The Right Opinion

Egypt's 'Moderate' Despot

By Jonah Goldberg · Nov. 28, 2012

What do you call a leader of a theocratic and cultish movement with a deep and clear disdain for democracy who suddenly assumes dictatorial powers?

A “moderate,” of course.

Ever since the Muslim Brotherhood broke its promise to stay out of Egypt’s presidential election in the aftermath of the revolution, many Western observers have been in denial about what has been going on. In less than half a year, Mohamed Morsi has deftly built the foundation for despotism.

Much as the Nazis brilliantly cast themselves as reformers sweeping away the corruption of the Weimar Republic, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been using the effort to clean up the detritus of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship as an excuse to consolidate power.

In August, when Islamists attacked Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai (in an apparent effort to force Egypt into a confrontation with Israel), Morsi used the incident as an excuse to replace Mohamed Hussein Tantawi – a Mubarak-era holdover who headed the military and guarded its independence – with officers more pliable to the Brotherhood.

“Are we looking at a president determined to dismantle the machine of tyranny,” Alaa Al Aswany, a popular novelist and democratic activist, asked at the time, “or one who is retooling the machine of tyranny to serve his interests?” That question quickly became, at best, rhetorical.

Morsi proceeded to purge scores of newspaper editors and publishers, declare himself in charge of the drafting of the new constitution and all but wore a sandwich board with the words “I’m becoming a dictator!” on it.

As if to hammer it home, last week Morsi announced that his rule was immune to judicial oversight of any kind. He used the failure of the courts to adequately punish Mubarak-era holdovers as an excuse. It was just that – an excuse, not an explanation.

Morsi softened his language Monday, but aides insisted his edict stood. And the Brotherhood’s position remains clear. “If democracy means that people decide who leads them, then (we) accept it; if it means that people can change the laws of Allah and follow what they wish to follow, then it is not acceptable,” the Brotherhood explained on its website in 2005.

Before Morsi was announced the winner of June’s election, the Brotherhood massed in Tahrir Square to make its expectations clear. As one Brotherhood member explained to Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “We win or we die.” Not a particularly democratic motto.

Morsi did have another excuse for seizing power last week: The timing was good. Because he helped broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, the White House lavished praise on him. Before the limelight dimmed, Morsi seized the moment to announce that his will is the supreme law of the land.

On the New Republic’s website, Trager posted a devastating condemnation of Morsi’s apologists under the headline “Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought Mohammad Morsi Was a Moderate.” Trager’s one error is he assumes that, after Morsi’s latest power grab, no one could possibly still think Morsi’s a moderate after Thursday’s decree.

But that’s exactly what many still believe. For instance, on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Time magazine’s Joe Klein spoke for many inside the Beltway when he celebrated Morsi’s role in the cease-fire as a “wonderful sign for the future” because it showed he and the Muslim Brotherhood are “moderates.”

Bear in mind that even as Morsi was pocketing praise from the West for yanking Hamas' collar, Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, made it clear that war to liberate Palestine remained its goal, once Muslim unity is achieved. “Jihad is obligatory.”

Apparently, “moderation” in the Middle East has been defined down to not wanting to wage war on Israel right now.

On Monday, in response to protests, Morsi met with members of the judiciary. Some reports say he walked-back his declaration of supremacy, but that is far from clear. He reaffirmed that the courts cannot veto the constitution being written by Morsi’s Islamist pets. Is there any doubt that the constitution will ratify Morsi’s dictatorship?

Morsi went to prison to defend the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist ideology. He rose through its ranks not because he was a moderate, but because he was committed to the cause and knew how to play the game. The stakes of the game have changed, but anyone who thinks he’s not still committed to the cause is getting played.

© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado said:

So the people of Egypt overthrew one dictator for another. Morsi is dictator for life. Of course there are those in the Brotherhood who will shorten his life if he doesn't tow the line. His masters converse with Allah and will see his will done. Democracy is obviously impossible in Egypt. Arab Spring is a joke. A very bad joke. I'm sure Obama will turn this around, though. Forward!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 1:13 AM

HardThought in Kansas said:

The "Arab Spring" was a joke, will always be a joke and has been a joke since the Ayatollah's overthrew the Shah of Iran thanks to Carter 1.0

Under Carter 2.0 (Obama) the rest of the Middle East and Northern Africa is going jihadist. Talk about a War on Women!

Terrorism, jihad, misogyny and voter suppression brought to you by 'Lead From Behind" Democrats.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 6:17 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

The liberal media will continue to ignore the truth about Islam until once again they blow up something here in the States. When it happens they will immediately start lookiing for a scapegoat and never consider their lamebrain soft stance on Islamist terrorists may have been part of the problem. FORWARD to destruction of the US by its own people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 6:44 AM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA said:

And now we have Egyptian courts sentencing Americans to death because those Americans exercised their 1st Amendment Rights...

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court convicted in absentia Wednesday seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor, sentencing them to death on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that had sparked riots in parts of the Muslim world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 8:21 PM