Preparing for Battle in Syria and Egypt: Tests of Power

by David Pryce-Jones

They’re gearing up for definitive violence in Egypt. On June 30 the Muslim Brothers will have been in power for a whole year. The country used to be militarized and nationalistic on the standard Third World model. The Muslim Brothers have done their best to introduce the new Islamist model. The experiment does not correspond to the outlook and aspirations of so large a proportion of the population that it could never succeed. Millions who repudiate the incoming Islamism are due to take to the streets on June 30. And the regime is mobilizing its equally numerous supporters for counter-demonstrations. Tanks are already in place to guard key buildings, including the American and British embassies.

They’re gearing up for definitive violence in Syria, too. That’s another country militarized and nationalistic on the standard Third World model. However the nationalism is a pretext serving to keep Islamism at bay. For two ghastly years the rival ideologies have been fighting it out. Those in touch with Syria say that the regime and the rebels are mustering in Aleppo in large numbers and preparing for battle.

Neither in Egypt nor in Syria, then, is there the element of surprise that commanders usually like to achieve. These aren’t proper battles capable of settling some concrete issue, territorial or dynastic as it might be, but tests to discover what the numbers are and therefore where the power will go. That’s how things are settled in the absence of a constitutional framework. The coming violence is publicized because it is to this context what a general election is to a democracy.

Factors influencing the individual to be violent in one cause or another are many and various, to do with faith, ethnicity, tribal loyalty, education, worldliness, etc. Robert Spencer writes and speaks in the conviction that Islam is the mainspring of violence, and he supports his view with scholarship. He and Pam Geller, another writer and speaker with this same conviction, were invited to speak in Britain, but the Home Office refuses them entry, basically for fear of what they might say. I wrote the introduction to one of Mr. Spencer’s earlier books, and since this is still a democracy, just, I may say that this Home Office ban on free speech is what lawyers call ultra vires, an abuse of bureaucratic powers. To treat Islam as a protected subject insults the British and infantilizes Muslims.

David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.