Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Democracy is not freedom: An Egyptian case study [updated]

I keep being told by people “in the know” that the coming of “real democracy” to Egypt will bring real freedom.


The whole idea is premised on the idea that what “pro-democracy” protestors want is what you and I want. That democracy is a synonym for freedom.

It’s not.

Democracy is simply a synonym for mob rule.

It’s a counting of heads regardless of content.

It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.

It’s three wolves and a sheep voting for dinner.

It was what George Bush and his neo-cons wanted to export to the Middle East. Their “Forward Strategy for Freedom” called for the exportation by force of democracy to the Middle East.

They succeeded.

And the people of the Middle East turned out in droves to vote for the wolves.

Democracy, said the neo-cons, would bring freedom and security to the Middle East. Instead, it unleashed a whirlwind.

Democracy in Iraq gave the people an Islamic constitution and a regime that favours Tehran.

Democracy in Palestine delivered a landslide victory to the Iranian-backed Hamas—who began establishing a totalitarian Islamist regime and unleashing a wave of suicide bombings, before collapsing into a civil war with Fatah.

Democracy in Lebanon handed control of Lebanon to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah--who almost immediately started launching rockets into Israel, beginning a month-long war.

And what will democracy in Egypt bring    Well, guess . . .

gettycrowd595 Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has already called for Egyptians to rise up and install an Islamic state.

Would a regime mandating shariah law and genital mutilation represent “freedom” for Egyptian men and women?  Would its installation bring “security” to the Middle East?

Egypt is a country where the “all-encompassing and explicit system” of totalitarian Islam is widely supported across the spectrum—where stone-age barbarism is still the prevailing attitude, and more than 50% support the militant Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitors of Al Qaeda, and the only organised political opposition in the country.

Would their installation—or the installation of a “beard” for the Brotherhood like ElBaradei—would that represent freedom?

Egypt is a country with (thanks to the US who supplied them) the world’s tenth-largest military, and a population in which even the so-called “moderates” are violently anti-Semitic. Would a government giving expression to that violence increase security in the Middle East?

Democracy is not a synonym for freedom.

And the “Forward Strategy for Freedom” was a Forward Strategy for Failure.

Mob rule in Egypt will be one more sign of evidence of that failure.

What are the options for Egypt?

The plight of Egypt — like that of much of the region — is intellectual. The protestors who genuinely do want a better future face no good options.”


  1. Are you arguing for benign dictatorship?

  2. I would feel sympathized with the Egyptian people if they want freedom as we do enjoy here in the West and that should be supported. However, if their idea of freedom is to install a sharia-law based system of government, then I have no sympathy for them. I would just sit back and do nothing and let dictators rule them, because their belief system suited dictatorship.

  3. "Are you arguing for benign dictatorship?"

    Check the first link.

    Also look up tyranny of democracy. Might come in handy if 60% of voters want all national party members executed. Or more likely if in Egypt they want to expel say all Christians.

  4. the west will have to prepare for a flood of Christian refugees from Egypt. 8 million people will have the option of oppression, imprisonment or execution if they choose to stay.
    At least one would hope that the Christian refugees would not bring Jihad with them.

  5. This is exactly the point made by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Facebook yesterday - for Egyptian women it may come down to deciding between dictatorship and genital mutilation. Not a pleasant choice. Refer http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MB02Ak01.html

  6. I agree with most of your ideas here, again. But I disagree with the way you are offering your views, again.

    In a way I guess that your opinion is that Egyptians needs an "intellectual" and "cultural" revolution for the highway to freedom. I am still with you on that one. But for me it is clearly exactly the same here :


    78% of American are Christians. More than 50% of New Zelanders are Crhistians.

    Yes, Egyptians are not the only ones. Still a lot to do IN OUR OWN COUNTRIES if you believe in borders...

  7. Sandrine,

    Are you attempting to tie freedom to religion?


  8. I had to think of this post when I read the following today:

    "More than fifty per cent of Wellingtonians believe the city's "Golden Mile" of shopping streets should be smokefree, an Otago University study has found"

    Under democracy a smoking ban will be imposed.

    Next they might vote indeed to exterminate all rich people and divide their cash among the needy.

  9. Hi there.

    It sounds like I need to clarify a bit my previous message. What I am implying here is that:

    There is a big (well, I'll even agree on a huge) risk of this “democratic” revolution resulting in a Islamic regime: True.
    Such an Islamic regime would be the opposite of freedom for the Egyptian people, hence the hypocrite use of the word “democracy” as a synonym for freedom: True.
    Considering it a lost cause, and implicitly blaming it to the “intellectual average of the Egyptian people (and other Muslim Peoples)” which I think you do in this post: Wrong.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is indeed the most-organised, or even the only organised opposition force. But that does not mean that all opponents are advocate of Islamic terror, the same way all Palestinians, Irakians, [...insert here the names resulting from a Google search with the words “USA-oil-muslim-war”...] are not.

    Real partisans of freedom should work to help these opponents; if one looks ( with the bias in occidental media that is not that easy indeed), one can realise that heaps of them are not religious. Attacking verbally the Egyptian people, and even the whole Arabic civilisation as a whole, like this post (and IMHO too many others on this blog) is not helping them. It actually does this opposite, by giving weapons to the Islamists, the same way US and other Gvts do when giving their support to Moubbarak.

    As for the tie with Religion, there is one indeed, but the tie is not with freedom, but against Freedom. Religion is a tool used by those who oppose Freedom, i.e. those who want power. My analogy meant that the use of religion (or race, skin colour, etc) as a argument for power-hungry freedom-hating politicians is not proper to the Arabic people, contrary to what your post implies:
    The MuslimBrotherhood will trigger hatred against Christians and Jews by blaming all the problems of Egyptians on them, the same way GWBush has been using the word “God” in all his discourses to trigger the “Christian Brotherhood of America hatred against Muslims”, or Sarkozy, Hortefeux and their colleagues are triggering French hatred against Roms and other immigrates...
    I will try not to abide to Godwinn's law...but I could;-)
    You see the point?

  10. So what's the answer? The only country (I think) in the world that was actually founded on something resembling true liberty-based principles, that explicitly granted people the means to overthrow bad government if need be, with a relatively educated population, that saw the powerful and massive benefits of increased wealth production of such a system, was not able to prevent its own slide into an insane mess of interventionism, socialism, liberty and market-crushing over-regulationism etc. (I'm speaking of course of the US, and the liberty-destruction and over-regulationism gets worse by the day there.) How can any other country manage to maintain liberty? It's an honest question - what are the solutions? Other than to just keep trying to educate people.

  11. "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

    A Little Book in C major (1916) (later published in A Mencken Crestomathy (1949).

  12. @Anonymous,

    I share a lot of your questions.

    Here are some of my small answers. I believe in education. In my opinion this is the only key.

    To meet the point of a global but healthy education that we definitely need to live in Freedom and Respect, it does not require to blame constantly the others but to act morally when we think we can or need to. We are too evolved to wallow ourselves in a never ending and sterile criticism nor to play with binary propagandas.

    So yes, I believe in Education, and certainly not in a state/industry funded education (my children both attend classes in a Montessori school, which cost me an eye but I am not complaining, I am glad not to spend my money in buying any TV, any car, any Iphone... and I am not ready to own a house either or to go to Fiji for holidays, because yes I have ethical, logical, and human priorities). I greatly defend industrial and technological progresses in an enlighten and meaningful way (certainly not in the way things are happening today). I believe in interactions between people, in the community sense, in an active but non-compulsory and non-taxes funded help between people. I believe in the Human race on Earth, not in borders nor xenophobia.

    All governments are evil or will end as evil because they are only motivated by the seek of power from some sick individuals (or individuals who will become sick in this systemic process) - no wonder on why good and healthy people are not seeking for power nor winning enough electoral votes).

    Governance is a mass and world scale gangsterism organisation (religion is a part of it, as a fantastic and efficient propaganda tool). All democratic systems have failed and will because they are built on a wrong equation. People must be at the centre of this equation with a basic but universal law : the non-aggression principle. Where I feared on Anarchy yesterday, I now believe in with my greatest hope. Of course Anarchy would be an open door for gangsterism either, but certainly not like at the actual scale of our actual world which allows or encourages mass murders and state funded genocides ! I believe in the assertion : ‘Liberty is not the daughter but the mother of Order’ and in the spontaneous order which rules our universe. But to reach Anarchy, we must educate ourselves and the others. Yes.

  13. When I was a student 10 years ago, I experienced a physical aggression (involving a firearm) - I lived in Grenoble in France, where the riots happened last year). I was extremely scared. The man in front of me was French but born from Algerian natives. I managed to talk, I tried to touch his heart and his soul, just by talking, and talking. I did not show any fear and tried to explain him that he was not a bad guy for me and that I was ready to help him to save my life. He took my cash and fled away. Finally two hours later I saw him again, alone, in the street. I felt more secure this time because they were many people in the street. I thought he would run and hide. But no, he came to me and gave me back the change, he bought some cigarettes with some of my cash. And then he said thank you. Thank you for giving me a chance and not judging me. He said he would do something may be, that he was not happy of his condition. I just answered to him : "Do not trust the media, I am not the only one in this fucking country who believes in you. You are acting the way you act because you feel like you have no choice, but it is untrue, you must realise that, you have a gift for our world in yourself". May be he is still an asshole today. But may be he is not. However, I have never ever in my life blamed the Algerian kids in the French streets. Their behaviours are the result of a terrible condition that our government have greatly encouraged by a stigma and bad social urbanisations, and an inappropriate state education. These kids become what they are told to.

    We can answers to these questions by human coalitions, by education on a day to day basis. We must throw away our sickened entertainments and meet the people around us. We have a fantastic level of technology, knowledge and scientific prowess. We should start to use the human reason. We need to raise proper individuality at its highest level, same for the self-confidence, and so creativity.

    Western Christian countries are as blinded as Egyptian people are (or any other Muslim states). They are not operating on the same cultural and financial scheme, but this is it. Some of their people are no more barbarians than some of our people. We should not be blinded by decontextualized comparisons between the kind of weapons used in both sides. The results are exactly the same.

    The whole world need to be educated indeed. But before blaming we should starts in front of our doors, with our neighbours, families and friends, with us ! We should stop to give that poisonous water to the mill. And then, may be we could pretend to be an example to the others.

  14. @Sandrine: I agree with you on many points--especially that anarchy is simply an open door to gangsterism.

    The undesirability of such a state can be illustrated by the enthusiasm with which people so "organised" will eagerly adopt anyone rather than the chaos of anarchy. This helps explain how eagerly after years of anarchy Afghanis once emnbraced the Taleban, and the Chinese Mao.

    THe issue as regards Islamism is that in Egypt at least it is the only integrated intellectual opposition to the nationalism of Nasser/Sadat/Mubarak, so will almost inevitably replace it sa the ruling ethos.

    I could only wish that there were a group in Egypt extolling reason, individualism and the importance of a constitutional republic enshrining those principles and chaining up the govt to uphold them, but it's just not there. (Or if it is, I certainly haven't seen it.)

    Because most of the non-Islamists protesting in Cairo are not fighting FOR something at all, but simply fighting against the oppresssion of Mubarak. They want freedom from him, but could not say what that freedom would look like. That's the tragedy; that they have no ideology.

    "A majority without an ideology is a helpless mob, to be taken over by anyone."

    Like it or not, What they'll be taken over by is the Islamists--with an integrated ideology, and nine decades of organised and militant opposition under their belt.

    It's not enough to say that they're entitled to "self-determination" -- to set in place a democracy with some new strong man at its head. Because nothing gives the majority to take away the rights of a minority.

    It's not enough to hope that something good will come out of it all, that by some fluke of history political freedom might somehow arise. Because there's no no force in play from which that good might come, and way by which the majority voting away the rights of the minority can ever guarantee political freedom.

    As you say, the only way political freedom can ever arise is by changing a culture. The most successful efforts in modern times of changing a culture by the degreee required in Egypt were carried out in post-war Germany and post-war Japan--and especially this last. But that took (first) the destruction of both countries' military capacity; and (second) an intelligently focussed expunging of the elements in the culture that had driven their headling rish to destruction--a targeted programme iof de-Nazification and de-Shintoism that succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams; and (third) the introduction of what, with some flaws, were constitutions that enshrined and protected individual rights.

    I would love to be proved wrong, but nothing like that is going to happen in Egypt today.


  15. PART TWO:

    Nothing in the Egyptian culture supports it; nothing now in America could export it -- as the Americans showed by their failure in Iraq.

    Ayn Rand's discussion of the Algerian putsch and street protests in 1961 is straight to the point here:

    "The people of Algiers marched through the streets of the city ... shouting: "We want peace! We want a government!"
    How are they to go about getting it?
    Through the years of civil war, they had been united, not by any political philosophy, but only by a racial issue. They were fighting, not for any program, but only against French rule. . .
    The people of Algeria and their various tribal chieftains ... are being taken over by a well-organized minority that did not appear on the scene until after the victory. That minority is led by Ben Bella and was armed by Soviet Russia.
    A majority without an ideology is a helpless mob, to be taken over by anyone...

    "Political freedom requires much more than the people's wish. It requires an enormously complex knowledge of political theory and of how to implement it in practice.
    It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both.
    This was the great American achievement—and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders' motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world.

    That America's present leaders are themselves utterly blind to the reasons for their country's achievements is just part of the tragedy here.

    "[It is not enough to say] that no political knowledge is necessary—that [the American] system is only a matter of subjective preference—that any prehistorical form of tribal tyranny, gang rule, and slaughter will do just as well, with our sanction and support.
    It is thus that we encourage the spectacle of Algerian workers marching through the streets and shouting the demand: "Work, not blood!"—without knowing what great knowledge and virtue are required to achieve it.
    In the same way, in 1917, the Russian peasants were demanding: "Land and Freedom!" But Lenin and Stalin is what they got.
    In 1933, the Germans were demanding: "Room to live!" But what they got was Hitler.
    In 1793, the French were shouting: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" What they got was Napoleon.
    In 1776, the Americans were proclaiming "The Rights of Man"—and, led by political philosophers, they achieved it.
    No revolution, no matter how justified, and no movement, no matter how popular, has ever succeeded without a political philosophy to guide it, to set its direction and goal

    That, I believe, describes as well the coming tragedy of Egypt.

    In 2011 Egyptians are calling for "freedom," but what they will get instead (maybe not immediately, but before too long) will be the political philosophy of theocracy, and victory for the Muslim Brotherhood--with all that implies for them, and for the rest of the Middle East and the world.

    And just to conclude, I agree with you that "Western Christian countries are as blinded as Egyptian people are (or any other Muslim states)."

    The whole world does need to be educated in reason, freedom and capitalism-starting with our own front doors.

    Isn't that why I show up here every day? ;^)

  16. It's all very well being Not PC but being Non Factual is a different matter altogether.

    Aside from the tiresome scaremongering exhibited by the post author, let's look at some of his "facts":

    1. The new Iraqi government is naturally forming ties with its bigger neighbour, just as we do with Australia, but it is also forming strong ties with Turkey. The people of southern Iraq, especially, still remember the shelling they endured from the Iranians in the US sponsored Iran/Iraq war, so there is no need to get too carried away. Naturally, demonisation of Iran is implied in the post.

    2. Hamas had abandoned the tactic of suicide bombings well before that election (recognising that it was an ultimately counterproductive tactic) and gave up all violence to take part in the election.

    3.Hamas did not win in a landslide. It won a narrow majority of the overall vote tally, but the electoral system set up by Arafat to ensure the Fatah's success worked against Fatah in that case.

    4. Hamas did not begin to establish a totalitarian Islamic regime. Its first act was to form a joint government with Fatah that was scuppered by the US, the EU and Israel.

    5. There was no "collapse into civil war". The PA was trained and armed by the US, Jordan, Egypt and Israel to enact a coup against the legitimate Hamas government (by then taking refuge in its Gaza stronghold). Hamas got wind of it and took pre-emptive action which actually avoided what would have been a bloodbath

    6. Hezbollah was part of the government, but a limited part because of the careful allocation of positions under their constitution. Hezbollah did not launch an attack on Israel. They captured IDF personnel who were in the habit of intruding into Lebanon to kill a few people here and there. Israel decided to launch that war for entirely different strategic reasons and got a bloody nose for its troubles.

    Hezbollah was formed to resist the brutal Israeli occupation that began in 1982 and killed, by some reports, 30,000 Palestinian and Lebanese, virtually all civilians, including countless children (the enemy of the future, in Israel's eyes).

    It arms itself for defence, not for offence. That would be laughable, considering the military imbalance.

    Finally, it's a sad day when legitimate pleas for release from the grasp of ruthless US backed dictators and for the democracy we take for granted is likened to "mob rule."

    Western arrogance personified.

  17. rather than naively assume that this revolution will lead to a democratic Egypt (and so the U.S should stand by), or cynically assume that this is unquestionably an Islamist revolt that needs to be crushed (by supporting Mubarak and tyranny), the U.S. should simply do whatever needs doing to see that the revolt, in fact, leads to a secular and pluralistic society, which, believe it or not, many Egyptians would welcome.

  18. Toad is not a "Green Party official blogger", Frog is.

  19. I agree with @Luc Hansen.

    Thanks PC for your answers. I will meditate on the anarchist subject and I hope we will have a lovely talk about it around a few beers (or a good bottle of French red wine) one of these days.

    Indeed, you are doing a good job on this blog, thx, but you did not really answer to my real question about the "recurring pattern" of posts about "Muslims blindness" (when was the last time again you talked about the "evil Zionism" or the "Christian herd" ?).

    You said : 'This helps explain how eagerly after years of anarchy Afghanis once emnbraced the Taleban, and the Chinese Mao.'

    Really ? Could you detail a bit more ? I thought foreign occupation was describing better the situation than 'years of anarchy' : Afghanis in the 90's : USSR/Soviets and China before 49 : foreign backed Japan/English.

  20. the Egyptians are as clueless about freedom as are the Saudis. They really don’t know what they want, but they are “against” Mubarak, that’s all, and it just isn’t enough. The American Revolutionaries were against the Crown, but also knew what they wanted, and had a philosophical base for what they wanted. Not knowing what they want, the Egyptians are likely to wind up with something much worse than Mubarak. There isn’t a major player in the power struggle going on in Egypt now who is in the least “pro-freedom” as we understand it. We had the past and modern “Tea Parties.” Have the Egyptians a “Hookah Party”? No. They may be living in the 21st century, but their mentalities are still medieval. They’re just looking for a pleasanter master.

  21. Trevor

    In my opinion, you are quite wrong.

    If you followed the coverage, you would have found that it was the newly disaffected class common around much of the world, the unemployed middle class university graduates, who founded this peaceful revolution.

    Not only do they speak English, they often speak it with an American accent. Today, in Egypt, the educated professionals, lawyers, doctors and others, as well as Trade Unions, went on strike and joined the protesters.

    This is not an Islamic revolution. It's a revolution for freedom.

    Not PC drags up the Iranian leaders comments as he tried to grab a share of the revolution, but he is irrelevant in Egypt. He won't decide Egypt's future. Not PC may as well go and find some Islamic jihadist in Indonesia or the Philipines saying the same thing as the Iranian leader, and then scream - See! Told ya so!! Be very afraid!

    Why are us whiteys all so always afraid? Always scared of something. Even while cowering behind our nukes and drones.

  22. @Luc, you draw distinctions between Muslim groups everywhere, but at the same time wish us to believe that all "us whiteys" think the same.

    Clearly not.

  23. Not only do they speak English, they often speak it with an American accent. Today, in Egypt, the educated professionals, lawyers, doctors and others, as well as Trade Unions, went on strike and joined the protesters. This is not an Islamic revolution. It's a revolution for freedom.

    doesn't matter what form the revolution is, what matters is what happens when the current government is displaced.

    Why are us whiteys all so always afraid? Always scared of something. Even while cowering behind our nukes and drones.

    I ain't a whitey.

  24. Not only do they speak English, they often speak it with an American accent.

    That is a concrete-bound argument. By that logic, our current administration, Senate, and Obama's press harem are pro-freedom. Sudanese men have cell phones and text, and they still believed that they could be magically castrated by shaking a Westerner's hand.


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