David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen questions the maligning Mubarak business of pundits and newspeople in his article, “Nothing Learned” reprinted here:
“There are two, and only two, credible sources of power in Egypt, at the national level. One is the army, and the other is the Muslim Brotherhood. The former seized power in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, overthrowing the royal dynasty of that extraordinary Albanian, Muhammad Ali, which had ruled Egypt and Sudan (with unwanted British help) since 1805.
For history buffs, there is one parallel between 2011 and 1952, when King Farouk was bundled off to Italy, via Monaco. (A big bundle, for he had become in his Khedival office a very fat man.) And that was the strenuous operation behind the scenes, of Western powers including the CIA, to pull the rug from under him. Then, as now, the West plotted to deliver the country into the hands of our own worst enemies.
Farouk had alas become insupportable. The publicity attached to his European shopping trips made very poor foreground “optics,” against the background of a country that was not rich. But what really sank him was the humiliating failure of Egyptian and allied forces to prevent the formation of Israel, in 1948. There is nothing more destructive to the authority of an Arab ruler than to appear ineffectual; unless it is to appear to lack allies.
The Western powers very slowly grasped that they had contrived to replace a narcissistic fool with a socialist madman. Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, almost whimsically; in the course of provoking another disastrous war with Israel in 1956; then another in 1967; while enmiring his country in dysfunctional authoritarian bureaucracy. As the West declined to support him any further, he manoeuvred into the Soviet orbit. But such was his charisma, and the resonance of Israel as his rhetorical bete noire, that he was able to embody pan-Arab nationalist aspirations, so well that we remember that defunct ideology as “Nasserism.”
Nasser was no “Islamist,” and for broader reasons the Egyptian army has long been consciously identified with secular rule. It has remained the only effective bulwark against the expanding influence and demands of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Under Anwar Sadat, a heroic attempt was made to permanently settle the conflict with Israel, and to pilot out of the Soviet orbit, back into the American — while accommodating Muslim religious aspirations within Egyptian society. It should be mentioned here that this society was intensely conservative to begin with, and that the principal achievement of the Muslim Brotherhood has been, through preaching, to move that conservatism towards “Salafism.” That is, to identify Islam itself with its own most puritanical and aggressive faction.
Peace with Israel was relatively easy, for Israel wanted peace. The Islamists could not be accommodated, however, and they were behind the assassination of Sadat in 1981.
For 30 years since, Hosni Mubarak has tried to advance his country in the direction Sadat pointed, while fully aware that he was straddling a volcano. Those who judge Mubarak by the standards of western constitutional democracies must tinge every observation of Egypt with fantasy.
Mubarak’s greatest difficulty has been securing reforms which have included the gradual replacement of incompetent (and usually army-managed) state enterprises with free markets, and the “normalization” of relations with Israel, from behind a rhetorical cover. His very survival in office has been an extraordinary accomplishment, to which Egypt owes what peace and prosperity it has had.
Any way we look at it, Mubarak is gone. The man is old, and reputedly not well; nature would take care of him, were it not for the mobs. He has been a hard realist all his life; there is every reason to believe he is trying to make the best possible accommodation for the future of his country, under the conditions suddenly presented. The army, at this point, is making its own calculation, of whether it is better positioned with or without him still in office.
In Mubarak’s interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News this week, I think we glimpsed the reality. Amanpour herself seems to have been deeply impressed, and to have learned something from the encounter. At the least it was a surprise to her, as to the rest of the media, to discover that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, universally reported to have fled the country, had not. (That son was, incidentally, behind many of the free market reforms, and has been mischaracterized to the point of slander. He was trying to be Egypt’s Rajiv Gandhi.)
“Apres moi, le deluge.” As connoisseurs of this expression will know, it is always worth considering. And just as some paranoids have real enemies, some third-world dictators have good reason to warn what will happen if they relinquish power.
It is said that Mubarak has learned nothing in three decades. Perhaps so. But by trying to bundle him off, as if he were King Farouk, we in the West show that we have learned nothing in six.”
Comment: I, as so many of you, have watched the last week’s episodes of Egyptian agony on television. It is natural for most of us Americans to root for the underdog, and in this Egyptian case, to root for a bloodless coup against the Mubarak regime.
I am not fond of American reporters….not that they might not be nice people, some of them are. They blab to fill space. They are not very well educated, for they a journalists. Only a few are…..John Burns, for one. They are of single politics and have an ability to put a sentence together. Some even have a convincing gift of gab….but as a group, when they begin pontificating about conditions, history, personalities of a particular region, well, they could be writing about a new brand of snow shoes just now put on the market more accurately than their perceptions about real issues and problems, let say, of Egypt.
Yet, nearly every television reporter after a few days into the turmoil in Cairo began to describe the government as Mubarak thugs doing this and Mubarak thugs doing that, done by habit, not by evidence. They assumed themselves to be informing accurately.
In the traditional Marxist uprisings of the last century, rebels routinely would attack their own strikers in front of western news cameras for propaganda purposes, relying on the western press to damn the defenders in their writings back home. This is not to say there weren’t thugs sent out to cause ‘trouble’ in Cairo from the Mubarak government. It is to say there are thugs in Cairo on all sides and some of them are paid for their work.
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