Democracy in Egypt. A Useless Endeavor

President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi made a seemingly important announcement in October.  He lifted the 40 year  state of  emergency enacted originally to control the population  during an era of seemingly endless  currents of turmoil and  internal discord. This law or various versions of it) had been in effect since 1981. But in effect lifting the law will have  little practical effect. A few days after is announcement the government approved new amendments to the “national terrorism law” which gave greater powers to al Sisi to take measures to “measures necessary to preserve security and public order.” It was pretty much a propaganda move and the Egyptians know this but it was welcomed nervertheless.

General Abdul Fattah al Sisi

Of course the usual Washington  based foreign affairs think tanks organizations and news sources such as the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Middle East eye, Al Jazeera and of  course the New York Times, Washington Post, the Guardian, pour forth the usual  leftist/liberal fulminations against al Sisi. He overthrew their favorite , the bumbling, incompetent and Muslim Brotherhood  favorite, Mohamed Morsi. Strange how the lefties found an al Morsi, a figurehead of a movement that would extinguish all aspects  of individual freedom, preferable to  military authoritarians like al Sisi. Somehow it is more fashionable to be on the Muslim Brotherhood team these days, a real turnabout from the days when  Colonel Abdul Nasser was hanging members of the Muslim Brotherhood  and was being cheered by the same people who castigated Sadat and now Al Sisi as dictators. Of course in those days Pan Arabism was all the rage and Nasser was the hero of the Middle East  scholarly gurus. A book to read if you need to hear the “other side,” is Into the Hands of Soldiers by David D. Kirkpatrick, the New Times correspondent.  Its has some good reporting on the actual events of the “Arab Spring”  during the removal of President Mubarak from office. But as one might expect  from the New York Times, he clumsily lumps domestic political biases together with their  foreign  reporting. It  seems the primary problem with Al Sisi was that President Trump liked him.

Mohamed Al Morsi and bo uddy Turkish President Erdogan

The usual liberal trope is always the same…Al Sisi overthrew the first “democratically elected president’ in Egypt’s  history. The premise in itself  is arguable but whether true of not, the Islamists, in a single year, managed to turn off the majority of the very conservative Muslim  Egyptian population with ridiculous spurious edicts  based on early Islamic Hadiths of dubious authenticity. It was like an Islamic discussion of how many angels dance on the head of a pin. The Egyptians, who tend to be cynical about government anyway, were  not amused.  Then Egyptian proverb is  instructive;” rely on your hidden gold, your child descending from your loins, and your calf from your cow.”


In fact an Al Sisi is the only type leader who can govern Egypt . Democracy, as intended, is a very fragile  institution, and  is only a figure of speech in the middle east.  Moreover, as we all know, it is under assault in the West by a new generation of marxists in sandals, (as George Orwell called them in his day.) It takes centuries of forbearance and wisdom to create a democracy and only a few years to destroy it. The history and culture of Egypt does not evidence any “breakout” of democracy in this century.

King Mykerinus and queen

The evolution of Egyptian culture, their way of life… did not begin with the Islamic invasion of Egypt in———-. It reached back to the earliest of pharaonic years.


Perhaps it is best described by Cyril Aldred in his book The Egyptians. A masterful book to read and keep on your coffee table with great illustrations of  pharonic Egyptian art  work.

“Egyptians look for balance and equilibrium and their physical environment fosters this. Egypt provided the physical milieu in which this balance could be easily secured, for its natural conditions are almost changeless.It escapes earthquakes…. It has climate but no weather. Each day the sun rises in all its glory, traverses the heavens unobscured, and sets in splendor.Each year the Nile rises with predictable regularity and rejuvenates the tired land. ” As he wrote, even the later invasions of Egypt by alien peoples did not significantly alter the customs of the people. For example  Islam did not change Egypt, it simply overlaid  the culture that existed for millenniums. Traditions  from the pharaonic times are still imprinted in the people, layer  by layer, particularly in the exampleof the God kings, the pharaohs . Arab rulers and presidents of today maintain this aura.  They are there by God’s will and hence nothing can improve on Gods work.There can be no improvement only a recurring rhythm of life, not a progression.  Hence the Egyptian proverb “Everything is destined and therefore it is one’s lot in life.” and the other  one of resignation to the toils of life, Adonnia himal..”life is burdensome.”

But the Egyptians have a great way of contending with autocratic government and a bloated unresponsive bureaucracy. They make up an endless supply of jokes and simple ways of outsmarting the crushing government monolith.  Sayyid Qutb wrote an extraordinarily poignant book about living in an Egyptian village called Village Child. Qutb, the intellectual giant of the Muslim Brotherhood, before he became an islamist fanatic was an accomplished writer . In his book he wrote about the inventiveness and cohesion of the villages standing against or evading government dictates. A medical mission comes to the village and demands from each boy a feces and urine specimen by the end of the day. They are not told why. Fear grips them especially those whose who had already “gone” and where unable to produce the specimen. They fear their bellies being cut open to extract the specimen etc. Arguments ensue whether the container should be returned full or half way. Deciding it must be full, those in need of specimens were provided extra from their neighbors or in desperation went to the village latrines to collect specimens. In this way the medical mission departed with 100% specimens. In the end it made no difference. They never heard from the mission again.

sayyid Qutb Excuted by the Nasser the regime.

One of the more critical aspects of information  surrounding  the Morsi-Al Sisi issue is the absolute ignorance about Egypt  and especially the Muslim Brotherhood within the scholarly Middle East community and the US State department.  A Wikileaks dump of many emails from the US embassy in Cairo illustrated the bewilderment of the officials as to what the Muslim Brotherhood stood for.Were they moderates or not? Unmistakably however, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood  was considered the wave of the future by much of the  Middle East foreign affairs influencers. In fact  General James Clapper, one of the more clueless of our intelligence officials, told the house intelligence committee that the Muslim Brotherhood was “…a heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence…” He disregarded the one of the quotes of Sayyid Qutb that the root of all evil was secularism. Many of these folks saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a bulwark against ISIS type terrorism. In fact as illustrated by the Egyptian people in setting the stage for al Sisi to oust Al Morsi they know and understand the Brotherhood far better than the so called Western “experts.”

Two books to read from definitive answer on the Muslim Brotherhood issue are  Barry Rubin’s book The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement and  The Neglected Duty by Johannes J. G. Jansen. As Jansen wrote  many organizations hide their affiliation  with  the Muslim Brotherhood  relying  on the “gullibility and credulity of Western observers” to see them as essentially moderate and spiritual organizations.Jansen, an Islamic scholar believes that the alleged “Islamophobia” is a desired goal by the Muslim Brotherhood, As he quotes the Qur’an “prepare whatever means you can…that will fill the enemies hearts  with fear.”

The equanimity and stability  that the Egyptians have  historically yearned for  has been provided for by Al Sisi…… as a new poll by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy found.  See “Egyptians Value United Staes and China equally, but dislike  both Iran and Israel.” by David Pollock on the Fikra Forum The Egyptians by and large are content with the Al Sisi regime as they are with tov critic regimes.

Lord Herbert Kitchener Proconsul of Egypt


Perhaps the words of Lord Kitchener, proconsul of Egypt, 1911-1914 should be studied more closely. “Whatever  the value  of a party system may be in the Western political life, it is evident that its application to an intensely democratic community, the essential basis of which those social life is  social brotherhood of man, combined with respect for learning and experience of age, is an unnatural proceeding , fraught with inevitable division and weakness. ”

In this paragraph he adroitly condemned the Western democratic systems, admired certain aspects of Egyptian social life and stated the  inapplicability of Western political values to Egypt.  As all the British men of learning concerning Egypt concurred , Egypt must have a “strong man”










About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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