Blood in the Square
Can’t wait till the Olympics? Then whet your appetite on rhetorical acrobatics as Congress and the administration look for excuses to continue aid to the Egyptian military after the Cairo massacre. You see, we favor democracy in the Mideast, (but not in the Gulf states) and we strongly oppose regimes which kill their own people (unless the killers are “strategic partners” of Israel, in which case we don’t mind). It is now obvious that the Iranian regime is a paragon of ordered democracy compared to Egypt. But as Congress calls for ever tighter sanctions on Iran, (a colleague recently showed me a Facebook request from an acquaintance in Tehran asking that if anyone was traveling there, could they please bring some eyedrops, now impossible to get in Tehran) while we pour aid into Egypt. Is there anyone who fails to understand why this is the case?
One interesting interpretation of yesterday’s bloodshed comes from the liberal Egyptian-American Issandr el-Amrani who says that the Egyptian military is trying to provoke extremism from the Muslim Brothers in order to entrench their own rule. If the Brothers can be driven to terrorism, long term military dictatorship will seem more reasonable. Issandr’s key graf is here:
Over the last week there was much talk of divisions between this segment and those symbolically important liberal members of the government, such as ElBaradei, over whether or not to negotiate with the Brothers or break their sit-ins. The camp that eventually won does not just believe that the Brothers are not worth negotiating with. They want to encourage it in its provocative sectarian discourse, its supporters desire for violence, and the push as much as the Islamist camp as possible into being outlaws. Those who nurture such eradicateur sentiment do not so much actually want to physically eradicate all Islamists as to provoke them into a situation where their political existence will be eradicated because they will have opted for violence. They are willing to endure that violence, even a return to the counter-insurgency of the 1990s, and sporadic sectarian and terrorist attacks, because they believe it will strengthen their camp and enable them to permanently block most Islamists from politics. This is why I believe I think that analyses such as this one that argue that such an insurgency is not possible any more are wrong – not only is it possible, but it is desired .
The United States has ample reason to stay out of this. Egypt’s generals have indicated they could care less what we think. If the Saudis want a military dictatorship in Egypt, let them pay for it. The United States gains nothing but enmity from millions of Egyptians by backing a regime’s brutality against half of its population. Hypocrisy and double standards may sometimes be necessary in diplomacy, but there’s nothing to gain from it here.