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The Irony of Democracy

I have to admit, I’m not really sure what to think about what is going on in Egypt right now. Some of you may remember that I visited Egypt less than two years ago, just after the revolution but before the elections. But if I learned one thing from talking to people there, it is that what gets reported in the US media about Egypt has very little to do with what’s actually going on there.

A little over a year ago, Egypt was one of the prime movers of the “Arab Spring”. A popular, and relatively blood-less uprising deposed dictator-for-life Hosni Mubarak. As it has done in the past, the military took over, but the popular uprising continued, insisting that the country should become a democracy and hold elections.

And so they did. But a curious thing happened on the way to the ballot box. The political party of the Muslim Brotherhood won, controlling both the parliament and electing president Mohammed Morsi. Now, a year later, after more massive protests, the Army has stepped in and removed Morsi from office.

Now here is where it gets ironic. The same people who insisted that Egypt hold democratic elections are now celebrating that Morsi was removed from office by the military. They claim that once elected, the Muslim brotherhood spent most of their time entrenching themselves and consolidating power, rather than trying to fix the problems Egypt was facing. About the only thing that is clear is that the Egyptian economy got worse after the election, instead of better like everyone expected.

You might think that the US would have been worried by having Islamists in power in Egypt. After all, Egypt is the only Arab nation that has a peace treaty with Israel, one of our closest allies, and the Islamists have threatened to throw that treaty away. But ironically, the Egyptians are mad at the US government for supporting the democratically elected president of Egypt, and are accusing Obama and Secretary of State Clinton of meddling to keep Morsi in power.

It just doesn’t add up. Either everything has gone bizarre in Egypt, or there is something going on that our news media isn’t telling us.

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14 Comments

  1. Yudith wrote:

    Let me try to explain it. Egypt wants democracy. Moubarak was not democratic and Morsi wasn’t either. With his way to give important functions to his Muslim Brotherhood friends and to push for charia, he was working against the people who protested in Tahrir Square. So when Egypt had to choose between Army and Charia, it chose the lesser of two evils, the one that let them organize elections. Now the really ironic part is why on Earth does Obama support the Islamists.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 4:09 am | Permalink
  2. Max wrote:

    I noticed that Saudi Arabia was quick to congratulate Egypt on the failure of its democracy.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 4:21 am | Permalink
  3. Richard wrote:

    Like IK I have mixed feelings about all of this.

    Here in the US in the year 2000 we had a “problem” election and while some of us took to the streets to protest not just the process (the Supreme Court decision on Florida) but the result, it did no good and “we” reelected Bush for a second term.

    Given that we have “branches” of government that are supposed to work to make all of this stuff run more smoothly we like to think we’re a more evolved democracy. I’m not so sure. The 2000 election and Citizens United are evidence that, while not the Muslim Brotherhood pushing an agenda, we have another type of brotherhood pushing an agenda.

    I don’t know, going after Egypt for a do over feels odd in that I’d love it if we could have had a do over here as well.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Except it seems as though the Koch brothers and Rove are being defeated time after time after Time.

    For those of you who watch Downton Abbey, Egypt during the 1920s was in total upheaval politically then. I went on to read “The real Countess of Downton Abbey” written by the present Countess. Like Iraq now that we removed the person who kept it stable, Egypt will need to find the right person there also.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    My gut feeling is that anyone who thinks they can explain what is going on in Egypt is either drinking the kool-aid or (worse) one of the people passing out the kool-aid. In other words, they either have an agenda or they are being influenced by someone with an agenda.

    And yes, there are some disturbing parallels in the US political system. Coincidence?

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink
  6. Thatguy wrote:

    It’s a lot easier to overthrow a government that institute Democracy. After being so hesitant to let go of Mubarak the US had to come out and congratulate Egypt on its first real elections. I doubt Obama was excited about having islamists in power, but as they were democratically elected, it’s also hard to call for or support the overthrow of the region’s first democratic regime. Now the US and egyptians alike need to hope that the opposition is more organized than the islamists, who are almost always the most unified after revolutions.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  7. Richard wrote:

    Hmmmm, this reminds me of Gaza and Lebanon: we push for more democratic elections, they have them, we get Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  8. Michael wrote:

    “It’s a lot easier to overthrow a government tha[n] institute Democracy.” This. Absolutely.

    Since it’s the 4th of July, let’s take a moment to recognize that, for all the shortcomings of our country, government, politicians, etc., having a single consistent democracy (okay a republic, actually…and disregarding that whole Civil War thing…) for almost the past 250 years is quite a feat. They weren’t perfect and it can always be improved, but the Framers did a heck of a job setting up a reasonable structure for our country.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  9. Hassan wrote:

    This will only embolden extremists in the country and I am afraid we are going to see rise in terrorism there. (muslim brotherhood is quite moderate in context of the region, despite westerners thinking anything that has word islam/muslim has to be extremist)

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  10. Thatguy wrote:

    So was Morsi too moderate or too extreme for most of those who took to the street?

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  11. Hassan wrote:

    @THATGUY, may be just incompetent. Unlike westerners, or western societies, muslims tend to be more practicing. In each muslim country there will be extremely few who will consider themselves secularist, and in fact they may get offended if anyone consider them less religious. (That does not mean they all are same in practice, just that they like to be considered good muslims regardless how much and what they practice).

    So if the economic conditions were good, I highly doubt any ordinary egyptians would have cared how much “islamic” or “non-islamic” the government is. To them these are just academic debates with no meaning to them.

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  12. ebdoug wrote:

    Hassan, I keep reading about Iraq and what we did to the country (destroyed it and our own along with it)so your comments on Egypt are very appreciated. You could expand to Syria. Same problem, do we support either side or neither?
    Of course, when Reagan was President we support both Iran and Iraq in fighting against each other.

    Friday, July 5, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink
  13. Hassan wrote:

    It seems it is easier to protest/oppose than actually govern. Now Muslim Brotherhood people are out on street, and military killed one already. It can only get ugly in long run. May be military can control situation in short term though.

    Friday, July 5, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  14. dickt_cal wrote:

    I can not speak for Egypt, but during a trip to Turkey last year there were several people who commented on how Islamic the government was because as the government became more Islamic, becoming more Islamic became a condition for doing business with the government. Also, new Islamic courses in the schools were resulting in pressure within families to become more Islamic so as to not embarrass the children. In the mean time many Turkish Muslims practiced their religion in the same way that many Americans do. That is, they show up on holy days and check the right box on official forms.

    Friday, July 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

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