President Obama’s role in pressuring Egypt is dangerous and, according to some, possibly impeachable. His demand that “orderly transition…must begin now” will only destabilize a key ally and help move the Muslim Brotherhood closer to power. Obama’s solution — “free” elections that must include the Brotherhood — will replace a secular, pro-Western regime with a less friendly government on a slippery slope toward religious fundamentalism.
Whether the Brotherhood carries the day as the chief organized opposition group or not, the results of an election that reflects the majority sentiment of Egyptians will be bad for the United States. How bad? Pat Buchanan writes in his column today:
- Twice as many Egyptians identify themselves as Muslim fundamentalists as identify themselves as “modernizers.”
- By 95 to 2, Egyptians believe Islam should play a large role in Egyptian politics.
- While 48 percent of Egyptians say suicide bombings are never justified, 32 percent say “rarely,” 12 percent say “sometimes,” and 8 percent say suicide bombings are “often” justified. Half the people of Egypt believe there are times a suicide bomb is the right answer.
- Half of all Egyptians have a favorable view of Hamas, and one in five has a favorable view of al-Qaida.
- Three in four Egyptians believe cutting off the hand of a thief is proper punishment. Four in five favor stoning adulterers to death. And 84 percent favor executing Muslim converts to Christianity.
- Eighty-two percent of Egyptians regard the United States unfavorably, and 48 percent rate America “very unfavorably.”
- In a Zogby poll in 2010, 90 percent of Egyptians named the United States and Israel as threats, 86 percent said Iran had a right to pursue nuclear weapons, and 77 percent thought it would be a good thing if Tehran got the bomb.
Whatever government such an electorate ushers into power will be more hostile to the United States and its own Christian minority.
Egypt is the prime cultural influence in the Arabic world, supplying most Arabic-language cinema. (The Egyptian film industry is the world’s third largest, behind Hollywood and India.) A new government could institute new content codes that give extremism an even louder megaphone.
Although the poll numbers do not suggest it, Egypt is also one of the most moderate, Muslim-majority nations. If things are this bad in Cairo, imagine Muscat or Riyadh. For that matter, imagine conditions in Khartoum, the capital of northern Sudan, which was recently established as a Shari’a state; despite its record in Darfur, Obama is considering removing Sudan from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
That is why Obama’s single-minded, simple-minded push for a national vote, scheduled as soon as possible, and which must include the Muslim Brotherhood, is a tragedy in search of victims. Egypt’s first victims will be its own, long-suffering Coptic Christians, some ten percent of the population already under assault despite Mubarak’s police state repression of extremists.
The fact is, in virtually every nation of the Islamic crescent, from Tunisia to Pakistan, the government is less inclined to wage jihad than its populace. The Saudi playboys maintain their lease on life by feeding Wahhabi fundamentalism, but not enough to satisfy the true believers. The result was al-Qaeda. As the demonstrations following 9/11 proved, the voice of bin Laden is often the vox populi. Patriots who believe in peace and stability have every incentive to assure that voice remains silent.
Is democracy impossible? It has never been the norm in Egypt, one of history’s oldest civilizations. There is no guarantee the democratic experiment in Iraq will survive. If Egyptians demand elections in the fall, the United States should at least give back-door approval for the government to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood before the contest. Things will be bad enough without MB members casting a vote.