U.S. is Failing a Simple Middle East Test
Who should Western democrats support in the “new” Middle East?:
a. Islamists elected to power who claim to be democrats (best example: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptor the ayatollahs in Iran).
b. Bloody-handed Arab nationalists who pretend to be moderate (best example: Bashar Assad in Syria).
c. Would-be nationalist leaders who cannot be elected dog catcher and who pretend to be moderate while actually being extremist (best example: PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas who dresses nice but acts not nice).
d. Militarists who claim to be liberals but have suspended elected government (best example: the Egyptian generals who have ousted the Muslim Brotherhood).
If you are the Obama Administration, you answered this one question incorrectly—three different ways:
a. By choosing the Muslim Brotherhood (and you doubled the ante by not working hard to help foes of the ayatollahs).
b. By preferring Bashar Assad as a worthy ruler to whom you sent an ambassador against the express wishes of Congress, then dilly-dallied even as Assad slaughtered thousands, and further procrastinated as the rebel forces came to be dominated by Al-Qaeda.
c. By encouraging Palestinian intransigence and rewarding PLO chief Abbas, who has neither legal legitimacy nor any kind of popularity to represent Arabs in any area between the Jordan River and theMediterranean.
Choice “d”—aiding Egypt’s generals is not a great choice, but Westerners need to distinguish between autocrats moving slowly for change and full-fledged despots who will never change. Some Mideastdictators exploit “democracy” in order to rub out democratic opponents.
Islamist leaders who gain power in Egypt, Turkey and Iran, will not give up power graciously or accept real elections where there is a real chance they will lose.
That is what Recep Erdogan has done in Turkey, muzzling the press and castrating the military. More journalists in Turkey have been jailed than anywhere else in the world, and the army commander was jailed for treason, though the Turkish army was meant also to be the guardian of a secular republicanism so that extreme clerics do not vanquish liberty.
Sadly, Turkey’s army was cleverly outmaneuvered by Erdogan, and Egypt’s army wanted to prevent that Turkish scenario in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood had moved strongly to impose Islamic law and veiling women.
Turkey’s Erdogan is Barack Obama’s favorite Mideast leader, and he has also frozen Israel out of NATO exercises. Obama and Hillary Clinton did nothing.
Turkey’s Islamist leader helped Hamas terrorists in Gaza, and he has tried to bully and extort Israel. A very good sign from Egypt’s military leaders is that they did NOT let Erdogan visit Gaza, and another good sign was that they are working hard against Hamas and on Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Sinai who just fired missiles again at Israel’s port city of Eilat this week.
So maybe the Obama team should be a bit kinder to the Egyptian generals, and let’s not forget that both Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were Egyptian military men who, while not perfect democrats, worked hard for their people economically and also tried to preserve a fragile peace with Israel.
Just because someone calls himself a democrat or uses a parliamentary trick to gain and hold power does not mean real democracy.
We saw such “phony democracy” when Hitler came to power in 1933 Germany by manipulating the parliamentary process and then burying freedom.
No one claims the Muslim Brotherhood has reached Hitler’s level. However, the Iranians hold phony elections and are already the top terror exporters in the world, including active terror plots in North and South America, even as Iran makes no secret of its global ambitions.
Iran seeks the ultimate weapons of destruction—nuclear bombs atop long-range missiles. For years, Obama temporized on the issue, guided perhaps by Iranian-educated advisor Valerie Jarrett, who led a White House gala for Iranians the day after an Iran-aided terror attack in Bulgaria a year ago. Five Israelis were murdered in that attack, and a White House official said it was “tit for tat” for Israel allegedly attackingIran’s atomic scientists. The quote appeared in The New York Times, but no one at its editorial board thought to chastise the unnamed senior Obama official for making light of terror and lumping Israel’s attempts to stop a nuclear Iran together with the fanatical terror of Iran and Hizballah.
The term “Islamic democrats” is an oxymoron meant for morons. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s ayatollahs will not peacefully relinquish power.
“They believe,” as Professor Bernard Lewis once quipped, “in one man, one vote, one time only.”
Abraham Lincoln showed that preserving democracy sometimes demands military power (The Civil War) and even temporarily limiting some liberties (suspending habeas corpus ). We do not need to go that far today, but Arab-Islamic terror and despotism are real dangers to world democracy. Standing piously on the sidelines is not what Abraham Lincoln would have done.
Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, and he will be a visiting professor at University of California, Irvine.
This article was originally published in Front Page Magazine.