of law and the seventh of the Noahide commandments. Despots are bound to fall, let us hope that in Mubarak’s fall a system arises which makes real peace possible.

  9. Good article, nicely summarizing what’s going on in Egypt. Many people just don’t get Islamic mentality. Muslims are a very long way from being able to handle democrasy properly.

  10. Excellent article.

    Just one correction to the statement, “Those freedoms were an outgrowth of the rights of Englishmen and the Enlightenment.” Englishmen did not have religious liberty, they were expelling the Jews and commanding everyone to be a part of the Church of England. Enlightenment brought about the French Revolution which has many parallels to Egypt today.

    It was a true Judo/Christian culture based on the Bible that gave America the constitution and freedoms we enjoy today. Europe had Catholic Pope-ary and kings. American colonies began to go the way of tyrannical Europe until Roger Williams, a Baptist minister, became the Governor of Rhode Island, the first colony to allow freedoms such as a synagogue, Sabbath observant Christians, equality for Quakers, freedoms to Indians, etc. It is Biblical principles (not Bible mandated laws, but principles) that give us the freedoms of equality that we enjoy in the United States.

  11. Can you hope for a dose or reality to strike?

    “To this day, I see Arabs blaming Israelis for young Arab drug addicts, their poor education, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, bad roads, corruption, lack of democracy, unemployment, 9/11, the division of Sudan, the upheaval in Tunisia and the unrest in Egypt. If Israel can do all these things, then the Israelis are either super humans or we simply enjoy blaming others for our failings.”

    From not where you would expect, or from who you would expect either, “Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, is Commodore (Retd.), Royal Saudi Navy.” http://arabnews.com/opinion/article253715.ece

  12. The staying of Mubarak is still just a question of time. He is not well at 82.
    The activism started when the top Egyptian army persons away were in Washington DC, on the invitation of Obama. What a coincidence!

  13. Catarin says:
    February 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Here’s what I’ve gathered from TV and articles.

    Precisely why you have no idea what’s flying on the ground. Now back to your show!

  14. Here’s what I’ve gathered from TV and articles. The Middle Eastern people want freedom. The Egyptian revolution, and in other Muslim countries, has nothing to do with installing an Islamic regime. It is the newest generation with their access to modern media who is leading the way. An older Egyptian woman said the young folks are doing what her generation was afraid to do.

    I’m struck by the gentleness in many Egyptian citizens. These aren’t the activists who took America by storm in the 1960s. In a TV interview I saw this morning, the young man who works for Google and whose Facebook page it was that spread the news of the protests, said he had given his wife Power of Attorney and was prepared to die if necessary. The Egyptian government arrested him and kept him blindfolded for ten days in solitary confinement before they released him. Through tears he described his ordeal and that he had taken a leave of absence from Google to continue the protests. Google stands behind him. Take that, Mubarak.

    Any rumors about the U.S. having had a hand in the protests are false. The U.S. was surprised, as the rest of the world was, about these events. I prefer to wait on judgment as to what will emerge from this. The young Egyptian people had access to the internet which showed them there is a better way.

  15. Tom Usher says:
    February 10, 2011 at 4:37 am

    The article deliberately ignores the rate of change that is occurring globally regarding the spread of liberal (classical) democratic (small-d) values. It does that because this site’s owner(s) appears to have a fascistic, land-grabbing, Zionist agenda, and a liberal revolution succeeding in Egypt would more than hamper it.

    What’s your beef Tom, This site welcomes Christians and even the occasional Liberal but a self described Liberal Christian is such an anomaly here I am sure we will need time to properly pigeonhole those of your unique persuasion.

    At least you got to publicize your blog. 😛

  16. Snortin’ the WRONG KIND of white powder, I see.
    (That Dutch Cleanser is sure to bleach-out your synapses, Dude.)

    …a liberal revolution succeeding in Egypt

    Sorta like astroturf sprouting roots & sending forth blooms, right, Tom?

    Let’s see now, the Magna Carta was signed, what, eight centuries ago?
    Then it took another 572 years till the Constitutional Convention.
    Yep, Egypt’s right on-schedule for a liberal, classical, democratic (small-d) revolution.
    Any day now.

    The signs are everywhere, and unmistakable:

    rule of law, and popular respect for it as necessary and reasonable — check;

    accountability for law enforcement — check;

    an independent judiciary that is commonly regarded as generally sincere, impartial, reliable, and fair — check;

    a free-and-unfettered popular press that carries a burden to provide a thoughtful, accurate, nongovernmental, accounting of the events of the day— including those appertaining specifically to the activities of the government itself — check;

    an ethos in the culture that generally embraces the principle of compromise: the proposition of considering whether an opponent’s claims may have a measure of validity, and if so, of accepting half-a-loaf in return for a resumption of general civility, if not amity, between the parties — check;

    a commitment to protecting the rights of minorities under majoritarian rule — check;

    the broadly accepted inclination (conscious or otherwise) to put a premium on the value of keeping one’s word as the reliable grounding for all contractual obligations in business, personal and political matters—and as the most fundamental basis of a society’s sense of honor — check;

    Right, Tom. It’s all there. Democracy’s sure to be just around the corner.
    Bring on the elections; hoo hah, can’t wait.

  17. The article deliberately ignores the rate of change that is occurring globally regarding the spread of liberal (classical) democratic (small-d) values. It does that because this site’s owner(s) appears to have a fascistic, land-grabbing, Zionist agenda, and a liberal revolution succeeding in Egypt would more than hamper it.

  18. continued from previous page
    Another reason that the Fed.is pushing for cheap,inflated money is to make exports more competitive by making them cheaper.However it must be understood that all of the other nations with strong economies are doing the same things for the same reasons.It is a race to the bottom as central banks are creating tons of new money for the same reasons as the
    Fed..Trade & currency wars are starting to break out among the powers as they all fight for their shrinking share of world trade.As if this was not enough,some of the crazy policies concocted in Washington are making matters even worse.The U.S. was a major exporter of corn but now corn that was used as a food asset is being diverted to Ethanol as a gas additve.This,along with other idiotic Green policies are further constricting the worlds supply of food commodities.In this time of international commodities crisis America could be a huge source of food & energy to a world that is desperate for these resources.We cannot do this because we are held back by our Bolshevik in chief in the White House Egypt,&the other third world nations,are caught in this economic crossfire & are helpless to defend themselves.Most of the rest of the Moslem world,excluding the nations with oil,are toast.They are in situations similar to Egypt.This all may have started in Moslem North Africa but it is far from over.The whole Mid-East is in for a rough ride & change is coming at a breathtaking rate!

  19. Before I begin,I would like to ask Mr. Knisha a question.Are you potato or kasha?

    As for Egypt,it is going down the toilet at a faster & faster rate (if Debka File is to believed).There has been rumors that Obama’s henchmen have been involved in the effort to bring down Mubarak’s government.Code Pink & some other of his leftwing attack dogs have been seen in Egypt according to some sources.Debka claims that workers are taking over some factories & setting up “Revolutionary Committees”.Imagine that!Workers Revolutionary Committees doesn’t sound particularly Islamic to me,sounds like Obamaspeak to me.Could our Juvenile Great Leader in Washington be fishing in troubled waters once more?Whatever the cause I believe that the Egytians are heading down the drain.Maybe the only way they can be saved for the immediate future is if the military takes over the government.But that would be only a short term answer.Egypt would need financial support from outside to survive for any period of time,money & food from international sources.The Egyptian story is a smaller part of a much bigger problem that I have observed for awhile now.Whenever I mention this problem on political sites I am ignored,readers seem to think I am nuts for bringing up financial considerations.But it must be realized that the economic trumps the political.without the economy there is no politics.
    What is happening to Egypt’s economy is a part of the breakup of the whole global economy.The Federal Reserve Bank is producing endless amounts of fiat money to save their masters,WallSteet & the big financial firms who own the worlds finances.These highly leveraged financial interests are heavily indebted & can only save themselves thru inflation,they will pay their debts with inflated “cheap money”.In effect they are pauperizing the taxpaying public which will end up paying the bill for the bankers.In International terms the inflated money supply combined with very low interest rates is finding it’s way out to other parts of the world.Third world countries are experiencing inflationary problems from all of these cheap dollars rolling into their economies.third world poor,who could barely survive in the past,cannot afford to buy food at the new inflated prices. Another problem is that Egypt imports large amounts of food commodities,especially wheat.There are currently food shortages around the world & competition for these resources by powers like China are pushing Egypt & much of the rest of the poor nations out of the way in this race to buy resources..to be continued