The Corner

Re: With Democracy Like This

Stan, I thought Duncan’s post was fantastic as well (and I think your stuff on Egypt has been terrific). As I said on Twitter, Gerecht’s case is the smart version of what I’ve been trying to say.

So, now that I’ve conceded I’m a bit slow, maybe you can explain this sentence of yours:

“If this is the best defense of the shift to less-than-liberal democracy in Egypt we’ve got, we are in big trouble.”

Because the way I read it, you seem to be saying that Egypt has made the shift to less-than-liberal democracy already. I’m watching today’s news. What channel are you on? And what was Egypt under Mubarak? Are you saying that we already know Egypt has moved to being even less of a liberal democracy? If so, on what basis?

No one knows what is happening right now. No one is privy to all of the myriad conversations transpiring, including the key participants in many of those conversations. You’ve already posited that the situation is disastrous. Lord know you may be proven right eventually. But there’s nothing in the existing record to say you’ve already been proven right.

Also, the phrasing of your assertion that Obama is bringing the Muslim Brotherhood into the Egyptian government simultaneously gives Obama too much and too little credit. It’s really not up to him whether the Brotherhood joins the Egyptian government or not. Or to be more accurate, any attempt to block the Brotherhood at this stage might come with an enormous price that would not be worth paying.  He may be responding to the facts and necessities available to him. He may also simply be biding his time.

And while I share your dislike for the Brotherhood and most of your concerns, what do you propose he do?

For good or ill, the Brotherhood is a legitimate and authentic political force in Egypt, just as various Communist parties were in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Those parties joined the various newly democratic governments of Poland, Czechoslovakia et al. Thing didn’t work out for the Communists as they’d hoped either. The analogy isn’t perfect, obviously. But it’s not like we can ban the Brotherhood the way the allies banned the Nazis in postwar Germany. Moreover, I have a real problem with the assumption that the Muslim Brotherhood is so sinister, so popular, and so infinitely capable that it knows exactly how to take advantage of this moment. I can buy the sinister part. I’m not as sure about the popular part, and I’m quite dubious about the capability part.

If I had to guess, the Muslim Brotherhood joins a government but doesn’t run it. Then there will be a very precarious period where it tries its hand at politics while thinking about seizing power undemocratically. Hopefully the army, among others, will play a stabilizing and countervailing role there. The conclusion of that contest is anybody’s guess. And I do mean guess.

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