I can’t tell you how much flak I took because I suggested that the recent events in Egypt not only did not amount to a revolution per se, but that they were not a democratic upswelling of the populace nor the progeny of social networking. In fact, I asserted they were what amounted to a bloodless coup by the military using the protestors as cover. For the gall of suggesting that “the people” had not risen up and overthrown a dictator I was seen as reactionary at best and an more likely an idiot… and then it got ugly.
Amazingly I got it from all sides. The left-leaning were incensed because I cast water on the fires burning for their messiah-in-Chief and suggesting his apparent foreign policy was amateurish and dangerous, that is if it existed at all. The right-leaning were incensed that I cast water on the fires burning for their martyred hero, “W” by suggesting that his dream of spreading democracy by example was naïve. And the youth were incensed that I cast water on the fires of their fervent belief that youth and exhuberance coupled with the sacred Facebook could accomplish anything by virtue of its own sincerity and enthusiasm and that anything so accomplished would, by definition, be a good thing.
Let me introduce you to Bahrain and Libya. Perhaps the people in those places too were emboldened by those misconceptions and thanks to the cheerleading of the media believed that a groundswell of democractic ideals was in the process of sweeping the middle eastern dictators and theorcratic tyrants from their thrones. They certainly had reason to wish a change in their own oppressive autocratic regime as would so many in that region. It does not take that much education to see that the monarchies are too self serving to worry overly much about the populace as long as their own coffers are kept full to overflowing. So long as they can hop on their own jetliners and escape observance they can flaunt their devotion to Mohammed in public and then engage on whatever manner of debauchery and excess they desire in practice and away from scrutiny.
Unfortunately both monarchs and theocrats bought into the same mistakes Marx did in not really recognizing the cultural-social positive impact of the middle class and established socialist/communist style economies so that the leaders are getting rich while the people are getting poorer and more subservient and dependent. Many of those countries are ripe for a revolt; if the revolt went well – a complete uncertainty and not the statistical norm – then such an event, after the smoke cleared and the blood was washed away, would be good for them. Sadly the history of revolutions is not one filled with good endings for the world or for the people. The lure of power and ill gotten gain is too powerful and most end in what has been referred to as a “kleptocracy” or a rule by thieves of the people. Machiavelli is still the most accurate predictor of their behavior because his directions to his own Prince, Lorenzo de Medici, actually worked and worked well. To understand the holding of power read him.
To bolster their regime’s security and longevity no matter how disgruntled the populace, those countries have followed the obvious and successful tactics of every dictatorship in history: they disarmed the people. Things were different for, say, the French revolution. Pitchfork-armed citizens were, in sufficient numbers, a better match for musket and sword wielding soldiers. Now, virtually no number of pitchfork, knife, sword, or even pistol wielding citizens can match automatic weapons, artillery, ordinance, air power, and chemicals used by the army. Ask the Kurds in Iraq, or the protestors in Tripoli for examples. No amount of enthusiasm, sincerity, desperation, anger, or need can overcome a larger number of better armed, better trained, better led, and better fed body fighting for their privileged position.
I said in the first piece that the protestors in Egypt could protest in relative peace for one reason only: the army allowed it. And that meant, necessarily, that the army had something to gain by it. In Bahrain the people also rose up to protest the situation. And they rose up in some pretty good numbers vis-à-vis the proportion of the population. And they were routed from their assembly area by gas attacks like swatting flies. By whom or what? What, according to the press and wishful thinking could so easily route such enthusiasm and sincerity? The Army. They were beaten by the army that, in that case, is interested in maintaining the current government. Similarly in Tripoli the security forces are in control. But in Benghazi, the army appears to have sided with the protestors and there THEY are in control. In both cases, who is in control? The army. And in Libya this is far more a tribal row fomenting civil war than a true overall revolution. Also the Libyan despot, who completely understood what i just said, kept the military fragmented so it could NOT perform a coup d’etat against him so the end game will be somewhat up for grabs here.
Over the next few days this will play out to some conclusion. There are several optional scenarios. Will enough of the citizens join in to where the army realizes it has a loyalty to the country that is higher than its loyalty to the individuals leading it? If so the ‘revolt’ will succeed. But if not; if the army remains firm, then they could decimate the entire population without breaking a sweat. If the army is made up of more fundamental Muslim thinkers then the individual is of far less importance than they would be to us and it will get really ugly.
I was also called to task for my characterization of the “peaceful” Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. After all, our own intel man in the White House called them secular and moderate and driven only by Egyptian Nationals interests. That man is either a political pawn, an illiterate idiot, or has a position to promote that is not in any western country’s best interests and certainly not ours. That view can only come from following someone else’s talking points and doing no, I mean ZERO, ZED, NADA independent research into the matter on their own. To substantiate that I included a URL to the page of the Brotherhood’s own website that displayed their Mission Statements and By-Laws. Why would you not believe their own charter? Well here is a reason: the response, not just from me but from others was so great that the English language site for MB just took down the page with their by-laws on it so outsiders could not read them. Hmmmmmm. Go to that link and you will see the message that the page is “no longer available.” Why not unless it was not something you wanted to outside world to see? Fortunately some of it i copied down the first time i visited it. Clearly, the purpose of the MB or Ikhwan was to unify the predominantly Islamic countries under a new caliphate and subordinating all lands to the rule of a single caliph, under shariah law. In its bylaws The Muslim Brotherhood makes clear the organization’s objectives and how it intends to achieve them:
“The Muslim Brotherhood is an International Muslim body which seeks to establish Allah’s law in the land by achieving the spiritual goals of Islam and the true religion which are namely the following: . . . (F) the need to work on establishing the Islamic State; [and] (G) The sincere support for a global cooperation in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia.”
Chapter II, Article 3 of the MB’s bylaws states:
“The Muslim Brotherhood in achieving these objectives depends on the following means: . . . (D) Make every effort for the establishment of educational, social, economic, and scientific institutions and the establishment of mosques, schools, clinics, shelters, clubs, as well as the formation of committees to regulate zakat affairs and alms; (E) The Islamic nation must be fully prepared to fight the tyrants and the enemies of Allah as a prelude to establishing the Islamic state.”
So tell me again about their secular nature and interest only in Egypt. Ah, but it then got even better. E-mailed responses tried to tell me that Islam was completely and thoroughly a religion of peace and that true believers abhorred violence and condemned it. Really? And where are those voices of condemnation to be found, much less heard occupying the world stage? This is a religion with lots of believers scattered around the world. So where is the world-wide murmur of condemnation for acts of terror and the murder of both muslims of other “denominations” and non muslims all in the name of Mohammed? I don’t mean a few isolated rational voices which certainly exist, but a ground swell of push-back against the apostate terrorists? If these extremeists and Jihadists have truly highjacked the religion then where are the voices of the highjacked believers complaining about it?
The truth is that what we call extremists are simply following the words in their sacred text. Again, if you don’t believe me then read the book; read the Qu’raan itself. It is not long, it uses simple words, and it does not ever, ever equivocate. You will not have to “interpret” anything, unlike the often cryptic Judaeo-Christian Bible. For your own purposes you may be able to force spin in it some direction or the other (and it even clearly says a believer is encouraged to lie to non-believers to advance their cause which might explain some Muslim Brotherhood statements that contradict their own By-Laws ) but it will require you to do it in contravention of the clear meaning of the words themselves.
And while I’m waiting to hear the litany of world wide voices condemning terrorists and murder as being anti-Islam let me ask this… even if they actually materialized, how does one reconcile them with such Qu’raanic verses as, Surah II, 216 which states clearly,
“Warfare is ordained for you though it is hateful to you. It may happen that you hate something that is good for you or love a thing that is bad for you. Allah knoweth, you know not.”
There is an apparent huge contradiction of attitude in the book but it is easily explained by history. Early on when followers were few and surrounded by enemies they were told to be nice and cool and friendly to avoid being simply exterminated. But by the time Medina was taken and Mohammed was in tight control of an impressive army, the gloves came off. Now he could have kept to the original peaceful vision that got him that far… had it been what he really wanted. But instead, once the ability was there with virtually no risk of self destruction, his real goals and beliefs were given free reign and he had no problems seeing every non-believer as someone to be converted or killed or, when it was a population segment that possessed special and needed skills, allowed to live and work but under very restricted and oppressive conditions. Islam was not spread by the good word, it was spread by the sharp sword. Still think I’m making it up? Then read on in the good holy book of these peaceful folks:
Surah III, 196-197. Let not the vicissitude of the success of those who disbelieve deceive thee. It is but a brief comfort. And afterward their habitation will be hell, an ill abode.
Surah V, 10. They who disbelieve and deny our revelations, such are the rightful owners of hell. .. (14) And with those who say, “Lo, we are Christians,” we made a covenant but they forgot a part of that whereof they were admonished. Therefore we have stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the day of resurrection. (51.) Oh ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for friends. They are friends to one another. He among you who takes them for friends is one of them. Allah does not guide wrongdoing folk.
Surah VIII, 12-13. … So make those who believe stand firm. I (Allah) will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. That is because they oppose Allah and his messenger. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment. (38-39) Tell those who disbelieve that if they cease from persecution of the believers that which is past shall be forgiven them. But if they return thereto, then the example of the men of old hath already gone before them for a warning. Fight them until the persecution is no more and religion is all for Allah. (65) O Prophet, exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you (believers) twenty steadfast they shall overcome two hundred and if there be one thousand steadfast they shall overcome two thousand by permission of Allah. Allah is with the steadfast. It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land.
Surah IX, 36. … Wage war on all the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you. And know that Allah is with those who keep their duty unto him. (123) O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you and let them find harshness in you and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty unto Him.
So, hey, if you want to go on believing that the Egyptian event culminating in the removal of the dictator Mubarak was the result of some protestors following the call of Facebook and Twitter or that any Muslim organizations that might wish to coopt it are really only interested in peace with their neighbors, then go ahead. But start now practicing the explanations for why in other areas (can we spell “Iran”) that same approach has been, shall we say kindly, somewhat less successful. For me, I would assert, rather, that the way to carry off a successful overthrow of an oppressive government or at least to survive the attempt, is to first gain the ear and sympathies of the army. Don’t spend time putting your money on demonstrators, spend time putting money on the ones with the weapons. Protests and Demonstrations are not revolutions; regime overthrow is a revolution. Figurehead replacement is not a revolution; replacing or converting the real power often behind the thrown is revolution.
Pay attention to the events of history. Remember Tieneman Square in China. The revolt failed but one lone man did the unthinkable and stood in front of a tank moving in to clear out the rest of the protestors. The cause was already lost but this one incredibly brave soul had one last act in him. The tanks and army had already brutally crushed revolt-minded citizens but then one tank driver, dealing not with a hostile crowd but with one brave citizen, would not run him down.
That is how you win your revolt. That moment of revolution failed, but that image has, in the end, done more to bring about change in China than all of those other protestors who died combined. And it happened because he was lucky enough to stand in front of a soldier who would not kill his own peaceful people. Others may well have had no problem driving over him but not that one driver. One citizen and one soldier connected in that time and place and a continuing massacre was averted. One citizen and one soldier were photographed and flashed around the world and the government could simply not pretend it did not happen.
And finally I was assailed because I said it was better in Egypt that the army remained in control than if the “democratic” protestors had actually taken over. I said that because stability in the region and the potential of improving the lot of the Egyptian people is, to me, a better goal than simply some change of governmental form with a name that we like. Creating a government, especially an otherwise unknown and untried form of government is not an easy or quick task. How many revolutions do we have to review to understand that when the mob wins, for whatever reason, it is usually unable to rule? That job falls to the better organized groups waiting in the wings to let the others get bloody then take over. It happened in the Russian revolution which was taken over by the thuggish Bolsheviks once the Tsar was toppled. It happened in Iran. It happened in Cuba. It happened in China. Never forget that Hitler rose to power in a completely democratic way winning his elections to power as vestiges of the old republic were swept away. The iconic revolution of the French saw desperate people topple the monarchy and then fall under Robespierre and the reign of terror. America is one of the very few revolutions in history that came out OK but it was led by people who already had experience in the administration of a civil government.
The Shia/Sunni divide is simmering just under the surface in the middle east, power brokers for both sides are looking for every chance to advance their territory in preparation of a great internal struggle they know is coming and we are ignoring or denying. They are watching these countries in turmoil and looking for an opening provided by a desperate people wanting change from despots but unable to actually govern for themselves due to lack of organization and experience.
We need to be very, very careful what we ask for from these so-called revolutions. We may be sorely troubled by the results if we get it.