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Friday, July 5, 2013

David Brooks, "Defending the Coup": After Obama's Foreign Policy Fiasco in Egypt, Is Turkey Next?

I am often critical of New York Times op-eds. Today, however, David Brooks has written a splendid opinion piece concerning the upheaval in Egypt.

In "Defending the Coup" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/opinion/brooks-defending-the-coup.html?_r=0), Brooks reflects upon the debate between "those who emphasize process," i.e. those backing freely elected extremist parties, and "those who emphasize substance," i.e. those who welcome the departure - even by a coup - of parties seeking to subvert the democratic processes by which they came to power.

Brooks comes down firmly on the side of substance:

"World events of the past few months have vindicated those who take the substance side of the argument. It has become clear — in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere — that radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government. Many have absolutist, apocalyptic mind-sets. They have a strange fascination with a culture of death.

. . . .

Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them.

. . . .

Once elected, the Brotherhood subverted judicial review, cracked down on civil society, arrested opposition activists, perverted the constitution-writing process, concentrated power and made democratic deliberations impossible.

. . . .

This week’s military coup may merely bring Egypt back to where it was: a bloated and dysfunctional superstate controlled by a self-serving military elite. But at least radical Islam, the main threat to global peace, has been partially discredited and removed from office."

Regarding Obama's role in this American foreign policy catastrophe, Brooks writes:

"The Obama administration has not handled this situation particularly well. It has shown undue deference to a self-negating democratic process. The American ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, has done what ambassadors tend to do: She tried to build relationships with whoever is in power. This created the appearance that she is subservient to the Brotherhood. It alienated the Egyptian masses. It meant that the United States looked unprepared for and hostile to the popular movement that has now arisen."

Not handled "particularly well"? The names of Obama and Patterson have become intertwined with that of Morsi in the minds of tens of millions of Egyptians, and it will take years to undo the damage.

Brooks's conclusion:

"It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients."

Allow me to be politically incorrect and far more blunt than Brooks: Egypt, which is characterized by intolerance (84% of Egyptian Muslims believe that those who abandon Islam should be excuted, see: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/), abuse of women (some 90% of Egyptian women have undergone female genital mutilation, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-leopold/female-circumcism----90-p_b_822283.html) and widespread adult illiteracy (some 28%, see: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/egypt_statistics.html), is nowhere near ready for democracy.

And then there is the "small" matter of Egypt's shipwreck economy (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/new-york-times-editorial-crisis-in.html), which could lead to widespread hunger (see: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100863687). Starving people don't give a damn about democracy.

But more to the point, is Turkey next?

In May of this year, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and President Obama held a joint press conference at the White House. Inasmuch as the Obama administration was already engulfed in domestic scandal, Erdogan was pretty much ignored during the question and answer session. A pity, however, that American reporters didn't ask why Turkey is considered the world's worst jailer of journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists (http://cpj.org/2013/02/attacks-on-the-press-in-2012-turkey.php).

The White House press corps might also have asked why more than 30 million Kurds in the Middle East, some 55% percent of whom live in and are oppressed by Turkey, are not entitled to their own state.

In addition, they might have asked Obama about his pre-election promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide by Turkey.

But heck, Erdogan is one of Obama's best overseas friends (see: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2013/05/16/Erdogan-and-Obama-Best-friends-no-more.html), and the journalists decided not to embarrass this pompous potentate in the presence of America's Procrastinator-in-Chief.

Obama got too close to Morsi, and he has also gotten too close to his dear Islamist friend Erdogan, who appears intent upon reviving the sultanate in Turkey.

We haven't seen the end of the recent rioting in Turkey (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/thomas-friedman-postcard-from-turkey.html), and the question looms whether the military in Turkey will take heart from events in Egypt and also act to overthrow an increasingly authoritarian regime in Ankara, as was done on more than one occasion in the past (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/12/us-turkey-protests-military-analysis-idUSBRE95B0XK20130612).

Of course, Erdogan is aware of this threat, and one-in-five Turkish generals (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/05/14/one-in-five-turkish-generals-now-in-prison/) and more than half of the country's admirals (see: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21571147-once-all-powerful-turkish-armed-forces-are-cowed-if-not-quite-impotent-erdogan-and-his) are now sitting in prison.

One thing, however, is certain: We will see more mud in America's face as a result of Obama's shortsighted courtship of Islamic oppressors.

1 comment:

  1. Leave Barack alone. He is a great, wonderful American President. He had a passport, he went to Africa, he gave a speech, he looked presidential, he used many pretty words "democracy, hope, unity, love, peace, Islam is a religion of peace, let's hug and kiss." It was a great speech. The Knut Hamsuns gave him Nobel for it.
    So, what else, you, people, want.
    Ah, and I didn't know what would happen. Sure, I really had an appeal in some 2007 (in the comment section of Roger Cohen) to the international community in the style "Something bad is going to happen. Don't do it. Don't vote for demagogues. Don't support voting for demagogues. It's dangerous."

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