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The truth about the Arab Spring

… and what it means for what comes next in Egypt


 

Manu Brabo/AP

Egypt has seen brutal violence during the past two days. With at least 525 dead (and counting) and thousands injured, the nation representing the keystone of the wobbly arch that is Middle-East stability is at the cusp of what could become civil war.

It’s the kind of scenario in the ill-fated Arab Spring that everyone hoped would be avoided. But now, as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood battle Egypt’s security forces on the streets of Cairo and other major cities, the reality of an Arab Winter looms large.

Two years ago, it seemed something monumental was in the making. Millions of Egyptians, risking the wrath of an increasingly oppressive regime led by ousted President Hosni Mubarak, took to the streets to demand a better future. The economy topped the agenda as a new generation of young, educated Egyptians decided it had enough of an aging elite that seemed more interested in maintaining its grip on power than creating a prosperous nation.

The electrifying events that followed dominated television screens from New York to Sana’a. As the world watched, a dictator was brought to his knees by the very people he had sought to dominate. The world cheered as Egyptians took control of their destiny, ending decades of authoritarianism with a resounding call for democracy.

It was supposed to be a revolution, but in reality it was not. “This was a popular revolt,” the International Crisis Group, a leading Brussels-based think tank, wrote in its February 2011 post-mortem of the Egyptian revolution. “But its denouement was a military coup.”

Many experts agree: what Egypt experienced in 2011 was not a revolution but a well-orchestrated transition of power, with the military pulling the strings, as it always has.

It was a masterful stroke. In a matter of weeks, Egypt’s generals gave the boot to a troublesome dictator, while maintaining the illusion of political non-interference in a genuine democratic transition. Egypt then held its first free and fair elections. The results were not surprising: the street-savvy, well-organized Muslim Brotherhood won a clear majority under the guise of a new political movement, the Freedom and Justice Party. Liberals and secularists were left looking disorganized and purposeless.

But the Brotherhood politicians quickly learned that winning elections is the easy part of democratic governance. During the past year, the genetics of its authoritarian pedigree clearly surfaced. Making no effort at creating consensus, its leaders, and newly elected President Mohamed Morsi in particular, pushed ahead with an aggressive power grab, sidelining liberal and secular voices and pushing through an Islamist-friendly constitution. In the process, the Brotherhood alienated a significant segment of Egypt’s population — those who did not vote for the Freedom and Justice Party.

More importantly, the Muslim Brotherhood failed to address the economic stagnation plaguing Egypt. In their defence, a year is a blip in economic terms, but the party’s abject failure further angered Egyptians, leading to mass protests at the end of June. This prompted the Egyptian military to intervene once again and carry out what, on reflection, must be considered Egypt’s second coup in as many years.

The Egyptian democratic experiment now lies in tatters. It’s not difficult to deduce that the experiment itself was carried out under the watchful eye of the military, which remains the dominant institution in Egypt. Military interests are the overriding factor in Egyptian politics, and the Muslim Brotherhood has threatened those interests.

In August 2012, Morsi initiated a shake up of the senior military command, forcing then Commander in Chief Hussein Tantawi into retirement, to be replaced by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sami Anan, then chief of army staff, was also retired, as was the head of the navy, Mohab Memish.

Events in Egypt’s neighbouring countries amplified the army’s mistrust of Morsi and the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s strongest supporters, the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had emasculated the Turkish military over a decade of legal cases targeting senior military officers in an alleged Deep State plotting to overthrow the government.

There’s little doubt that the Egyptian army, and its American-educated Commander in Chief el-Sisi in particular, watched events unfold in Turkey with trepidation. The AKP crushed anti-government protests in June, and recent convictions, including a life sentence for one former army chief relating to the alleged coup plot, have created a regional environment that threatens military dominance.

The Egyptian military’s response, however, to what have been largely peaceful sit-ins demanding the reinstatement of Egypt’s first democratically elected president has removed any illusion that Egypt was ever on any unrestricted path to democracy. The U.S. response tells volumes: joint military exercises scheduled for early September have been cancelled and the Egyptian military’s $1.3-billion yearly windfall, courtesy U.S. taxpayers, is under scrutiny.

The international response to the violence will be crucial. The path to democracy, at its infancy in the Middle East, will take many years. That long and winding road has reached a crucial fork: one way leads to Islamist domination, the other to military dictatorship. The former is the road least traveled, and the best of the worst options.


 
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The truth about the Arab Spring

  1. It might be useful to be aware that the military and its’ officer class
    controls a significant part of the economy. There are some estimates
    as high as 40%, though that is under dispute. But there can be no doubt
    that they will do whatever it takes to defend that economic interest.

  2. The arab spring was an cause of the MSM. The MSM trends to the left and consequently their hate for Israel (which is a success) is always just below the surface. However as much as they like to bash Israel, the reality is that it is a country that respects human rights (the only middle eastern country that more the just tolerants gays and women), has citizens who are arabs who actually sit in government (try finding jews anywhere in the middleeast). The MSM love for the Palestinians is strange and harmful (it would be nice if the MSM would actually acknowledge the number of rockets the Palestinians lob into Israel daily). Israel has moved a lot to support various peace processes (they gave up the whole Gaza with working businesses and intact houses, but the Palestinians could only destroy those structures and lob more rockets into Israel). Instead the MSM keeps up how Israel oppress the Palestinians. Sixty years ago, the Palestinians had the option to create their own country (and have had several opportunities since then) instead they continue to keep the victim card up. Israel has restricted some Palestinian actions primarily those that will harm Israel, but the main oppressors of the Palestinians are – their own leaders (any MSM reports on how much Arafat and his successors have stolen from their own people – no! What a surprise!); their Arab brethren (who are content to use Palestinians as cannon fodder to smash Israel); and the UN (Palestinians are the ONLY people who have been held in refugee camps for over 60 years – the UN could have pushed to have many of them resettled in Arab countries – after all many Arab countries expelled Jews and took their property and land in 1948, but the UN has been useless.

    So there was great hope in the MSM that the Arab Spring would turn into real democracy which would counter the success of Israel – and which would allow the MSM to hammer more and more at Israel. Too bad it has all gone wrong (but very predictable if the MSM had taken off their biases),

    • Nonsense. The USA does not want democracies; it kills democracies to put in friendly people such as Mubarak and the Shah in Iran in 1953 coup by the USA.

      The Palestinians need not move the oppression of Israel. Israel must give back the land they have stolen and continue to steal.

      The Geneva Convents and the article, well agreed to by Israel, say that land cannot be kept when taken in war. That land, all of it, must be given back.

      But the USA backs Israel no matter what law they break. The USA has vetoed every resolution rising to the Security Council in the UN since 1972.
      jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/usvetoes.html

      Not much truth in this MacLean’s piece.

  3. If you want to get a little more insight into the Middle Eastern mindset pick up a copy of “Inside the Kingdom” by Robert Lacey. While the book’s actually about Saudi Arabia, its content can easily be extrapolated to understand how a succession of Arab ‘royal’ families came to dominate the political struggles affecting this part of the world.

    • Yep, Saudi specifically as the ring masters. Even though 911 were Sunni Saudi/Yemen/Bahrain origin, including Osama and funded by UAE, US military does well for them in protecting them for oil and corruption.

      Even UN doesn’t really push Saudi human rights atrocities very far as they are US protected and most of UN is dictators or religious rule anyways. Saudi women cannot drive, sex trade and slavery still overlooked. They even behead people…

      http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/saudi-arabia-five-beheaded-and-crucified-amid-disturbing-rise-executions-2013-05-21

      But hey, they live in fear, as a raped woman might lose her head for adultery while the man walks free…that is the UAE……

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t George H. Bush make sure that after 911, when all domestic and commercial flights were ordered out of American airspace due to security concerns, the Saudi’s, who had contributed several million dollars to his bid for Presidency, and we’re in the country at the time, immediately got cleared for take off.

  4. Yep, Muslim Brotherhood likes burning churches and government buildings, with guns in tote they kill….and why should the west expect the Egyptian government to do nothing? After all the arrogant bunch things the minority should be a dictatorship the majority does not want.

    I would bet the farm if 50,000 armed looters, killers, arsonists marched on Ottawa or DC we would see government shoot back. You bet.

    Or like NSA and how the Saudi do it. Monitor people real good, and arrange for those organizing to lose jobs, ride them hard. And in Saudi case, disappear at 2am. Yep, in UAE people disappear all the time, even get beheaded. Saudi are past 57 this year so far.

    Morsi tried to shut down democracy parts of government that didn’t agree with him, and deserved the boot. Hey, if Harper suspended senate and parliament leaving him as dictator would you not hope military steps in to maintain democracy by having a new election?

    • No, the rioters burn churches as a reflection of the attitudes of the Christian USA killing all over the Middle East/North Africa. The excesses have begun after the military began killing protesters.

      The question is whether or not the Americans would revolt over a dictatorship being set up in an obvious manner in the USA. It very much is close to being one now.

  5. MB winning the first election was a good demonstration of what is wrong with democracy (and why not voting should be a crime). No doubt the current violence will be used to “remove” some of the leaders of MB and It will be interesting to see the voter turnout in the next election. But I think their democracy will be much stronger now, can you imaging if Ottawa feared being removed by the people, backed by the military, if they couldn’t run a co-operative government anytime during their term.

  6. America and Europe can say what they want about the need for stability in the Middle East, but I think if you scratched the surface what the people who run the world really want is the Middle east blast themselves back into the stone age. So far with a little help Iraq then Libya and Syria. Now all is needed is a bit of a push and there goes Egypt. How much better can things get??

    • That’s true. The USA interference is insane and they’re always causing war.

  7. It’s strange how Khan and others avoid mentioning that up to 33 million Egyptians overthrew Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, and avoid discussing the violence presently being perpetrated by the MB. Sure, the Egyptian military may be riding the wave to ensure their own continued relevance. I find the current situation quite hopeful. It gives the Egyptian people a chance to avoid Taliban-like oppression.

    • Yep, good to see so many fighting for their freedom from submission and repression. Sad to say, but with religion fascists groups, if you want freedom you have to spill some blood.

  8. The Arab Spring. This name that came up was nothing but a bit of propaganda as the USA/West and the Sharia Law dictators, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain at the top of the Friends of America Chart manoeuvred the Middle East/North Africa into a huge state of turmoil.

    The Mursi government was duly elected and the coup by the Egyptian military was wrong. Since the Mursi government was not Israel friendly sure shines a light on those who may have very much wanted this government out.

    The idea that it was the problem of the Mursi government to create a suddenly prosperous Egypt is completely unfounded and wrong as Egypt had been suffering a high poverty level for a long time under the USA friendly Mubarak.

    It’s sad to see MacLean’s carrying along in the same manner over so many years.

    There is little short term hope for Egypt to suddenly turn prosperous under any government. The coup was wrong and likely followed the cruel demise of other countries the USA interfered in. Libya was no inside rebellion it was orchestrated from outside. All the evidence, available to MacLean’s shows this to be true. The same is true for Syria.

  9. The rule of thumb seems to be to support actors in immature nations who support those who support minority rights. Basically, aid Parties who support Parties (via gvmt structure platforms) that support minority rights. If the minority is the political wing of a terorist org or of a Human Rights disrespecting religious interpretation of a religious text, it isn’t important to support their minority rights. But if the little Party is their future Liberal Party of Canada, you’d want to aid any bigger Party that has respect for such an unrelated actor.
    This is why SK bugs me. They have 6 Senate seats; twice their population. Just don’t sent media types to the Senate and they’ll be fine. It is tricky to disregard democracy in Egypt and in the opinions of B.Wall, but if the population won’t vote in actors who will respect the minority rights of minorities who repect human rights, and you have an actor like a military or Founding fathers who will respect such, you defer to the latter until the people of Eygpt and Saskatchewan read political history. Making the UK or Scotland your de facto head of state is a strength over centuries. Weird to see the USA caught in the paradox of rebelling against such a syste to implement a crappier version of the system ($$ is a more subtle tyrant than is the King). The USA never stipulated learned individuals such as their politicians with sciences and certain humantiies degrees in elevated positions…but their method of toggling th Secretary of State above and below the chain of command re the JCS as threats emerge and recede, seems sound.

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