Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Dry Arab Spring and the Lost Left

All it takes to understand why the Arab Spring was doomed to turn into an Islamic Winter is that Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa were being asked to choose between a Socialist left and an Islamic right. The left has consistently lost open elections in Europe and America, it lost the battle of ideas in Russia and China, and unsurprisingly it also lost the Arab Spring.

The left wields power in the West only because it has managed to seize control of political and cultural institutions. Those institutions are used to maintain a death grip on the national dialogue, to criminalize dissent and to feed money to its supporters who are often literally paid to continue supporting it, whether in government contracts, welfare checks or organizational benefits. If the left did not have its media, its unions and its flow of supportive immigrants then it would be just another bunch of cranks.

The Western left expected that overthrowing the dictators would pave the way for their favorite leftists to take over. Instead it wasn't the bloggers or the twitter activists who are ahead, it's the Islamists. To be fair to the left, many of its key foreign policy people did know that this would happen but were lying about it. They aren't idiots, they're traitors.

I doubt that anyone at the State Department with a background in the Middle East didn't know that the Muslim Brotherhood would surge in Egyptian elections or that the organization had numerous affiliates waiting to exploit the Arab Spring. The same goes for all the ex-diplomats holding down organizational positions in groups dedicated to promoting democracy in the region or writing articles for foreign policy journals.

They knew that the liberal bloggers were an expendable way to sell the Arab Spring to the West, but that the final victory would belong to the Islamists. And they know it now even as they keep lying that the Islamists are moderate and that their victories are only a temporary phenomenon until the local left gets its bearings. Some are working directly or indirectly for the Gulf Arab states, but quite a few are following the Western left's methodology of using the Clash of Civilizations to bring down the "empire" of Western civilization.

How could anyone have believed that the Middle Eastern left would have won when it has absolutely nothing to offer? 

El Baradei's Kefaya movement and the unacknowledged party of many of the twitter activists got its start protesting against America and Israel. How was it supposed to have anything to offer Egyptians beyond the same negative energy that the Muslim Brotherhood could do so much better. If you're an Egyptian who wants a war with Israel, are you going to trust a simpering puppet like El Baradei to get it done or are you going to cast your vote for the Brotherhood or the Salafis.

Kefaya was in the peculiar position of being the American backed Anti-American movement, its activists trained by the Western left, and with Western leaders demanding that El Baradei be appointed to run a transition government. Kefaya smelled a lot like a puppet regime that constantly denounced its puppeteers and that schizophrenic identity didn't give it much credibility as a revolutionary party.

All that left were economic reforms which are not exactly the left's strong suit and not very popular. The average Egyptian wants cheaper food and more jobs, but he doesn't want the process that would make it happen. The Russians quickly turned on the reformers who then turned over the country to the KGB. Netanyahu's reforms have been as unpopular as they were necessary, but the focus on terrorism and the implosion of the left, as well as the popularity of Sharon, allowed him to do what had to be done. Despite the rise of the Tea Party the reform proposals in America are not faring any better.

People like the idea of reforms, but they don't like giving up subsidies or the uncertainty and chaos of the transition to a truer free market system. And the Middle Eastern left are not exactly plausible candidates for economic reform. Had Gamal Mubarak and Saif Gaddafi ever taken power, it is likely that they would have opened up their countries more than any of their revolutionary successors will.

The old Arab Socialists could promise national greatness, but the New Arab Left which lacked the military uniforms or the example of the Soviet Union as a model for the region, had nothing of the kind on tap. All they could do was try to sell social justice minus Islam, but not in opposition to Islam and not as a rejection of Islam-- and that went over about as well as could be expected.

In the United States or Europe a contest between the New Left and the Conservative Right would have provided palatable political options. In the Muslim Middle East it meant a debate over who would offer more subsidies, hate America more and restore the lost dream of national greatness that bedevils the Muslim world.

The Middle Eastern left is not secular, it's not reformist, it's not populist-- it's not to put it bluntly much of anything except in the opposition. It was useful only as the opposition, it allowed educated men and women with a sense of humor and some culture to act as the ambassadors of the Arab Spring to gullible Western journalists who didn't seem to realize that the reason all these young people were so Westernized is because they are members of the upper classes and live in a bubble of imported Western culture and education. Now they've done their jobs and their only accomplishment was to pave the way for the Islamists to come to power. Despite their Western veneer many of them can live with that, particularly those who had personal or familial grudges to settle with the old regime.

The real problem with the Arab Spring has been the lack of any domestic alternative to the Islamists. For all the talk about exporting American democracy, all we really did was subsidize local leftist NGO's and fly out bloggers to talk about reform. Could we imagine NOW and DailyKos taking power in America in open elections, and if not then what were the odds that was going to happen in a Muslim country where people like that are much less representative than they are here.

America's way of life derives from a culture of personal independence that can't be exported along with its institution. It was a country built by farmers, merchants and rebels who had their fill of lords and laws. The conservative reflex in American politics derives from that culture and it creates a base of opposition to the left. Anti-Monarchism is to American conservatism what Monarchism is to European conservatism, and what Islamism is to the Muslim world. It's the memory that people reach for when they imagine the better way of life that used to be.

This was always the flaw in the neo-conservative program which imagined that the American reflex of independence was universal and that it derived from free and open elections, rather than from the culture of a nation built by people looking to escape oppressive governments.

Democracy does not mean freedom, it means the freedom to choose. What exactly was the Muslim world likely to choose and what choices did it really have? Its domestic left is a joke and its Islamist parties are polished liars who have the money and contacts to create temporary economic booms that allow them to become entrenched and purge their rivals.

The Arab Spring had dried up a long time ago. There were no palatable regional alternatives to the Islamists, no philosophy with a regional grip that could counter it, and even the left hesitated to be actual alternatives to the Islamists, fully embracing a secular vision for their countries. Everything that happened was inevitable and it will happen again so long as the region is so barren that even when there is the freedom to choose, there is still nothing worth choosing.


mindRider said...

An other excellent analysis Sultan! Why do people like yourself, Caroline Glick, Melanie Philips, the proponents of the voices of reason always stay out of direct government? I can not immagine all foreign secretaries in the Western world All being blind to the realistic insight you and the likes of you have to offer.

Rita said...

"...To be fair to the left, many of its key foreign policy people did know that this would happen but were lying about it. They aren't idiots, they're traitors..."

Hear Hear !!!

Do we see a repeat of this (what seems to me planned and concerted operation) in Syria now?

Always, when the Western Media, the so-called "Human Rights advocates" and especially the UN tell tales of woe in unison, I, pavlov-doggishly favour their bete noire.

dave s said...

The best and clearest analysis i have read. You need a wider audience now.
Perhaps our wretchedly ill informed BBC would give you a platform.
Never in a million years.

Anonymous said...

" choose between a Socialist left and an Islamic right."

Aside from the other kudos, I take hearty exception with the seemingly opposed "right" and "left" as stated.

The Islamic theocracy -- in whole or part -- is not "right" any more than the German National Socialists were "right." The later were socialists, coersive and harsh and murderous. That pretty well describes the Muslim theocrats as well.

Therefore I amend your sentence as follows: Muslim nations are being asked to choose between two forms of the political Left, socialism and theocratic socialism.

Proof? The Ba'ath Party's founding documents called on socialism as their model. The simple fact is that individual rights and freedom are what oppose all on the Left, to include socialists and theocrats.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

mindRider, direct government tends to be corrupt, ideologically left and to keep people like us out.

Rita, yup, the places we don't intervene are already ruled by Islamist.

Dave, they might give me a gallows platform.

Anonymous said...

Your obssesstion with the "left" is really amasing. What is "left" about the Egyptian bloggers ?
I think that Democracy in the Arab world is impossible not because of Islam [ see India with many Muslims] but because all the Arab world and most of Africa cannot share power and cannot accept division of power between governments, parliaments , courts, universities and other institutions. This is the basis for a democracy and not the act of elections. This is the reason why Russia is still not a democracy while other ex communists countries are fine.

I think that the population voted for Islam not because they did not have a choice but because they were afraid of the choice.

Egypt is doomed economically because of corruption and mismanagement by its rulers in the past. I think that most of the voters don't even know how bad the situation is and it is not clear that Mubarak or somebody like him could have succeeded.

Anonymous said...

Excellent as usual.

Yes,the choice of two extremes (left or right) when we're not supposed to vere to the left nor to the right.

Has anyone read the UK "The Times" this Wednesday - it's virtually all about Arabs. Read "opinion" pg22 Wednesday 28th 2011, particularly the piece by Mustafa Akyol. In a nutshell, the title is:

"Westerners, put your faith in the Islamic Calvinists"

It extols the value of Islamists -

I will try to precis it without getting too excitable - let's not forget this morning that the Turks have taken out what they thought were Kurdish rebels (where is the policing system, the trial by jury?) and to quote Akyol, there is now an all new "Turkish Islam and a new political language that cherished "democracy and "freedom"'s failed them then, hasn't it.

Akyol then reinforces his position by bleating:

"Finally, we should not forget that democratic capitalism emerged in the West thanks not only to secularist forces, but also the Puritans of the U.S. - who realized that freedom can help to serve THEIR VALUES" ....capitals mine.

What Mustafa's not realised is that the West's values are different to Islamic ones. Mohamed Bouazizi who sparked the Arab Spring, and unwittingly the Islamic Winter, set alight to himself because his scales and fruit cart were taken from him, under their values - this just wouldn't happen under the Puritan U.S. VALUES - why? - the answer is in Shemot 22:26 and Dvarim 24:2 you just don't take someones' means of livelihood from them.

He does however notice that people need "the freedom to sin", but sorry Mustafa, it's not so that "true religiosity can flourish" as you say, but to realise only by discussing various truths, some values are "our wisdom and our life" others lead to oppression and death. What we want is freedom to discuss the texts and life and actions of Mohamet, the mouthpiece of their god without being labelled "islamophobic" which the U.N. is still trying to push through.

Just one more quote from Mustafa Akyol:

"As a good omen, just look at Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood which governs in Gaza. This radical party has made an uneasy rapproachment with the PLO, which it had long fought, and although it STILL REFUSES TO RECOGNISE Israel, it is shifting towards "non-violent resistance", AT LEAST AS A TACTICAL RUSE. This ENCOURAGING CHANGE is very much linked with Hamas's strategic shift from the waning axis of radicalism formed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah - to the rising axis of MODERATION formed by Egypt, Turkey and Qatar".

.......what planet is he on? what's moderate about any/all of this?

You really do have to read it all he talks of "moderate, but illiberal" muslims rejecting terrorism but not fans of women's rights or freedom of speech - well that's terrorism if you're a human being.

Akyol talks of a progressive Islam instituted by Rached Ghannouchi.....this is progress?

Those thousands in the UK/US/global Madrassa schools learning from moderate progressive Saudi text books how to kill Jews and Christians and where to amputate alternate hands and feet, are they to be called liberal, moderate or progressive?

Anyway, try and get hold of the piece, Akyol has also written a book, and no doubt the ruling classes will read it and be taken in hook, line and sinker - but just remember where our values are from kate b

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Anon 1, what's left about them? Quite a few support Kefaya or El Baradei.

Anon 2, yes we're reaching a new low in what being a moderate meas. But it's the Green Belt again. Put our faith in the Islamists to stabilize the region.

Gila said...

This was exactly the plan the big O had planned. Arab Spring and an alliance with the moselm brotherhood which has infiltrated the White Office to to the top.

Passer by said...

Actually liberalism is an expression of European/Western Civilization Decadence and will die with it. It is not accepted by others, it can be only copied, but with poor results. What other civilizations are doing is copying Western concepts, because they believe they will give them power, they believe those concepts are behind the power of the West, without actually believing in the concepts themselves. This is why Turkish Prime Minister Recep T. Erdogan said: ”Democracy is a train that we ride in and we will get off when we reach the destination". Western type secularism was accepted by turkish elites only because they believed it was the reason behind the power of European Empires, while the backwardness of Islam was the reason why the Otoman Empire was unable to compete with others and desintegrated.

Yet what will happen if Europe and the West are weak? Exactly what you see. Islam returns to Turkey, since the turkish people never fully believed in secularism. Islam is the fundamental part of Islamic Civilizations that never really goes away. And the turks now ask themselves: why should we copy Western Powers since they are on decline?

Similarly, Western concepts like Communism and Socialism were poorly copied by China, some african and arab countries, because they believed that Communism will help them in the fight against colonialism and Western interference, not because they really believed in communism. When China saw that Communism failed in European countries, it decided to copy another Western concept - Capitalism, since they started to believe that Capitalism was behind Western Power. Yet they never fully believed in the concept of Capitalism itself, so the copy was poor and degenerated into State Capitalism and strong Merkantilism. Underlying Chinese nationalism caused this, since nationalism was always a fundamental part of Chinese Civilization.
This time though, liberalism and even democracy (democracy as we know it, for example look at russian democracy and iranian democracy) will not be copied by others. Russia and China are Empires with ethnic minorities fighting for independence, and believe that liberalism and democracy will cause the desintegration of their Empires. They have to be nationalist to survive. And the Islamic World doesn't see the need to copy weak Western Powers with low birth rates, many of whom may become muslim anyway. Muslim countries now ask themselves: why should we copy Europe, since Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe?

There is one part of the World where liberalism will survive though: Latin America. It is an offshoot of European Civilization, therefore liberalism will be (and is) embraced by the people. It has high birth rates, and it is relatively isolated from Eurasian threats. It will have plenty of time to play with it.

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