The United States has supported different factions in the Muslim world for the sake of stability. The latest of these is the Muslim Brotherhood. With terrorism from the religion whose name none dare speak running rampant across the world, the Muslim Brotherhood was supposed to pacify the violence by showing that Islamists could come to power without flying planes into buildings.
While Washington was culpable in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian opposition was far more culpable for forming an alliance with the Brotherhood to overthrow Mubarak. The same Egyptian leftists who are warring with the Brotherhood now were assuring us two years ago that the Brotherhood would never come to power. They gave American policymakers and diplomats those same assurances and now they are condemning them for taking them at their word.
El Baradei was entirely willing to ride the Muslim Brotherhood’s numbers to the presidency. Instead the Muslim Brotherhood rode him and then rode over him. Now El Baradei, who applied eagerly for the job of being America’s puppet, is denouncing America for supporting a puppet government. America is, if anything, more the puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood than the other way around, but accusations of evil puppetry are as common a theme in the politics of the Middle East as giant puppet displays are at leftist protests in America.
Every faction in the game understands that America’s goal is to achieve regional stability while ending the anger and hatred directed at it. Stating a vulnerable goal in the region is a piece of tactical clumsiness that leads the opposition to promote instability and spread anger toward America because they know that is what it fears. And so the very act of defining a “love and peace” goal not only makes attaining it completely and utterly impossible, but actually leads to the very opposite result.
Much as respecting human shields actually promotes the use of that tactic by terrorists, aiming for stability leads to instability. And so every American diplomatic initiative ends with an angry Arab Street and no peace in sight. Every American diplomatic visit leads to a choice that is bound to make America unpopular with everyone no matter what choice it makes.
The United States withdrew its support from Mubarak because it did not want to support a leader whom the proverbial Arab Street hated, but now it is stuck supporting another leader whom the Street hates. After all that effort and the sacrifice of national interests, the United States finds itself right back where it started in terms of the angry Arab Street, even while its strategic interests have taken a beating.
Washington should never have withdrawn its support from Mubarak and now that the tactic of appeasing the Arab Street has proven futile, it should stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood out of some misplaced commitment to Muslim democracy, a mythical creature that no one in the Muslim world actually believes in, and the even more misplaced notion that the Muslim Brotherhood can restore stability to the region.
As the past year has shown us, the Muslim Brotherhood is not capable of bringing stability to Egypt, let alone the region. It is a violent sectarian organization incapable of running the country without resorting to violence. And while that alone does not distinguish it, its inherent Islamist tendencies do. Refusing to support the Muslim Brotherhood should not however lead to any further fallacies about freedom and democracy. These two attributes are not about to arrive in Egypt in any enduring form.
A chaotic Egypt will likely drift into one kind of tyranny or another. The United States should stay out of the process, providing no support to any of the factions, until a stable non-Islamist government that is willing to cooperate with the United States on security issues arises. That should be the only American criteria with respect to who rules or misrules Egypt.
The Arab Street is not America’s problem. It is the problem of those who wish to rule it. If the Egyptian people truly wish democracy, then they will fight for it and obtain it without our support. If they do not, that is also their business.
America’s interests in Egypt do not involve waging a democracy crusade, but keeping heavy firepower, a large population and nuclear technology out of the hands of our enemies.