Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt's Non-Revolution

By staging a coup the military in Egypt crushed any hope of a democratic Egypt, a democratic Middle East.

There are many commentators in the West, both professional and amateur, who have put forth the opinion that the coup was necessary.  Their argument goes something like this.  Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, although they won a reasonably free and fair election, were not pursuing a democratic agenda.  Indeed, their actions were leading to a dictatorship and that Mr. Morsi would make certain that the election that made him president would be the last election Egypt would ever have.  Some even trotted out the old chestnut that Hitler was elected in free elections and we all know how that turned out.

This would have been a legitimate concern if Mr. Morsi had come to power after an actual revolution in Egypt.  However, no revolution took place.  A revolution always results in the old political order being destroyed to be replaced by a new political order.  That is, the old ruling class loses all or most of its political power and the power vacuum that creates is filled by a new ruling class.  That did not happen in Egypt.  The mass peaceful uprising of 2012 did not result in the replacement of the old and current Egyptian ruling class.  It did convince them that a change had to be made so they threw Hosni Mubarak and his son under a bus and held free elections to actually prevent a real revolution and to preserve themselves as the ruling elite in Egypt, not to have themselves replaced. 

They were successful.  We only need to see how the coup unfolded to see that.  In most revolutions the old ruling class tends to make one final attempt, a last gasp, to hang onto power but it always fails miserably and often spectacularly.  That did not happen in Egypt.  When the military moved they were so successful that the removal of Mr. Morsi and the installation of a new government was seamless.  It was only the aftermath that become messy.  The old ruling class still held all of the important levers of power and when they decided to use them Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were helpless to stop them.

So the argument that Mr. Morsi was setting himself up as a new dictator is flat wrong.  He never had that power and he would never have achieved the power necessary to do it.  He could have nibbled around the edges but the fundamental power structure of Egypt would not have changed.  Any attempt by him to prevent further elections would have been thwarted if he would have tried.

Oh yes, Hitler did win free elections in 1933.  However, the Germany of the 1930s was what was left over after a revolution that swept the old guard of the Kaiser and his ministers from political power and replaced it with not much.  There was a virtual power vacuum in that country when Hitler won his election so there was no state apparatus to prevent him from seizing absolute power a few years later.  There is no parallel between Germany in the 1930s and Egypt in 2013 so any comparison of them is specious.

It is true that Mr. Morsi was pursuing an agenda that was not very liberal or democratic but as the duly elected president of the country that was his right.  Just because many disagreed with it does not justify his forcible removal.  If that was a valid criteria for forcibly removing a duly elected government there would be no democracy on the planet let alone Egypt. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Morsi he was very inept at pursuing his agenda because he managed to alienate every ally that the Muslim Brotherhood had gained over the years in its struggle against the current ruling elite.  It is a tragic irony that if the Egyptian ruling class would have let things progress as they were progressing Mr. Morsi would have probably lost his job to an internal Muslim Brotherhood revolt as many in that party would have realized just what kind of damage he was doing to their political movement.  Democracy might have been preserved.  But then again, the current ruling elite in Egypt has much less interest in preserving democracy in that country than that which Mr. Morsi is accused of so they moved to crush it when the opportunity presented itself.

That is all a moot point now.  The Muslim Brotherhood feels that it has been betrayed.  Not just by the ruling class of Egypt but by the democrats and Coptic Christians that allied with them to bring down Hosni Mubarak.  They probably feel that those groups were more than happy to piggy back on the organizational strength of their movement but then quickly abandoned them when the military moved to replace them in government.

And there in lies the real tragedy of all of this.  Those that would bring democracy to Egypt are not of sufficient number and organization to do it themselves.  They need a partner.  The only other two sectors of Egyptian society with sufficient muscle they can partner with are the current ruling class or the Muslim Brotherhood.  Now neither will have any incentive to work with them.  The ruling class because they have no interest in changing a system that grants them great privilege and the Muslim Brotherhood because they will believe the liberal democrats cannot be trusted.

Indeed, in all likelihood the Muslim Brotherhood will probably resort of increased violence, not just against the rulers of Egypt but against those they believe betrayed them, which is going to force the liberal democrats into the sphere of the ruling class just to find protection from the Muslim Brotherhood. 

We are already seeing this.  If anybody really believes that the attacks on the Coptic Churches are just about religion they are mistaken.  That is one reason but the main reason is probably vengeance at the perceived betrayal by them of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The dream of a democratic Egypt is dead and it takes the dream of democracy spreading through the Arab world with it.  The fate of the Morsi government will not be lost on other Islamists in the broader Middle East so they will continue to try to gain power by other means.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It would only be fair

When it was alleged that an aide to Dalton McGuinty had deleted e-mails regarding the gas plant decision Conservative commentators howled and continue to howl in outrage over the allegations.  You would think that Mr. McGuinty had been revealed to be a reptilian kitten eater or something.

So can we now expect the same outrage from these Conservative commentators now that it has been alleged that Senator Wallin changed hundreds of entries regarding her travel schedule in her Outlook account during the audit of her travel expenses? 

Both could be construed as attempts to cover up wrong doing. 

My question is rhetorical of course.  I already know the answer. 

Full disclosure.  I do not believe that either Mr. McGuinty's aide or the Senator intentionally attempted to hide anything.  Their actions were not taken for some nefarious reason.  In all likelihood they probably did not really think that much about their actions at all.  I have read the explanations from the two of them and in both cases they are logical.  In the case of the McGuinty aide, he was out of a job so it made sense to clean out your e-mail before leaving your office.  I have had to do that on a number of occasions myself.  As for the Senator, cleaning up your schedule to facilitate an audit, seemingly at the request of the auditor and after being told that the original full schedule had been backed up and delivered to the auditor, seems reasonable. 

Friday, August 02, 2013

Some mid-summer thoughts

It has been a busy summer and blogging has been down on my list of priorities but I have been paying attention and I thought I would comment on some of the things that have been going on the past few months.

Ontario by-elections:  The reading of the entrails from last night has begun and the instant conclusions of the chattering class is falling along ideological/partisan lines a usual.  I am always amused at the attempt to read something bigger into by-elections than what is really there.  Cutting through all of the spin the political situation in Ontario has not changed.  The Liberals are the governing party, with a minority government, the PCs are the Official Opposition and the NDP are still the third party.  Beyond that, the rest is just spin.

The next Ontario General Election:  Will be lost by the Liberals.  Voter fatigue with them has just reach a level where it will take a miracle for them to win again.  This was true before the by-elections and it is still true.  The next premier of Ontario will be Mr. Hudak.  Ms. Horvath is popular but her party is not.  The Orange Wave that swept Quebec did not carry over into Ontario.  There are still enough centre and centre-right Ontarians who remember the Bob Rae government and who will pick whichever of the Liberals or the PCs they believe will prevent an NDP government if that threat materializes.  People say that Mr. Hudak is too unpopular to win an election but they said the same thing about Mr. Harper.  So the only question is whether Mr. Hudak wins a majority or a minority.  If progressives want to guarantee it is a minority they should begin hammering at his promise to pass "Right-to-Work" legislation.  The idea of adopting failed Republican policies in this province would probably not go down very well in many parts of the province and it may just hold Mr. Hudak to a minority.

Mr. Trudeau and Pot:  Agree or disagree with his position but the fact he took one on a controversial issue instead of obfuscating and generally trying to avoid saying anything is quite refreshing.  It has been a long time since I saw any politician take a clear stand on such a charged issue.

Eastern Pipeline:  All I can say is it is about freaking time!  There are countless pipelines heading south out of Alberta.  So much so that there is a glut of Alberta oil in the US driving down the price being paid for Alberta oil way below market value.  Meanwhile, us folks in the East are pumping gasoline that originated overseas into our gas tanks.  Or, perversely, importing gasoline that has been refined in the United States that started out as Alberta oil.  It is the height of stupidity that we export raw crude to the US only to import the refined fuels that are produced from those exports.  If this Eastern pipeline will allow us to process more of Canada's energy resources in Canada then let's do it, after a thorough and fair environmental impact assessment of course.

Egypt:  The ruling class of Egypt must be very grateful that Mr. Morsi was such an incompetent boob while in government.  He gave them the excuse they were looking for to reestablish control without too great of a political backlash.  I believed nothing would change in that country and sadly I was right.

The US snooping scandal:  The naiveté of Americans to be surprised that their government was snooping on them is astounding.  Really did they believe after the Patriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security that there would not be greater surveillance of American society?  The other consideration is the American people probably do not have any concept of just how much data is being produced out there now.  It is not called Big Data for nothing.  There is no way that all of that data can be examined by human eyes.  It is being examined and reexamined by computers and an extremely small percentage of it is making it to a computer monitor of a human being.  So no American has to worry about "Big Brother" finding out about their elicit affair with their administrative assistant or their plan to defraud their company investors.  The computers are not programmed to spit that kind of activity out to a human analyst.

Federal Cabinet Shuffle:  Yawn.  The most interesting part of that was the widely held view amongst the paid political punditry that the Cabinet Shuffle would be an opportunity for Stephen Harper to change the tone of his government.  Not hardly!  Mr. Harper has realized great success by being a prick and he is not going to change a winning formula just because a scandal and the political honeymoon of one of his political opponents have driven his polling numbers down, especially when it happens smack in the middle of a four year majority mandate.  He will continue to be a prick. He will begin 2015 by donning a sweater vest and showing off his so far unknown dancing skills and he will relentlessly attack his opponents. Meanwhile Mr. Flaherty will pull the same stunt he pulled in Ontario and misplace the Federal government deficit in 2015.  Mr. Harper will do all of this and hope that it can overcome the voter fatigue that is setting in towards his government and which should be well entrenched by the next election.