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Subject: Egypt and democracy rss

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Bojan Ramadanovic
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I am shocked at the absence of Egypt thread here.
If I recall correctly quite a few people were excited about the democratic revolution there last spring.
Now it is back to the standard case of:
Majority rule = rule by the largest/best organized ethno/religious party with minority resorting to force to avoid being disenfranchised.
They will be lucky to avoid Syria-style civil war.

Hundred+ years ago, people protesting against autocratic regimes demanded constitutional rights first and foremost. Today they demand electoral franchise. One of those approaches seems better at producing the stable liberal democracy.
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Quite a few of us said this is what would happen, and wer basically told we did not know what we wee talking about.

The problem is the idea that democracy is the be all and end all of civil rights.

It's also telling that those who trumpeted the Arab Spring are not not trumpeting the (inevitable) result. The same ones who are now saying we should poke our nose into Syria, to protect democracy, and with the same result.
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It was a pro-Muslim Brotherhood uprising, not a democratic one for the most part.
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whac3 wrote:
It was a pro-Muslim Brotherhood uprising, not a democratic one for the most part.
Not sure that is true, in fact a large part of it was the middle class, westernized intelligentsia. The problem was that the only organized part of the uprising was the Muslim Brotherhood
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bramadan wrote:
I am shocked at the absence of Egypt thread here.
If I recall correctly quite a few people were excited about the democratic revolution there last spring.
Now it is back to the standard case of:
Majority rule = rule by the largest/best organized ethno/religious party with minority resorting to force to avoid being disenfranchised.
They will be lucky to avoid Syria-style civil war.

Hundred+ years ago, people protesting against autocratic regimes demanded constitutional rights first and foremost. Today they demand electoral franchise. One of those approaches seems better at producing the stable liberal democracy.
I think that is far too pessimistic. Egypt is nowhere near a Syria-style civil war.

The real problem isn't the lack of voting, or that there is a big split in voting outcomes between muslim vs non-muslim, rural vs urban. The real problem is the governmental system. The president has the majority of the power - he even appoints nearly a third of the upper house of parliament. It is the concentration of power which is the primary problem.

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Isaac Citrom
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bramadan wrote:
I am shocked at the absence of Egypt thread here.
If I recall correctly quite a few people were excited about the democratic revolution there last spring.
...
I'm not shocked at all. It is in fact par for the course.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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andyl wrote:
bramadan wrote:
I am shocked at the absence of Egypt thread here.
If I recall correctly quite a few people were excited about the democratic revolution there last spring.
Now it is back to the standard case of:
Majority rule = rule by the largest/best organized ethno/religious party with minority resorting to force to avoid being disenfranchised.
They will be lucky to avoid Syria-style civil war.

Hundred+ years ago, people protesting against autocratic regimes demanded constitutional rights first and foremost. Today they demand electoral franchise. One of those approaches seems better at producing the stable liberal democracy.
I think that is far too pessimistic. Egypt is nowhere near a Syria-style civil war.

The real problem isn't the lack of voting, or that there is a big split in voting outcomes between muslim vs non-muslim, rural vs urban. The real problem is the governmental system. The president has the majority of the power - he even appoints nearly a third of the upper house of parliament. It is the concentration of power which is the primary problem.

They are not at Syria yet - but we have Morsi and the brotherhood already promising bloodshed and wrapping themselves in green flags. Only question is will they be able to deliver and whether army will be provoked into enough repression to sustain the cycle of violence.

If you have situation in which country is split along the deep ideological lines introducing the winner-takes-all majoritarian voting franchise is not only not a solution to the problem it is a huge part of the problem itself.

Funny thing is: Morsi and brothers are playing exactly by the western rules and will (rightly) accuse West of hypocrisy when the coup is met with little more then tut-tuting from us. At the same time people who should be our natural allies there will (also rightly) tell us how it was our stupid ideas that saddled them with Islamists in the first place.

Karzai, Maliki, Morsi... (Not to mention Habiyarimana, Mugabe, Ortega, Milosevic, Yanukovich, Chavez...) it is same thing over and again, I really wonder how long it will take USA and the rest to learn that popular franchise without pre-existing liberal institutions leads almost inevitably to dismal government.
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bramadan wrote:
andyl wrote:
bramadan wrote:
I am shocked at the absence of Egypt thread here.
If I recall correctly quite a few people were excited about the democratic revolution there last spring.
Now it is back to the standard case of:
Majority rule = rule by the largest/best organized ethno/religious party with minority resorting to force to avoid being disenfranchised.
They will be lucky to avoid Syria-style civil war.

Hundred+ years ago, people protesting against autocratic regimes demanded constitutional rights first and foremost. Today they demand electoral franchise. One of those approaches seems better at producing the stable liberal democracy.
I think that is far too pessimistic. Egypt is nowhere near a Syria-style civil war.

The real problem isn't the lack of voting, or that there is a big split in voting outcomes between muslim vs non-muslim, rural vs urban. The real problem is the governmental system. The president has the majority of the power - he even appoints nearly a third of the upper house of parliament. It is the concentration of power which is the primary problem.

They are not at Syria yet - but we have Morsi and the brotherhood already promising bloodshed and wrapping themselves in green flags. Only question is will they be able to deliver and whether army will be provoked into enough repression to sustain the cycle of violence.

If you have situation in which country is split along the deep ideological lines introducing the winner-takes-all majoritarian voting franchise is not only not a solution to the problem it is a huge part of the problem itself.

Funny thing is: Morsi and brothers are playing exactly by the western rules and will (rightly) accuse West of hypocrisy when the coup is met with little more then tut-tuting from us. At the same time people who should be our natural allies there will (also rightly) tell us how it was our stupid ideas that saddled them with Islamists in the first place.

Karzai, Maliki, Morsi... (Not to mention Habiyarimana, Mugabe, Ortega, Milosevic, Yanukovich, Chavez...) it is same thing over and again, I really wonder how long it will take USA and the rest to learn that popular franchise without pre-existing liberal institutions leads almost inevitably to dismal government.
Perhaps not pre-existing liberal institutions, rather pre-existing liberal sensibilities.

We are endlessly told that Western civilization is just another flavour and no better and an often worse manner of organizing a society. It's part and parcel of Western liberal self-loathing.

Those of us who don't feel that way, who do appreciate Western civilization, easily predicted this eventuality way back when all this "Arab spring" stuff started. I exactly had this conversation then and was dismissed as a righty nut job and similar ad hominem pseudo-arguments for suggesting anything less than paradise. Anyone who saw themselves as lefty and tolerant clearly saw the obviousness of how all would turn out well in some mysterious and unexplainable way.
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isaacc wrote:
We are endlessly told that Western civilization is just another flavour and no better and an often worse manner of organizing a society.
No we aren't.
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bramadan wrote:
Karzai, Maliki, Morsi... (Not to mention Habiyarimana, Mugabe, Ortega, Milosevic, Yanukovich, Chavez...) it is same thing over and again, I really wonder how long it will take USA and the rest to learn that popular franchise without pre-existing liberal institutions leads almost inevitably to dismal government.
I wonder if the 'USA and the rest' really WANT more countries that might eventually compete with them in economic and social progress?

Promoting 'democracy' in an area it cannot produce a successful government seems like a win-win from a realpolitik perspective. You get to appease your own voters that you are trying really hard to make the world a better place for them, and on the other hand you get to ACTUALLY ensure instability that you have to (reluctantly, of course) send in your military hardware, then contractors and nation-builders, to help sort out.

But maybe I'm just overly cynical...
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Egypt is pretty different from Syria. The army is not exactly coming solidly down on the side of Morsi, so much as stepping in and taking over in an effort to keep the peace. This is very much not like Syria.

It's all very well to say that more liberal institutions were needed first, but I'm not exactly sure what Western powers could have practically done to make that more likely.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Egypt is pretty different from Syria. The army is not exactly coming solidly down on the side of Morsi, so much as stepping in and taking over in an effort to keep the peace. This is very much not like Syria.

It's all very well to say that more liberal institutions were needed first, but I'm not exactly sure what Western powers could have practically done to make that more likely.
Army is coming solidly *against* Morsi - on side of the anti-islamist minority.
Morsi is not Assad counterpart - he is counterpart of who would get in power in Syria if the guys we are currently supposed to cheer for / arm win.

The differences between the Egypt and Syria are:
- Established minority ruler was sufficiently corrupt and inept to piss off his constituency.
- Attempt at majority rule was allowed but is quickly being back paddled out of once the minority realized what it will look like.
- Majority has not started shooting, yet.


As for what the west could have done: very little directly.
Culturally, they could (and should) switch their propaganda from extolling virtues of universal franchise to praising rule of law, individual rights and the like.

Ideally, in the present circumstances, USA should tell army that they can go ahead and remove Morsi - electoral mandate and all - and that they will keep on getting their funding as long as the new government is committed to testable improvements in institutional development with possibly some lip-service to another election in decade's time or so.

As it is they will likely put the "hold elections again next week" up front and centre thus forgoing using any leverage they may have to actually improve the situation.
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Egypt is pretty different from Syria. The army is not exactly coming solidly down on the side of Morsi, so much as stepping in and taking over in an effort to keep the peace. This is very much not like Syria.

It's all very well to say that more liberal institutions were needed first, but I'm not exactly sure what Western powers could have practically done to make that more likely.
Nothing, unless the nascent liberal democratic state in question has the self-awareness to admit that it needs help and asks for it. That is a huge psychological hill to overcome.

Pride is non-trivial. The various flavours of Western liberal democratic constitutions are likely starting points for one's own, but that would necessitate admitting that they have real value.

I recall during the second Iraq war, the US had to send in civil training units because certain concepts were just entirely foreign to Iraqi thinking. Two which stood out in my mind are (a) that police is at the service of the populous and not a strong-arm enforcer of the government, and (b) structure of small democratic legislature, such as committees.

The people there just couldn't wrap their heads around the meaning of a binding vote, such that you may well have to live with something you abhor for an entire term. Liberal and Democratic Americans hated George W. Bush, not just for one term but two, but they lived with it because that was the vote. They didn't start a violent revolution because they didn't like the result of the elections. This is a foreign concept in the Middle East.

Adding up the number of man-years of all Western democracies over modern history having worked on the implementations of liberal democracy, there is no need whatsoever of reinventing the wheel. A chief problem is the inability to use solutions being used by the satans of the world.
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bramadan wrote:
Army is coming solidly *against* Morsi - on side of the anti-islamist minority.
Morsi is not Assad counterpart - he is counterpart of who would get in power in Syria if the guys we are currently supposed to cheer for / arm win.
Right, but this is why it isn't going to spiral into civil war (at least, not unless the next guy is exactly like Assad, and then you might get civil war when his regime starts to go bad, which is not the immediate future).

The rioters and army deserters aren't going to be fighting the army like in Syria. At worse, in terms of violence, the army and the rioters will be ousting the current government.


bramadan wrote:
As for what the west could have done: very little directly.
Culturally, they could (and should) switch their propaganda from extolling virtues of universal franchise to praising rule of law, individual rights and the like.

Ideally, in the present circumstances, USA should tell army that they can go ahead and remove Morsi - electoral mandate and all - and that they will keep on getting their funding as long as the new government is committed to testable improvements in institutional development with possibly some lip-service to another election in decade's time or so.

As it is they will likely put the "hold elections again next week" up front and centre thus forgoing using any leverage they may have to actually improve the situation.
I'd say ideally the USA should do nothing at all. At least openly. Which I guess includes keeping the money running as long as things aren't spiralling out of control.

Personally, I'm all for technocratic rule until stability is established, but I'm not sure it actually solves the problem unless people are clear that's what they want.

And even people in the west are pretty resistant to that sort of thing.

I'd certainly say hoping to wait a decade for an election is not really dealing with the reality on the ground.

I mean, if the point is people should think differently, then sure. If people thought differently it would solve all sorts of problems, but it's not so easy to achieve.
 
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
isaacc wrote:
We are endlessly told that Western civilization is just another flavour and no better and an often worse manner of organizing a society.
No we aren't.
I can't speak for Canada, but yes it's at least true for U.S. higher education. You can barely take a grad course in mathematics, for crying out loud, without being bombarded by this exact ideology.
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Willward wrote:
Dolphinandrew wrote:
isaacc wrote:
We are endlessly told that Western civilization is just another flavour and no better and an often worse manner of organizing a society.
No we aren't.
I can't speak for Canada, but yes it's at least true for U.S. higher education. You can barely take a grad course in mathematics, for crying out loud, without being bombarded by this exact ideology.
I know plenty of people who teach grad courses in mathematics in the US, and I'm pretty sure that isn't even remotely true. (Indeed, if anything even vaguely like it it even comes up in a grad course that isn't philosophy, history, sociology or some similar closely related subject, there are more serious issues with the course than a political bias).

On the other hand, I do know plenty of people who are happy to interpret anything other than the exact opposite of that statement, that Western Civilisation is and always has been as close to perfect as humanity gets, as the sentiments above.
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Yet another brick removed from the edifice of Neo-Con ideology of the early 21st Century, as yet again we learn that just because someone is popularly elected into office, this doesn't mean that they're nice people.

On the other hand, the more we're seen as the supporters of dictators, the more our declarations of wanting to promote 'Democracy' is seen as hollow hypocrisy.

Then again, we spent more in Afghanistan in a MONTH than we did in a year in Egypt. And look what that got us.

There is only so much that the US can do with money and foreign aid to change the political culture of other nations. I'm not saying that I'm against Foreign Aid, but only want to raise a voice of caution against those who feel that it would be a panacea for all of our foreign policy ills.

My hope is that this coup doesn't lead to a bloodbath- the Muslim Brotherhood is hated in the more secular cities, but is very popular in the rural parts of the country. This could get nasty, very easily, if the Army overreacts.

But I'm not really sure that there really is a role for the US here, at this junction. Its probably better for the Egyptians to work this out for themselves.

Darilian

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thats why trotsky encouraged permanent revolution~
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single sentences wrote:
thats why trotsky encouraged permanent revolution~
And look what that got him in Mexico.

Darilian
 
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Darilian wrote:
single sentences wrote:
thats why trotsky encouraged permanent revolution~
And look what that got him in Mexico.

Darilian
haters gonna hate~
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Willward wrote:
I can't speak for Canada, but yes it's at least true for U.S. higher education. You can barely take a grad course in mathematics, for crying out loud, without being bombarded by this exact ideology.
I know plenty of people who teach grad courses in mathematics in the US, and I'm pretty sure that isn't even remotely true.
Yes, I meant it as a hyperbolic illustration of a general point, assuming that no one would interpret my intending it as literally true. Should be more careful in what I assume, I guess...
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Morsi has been deposed.
 
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whac3 wrote:
It was a pro-Muslim Brotherhood uprising, not a democratic one for the most part.
What? For someone who seems to usually show a reasonably mature and nuanced understanding of geopolitics, this statement absolutely stunned me.

I'm not attacking you, and in fact I usually lurk here and keep my opinions to myself instead of getting dragged into the muck, but this really requires further qualification. I'd like to hear a more detailed explanation, if you don't mind.
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
bramadan wrote:
Army is coming solidly *against* Morsi - on side of the anti-islamist minority.
Morsi is not Assad counterpart - he is counterpart of who would get in power in Syria if the guys we are currently supposed to cheer for / arm win.
Right, but this is why it isn't going to spiral into civil war (at least, not unless the next guy is exactly like Assad, and then you might get civil war when his regime starts to go bad, which is not the immediate future).

The rioters and army deserters aren't going to be fighting the army like in Syria. At worse, in terms of violence, the army and the rioters will be ousting the current government.
The rioters we are currently seeing on TV won't. Pro-brotherhood rioters
like the ones in Marsa Matrouh that just got shot at by the army may (if they end up having capability).

Brotherhood is certainly doing nothing to acknowledge the army legitimacy and they *are* give-or-take supported by the majority of Egyptians, just not necessarily the most telegenic ones.

And no - I am not proposing that USA publicly denounces free elections this moment - that would be silly and impossible. Opening private communications with the army and telling them "this is what you really need to do if you want our money" would not be unimaginable though.
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hjchadd wrote:
whac3 wrote:
It was a pro-Muslim Brotherhood uprising, not a democratic one for the most part.
What? For someone who seems to usually show a reasonably mature and nuanced understanding of geopolitics, this statement absolutely stunned me.

I'm not attacking you, and in fact I usually lurk here and keep my opinions to myself instead of getting dragged into the muck, but this really requires further qualification. I'd like to hear a more detailed explanation, if you don't mind.
It was a democratic pro-Muslim brotherhood uprising
All things being equal, Muslim brotherhood does represent the significant plurality (if not outright majority) of Egyptians.
At least any attempt to gauge this in last few decades seems to indicate so.
They stand to benefit a lot from free elections and unrestricted democratic government so logically, lots of people whose primary interest is that of the brotherhood will - at this stage - support free elections and unrestricted democratic government.
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