The Corner

Consensus in Egypt

Further to Andy’s and David’s observations on Egypt this weekend, I would add only that everywhere except Washington people are thinking strategically: General Sisi has made a calculation that he has a small window of opportunity to inflict damage on the Muslim Brotherhood that will set them back decades and that it is in Egypt’s vital interest to do so. Grasping that, the Brothers are pushing back hard.

For the same reason, the Gulf monarchies, having weathered the immediate storms of the Arab spring and understanding the longer-term threat the Brotherhood represents, have supplanted Washington as Cairo’s principal paymasters: The $1.5 billion subvention to Egypt was always a drop in the great sucking maw of the US Treasury; compared to what the Saudis and the Emirs are ponying up, it’s looking less and less consequential from the Nile end, too.

Out in the wider world, Putin figures there’s a regional power play to be made, and that Moscow can be back in Cairo in a big way for the first time in four decades.

All these parties are pursuing their strategic interest. Does the United States have such a thing anymore? Not so’s you’d notice. As a result, the factions in Egypt are united only in their contempt for Washington. Obama is despised by Sisi and the generals for being fundamentally unserious; by the Brotherhood for stringing along with the coup; by the Copts for standing by as the Brothers take it out on them; and by the small number of genuine democrats in Egypt for his witless promotion of Morsi’s thugs as the dawning of democracy. Any “national-unity government” of the kind the usual deluded twits are urging on Egypt would be united only in its unanimous loathing of Obama, his secretaries of state, and his inept ambassador.

Meanwhile, out on the streets, Washington is reviled both for standing by Mubarak too long and for pushing him out too soon (eighty per cent of Egyptians say things are worse than under the old man). And, with the 2011 “Facebook Revolution” all out of “Likes”, the King of Jordan and the Gulf emirs understand the meaning of the ailing, abandoned strongman in his military prison cell in purely geopolitical terms – that (as Bernard Lewis once warned) America is harmless as an enemy but treacherous as a friend.

Whatever regime emerges in Cairo, it will be post-American.

A year before the fall of Mubarak, David Pryce-Jones, in a conversational aside, quoted to me Lord Lloyd, British High Commissioner to the old Kingdom of Egypt in the Twenties: “Ah, the jacarandas are in bloom. We shall soon be sending for the gunboats.” There’s more wisdom about Arab springs in that line than in all the blather of Obama, Clinton, Kerry and Anne Patterson combined.  

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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