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.

Most Popular


White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More

Wolf Warrior II Tells Us a Lot about China

The Chinese economy is taking a big hit as a result of the trade war with the U.S: A leading export indicator has fallen several months in a row, Chinese companies postponed campus recruitment, and auto and housing sales dropped. A number of U.S. manufacturers are moving production outside of China. So ... Read More