The short-term and the long-term in post-Mubarak Egypt

During Power Line’s ten years, we’ve spoken with and/or interviewed heads of state and former heads of state, top ranking U.S. officials, leading jurists, and Republican candidates for president of the United States, including one who may well be elected president this Fall. But I don’t know that we have ever had a conversation with anyone as heroic and inspirational as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose interview with Scott you can watch here.

Hirsi Ali is, as her AEI biography states, an outspoken defender of women’s rights in Islamic societies. She was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. She escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992 and served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. In parliament, she worked on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and defending the rights of women in Dutch Muslim society. In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The airing of the film on Dutch television resulted in the assassination of Mr. van Gogh by an Islamic extremist.

I am proud that Hirsi Ali appears on a Power Line video.

Hirsi Ali told Scott that, though she sees serious challenges in the short-term stemming from the Arab Spring in countries like Egypt, she is optimistic in the long-term. I think this she is right on both counts. The short-term holds the prospect of Islamist forces like the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, to the serious detriment of almost everyone concerned. But it’s difficult to see these forces suppressing freedom and holding off modernity indefinitely.

Unfortunately, we know from the example of Iran that the long-term can be a long time away. Islamist extremists there have enjoyed the short and medium-term for more than 30 harrowing years.

The Iranian experience also suggests that the worse things are after a revolution, the longer it will take for things to get better. This isn’t an iron law, but it has often been the case with revolutions.

Accordingly, I believe that, rather than adopt a “let come what may” attitude to an Islamist takeover in Egypt, the U.S. should be sympathetic to the military to the extent it tries to influence, and even brake to a degree, the transition to democracy. This does not mean supporting the elimination of democracy or a restoration of vestiges of the Mubarak regime; the U.S. should discourage that. Rather, it means supporting efforts by the military to guide the process away a takeover of the government by forces as fundamentally undemocratic as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Keep in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t enjoy massive popularity in Egypt. Based on reports, it appears that the Brotherhood’s candidate won a narrow victory in the run-off election over a former member of Mubarak’s regime. A large portion of voters were unhappy with these options, as well they might be.

Thus, the military might not be widely despised if, for example, it curbed the power of the new president. Such an arrangement might well constitute the resolution most consistent with the popular will – a president elected by the people, but whose ability to run roughshod over the people’s rights is constrained.

In any event, we should not despise the Egyptian military to the extent that it takes measures to get their nation’s short-term off to palatable beginning.

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