The media assured us that history ended in Egypt as soon as Barack Obama got involved, so they’ve been rather stunned by the recent sequence of events, in which Obama’s pal Mohammed Morsi seized dictatorial powers, and Tahrir Square once again flooded with protesters. In fact, the American media is so shocked by these developments that they keep forgetting to ask President Obama about them, and he’s so surprised that he keeps forgetting to say anything about them.
On Tuesday, the situation in the Egyptian street grew so dire that the new Pharaoh was obliged to flee his palace. I thought he might ring up the Wisconsin Democrats and ask if they knew a good hotel in Illinois where he could hide out, but such measures proved unnecessary, for Morsi was able to return to the palace on Wednesday morning. According to CBS News, the protest crowd dwindled to a skeleton crew of 300 overnight, but the opposition is hoping to work up another big protest today:
The president’s Nov. 22 decrees and the adoption by his allies of a controversial draft constitution have plunged Egypt into its worst political crisis since president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow nearly two years ago.
CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports tens of thousands of protesters poured onto the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities Tuesday night.
They called it a final warning to Morsi, who critics say is behaving more like a dictator than Egypt’s first democratically elected leader — a title he only gained in June elections.
At one point the crowd briefly broke through a police cordon, drawing tear gas fire from authorities, but it was mostly a peaceful demonstration.
I might quibble by suggesting this is really the same political crisis that ousted Mubarak. What you’re seeing in the streets of Egypt is the desperation of an opposition that wasn’t given enough time to organize itself after the end of the Mubarak regime. They got steamrolled by the powerful, well-organized Muslim Brotherhood – which, as CBS News notes, has moved with dizzying speed to nail an Islamist constitution over the coffin of genuine representative democracy. Morsi’s power grabs aren’t just about his personal pharaoh-hood; he’s working to implement an Islamist dictatorship that can survive the departure of any given Maximum Leader from the palace, even if it’s for longer than one night.
The Reuters report on Egypt’s troubles includes this marvelous passage:
Mursi ignited a storm of unrest in his bid to prevent a judiciary still packed with appointees of ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak from derailing a troubled political transition.
Facing the gravest crisis of his six-month-old tenure, the Islamist president has shown no sign of buckling under pressure.
Oh, so that’s what this is all about? Mubarak loyalists “derailing a troubled political transition” and dumping a grave crisis into the lap of the stoic dictator? It sounds like some of the Western media has completely internalized the Muslim Brotherhood party line.
Democracy, as Americans understand the term, is the end result of a long and difficult process. We keep making the mistake of treating it as the beginning – boot out the old strongman, hold an election, and freedom will blossom. Call it the “Field of Dreams” theory of foreign policy: if you build a field of ballot boxes, the spirits of Jefferson and Madison will come strolling from the cornfields of history, ready to play. The sort of thing we see happening in Egypt is the more common result. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist philosophy – mixed with the successful latter-day totalitarian’s skill at appropriating the language and totems of democracy to legitimize domination – will provide a sturdy framework for extending dictatorship beyond the reign of any single strongman and his heirs. Some of the opposition parties aren’t lovely people, but they are united by their perception that the December 15 constitutional referendum might indeed be their last chance to “derail” this “troubled political transition.” The Arab Spring is over. Winter is coming.