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Week in Review

Concern Grows For Stability In Egypt After Clashes Leave Many Dead And Injured

With WRM in India this week, we cross-posted an essay from the American Interest editor Adam Garfinkle on the violent crackdown on pro-Morsi supporters by Egyptian Security Forces:

[A]l-Sisi and associates believe in the “strong horse” theory of political legitimacy, and they are now in the process of applying that theory to Egyptian realities. Might doesn’t necessarily make right—that’s not at all how Islamic jurisprudence on such matters reads—but it’s good enough for government work failing other, gentler institutional alternatives. The Middle East lacks the warm, fuzzy affection for the underdog that many Americans take to be second nature. The dominant view of what is still a patriarchal, hierarchical and still clingingly pre-modern set of Muslim Middle Eastern societies is that the weak deserve whatever depredations they suffer. It’s a kind of ur-Social Darwinism that has been at work for many centuries before Darwin himself ever saw light of day.

As I also said before, I think Egypt’s military leaders are right about this. And I suspect they recognized that the longer they waited to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood encampments the better prepared the MB would be to resist. And they have resisted, and are still doing so. Several score policemen are dead among the many hundreds of MB protestors in Cairo and around the country. So are hundreds of mostly innocent Copts, who have no recourse but to be on the wrong side of the Brotherhood’s murderous intolerance. Indeed, spending energy and resources to kill Coptic civilians and burn down their churches while Muslim police are bearing down on you with shotguns furnishes about the best example there can be of how MB fanaticism completely swamps its capacity for rational planning of any kind. […]

I still think that what we are seeing in Egypt is a kind of deck-clearing phase. I still think a new political modus vivendi between the military and Egypt’s variety of Islamists is possible and likely, once certain red lines are re-established. And I even still think the Egyptian military can and ultimately will play the role of Praetorian guard over the emergence of a more vital civil society, political pluralism and maybe, one day still far off, even something we in the West recognize as democracy—and I think that because of the significant liberalizing social changes in Egypt over the past generation or two that are deep, real and irreversible. But first the generals have to make the MB and the salafis to their “right” (these European terms limp badly applied to Egypt, admittedly) say “uncle.” That may take a few weeks, or months, it now seems—and of course all this is happening in the broader context of a near completely collapsed economy. But the odds are that the military will have its way; the MB will say “uncle.”

The violence in Egypt was the biggest story in the Middle East this week, but a large part of the region—including Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and even Iran—is feeling the effects of the civil war in Syria. And in the latest news from the West Bank, the BBC dropped the ball with its misleading coverage of the news that Israel green-lighted a series of settlements ahead of negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Game of Thrones was in full swing in Asia this week, as China and South Korea condemned the annual controversy over Japanese visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, and China responded with live fire naval exercises. Tensions weren’t as high as they could have been though after Shinzo Abe decided not to see the shrine himself. That restraint notwithstanding, Abe’s pursuit of a nationalistic foreign policy agenda is alienating rivals and friends alike. That’s dangerous in a region currently in the grips of a naval arms race, with India unveiling its first home-built aircraft carrier just hours after its first nuclear sub, and South Korea showing off its own “state of the art” submarine. Economic news in the region was dismal, as India pushed its “panic button” on its economy. The economies of India and China, along with the rest of the BRICS, are continuing their plummet back down to earth.

In Europe, Putin demonstrated his unwillingness to let Ukraine go. German Chancellor Angela Merkel cozied up to British Euroskeptics this week, but her end game could be keeping the UK in the EU, gaining a powerful ally in the process. The EU, for its part, got some good news in the form of solid growth numbers this week, but those rates don’t dispel the bloc’s need for reform. Europe’s renewables retrenchment continued this week as more and more countries begin to roll back their over-eager green energy subsidies. British Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to embrace shale energy and made an impassioned plea for fracking in the Daily Telegraph.

In what will likely be looked back on as a watershed moment, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled his promised reforms to the country’s state-owned oil and gas monopoly, reforms that could have Mexico joining the North American energy revolution. To America’s north, industry is busy working on ways to “green” Canada’s oil sands.

In education news, law professors around the country are bracing themselves as the ABA, contending with the crisis in legal education, announced its intention to cut down on the number of tenured positions. Speaking of crises, the student loan bubble is fueling a shortage of clergy, and hurting our nation’s entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Obama’s signature education initiative, the Common Core curriculum, is under attack from both sides. And in Philadelphia, the public school system is being forced to borrow just to keep the lights on.

There was a bevy of bad news for Obamacare this week. A new Obamacare delay is creating even more uncertainty in 2014, and we can think of 1,000 reasons for avoiding the Obamacare tax when exchanges go live this fall. But crucial data is being withheld on federal health care experiments, a sign that doesn’t bode well for the rocky roll-out of the ACA. One experiment we do know of: Romneycare, often considered a bellwether for Obamacare, is struggling in Massachusetts. And we learned that the latest victims of the ACA will be public school staff. One positive step: the California Supreme Court pushed DIY health care one step forward.

[An Egyptian woman identifies the body of a family member, a supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi killed during a violent crackdown by Egyptian Security Forces on pro-Morsi sit-in demonstrations the day before, at the al-Iman Mosque in Nasr City on August 15, 2013 in Cairo. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]

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