David Warren–Watching Egypt

While I recognize that support for “democracy and freedom” is substantial, within each Arab national society — that the middle class is not a nothing; that each economy depends on it — I doubt this “faction” can prevail. Worse, I think we are watching its final, hopeless bid for power.

The key fact, in Egypt (paralleled in Yemen and elsewhere), is that the Muslim Brotherhood has not declared itself. The Islamists could put vastly more people on the street. They could subvert the loyalties of policemen and soldiers, who already resent the moneyed middle class. They could generate just enough heat to make large districts of Cairo and Alexandria, now simmering, boil over.

But instead, they are playing neutral, watching those policemen and soldiers put the demonstrators down, while most of Egypt remains quiescent.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

6 comments on “David Warren–Watching Egypt

  1. Chris Taylor says:

    Just back from Egypt a week ago. Based on 30 years of experience there I think this analysis is dead wrong. The scope of the protests is much wider than he acknowledges and crosses all class boundaries. Friends and family in Egypt are reporting massive demonstrations all over the country, not just those covered by the media in Tahrir Square. The MB (Muslim Brotherhood) is very tangential to what’s going on here. Certainly not clear yet that we’re on the verge of democracy, but it’s too early to consign the forces pushing for greater democracy to the dust heap of history. The regime is bankrupt and led by an 83-year old autocrat who is totally out of touch. I doubt that the military establishment is willing to prop him up any longer. Whether the Egyptian military is ready to finally move the country in the direction of greater democracy is unclear, but there’s a bigger middle class in Egypt than this commentator acknowledges and a very large educated younger population which has little to lose at this point. They realize it’s now or never. Mubark is done that much is for sure. Whether we’re going to get yet another military regime or a more democratic Egypt remains to be seen, but I’m much more optimistic than this commentator is. Please keep Bishop Mouneer and all our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Egypt in your prayers!

  2. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    David Warren grew up in Pakistan, and thus understands islamic, though not necessarily Arab, culture quite well. It would perhaps be helpful to note at this point that the Arab world tends to have an important internal division, little known by westerners. Northern Arabs are somewhat more educated, cultured and cosmopolitan than their southern brethren. An Iraqi, a Jordanian, or a Lebanese is not the same sort of Arab as a Saudi, a Sudanese, or an Omani.

    In the case of Egypt the division is internal, but still follows the north–south pattern. Muslim Brotherhood types are far more popular in the south than the north, and they may yet carry the day.

    Unfortunately, Egypt seems to have been moving in the wrong direction for some time. For example, more and more [url=http://pajamasmedia.com/phyllischesler/2010/01/28/the-steady-erosion-of-womens-rights-in-egypt-a-photographic-story/]university women are taking the veil[/url].

    That is not a good indicator if the desired end state is a cosmopolitan, generally secular, and somewhat democratic Egypt.

    Turkey is moving in very much the same direction as Erdogan islamizes the army, which used to be that nation’s guarantor of a secular, cosmopolitan society.

    The current administration is completely feckless and utterly unaware of the larger picture, which is that except for Iraq, the lights are going out all across the Middle Eastern Muslim world. They’re not going out amongst southern Arabs — because they were never on in the first place — but Obama will come to be seen as having lost the educated Arab world, just as Carter lost Iran.

  3. Katherine says:

    I am happy to read your somewhat more optimistic take on this, Chris Taylor. It does seem to me that the sooner Mubarak leaves, the less radical the resulting political structure is likely to be. I was encouraged by the reported nation-wide revulsion at the bombing of the Coptic church in Alexandria. With businesses shut down, with no banking being done, with tourism money drying up, how long will it be before the military decides it’s had enough and turns on Mubarak?

  4. Katherine says:

    Bart Hall, there is a strong Brotherhood movement in the Nile Delta, including Alexandria, alas.

  5. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    Yeah, that’s increasingly true. Egypt struggles with some of the same issues of southern migration that have plagued northern cities in the USA since the late 1950s. Al Ikhsandria is well on its way to becoming, at best, another Chicago, which is one reason I’m concerned the MB will carry the day in Egypt as a whole.

    I no longer have any Egyptian contacts, but suspect the MB will allow the educated classes to do the [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dBtYLBQPRGQ]heavy lifting,[/url] then move in to seize control. The embedded vid is a rather striking vignette of what’s going on, and it helps to know that Egyptians generally just hate their police.

  6. Jeremy Bonner says:


    While recognizing that your worst-case scenario is quite possible, it would seem that there aren’t many alternatives other than to hope for the best (as had to be done a few years ago when the violence in Iraq was at its height).

    I would take issue with your perspective on Turkey. Attaturk rammed through his reforms in the 1920s with the same disregard for the feelings of the broader mass of the people as the Ottomans. It was Attaturk’s secular state that proved so willing to obliterate all traces of Kurdish culture and Attaturk’s Turkey that has proved so unwilling to allow any serious academic reflection on the Armenian genocide, [i]even though his regime bore no responsibility for it[/i]. That is not to say that Turkey’s modernization was a purely negative exercise, but one shouldn’t deify it.

    Furthermore, the 2007 report from [url=http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=140&edition=8&ccrpage=37&ccrcountry=173]Freedom House[/url] suggests that the AKP has endeavored to make progress on certain civil rights – the fact that the EU has shied away from membership doesn’t exactly help – even if not everything it does is welcome to the West.

    I would have thought that the great danger in Egypt today would be to see a repeat of the [url=http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/]Mosaddegh[/url] fiasco, where the strategic justifications were far flimsier than Suez and which confirmed in the eyes of many in the Middle East how the West intended to play the game of brinkmanship.

    At this point, it seems wiser to aim to persuade the Brotherhood to play a role within the system rather than resort to the Mubarak tactic of nullifying legitimate election results. We can either persuade Islamists to go down the Indonesia route or we can sit back and watch them dismantle democracy piece by piece. I notice you exempt Iraq from the general decline of democracy in the Arab world, yet the present government now has Sadrists within it.

    Unlike the Green Revolution in Iran – at least to date – the Egyptian uprising has extended across all classes and all cultures; that, at least, should be cause for celebration.

    [url=http://catholicandreformed.blogspot.com]Catholic and Reformed[/url]