"Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who took over power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy." - Wall Street Journal editorial page, July 4, 2013.
A month and a half into the coup regime, with well over 1000 dead in the bloodiest massacres in the history of modern Egypt, are the esteemed editors of the Wall Street Journal at all embarrassed about their wish for a Pinochet on the Nile?
It seems not. On Monday, WSJ deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens urged the U.S. administration to stop with their public hand-wringing, and just come out and give full support to the re-emerging dictatorship and its leading general.
Stephens doesn't return to the Pinochet analogy, but the entire logic of his article, 'A Policy on Egypt—Support Al Sisi,' continues the bloody line of argument laid out by the newspaper in early July. First, he opens with a stern warning against Islamo-Bolshevism:
Releasing deposed President Mohammed Morsi and other detained Brotherhood leaders may be realistic, but it is not desirable -- unless you think Aleksandr Kerensky was smart to release the imprisoned Bolsheviks after their abortive July 1917 uprising.
Restoring the dictatorship-in-the-making that was Mr. Morsi's elected government is neither desirable nor realistic...
What is desirable? Brute force.
Of course there's the argument that brute repression by the military energizes the Brotherhood. Maybe. Also possible is that a policy of restraint emboldens the Brotherhood. The military judged the second possibility more likely. That might be mistaken, but at least it's based on a keener understanding of the way Egyptians think than the usual Western clichés about violence always begetting violence.
There's also an argument that since our $1.3 billion in military aid hasn't gotten Gen. Sisi to take our advice, we may as well withdraw it. But why should we expect him to take bad advice? Politics in Egypt today is a zero-sum game: Either the military wins, or the Brotherhood does. If the U.S. wants influence, it needs to hold its nose and take a side.
The bloodthirsty opinion piece doesn't even bother to enumerate the horrors the U.S. would be holding its nose to avoid: the stench of blood of the more than 1000 people massacred in recent days; the wholescale criminalization of public protest and of the largest political party in the country; the random and outrageous detention of foreign nationals on spurious charges; the killing of journalists; the draconian curfew, and much more.
To add insult to injury, this week it's being reported that former dictator Mubarak himself could be released from prison any day now. (Perhaps so the new Pinochet on the Nile, al-Sisi, can have a mentor?)
Henry Kissinger -- one of the U.S. architects of the 1973 coup in Chile which killed thousands and exiled tens of thousands more -- infamously explained himself: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves."
Stephens and the Wall Street Journal evidently feel the same way about the Egyptian people; elections and an incipient constitutional democracy are not something that the Egyptian people can be trusted with again. Better to go back to an autocratic regime and its U.S.-supplied bullets and tanks.
All that to say it's a good thing the Wall Street Journal exists; it saves us the work of speculating about the depraved innermost thoughts of the defenders of capitalism and empire.
One of the main responses -- or excuses -- I've heard from people objecting to condemnations of the massacres in Egypt is: "Yes, but the Muslim Brotherhood are nasty too." Or, "something, something Islamism..."
My response: go ahead and say "yes, but"; don't wait for someone else to condemn the coup and massacres for you to object to the politics of the Islamists who were elected. Do both. And hurry, because over 1000 people have been killed in just the past few days, and dictatorship is returning to Egypt day-by-day. So by all means speak out with whatever critical observations or qualifiers you want to share.
Also, frankly, right now a straight up "pox on both their houses" approach is just utterly wrong. Even if one believes the Muslim Brotherhood are equally bad politically as the generals in power now, it's the latter who are carrying out mass slaughter with the full power of the state and army at their disposal.
I hope we'll hear many more people in Canada speaking out in the days ahead. On Saturday, August 24, there are rallies planned across the country to protest against the massacres and call for the restoration of democracy in Egypt.
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