Beyond the Cusp

July 5, 2013

Egypt’s Rough Road to Democracy

There will be many people who over the coming days will express ideas and talking points which will agree with Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who was quoted saying, “The events in Egypt show that there is no quick and peaceful transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic politics.” He went on to describe the current events in Egypt pointing out that democracy is not a “one size fits all” system and nearly all the “democratic revolutions” in the Arab World have produced less than admirable results. He further pointed out that there was a need for much advance work to be performed in order to transform the Arab World into a place where democratic governance could flourish. I disagree with this assessment simply because what we are witnessing is democracy in its most raw form. What we are not seeing is a representative republic yet forming in the Arab World. The error Mr. Pushkov has made is to confuse democracy with representative governance. Democracy in its purist form is mob rule which we are witnessing in Egypt. Pure democracy is a messy and unforgiving form and cannot be implemented in and of itself to govern a nation, it must be tempered with restraints and mechanisms which blunt its more fickle nature and have avenues for redress and protection for minorities. As the old adage goes, Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what they want for dinner. That vote never turns out well for the sheep.

 

Egypt is currently going through the early stages of developing their democracy based representative system of governance. Just because the very first time they attempted to hold fair and open democratic elections produced a government and Constitution that failed does not mean that democratic based rule is impossibility for the people of Egypt. Many people point to the United States as the glorious precedent which everybody should attempt to match in their transition from Monarchial governance under King George of England to the Constitutional Democratic Republic that exists today. It was not that simple and the United States did not go directly from Monarchy to Democratic Republic. There was a failed state in between before the Constitution was written and enacted where the government of the United States was guided by the Articles of Confederation which were found inoperable leading to the writing of the Constitution. So, if even the United States with its all so intellectual Founding Fathers had to take two goes at forming their democratic republic how can we expect Egypt to get it perfect on their first trial? We should recall the French Revolution and the First Republic. The French Revolution worked so fantastically well at bringing into power a representative government that it led directly to Napoleon declaring himself Emperor. The French have probably worked the hardest at perfecting their Republic as they are currently in what they refer to as the Fifth French Republic and there are serious discussions about the necessity for another restart bringing on the Sixth French Republic. Egypt is only entering their second attempt and history will very likely list the year under President Morsi as a trial run which will not count as overly significant beyond its ability to point out some glaring shortcomings.

 

What people tend to forget is that between the times the Czars ruled over Russia and before the onset of Communism and the Soviet Union, Russia had a short lived representative government which lasted from February of 1917 all the way until November of 1917 with the most remembered leader of the Russian Provisional Government being Alexander Kerensky. So, even the Russians did not slide directly from the Czars into the arms of the Communists, they too had a shot at democratic republican governance. Perhaps it is this short history of democratic governmental failure in Russia that influenced Alexei Pushkov into suggesting that Egypt would not be much more successful than Russia had in such endeavors. Germany too had a democratic republic briefly between the Kaiser and Nazism which was named the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Republic was a parliamentary system which ruled Germany starting in November 1918. The downfall was caused by monetary policies which were partly doomed to fail due to reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I and other difficulties causing hyperinflation making the German currency next to worthless. This made the people susceptible to any strong charismatic leader who offered some light at the end of their dark tunnel and this arrived in the form of Adolph Hitler and that brought the end of their democratic experiment. Throughout history democracies have had limited shelf-life usually cracking under their own policies within four-hundred-years. This was true for the Greeks who founded the earliest democracies, then the Romans and nobody has even come close to challenging the four-hundred-year barrier since Rome. The United States has just celebrated their two-hundred-thirty-seventh year of democratic republic governance and even then it took two attempts to get something that has thus far lasted. So, perhaps everybody should calm down and have a deep drink of water. Yes, the democratization of the Arab World has appeared to have gotten off to a bit of a rough start. Nobody before them performed anywhere near perfectly first time out establishing a workable democratic republic. The secret to establishing a truly representative democratic republic is to remember that the central government will only go in one direction after it is established, that is to grow. So start with an undersized central government and allow it to grow its power only as required for as long as possible and whatever happens, do not give up after all the French have kept at it even after a short respite under an emperor; so if the French have not surrendered then you should not either. What Friedrich Nietzsche said about people also appears to work if slightly modified for representative governance. He stated, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” For attempting governments one might say, “That which does not destroy the country can be salvaged and modified.” Patience and perseverance are key.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 3, 2013

Who Blinks First in Egyptian Stare-Down?

UPDATE: Morsi removed by Egyptian military, with head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour placed as interim President and tasked with forming ruling council and setting up new elections for new Parliament and President.

As if there were not enough explosive conflicts and standoffs around the world with a cluster centered within the ever troubled Middle East with Iraq sliding back into Sunni-Shiite violence with multiple bombings each week, Afghanistan is slowly being subsumed by the resurgent Taliban which is refusing to even talk with representatives of the United States vowing instead to simply wait for the last of the troops to depart so they can retake power; Turkey is facing ongoing Shiite demonstrations and riots; Libya still has residual tribal conflicts preventing any effective unified governance to unite the nation; Yemen has dual civil wars with Sunni-Shiite violence in the north and al-Qaeda terrorism in the south; Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq are being overrun by refugees from Syria; and civil war continues unabated in Syria with much of the country virtually destroyed and the death toll well over a thousand innocent civilians just one part of the toll. Now Egypt has entered into a stare-down between the Muslim Brotherhood standing behind President Morsi against the Military each demanding they take control of the escalating situation addressing how to resolve the massive demonstrations threatening to devolve into a civil war. So, let us continue our coverage and attempts to make sense of the threats developing in Egypt and try to identify the probability of a peaceable resolution versus the outbreak of another Middle East civil war.

 

On Monday, the Supreme Council which leads the Armed Forces gave President Morsi until Wednesday to reach a solution ending the strife from the demonstrations and riots between the pro-Morsi and the anti-Morsi factions. Responding to the military’s ultimatum, President Morsi released a statement decrying the military’s declaration explaining it had no authority as it had not been cleared by the Presidency which could only cause confusion and not settle the serious problems. Taking the confrontation into the virtual world, President Morsi released another statement via the Egyptian Presidential Twitter account where he posted, “President Mohammed Morsi asserts his grasp on constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to deviate from it, and calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and refuses to be dictated to internally or externally.” I am not exactly sure what the use by Morsi of electronic social media to get his message out is supposed to imply unless his aim was to make a statement that the social media was not solely the domain of those opposing his Presidency. This defines the situation within Egypt’s borders where at some point on Wednesday either one side will blink and allow the other to prevail or Egypt may fly beyond the cusp and into the fiery chasm of civil war.

 

Meanwhile, the situation had claimed between one and two dozen lives and injured hundreds and possibly over a thousand people sufficiently injured as to require some degree of medical treatment. In the city of Minya, in front Al-Rahman Mosque, Al-Ahram newspaper reported that number of pro-Morsi people gathered and marched to Palace Square in order to confront where hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters were staging a sit-in against the recently appointed Islamist pro-Morsi Governor. Upon their arrival the confrontation took a horrific turn when they fired at the anti-Morsi protesters. There report did not include if there were or the numbers of casualties whether injured or killed. Either way, this was the initial use of firearms which very well could be but a precursor of much worse events escalating at some point on Wednesday.

 

Reports on Tuesday claimed the Egyptian military had drafted a political plan which suspends the Egyptian constitution, dissolves the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist dominated Parliament, and replaces the President and Parliament with an interim council with the Chief Justice taking the lead position staffing the council with civilians from different political backgrounds and experiences making up the body of the council. President Morsi has completely rejected this idea or any other proposal which includes removing him from office or calling for early elections. Morsi is demanding that the current elected government must be allowed to settle the differences finding a resolution to end the demonstrations. He has warned the military to rescind their ultimatum and sworn to resist by whatever means are necessitated should the military continue on their current trajectory. As we stated yesterday, this will be a test which will reveal the truth that the Muslim Brotherhood does indeed possess military arm with which to enforce and support President Morsi and the Parliament remaining in power and resisting the demands for early elections. Thus far the numbers of demonstrators have slightly favored those opposing President Morsi which should be expected as more often than not those demanding changes in governance turn out in greater numbers than those who have no demands or complaints about those in power and their actions. Should violence explode on Wednesday, then we can expect the numbers supporting President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to appear in far greater numbers. Add to this that any organized forces which the Muslim Brotherhood probably can call up to utilize as a form of shock troops and you have the makings for the start of another Syria style civil war in Egypt by the end of the week. I guess the Arab Spring has firmly advanced through the Summer and Fall and now we have definitely entered the Arab Winter, a cold long Arab Winter.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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