Egypt and the Arab Spring

The self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi set off the “Arab Spring” in 2011 and upended three governments in quick succession in eastern North Africa. It caught both global media outlets and Western governments and their spy agencies flat-footed. Yet again. His tale exposed a hitherto subterranean seething by an educated class, hampered from achieving their ambitions commensurate to their abilities, by a corrupt governmental apparatus and society, where connections and bribery were necessary conduits of success. Or so we are told.

In the aftermath, the existentialist delusions that Western liberal society told itself was that the ideas and ideals of the French Revolution were now coming to the Islamic world. Expectations that the Egyptian electorate would return a liberal minded administration revealed the continued ignorance on the part of obtuse Westerners about the resurgence of Islam since the 1970s after Arab disappointment with secularist experiments; and the cultural mindset that Islam engenders.

The overthrow of the decrepit, corrupt, modestly oppressive military autocracy of Hosni Mubarak’s regime only exposed the underlying fissures of Egyptian society between that of a cosmopolitan and less religious urban population and the conservative religious and moralist countryside. When the Muslim Brotherhood won both lower chamber and presidency, Western opinion was mildly surprised and dismayed. But it dismissed this reflection of the realities of Egyptian society by noting that the Muslim Brotherhood was a pre-existing party machine unlike its adversaries, which gave it natural political advantage.

An overtly political judiciary, appointees of Mubarak’s previous regime and of more liberal persuasions, found pretext to declare the lower chamber election illegal and dissolved it. It provoked a constitutional crisis and a gathering storm of protesting liberal and secular urban mobs, seeking to illegitimately overthrow the Morsi presidency and overturn the election results. The military, one year into the democratically elected president’s rule, exploited the urban mobs to legitimate a coup in July 2013 and re-instate an even less benign military autocracy.

Both internal and prejudicial Western opinion justified such overturning of electoral results. They pointed to ‘incompetence’ and Morsi’s attempt to legislate without judicial oversight. How competence can be truly ascribed after one year of office; in lieu of the chaotic aftermath of tumultuous revolution, being presented with a constitutional crisis immediately upon assumption of power, and facing an urban population dedicated to undoing rule of law, defies integrity and reasonableness. Western opinion would be aghast if President’s Bush or Obama were ousted by coup d’etat, despite considerably greater incompetence. But then; these Egyptians are just brown people.

Claims of dictatorial pretensions by Morsi cannot be viewed outside of the context of the pretensions of a judicial oligarchy attempting to overrule legislatures like a divine right monarch. With the checks of both judiciary and military militating against such aspirations, it too becomes laughable mendacity.

“Islamist” rule may be quite reprehensible to the secularist liberal. However, by demonstrating dishonesty, hypocrisy, and infidelity to those ideals of rule of law, justice, liberty, free civic society and democracy when it disadvantaged themselves; the long-term moral legitimacy of those ideals and their ostensible champions are thereby discredited. Islamists, who attempted to play by the rules, cannot but see their political interlocutors and ‘loyal’ opposition as a people without integrity, virtue, and honour; true infidels. Faithful Muslims can only see the political game inordinately stacked against them when they play by liberal democratic principles. One can safely presume that a more violent outbreak of Islamism in the future will be the result; not only in Egypt but throughout the Islamic world; if not the world in general.

The State of American Establishment Opinion

The problem with subjectivist (“subjectivity is truth, truth is subjectivity”) or existentialist (“I create my own reality”) truth is that the world’s real actors always miss your cues.

The narcissistic, parochial insanity that is the ideologically gated community of the American Versailles, whose heartland stretches from Boston to Washington, never ceases to astonish and amuse. Or its sycophantic audacity. The ignorance, stupidity, folly, mendacity and all-round mediocrity of its Ivy League elite has become downright dangerous in foreign policy. And it behooves my country to quickly pursue an independent trade, economic, political and military policy before our all too integrated ties with this unhinged behemoth takes us down with it.

According to a self-proclaimed expert on Russian affairs, writing in the venerable Washington Post, Russia is not living in the reality-based community. To whatever extent that that is true; one of this columnist’s immediate example drips with supreme irony.

On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder.

I must confess to deep envy for not emanating from a family that could put me through Harvard or the connections that would have me groomed to write for Salon, The National Interest, Forbes, The Atlantic Monthly or the Washington Post, even before I finished post-graduate studies. But laying aside such personal pique, might not these media outlets, these major opinion makers be more circumspect as to whom they wish to represent them? Or do they share in this lad’s wide perceptual variance from objective and actual reality, otherwise known as insanity?

Two days after this ridiculing of Russian perspectives on Syria and Libya, the U.S. State Department issues this travel warning as it shutters its embassy.

The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately.

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire. Armed clashes have occurred in the areas near Tripoli International Airport, Airport Road, and Swani Road. Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital. Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents. Along with airports, seaports and roads can close with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should closely monitor news and check with airlines to try to travel out of Libya as quickly and safely as possible.

The status of the country’s interim government remains uncertain. The newly elected Council of Representatives is scheduled to convene by August 4, but political jockeying continues over where and when to seat the parliament. Heavy clashes between rival factions erupted in May 2014 in Benghazi and other eastern cities. In Tripoli, armed groups have contested territory near Tripoli International Airport since July 13, rendering the airport non-operational. State security institutions lack basic capabilities to prevent conflict, and there remains a possibility of further escalation.

U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens traveling to or remaining in Libya, despite this Travel Warning, should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Libya enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

You should make plans to depart as soon as possible. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. Flight cancellations occur frequently. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Libya are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. Land port closures occur frequently.

The warning is actually not that significantly different from the one issued on May 27, 2014. Of course, if any American networks had covered the recent Libyan conflagration in as great detail and insight as well as Aljazeera had, (which reminded me of American reportage on the Viet Nam War); such continued deceits and self-deceits that Libya was on a new beginning to a Westernized liberalism democracy would have been disabused from the beginning. As much as Muammar Gaddafi was unhinged himself, the country was peaceable. The autocracy was not too oppressive or murderous. Why rock the boat? Has no one amongst the Washington Establishment watched and absorbed the lesson of Woody Allen’s “Bananas” (1971)?

Who really is not living in the reality-based community?