El Baradei in as Egypt’s PM: Still Not Spring

by Stanley Kurtz

The appointment of Mohamed El Baradei as Egypt’s interim Prime Minister signals a new alliance between the military and the coalition of secular parties that initially made the revolution. Does this mean we’re headed for liberal democracy? Not at all. Egypt’s secular parties are a loose coalition of hardcore Arab nationalists, socialists, and communists, bound only by their burning hatred of America and Israel. Authentic liberal democrats make up only the tiniest part of the mix. Now gathered under the banner of El Baradei’s National Salvation Front, at the time of the revolution many of these parties were part of an alliance called Kefaya. I wrote about Kefaya for NATIONAL REVIEW in March of 2011, shortly after Mubarak was toppled. Here are some excerpts:

…the movement now eager to inherit power from Cairo’s military rulers is considerably less secular, pro-Western, and democratic than advertised. While many of the students demonstrating in Cairo’s Tahrir Square are non-ideological supporters of Western-style democracy, the leadership of the revolution is dominated by an anti-American coalition of hard-leftists and Islamists called Kefaya…

The leaders of Kefaya, veterans of Egypt’s “1970s generation,” came to political consciousness when the rule of Nasser was at its height. Nasser’s vision of aggressive Arab nationalism abroad and socialism at home stayed with them, inspiring their bitter opposition as student leaders to the openings to Israel and America sponsored by Nasser’s successor, Anwar el Sadat.

Unsophisticated domestic critics of Kefaya have long called on it to sponsor more openly anti-American demonstrations. To this, one of Kefaya’s leaders replies: “The burning of [a] thousand American . . . flags will not change what a real nationalist regime in Egypt can change.” In other words, Kefaya’s leaders understand that soft-pedaling anti-Americanism for the purposes of successfully replacing the Mubarak regime is the best way to defeat American interests in the end. It would be a mistake, then, to take the absence of overt anti-Americanism among the demonstrators in Tahrir Square as proof of a pro-Western attitude….

Kefaya’s leaders are perfectly aware that America’s “neoconservatives” see democratization as a way to move Egypt toward a stable pro-Western posture, at least over the long term. Kefaya has contempt for these plans. Kefaya’s leaders were using the aspirations of Western democratizers to put pressure on Mubarak, in the service of a regime change designed to undercut American interests. Manar Shorbagy’s revealing 2007 account of Kefaya in the journal Public Culture reports that Kefaya’s leaders rejected an invitation from the U.S. embassy to join the audience at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s 2005 address on democracy at Cairo’s American University. Shorbagy considers the very fact of the invitation evidence of “willful, neoconservative ignorance of political life in Egypt today.” In Shorbagy’s view, Kefaya leaders have long made a practice of successfully exploiting the misplaced hopes of American conservatives to foster their decidedly anti-Western plans.