As we watch the repressive regime of Hosni Mubarak crumble in Egypt, those of us who are old enough to remember the Iranian Revolution have an eerie feeling of déjà vu. As the Shah’s regime in Iran crumbled in the late 1970s, another progressive, idealistic president, Jimmy Carter, welcomed the change as a way to give Iran’s people freedom and a voice in their future. After all, the Shah, demonized by the western media, was a repressive dictator. His secret police killed many. But that’s only half the story. He was indisputably secular, had modernized Iran, and was unabashedly a friend of the West. But no matter, Carter welcomed a “man of peace,” the Ayatolah Komeini, and the rest, as they say, is history. Instead of freedom, Iran got a repressive, theocratic dictatorship that persists to this day, an economy that has been crippled for over 30 years, and a state that actively supports Islamist terror worldwide. Nice job, Jimmy. Your legacy persists.
Now, another progressive president. Barack Obama, is faced with an analogous situation in Egypt. So far, Obama and his advisors have been circumspect, but their tone has an indisputable similarity to the tone evidenced as the Shah’s regime toppled. The Egyptian people must assert their rights in a democratic manner, they state. Who can argue?
And when asked about the very real threat of an Islamist takeover, directed by the Muslim Brotherhood, they pooh-pooh the threat (in much the same way that Carter’s advisors and media friends refused to acknowledge the Islamist leanings of Komeini). The Brotherhood has “renounced violence,” state the Obama administration’s spokesman and its defenders in the media. Nothing to worry about there.
Andrew McCarthy provides an indepth discussion of the history and current status of the Muslim Brotherhood, the indisputable progenitor of al Qaida. He states:
One might wonder how an organization can be thought to have renounced violence when it has inspired more jihadists than any other, and when its Palestinian branch, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is probably more familiar to you by the name Hamas — a terrorist organization committed by charter to the violent destruction of Israel. Indeed, in recent years, the Brotherhood (a.k.a., the Ikhwan) has enthusiastically praised jihad and even applauded — albeit in more muted tones — Osama bin Laden.
No need to worry, we’re told, the Brotherhood will be just another party in Egypt’s diverse political landscape. Maybe. Or … it may become much more than that.
Our state department tries to put the best face on a very bad situation suggesting that the Egyptian people’s thirst for freedom must be quenched. They seem to disregard the fact that not all of Egyptian people are the young, idealist, urbanites who have taken to the streets in Cairo. They seem to believe that idealism and liberalism will overcome the Islamists who lurk just behind the crowds of young people.
Again David Warren provides a harsh, yet accurate assessment:
… History is rarely a Manichean contest between good and evil. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western shah and Iranian freedom, but between the shah and Khomeini’s ruthless Islamist revolution. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western Musharraf and Pakistani freedom, but between Musharraf and a tense alliance of kleptocratic socialists and Islamists. Back in the 1940s, it was not a choice between the British-backed monarchy and Egyptian freedom, but between the monarchy and a conglomeration of Nasserite pan-Arab socialists, Soviet Communists, and Brotherhood Islamists. And today, the choice is not between the pro-American Mubarak and Egyptian freedom; it is a question of whether to offer tepid support to a pro-American dictator or encourage swift transition to a different kind of tyranny — one certain to be a lot worse for us, for the West at large, and for our Israeli ally: the Muslim Brotherhood tempered only, if at all, by Mohamed ElBaradei, an anti-American leftist who willfully abetted Iran’s nuclear ambitions while running the International Atomic Energy Agency.
History is not a quest for freedom. This is particularly true in the Islamic ummah, where the concept of freedom is not reasoned self-determination, as in the West, but nearly the opposite: perfect submission to Allah’s representative on earth, the Islamic state. Coupled with a Western myopia that elevates democratic forms over the culture of liberty, the failure to heed this truth has, in just the past few years, put Hamas in charge of Gaza, positioned Hezbollah to topple the Lebanese government, and presented Islamists with Kosovo — an enduring sign that, where Islam is concerned, the West can be counted on to back away even from the fundamental principle that a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity is inviolable.
There are no easy answers here. In fact, our only strategy may be to step back and let history unfold. But it’s time for the administration to state clearly that there are players in Egypt’s game who we will not engage, and that those players represent a threat, not just to us, but to the entire region.