The Progressive Left has a fantasy. In this fantasy Democracy leads to a modification of radical behavior. Terrorists are not terrorists they are simply aggrieved, with no other tools at hand. Human rights will take center stage in the wake of elections. That the Middle East will see the benefits of Democratic institutions as opposed to the long history of that not being the case. Progressives believe that elections, on their own, will establish a love for the rule of law and the deep desire to live under man made law; the Quran rejects man made law. The declared desire for genocide is really just a negotiating position. It is also about embracing victimhood, the perpetual spotlight being on the Palestinians, who continue to sit as pawns in the Middle Eastern power game. This the Progressive view of the Middle East.
The facts and history should be sufficient to overwhelm this fantasy, but they don’t. The President’s Middle East policy lies in a shambles, as does his credibility. WaPo and the NYT wonder; ‘what went wrong?’ The answer is, nearly everything, starting with the President’s speech in Cairo. The President’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood; leading from behind, lying about Benghazi and, in all likelihood, shipping weapons to Syria absent the knowledge of who was on the receiving end.
The modern secular Progressive has no basis upon which to understand and internalize the dominant role of religion in the Middle East. In the throes of political self hypnosis, the projection of Progressive values is applied to the region under the mistaken view that cause and effect in the Middle East will be consistent to the Western experience. Democracy is to be valued and promoted, however in the Middle East the vast majority of the Clerical elite, those who hold the microphones, speak in Mosques and appear on television, believe Democracy is anathema to Islam.
There is a belief that an election will assuage the pent up frustration that leads to violence; that a ‘voice’ is better than a gun. I agree, it is, if you have a burning desire to not only abide by elections but insist on the institutions necessary to support the results of those elections. Elections in the Middle East have no history of veracity with the governed. Where we rely on elections, in the Middle East they are no more than a hope that elections will have an impact on their weak economies and standard of living. Elections in Iran only consider candidates acceptable to the religious ruling elite. In Gaza, the most immediate result of Hamas winning the election was the murder of Palestinian political opponents, most often by throwing them off roofs. Assad and Saddam were ‘reelected’ with 90%+ margins. We see the results in Egypt where an election was no more than a means to a religiously ideological end. We would do well to recall the words of an individual who knew the Egyptian Brotherhood all too well, Hosni Mubarak. “Don’t ever believe that they want democracy or anything like that. They are exploiting democracy in order to eliminate democracy. And if they ever do govern, it will be an ugly dictatorship.” Shame we didn’t listen.
Successful Democracy is nearly always accompanied by some manner of Capitalist economic system. The Quran forbids much of what we would consider essential to Democratic Capitalism.
The history of Islam is violent, expansionist and Imperialistic. Mohammed engaged in battle and as Mohammed lived a ‘perfect life’, it is the example that Muslims must follow. Systems, political positions, shared power have no currency when taken in counterpoint to Mohammed’s life and teachings, albeit those teachings changed over time as early Islam was stressed with competition.
From the Middle Eastern view we have no basis upon which to motivate Democracy. Did we not take Iraq at the point of a gun, insisting on Democratic institutions rising from the rubble? Those institutions are now falling apart due in large measure to Islamic sectarian violence against Muslims, prohibited in the Quran.
What went wrong? At the most fundamental level the refusal to acknowledge facts on the ground, to fail to understand the ideologies at play and to misinterpret historical context will fairly quickly lead to things going wrong. To fail to acknowledge that American pronouncements as to the value of Democracy are hollow to vast sections of the Middle Eastern population, especially in the context of our lack of support for Iran’s Green Revolution. As hatred of Muslim Brotherhood rule grew in Egypt our Ambassador supported MB actions which were extravagantly non Democratic. Approval of America has, according to Pew polling, declined under President Obama.
As Walter Russell Mead points out, the combination of MB support and then a discussion of aid, teed it up for the Generals in Egypt and the resulting interim government. American support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the absence of criticism regarding their overreach allowed the Military to represent their coup as anti-American and therefore patriotic in the Egyptian context.
Demonstrations and elections do not a Democracy make. Elections in the Middle East occur within a religious, cultural and societal context. Even in Eastern Europe the march to Democracy in the post Cold War world was not uniform. Stability and economic growth based on a stable government, even if not ‘democratic, is, in the Middle East, the necessary prelude to democracy.