The stupidity of moral isolationism

Once again, Peter Oborne demonstrates his complete flight from reality.

The Algerian Civil War had nothing to do with the West and everything to do with a society divided between a dangerous Islamist opposition threatening to rule as an Islamic tyranny and the existing authoritarian regime. It was a war brought about through internal tensions and political violence current in that society.

He confuses anti-government protests and groups with democratic ones. The regimes that fall might well be replaced by regimes fundamentally hostile to our interests. We’d all like to see those countries liberalise but liberalisation in authoritarian societies is a dangerous development if the authority of the state is attacked. These regimes have pent up a great deal of radicalism, often stoked by the same regime and directed against Israel and Jews, and when the regime falls, these movements are revolutionary and violent.

Can we imagine what would happen if the Muslim Brotherhood which is the dominant movement in Egyptian society were to come to power? Egypt is a military power of no mean proportions; its army is equipped with M1A1 main battle tanks, the airforce has 300 F-16s. This would be Iran all over again but on the Mediterranean.

There is no social or political appetite for reforms of the kind which the liberals cheering the protests would like to see. The Egyptian Copts would not find themselves full and valued members of Egyptian society – a campaign of expulsion would begin similar to that seen in the Palestinian Authority. Women would find that the legacies of the revolutionary days of Nasser would disappear and they would become confirmed second class citizens, while honour killings would be encouraged by authorities taking their lead from misogynistic clerics.

Above all, the peace treaty with Israel would not last long. War would be on the agenda and it would not be long before voices called for it in the Arab world.

What we should be calling for is reforms to the civil bureaucracy, to the law and to freedom of speech where this does not subvert the state. We can force Egypt to start this process through withholding financial aid but work with the regime to help it safely liberalise.

You cannot expect democracy to materialise from revolution. Revolution is antipathetical to the rule of law, settled civil society, and the institutions of an strong state where the rulers give up power after electoral defeat. No Arab country with the possible exception of Tunisia is ready for such a transition. To encourage this in Egypt would encourage a strategic political disaster of the highest proportions.



It appears that Christina Odone is doing the same thing. She is transposing a Western notion of democracy on to the Arab world but does not include the ingredients that make a successful democracy possible, instead believing that these will grow out of free speech, free press and tolerance of protest in a society that does not tolerate protest. She shows no understanding of how Islamism as a political model works; if you provide an open door to them, they will subvert the state.

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