Trying to wrap your head around the fast-breaking events in Egypt? Unsure as to whether this is a triumph for liberal democracy or a dark new chapter in the spread of militant Islam? You could do worse than turning to two of the most sagacious pundits in the land, David Warren and Andy McCarthy (the latter a former federal prosecutor who handled several cases relating to Islamic terrorism).
In the Ottawa Citizen, Warren perceptively writes:
While I recognize that support for “democracy and freedom” is substantial, within each Arab national society — that the middle class is not a nothing; that each economy depends on it — I doubt this “faction” can prevail. Worse, I think we are watching its final, hopeless bid for power.
The key fact, in Egypt (paralleled in Yemen and elsewhere), is that the Muslim Brotherhood has not declared itself. The Islamists could put vastly more people on the street. They could subvert the loyalties of policemen and soldiers, who already resent the moneyed middle class. They could generate just enough heat to make large districts of Cairo and Alexandria, now simmering, boil over.
But instead, they are playing neutral, watching those policemen and soldiers put the demonstrators down, while most of Egypt remains quiescent.
For this is not their revolution, and for the moment they are content to watch the autocratic regime, and its frustrated middle class, weaken each other. Their moment will come when Mubarak totters.
Equally insightful — and grim — McCarthy writes at National Review:
History is rarely a Manichean contest between good and evil. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western shah and Iranian freedom, but between the shah and Khomeini’s ruthless Islamist revolution. It’s not a choice between the pro-Western Musharraf and Pakistani freedom, but between Musharraf and a tense alliance of kleptocratic socialists and Islamists. Back in the 1940s, it was not a choice between the British-backed monarchy and Egyptian freedom, but between the monarchy and a conglomeration of Nasserite pan-Arab socialists, Soviet Communists, and Brotherhood Islamists. And today, the choice is not between the pro-American Mubarak and Egyptian freedom; it is a question of whether to offer tepid support to a pro-American dictator or encourage swift transition to a different kind of tyranny — one certain to be a lot worse for us, for the West at large, and for our Israeli ally: the Muslim Brotherhood tempered only, if at all, by Mohamed ElBaradei, an anti-American leftist who willfully abetted Iran’s nuclear ambitions while running the International Atomic Energy Agency.
History is not a quest for freedom. This is particularly true in the Islamic ummah, where the concept of freedom is not reasoned self-determination, as in the West, but nearly the opposite: perfect submission to Allah’s representative on earth, the Islamic state. Coupled with a Western myopia that elevates democratic forms over the culture of liberty, the failure to heed this truth has, in just the past few years, put Hamas in charge of Gaza, positioned Hezbollah to topple the Lebanese government, and presented Islamists with Kosovo — an enduring sign that, where Islam is concerned, the West can be counted on to back away even from the fundamental principle that a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity is inviolable.
Both pieces deserve to be read in their entirety — and both serve as chilling warnings of what may be to come.