Can the White People Have Mubarak Back Now?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/26/2012 06:01:00 AM
Sometime ago now, some wet-behind-the-ears white kid criticized me for suggesting that US policy in the Middle East could use improvement since it was contradictory and incoherent--especially when it came to using ICT as a diplomatic tool. Unsurprisingly, greenhorns like him took the events of Arab Spring as confirmation that we were in a whole new world of digitally revolutionized international relations--a dazzling place fogeys like myself never knew.
Hosni, Hosni - prolly better than Morsi, Morsi
However, unfolding events have demonstrated that there is no such thing. First they held runoff elections contested by those representing the old, old guard of Egyptian politics--a military man and a Muslim Brotherhood acolyte. The latter won, and has now gone about dismantling the judiciary after the lower house was done away with earlier. The end result? A potentially even more powerful executive than Mubarak ever was. The honest truth is that Arab Spring mobs were and remain a ragtag bunch, allowing those far better organized alike the Muslim Brotherhood to take full advantage. This outcome was utterly predictable if you've spent any time studying the ultimate beneficiaries from revolutions, and no amount of tweeting could have changed this turn of events. What a stunning blow for democracy.

And so it is that political turmoil once again engulfs Egypt as Morsi's power grabbing habits become apparent--especially to the West which has sought to curry favour with the Islamist by bankrolling his bankrupt government and more besides. For, not only is Egypt in social upheaval yet again, but it's well and truly broke. The realist in me asks that you consider what Egypt's Western benefactors have lost in the meantime:
  1. The US still provides military aid to Egypt to the tune of $1.3B annually. The big difference, of course, is that the Egyptian military is now at odds with the Islamist government, so the US of A essentially funding those who stand to benefit from destabilizing the government or getting rid of it altogether (Mubarak-style);
  2. Egypt pre-Arab Spring was in better economic condition than it is now. While not in the best of shape, it wasn't haemorrhaging foreign exchange reserves at a stunning pace due to capital flight, investment loss, and tourist non-arrivals either;
  3. So Mubarak was authoritarian, but Morsi is authoritarian and Islamic fundamentalist to boot--generally intolerant of other religions and prone to consolidating power amongst his own ranks. Moreover, what Mubarak was intolerant of was precisely the sort of fundamentalist intolerance Egypt has today;
  4. The trump card, of course, is that Mubarak wasn't chummy with Muslim Brotherhood offshoots Hamas--classified by most Western nations as a terrorist group--either.
I should be much less amused by all of this nonsense because it's ultimately the Egyptian people who are bearing the brunt of it, but let's get to the now-endangered IMF loan. The characteristically high-faluting announcement said that gaining buy-in from all sectors of society was a precondition for the loan:
Broad-based domestic and international support will be crucial for the successful implementation of the planned policies. The authorities intend to disseminate the contents of their economic program to a wide range of domestic stakeholders, which is welcome. The IMF, for its part, is stepping up to the challenge of supporting Egypt and its people by providing financial resources and technical assistance in the fiscal, financial, and statistical areas
Broad-based support now? You must be joking. Plus, Ahram Online now quotes the ever-familiar IMF sources to contradict the government's glib statement that Morsi's latest stunt will go unpunished:
A senior IMF official, who requested anonymity, told Ahram Online on Sunday that the development could bring into question the stability of state institutions and raise doubts that could delay the loan...

“I do not think the IMF will rescind its agreement, but if the situation in Egypt deteriorates it could suspend the loan,” Samir Radwan, former Egyptian finance minister, told Ahram Online. Radwan said the IMF executive board would be closely monitoring events in Egypt, including mass protests on Tuesday by those opposed to and in favour of President Morsi's recent move.
Morsi is a highly partisan sort who plays his redistributive game at the expense of the general welfare of the Egyptian people. "Internet Freedom" acolytes may even believe that since that's what their gospel truth--the tweets--say.  Meanwhile, the stock market has plunged nearly 10% in a single day. I guess there's no freedom here--or economic progress for that matter.

Though they would of course probably not admit this, it makes the white people wish Mubarak were still there, eh?

UPDATE 1: CFR bloggers have more on the news that Morsi is backtracking a bit on being able to override judicial decisions, but still, much remains up in the air. 

UPDATE 2: AP has a sobering analysis of the realpolitik the US must now play. To some extent, it is condoning Morsi's power grab.