Thursday, June 7, 2012

The gift that keeps on giving

In the history of Egypt, no one -- not the Hyksos, not the Hittites, not the "Sea Peoples," not the Achaemenid Persians, not the Macedonians, not the Romans, not the Muslim caliphates, not the Ottomans, not the British -- have done more damage to the country than Gamal abd al-Nasser. Once the granary of the Roman Empire, the country's ability to feed even just itself was destroyed by Nasser's construction of the Aswan High Dam on the upper Nile.

But the damage was more than just physical. As Michael J. Totten notes:
Egypt used to be a much more liberal place than it is now. That era was ended by Nasser. History has no rewind button. Post-Nasserism will not restore the status quo ante. Political liberalism may well be in the country’s future, but Egypt will first have to pass through an era of Islamism. It may not be Iranian-style Islamism, but Cairo ain’t Prague.
He links to an article in Al-Ahram Weekly that gets into just how bad the situation is in Egypt for classical liberals:

It was only a question of time before Islamists trounced all of Egypt's opposition parties put together, both old and new, and went on to wrest control of parliament from a suddenly moribund National Democratic Party (NDP), which had all but monopolised the political scene. Yet the most troubling aspect of these events is not their occurrence but rather their nauseatingly predictable course.
The truth is that Islamist candidates have been defeating their liberal rivals rather consistently since 1967 in the wider Middle East. The pattern began to replicate itself on a grander scale with the national elections in Algeria in 1991, Gaza in 2006, and Sudan in 2010. Why would anyone think Egypt would be different?
Egypt has the unique distinction of being the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since 1928, the year of its founding, this organisation has grown into the most pervasive, most effective politico-religious organisation ever. The Egyptian electorate got a foretaste of just how effective back in 2005. Tarek Osman described the parliamentary elections that took place that year in his book Egypt on the Brink. The Brotherhood, he wrote, "won 88 seats, roughly one-fifth of the parliament; a number that could have been much higher but for the procedural and tactical interventions by the regime in the second and third rounds of the elections."
Practically every man, woman and child was privy to this elementary fact of life. Liberals, on the other hand, took to arguing dismissively that Egyptians had voted for the Brotherhood out of anti-regime sentiments and, besides, there was no alternative to the Brotherhood for the moment. This argument has been shown to be a misguided oversimplification, at best, as Egypt prepares to play host to the Islamists' biggest conquest to date.
Read the whole depressing thing.

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