For the past eight days I have been in Australia on a speaking tour, hence out of the blogosphere. Right now I am overlooking the boats and yachts criss-crossing Sydney bay. What a relief it is to be in a country with the free and easy spirit that once characterized England. A visitor like me has no stake in an ongoing public row here with accusations and rebuttals about misappropriation of trade-union money, a slush fund, a mortgage, all of which dates from long ago and may or may not involve the young Julia Gillard, now prime minister. Those on the right say she cannot survive, those on the left say there’s nothing to it. Happy the nation with that sort of worry.
And unhappy the nation like Egypt, where President Mohamed Morsi has thrown off the mask of democracy and declared that his word is final in matters of law and the constitution. He is resorting to a Vatican-like claim of infallibility in order to install the Islamist state the Muslim Brothers dream of. The judiciary would be an obstacle, but he has sacked the chief prosecutor and judges appointed by the previous regime. Resisting for the sake of judicial independence, the judges can call upon enough popular support to divide the country. Morsi is following precedents in Pakistan where the judges and the government fought for power, and in Turkey where President Tayyip Recep Erdogan sacked two or three thousand judges in the process of converting a secular state to Islamism.
Not the least surprising feature of this coup is the White House’s approval. No doubt Washington is grateful to Morsi for his help in dealing with Hamas in the latest crisis with Israel. All Muslim Brothers together, he could have thrown his weight behind Hamas but instead brokered the cease-fire. Washington used to describe the Muslim Brotherhood and its activities as “state-sponsored terrorism,” but now Mrs. Clinton speaks of Morsi’s “leadership and responsibility.” It stretches credulity to find Egypt suddenly praised for the peace and stability it brings to the region.
In 1984, George Orwell’s masterpiece of insight into the immorality of power politics, perpetual violence is punctuated by Two-Minute Hates, whereby former enemies unexpectedly become allies, and vice versa. The Hamas-Israeli clash has been a Two-Minute Hate, and at its culmination we have experienced an Orwellian inversion of alliances.