Egypt & the Arab Spring: Not Exactly a 1776 Moment

by PATRICK DUNLEAVY December 14, 2012

signing of declaration of United States


egypt_presidential palace

They say a picture paints a thousand words.  If so, then there can be no greater image to show the contrast between what took place in much of the Arab world two years ago and the birth of democracy in the United States than the two pictures above.  The one is Howard Chandler Christy's painting of the signing of the Constitution in Philadelphia.  The other is of tanks and barbed wire surrounding the presidential palace in Cairo following the passing of the constitutional referendum in Egypt.  The one hangs in the Capitol building, the other was beamed across the world by the social media.

What those images denote is the stark reality that is often overlooked by our current leaders.  Totalitarianism relies on the barrel of a gun and democracy on the power of the word, freedom.

What President Morisi did in Egypt can be described in no other way.  He amassed power to himself under the guise of protecting the nation and pushing through a constitution that fit the radical Islamist agenda.  After massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square by non-Islamist Egyptians, he rescinded part of the order giving him supreme authority, yet the dye had already been cast as to how he would rule in the future.  On Monday he imposed martial law on the country and gave the military authority to arrest civilians who would oppose the passing of the constitutional referendum.  On Tuesday massive demonstrations were held by those opposed to the constitutional referendum vote scheduled for this Saturday.  President Morsi's response was to brand those who demonstrated as enemies of the state, subversives and foreign conspirators, going so far as to use the state run TV station in getting his message out.  A technique that was described by Al Jazeera news as "borrowing a page out of (former) President Muburak's playbook". 

What the outcome will be in Egypt remains to be seen, perhaps the will of the people will prevail and true democracy will take root.  And then again it may be that the radical Islamists who have hijacked the movement will force the will of Allah on all the people if not by the ballot then by the sword.

And lest we should think that this was an isolated incident in the Middle East or, as some  have described events in that area, as "a bump in the road" we need only to look at what is going on in  countries like Libya and Syria as to what the Arab Spring has produced.

In Libya we've had the Benghazi incident, led by a radical Islamic organization that resulted in the death of four Americans.  New reports now out on the situation there reveal that the US permitted Qatar to ship weapons to an Al Qaeda affiliate leading the opposition in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.  The investigation into the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods is being stalled because Libyan authorities fear taking on the radical Islamic militia in control of that section of the country.

In Syria we are finding out that the strongest, best trained Assad opposition leaders there are in fact members of the Nusra Front, an off shoot of Al Qaeda in Iraqi (AQI).

If and when Bashar al Assad is finally removed from power there is the possibility of another Afghanistan type country, fraught with sectarian violence and a Taliban-like government that again forces the will of Allah on the people with the base of the sword.

The failure of Western diplomats, including the United States to understand what is taking place in the Middle East because of some giddy hope or naïveté  for all countries to be like ours is a sure road to failure in promoting democracy.

The birth of democracy does indeed begin with a cry for freedom and it may need to be paid for in some measure by the shedding of blood, but it must be guarded against hijacking by pseudo democratic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections. He is the author of "The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism's Prison Connection," details of which can be found at his website, and he can be contacted at:   Mr. Dunleavy is currently a Senior Fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He  teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School, "Dynamics of International Terrorism"  and has testified as an expert witness before the House Committee on Homeland Security regarding the threat of Islamic Radicalization in the U.S. Prison System.

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