The happiness of choice

Men can do what they please
But not for as long as they like.
— Bob Dylan

As reported by today’s the New York Times, Egyptians are reveling in the excitement and pleasure of participating in their country’s first free election in its history. Neocons in the U.S. are also reveling … Uh, no, they’re not, at least based on a quick look at their sites. The blogs of the two main neoconservative magazines, Commentary and The Weekly Standard, have not a single item on Egypt today. Also, over the last several months, the regular bloggers at Commentary seemed to have lost all their enthusiasm for Egyptian democracy and had moved on to other subjects. Neocons walk down the street, houses fall down behind them, and they just walk on to the next street.

Here’s the opening of the Times article:

Egyptians Vote in First Free Election for President

CAIRO—Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday to choose their first freely elected president, hoping to recapture the promise of a popular uprising that defined the Arab Spring, end 15 chaotic months of military rule and perhaps shape the character of political Islam across the region. [LA replies: “Political Islam” means, of course, sharia-compliant Islam, also known as Islam. The liberals still haven’t resolved the contradiction between their belief in political freedom for all peoples on earth including Muslims, and the fact that political freedom for Muslims must lead to sharia rule and thus the end of all freedom.]

In scenes unthinkable at any time in this country’s vast history, millions of Egyptians waited patiently in long lines, often holding scraps of cardboard against the desert sun, debating with their neighbors which of the five leading contenders deserved their vote. “It is like honey to my heart,” said Mohamed Mustafa Seif, 36, an accountant voting in downtown Cairo. “For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a role to play. My vote could possibly make a difference.”

After 15 months of street protests, economic crisis and rampant lawlessness, the novelty of an uncertain outcome seemed for a moment to revive the sense of momentum and hope. The military council that has governed since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster has pledged to step aside with the election of a president by the end of June, allowing Egyptians at last a chance to determine their own future after decades of authoritarian rule.

“Rise up, Egyptians!” declared the headline of the largest privately owned newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm. “Egypt of the revolution today chooses the first elected president of the ‘Second Republic.’ “

With a fluid and shifting field, no reliable polls, and a potential runoff next month, handicapping the race was all but impossible. Two rival Islamists, two former ministers from the government of Mr. Mubarak, and a Nasserite socialist were all in the running. But a central drama was the fierce rivalry between the Islamists—Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood on the right, and Abel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a more liberal former Brotherhood leader, to the left. The contest between the two holds consequences not only for the future of Egypt, but also for the influence and legacy of the 84-year-old Islamist group across the region.

But for the moment, Egyptians seemed to revel in the freedom to choose. Even opponents of the Islamist candidates cheered their inclusion, for the first time, in a democratic political process. “It is amazing; all the factions are represented,” said Rafik Yousseff, 52, an engineer and Christian who said he planned to vote for Amr Moussa, a secular-minded former foreign minister. [cont.]

- end of initial entry -

An Indian living in the West writes:

The distinction the NY Times article makes between “liberal” and “conservative” Islamists is totally false and is an example of the Western media trying to create a difference where none exists. That distinction makes it sound as if Egypt has anti-Islamic “secularists” fighting for control with pro-Islamic “conservatives.” But they’re not doing any such thing. The population is overwhelmingly fanatical and overwhelmingly religious. The smattering of some “modern” and “Westernised” intellectuals changes nothing in the larger scheme of things. It is like thinking that a few student activists in Iran portend a pro-Western revolution in that country to overthrow the Islamic regime. For all this love of “democracy,” I think we can all agree that the Shah’s regime was infinitely preferable to what we have in Iran today.

It has been said that the neocons are “pro-Israel.” If they are, they did the worst possible thing for Israel by encouraging the overthrow of Mubarak (and of Gaddafi and many others). Now Israel will have to deal with whichever fanatic the population picks (my money is on the Muslim Brotherhood) instead of someone they knew quite well and who kept the peace. With friends like these …

I also wanted to make a slightly different point about Egypt. Egypt has a per capita income that adjusted for inflation is not much higher than what it was in 1920. If people think the “Arab Spring” is going to pole vault that country into a modern-day Singapore, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell to them.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 24, 2012 10:39 AM | Send

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