The inevitable conflagration in Cairo [updated]
There will be no attractive outcome from the incipient revolution in Cairo’s streets. On one side, fighting for survival, a nationalistic sense of “nationhood” going back several millennia that has been represented in recent decades by the brutal military dictatorships of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak; on the other, fighting for its biggest conquest since the Iranian Revolution, a brand of toxic, militant Islam from which sprang the ideology of hate that powers Al Qaeda and related Islamic murderers.
Whoever wins in the street battles, the results will not be pretty.
All that can be said in favour of the dictators is that they were and are opposed to the militant mystics—helping make Egypt one of the more secular, “westernized” Islamic nations in the Middle East. But the price at which this was bought was a militant dictatorship maintaining control by political oppression—an environment of overarching brutality in which the odious mystic hate-mongers flourished underground. Like a bacillus.
That bacillus is now out of the cellars and into the streets, and whichever particular individual takes over after the violence subsides (and note that the leading opposition candidate Mohammed ElBaradei is backed by the same Muslim Brotherhood from which Al Qaeda mentor Sayyid Qutb emerged) the eventual victor will assuredly be the bacillus.
It was always inevitable. If Egypt ever had a renaissance, it was only in 1919 to 1928 in the wake of World War I when Egypt's rising tide of nationalism re-emerged in the modern form of secular socialism, building a “modern Egypt” in the likeness of a worker’s Soviet and such lifeless monuments to its dead past as this one shown here by Mahmoud Mokhtar. Egypt’s sense of nationhood certainly goes back centuries, (as historian Scott Powell explains “an implicit premise embedded in Egyptian thinking that extends back to its “glorious” pharaonic past, of which the ever present pyramids and temples [and mortuaries and funerary palaces] provide a constant reminder”), but without the philosophical base responsible for these past glories, its modern “renaissance” could never rekindle the full power of its past (as Mokhtar’s soulless sculpture adumbrates). The strident militant nationalism of Nasser/Sadat/Mubarak could never be a real substitute for the full-on pharaonic metaphysics.
Hence, since the death of Nasser, Egyptian nationalism's most vigorous standard bearer, Egypt's nationalism has withered in the face of the more explicit and integrated metaphysics and values of Islam, both of which are widely accepted by the Egyptian population. As I blogged a couple of years ago,
the values of these two ideological forces have been in open warfare ever since the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 -- the suppression of the Brotherhood and the murder of Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat by Muslim Brotherhood killers being two ready symbols of the conflict played out between the secular but disintegrating nationalism and the vigorous, violent and persistent Islamism that the brotherhood embodies.
This can be a conflict with only one victor. Scott Powell argues at his 'Powell History Recommends' blog that because nationalism is merely a set of disintegrated implicit notions whereas Islamism is an "all-encompassing and explicit system of ideas," it is therefore "only a matter of time before it takes over."
Only a matter of time . . .
Egypt is thus a nation in flux, and on its way to somewhere worse. "Despite the constant use of force by the Mubarak regime to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood," notes Powell, "that Islamist organization remains the only organized political opposition in Egypt [as a 2008 day of angry protest was intended to demonstrate]. This matters because the country may be on the verge of economic collapse and widespread violence."
An Egyptian Islamist theocracy? Don’t bet against it.
Why does this matter to us?
This matters to us because Egypt is not only the source of one of the most virulent of Islamism's anti-western toxins, but because it has the potential to be the next Poland -- ie., "the next flashpoint that ignites an unexpected larger war, such as occurred in 1939."
Let us profoundly hope not.
Here’s The Cure:
Let's be clear, an Islamist run Egypt would pose a threat not only to Israel, but could be a base for terrorist activities in Europe and beyond. It would have a stranglehold over shipping through the Suez Canal, and be leading the largest Arab state by population. The Iranian military religious dictatorship is already claiming a new Middle East, Islamic dominated, is coming to the fore, let's hope not.
For if it were to happen, do not be deluded that it will cost in lives, and could create a new age of conflict that makes Iraq and Afghanistan seem like they were easy. . .
For if it is a bad dream for Egyptians to be suppressed by the Mubarak regime, it would be one of our worst nightmares to have an Ayatollah of Cairo.
Not that Obama would know. Looks like while Cairo burns, Obama parties.