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Egypt’s Liberals: “We Were Duped”

Yesterday Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court handed down rulings that dismissed the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament, in what has been called a coup by military leaders apparently dissatisfied with “transitional authority” status. Egypt is now the newest example of an old trend in Middle Eastern politics in which Islamist gains inspire pushback from secular authoritarian elements in the government.

Now the NYT reports that even the country’s most idealistic elements are realizing how formidable the opposition is:

“The system was like a machine with a plastic cover, and what we did was knock off the cover,” said Islam Lotfy, back then a rising star in the Muslim Brotherhood who had predicted that if they ousted the head of state its body would fall. The roots of the ruling elite were “much deeper and darker” than they initially understood, he said.

All [liberal activists] say they were successfully manipulated by the military leaders.

“We were duped,” Mr. Maher of April 6 recalled. “We met with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Feb. 14, and they were very cute. They smiled and promised us many things and said, ‘You are our children; you did what we wanted to do for many years!’ ” Then they offered the same smiles and vague promises the next week, he said, and the next month after that.

Those smiles and promises will likely continue, but at this point, liberals, the business establishment, and the Copts now understand how politically weak they really are. Given a choice between Islamist rule and the old Egypt minus Mubarak, they will likely opt for the army and the old system.

In the wake of the military’s power grab, we have not heard the standard cries of the liberals and Twitterati: “Where is the revolution?” Perhaps they finally know the answer: it was never a revolution—or at least not theirs. The Mubarak family is gone, but the military republic that has ruled Egypt for sixty years endures.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Cultural Progress was made, this was not wasted effort, the backward Egyptian culture has evolved. Democracy is now much more accepted, would be Tyrants will think twice with the example of Mubarak, and next time the Egyptians will recognize that putting the Muslim Brotherhood in power is a recipe for failure.

  • NC

    peterPan died. NYTimes Friedman is devastated.

  • Kevin

    It strikes me that maybe the Muslim Brotherhood or various other Isamists were duped by the military. The Liberals didn’t need to be duped by anyone, they were just deluded about how popular they were.

  • Corlyss

    Egypt’s Liberals: “We Were Duped”

    There’s a whole class of people here in the US that feel the same. They are called “independents.”

  • Anthony

    Since 1952 WRM…. However, there are still approximately 80 million Egyptians whose lives have changed little.

  • http://www.ulyssessrant.com Ulysses S. Rant

    Is anyone surprised by this? It was foolish for Westerners to think that Egypt was really ready for democracy.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    I knew, or rather suspected, the military would not surrender power but I thought they would be more subtle about it.

  • http://www.facingthehardtruths.com Stephen M. St. Onge

    A story that describes members of the Muslim Brotherhood as “liberals” shows that the reporter is basically out of touch with reality.

  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    It is interesting that Turkey’s military was successfully marginalized by the Islamists, while the Egyptian military is much more in control. Turkey’s military goes further back in time back to Ataturk and was seen as guarantor of the Turkish secular state while Egypt’s has always been seen as the guarantor of totalitarian strong man rule. I must admit the realist in me is pleased that Egypt may not be competing with Iran any time soon to be the most militant anti Western state.

  • Amy

    The Muslim Brotherhood…who wants to have a religious theocracy for all intended purposes….is….liberal?

  • joel

    After what happened to the leaders of Egypt and Libya, why would the Egyptian military think they would be spared the wrath of a new “revolutionary” power structure fueled by Islam?

    My liberal friends were indignant some months ago when I said they were about to find out why Middle Eastern countries are Islamic but ruled by a secular dictatorship, Iran now being the only exception, and a relatively new development.

    Liberals are clueless. I guess when you live in a bubble surrounded by other liberals and never read history, being clueless is the natural outcome.

  • http://www.dougsanto.com Doug Santo

    Distasteful, but perhaps the best possible outcome with respect to U.S. interests. I’m surprised the military waited this long.

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

  • http://www.battleswarmblog.com Lawrence Person

    I think the Egyptian military’s keen sense of self-preservation overrode their temporary willingness to please the Obama Administration, who will be gone soon enough. The true liberals (a perilously small minority in Egypt) were just a handy excuse for the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power for themselves, and were pushed aside just as soon as it was expedient.

  • Ambrose

    Looks more like the liberals were duped by the Islamists. Odd they still cannot see that.

  • Doug

    “The Muslim Brotherhood…who wants to have a religious theocracy for all intended purposes….is….liberal?”

    Only to an American Progressive.

  • mark l.

    I can’t bemoan the fate of the arab spring…

    The younger, liberal crowd never was in a position to take over. Any change that was going to be achieved would be quickly consumed by the larger, more powerful, militant islamists.

    Fortunately, just as the muslim brotherhood could devour the weaker ‘fish’, the largest fish in the bowl comes along and gets thing back to status quo.

    The existing structure of control was far too entrenched, and the muslim brotherhood never got a legitimate fingerhold to climb into power.

    Mubarek’s removal washes away the sins, and all the gears and cogs of a decade old machine cried out to be ‘oiled’, again.

    the people who have run things, still ran things, even during the turmoil. It isn’t exactly a shocker that they will gravitate towards what they know, and what they believed has worked in the past.

    in retrospect, the muslim brotherhood was equally as ill prepared to take over egypt as the student protestors were.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: Arab ‘Liberals’
    RE: Duped, Indeed

    But not by the Egyptian military. Rather by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB); a hate-group par excellant.

    By letting the MB gain control of power in Egypt you demonstrated that you’re part of the problem. Not the solution we had hoped to see.

    You brought it upon yourselves. And you have only yourselves to blame.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [The Truth will out….even if you don’t like it….]

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: Lorenz Gude
    RE: Heh

    It is interesting that Turkey’s military was successfully marginalized by the Islamists, while the Egyptian military is much more in control. Turkey’s military goes further back in time back to Ataturk and was seen as guarantor of the Turkish secular state while Egypt’s has always been seen as the guarantor of totalitarian strong man rule. — Lorenz Gude

    Well….

    ….from my perspective, they’re all pretty much ‘Godless’ in the first place. But that’s another, complicated discussion.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [The Truth will out….whether anyone cares for it or not…..]

  • teapartydoc

    If you learn one thing from reading Algernon Sidney it is that it is one of the most stupid things a person can do to make a fetish out of any particular form of government. It is as basic as Aristotle’s Politics: any form of government has it’s own inherent weaknesses and these can be exploited by bad people to convert them into forms lacking in the ethics and virtues that the original manifestation promoted. To be sure, Sidney himself comes down in favor of a mixed government advocated first by Plato in the Laws and later by the Philosopher, but he does so in a qualified manner. The founding fathers of this republic did so as well. We should try to have the degree of circumspection that these sages had, lest we be benighted by some clever demagogue. I think the Apostle Paul had read and knew this, and it is in part why the Bible itself guides us toward democracy without endorsing it.

  • Patricia

    A guy I know knew all the Iranian ex-pat liberal/communist guys in the 70s. After the revolution the Islamists begged them to come home: we need you, we love you!

    So they went. And were greeted on the tarmac by a barrage of machine gun fire.

    Duped. Dead.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: teapartydoc
    RE: Democracy? In the Bible?

    I think the Apostle Paul had read and knew this, and it is in part why the Bible itself guides us toward democracy without endorsing it. — teapartydoc

    I’ve been reading that Old Book for decades. Became an honest-to-God Christian in the early 90s. And I don’t see that anywhere in that Old Book.

    I’m reminded of President James Madison’s comment about ‘democracy’….

    Such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. — James Madison

    As well as President John Adams before him….

    Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. — John Adams

    THAT is why we have a representative republic, instead of a pure democracy.

    However, even then, vis-a-vis decisions by the SCOTUS, which overthrew every state’s constitution in the Reynolds v. Simms decision (SCOTUS 1964) by making the state senates nothing more than over-paid ‘representatives’ by electing them by population instead of geographic location….we’ve become more of a pure democracy at the state level.

    Hence Denver-metro area having 17 of the 35 state senate seats is now in the process of stealing resources—money, water, etc.—from the rest of the state of Colorado. And I’m confident EVERY state suffers the same.

    Hope that helps….

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. — John Adams]

  • Chuck Pelto

    P.S. This effort to move US towards a pure democracy began with the ‘popular election of Senators’ amendment, stripping states of an essential element of power.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: Patricia
    RE: History Repeats Itself….Again

    So they went. And were greeted on the tarmac by a barrage of machine gun fire. — Patricia

    While I was attending the Infantry Officers Advanced Course (IOAC) at Benning School for Boys, a.k.a., the US Army Infantry School at Fort Benning….

    ….we had a Foreign Service Officer from Liberia attending.

    During the course, there was a coup d’etat by a Master Sergeant that promoted himself to president.

    Later, the gentleman received one of those all-is-forgiven-we-need-you letters from the new government.

    However, friends of his sent him messages informing him that he was the sole survivor of all military officers for his country.

    He immediately applied for sanctuary amongst US….and was grated it. And I suspect he got a commission in the US Army as well.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [History repeats itself….especially when it is successful.]

  • Daniel

    The fate of this revolution is surprisingly parallel to that of the French Revolution, and to the French Revolution of 1848, which latter triggered similar revolutions all over Europe.
    In either case the naive democrats who began with high hopes were pushed aside by radicals (Jacobins in the first revolution socialists in 1848) whose behavior was so awful that most people accepted with joy the takeover of power by Napoleon I and III respectively.
    This time the new government could resemble the old in personnel much more than happened in France, but the end result is the same.

  • Mastro

    Kind of sad when The Who’s “Won’t be Fooled Again” is Egypt’s national anthem.

  • http://democritusbound.blogspot.ca/ Pete E

    It’s an ironic world.

    My understanding is that Mubarrak’s son wanted to slowly move to more liberal markets and more democratic power sharing. That would have shifted power away from the military.

    Instead the liberal interests took to the street, while the military looked on passively. Once the liberals eroded Murarrak’s support, they and the islamists toppled him. Then the islamists grew in power for a year, finally winning the elections. Now, the military has sidelined them to the dismay of…nobody.

    So ultimately, a big-picture, tectonic move toward economic and political freedom was arrested by…liberals.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    Yep, they were duped … and we in the West helped to dupe them.

    We keep reinforcing the message that the be-all-end-all is “democracy”/”self-determination” … when in fact democracy is but one aspect of the sound governance that has made our own nation free and prosperous.

    Without the structural protection of individual rights (from even a majority vote) within the systems of governance, and respect for the rule of law, democracy is easily exploited as a stepping-stone to authoritarian/totalitarian rule by radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood … “one man/one vote/one last time” … and/or government overstepping its bounds to interdict a threat to those within it, whether or not their motives are legitimate.

    Unfortunately, what it usually takes to get nations like Egypt and Libya on the right path, is something quite distasteful to many who have been steeped in the notion that War Is Never The Answer: active interdiction of tyrants by free people outside these nations, followed by the imposition and establishment of a SUSTAINABLE system of truly rights-respecting governance upon them to “immunize” them from another takeover by the thugs and/or fanatics … usually involving a prolonged presence of our boots-on-the-ground.

    That is how Germany and Japan were brought around after WWII … what makes us think the process will be any different today, if we are truly interested in seeing sustainable peace established in these nations?

    Without freedom – and the respect for, and protection of it by those who govern – peace is just an illusion.

  • http://www.pacrimjim.com PacRim Jim

    War is not the answer.
    Overwhelming victory in war is the answer.
    Anything short of that prolongs the suppuration.

  • Patricia

    As Daniel observes, rightly, the Arab Spring is a successor to the French Revolution, in its Romanticism (to the barricades!) and rgw fatal lure of popular democracy. The bad guys, the smart ones, are always waiting offstage to take over when utopia fails. Let’s not forget the original slogan was egalite, fraternite, liberte…au mort. Or death.

    As Ritchie observes, rightly too, people are not inherently good. Our brilliant Founders knew that. Why doesn’t anyone else today?

  • HC

    What is there to say? Of course they were duped…and they might be better off for it.

    One of Mubarak’s favorite justifications for his rule was that he kept the Islamists in check. The trouble with this self-serving claim is that it may well have also been true.

    Outside the business class and a thin scrim of half-Westernized elites and educated technocrats, Egypt is a very different and very non-Western place.

    I wonder if a number of democratic activists are privately relieved that the old regime is not dead after all, having seen some sign of who would likely dominate a democratically elected government?

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