DQ Egypt: impact on Israel

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted with minor tweaking from ChicagoBoyz, where I also blog ]

Someone posted an excerpt from an interview with Khaled Hamza, the webmaster of the Muslim Brotherhood, as a comment on an earlier post of mine on ChicagoBoyz, where I also blog, and I was interested enough to track the original interview down, and have presented the key points of the excerpt here in Quote #1.

I am pairing it, in Quote #2, with an excerpt from an interview the BBC recently conducted with Mortimer Zuckerman – because I find the two quotes taken together suggest something of the complexity of the breaking situation in the Middle East.


I’d like to float a trial balloon / try a though experiment, if I might. And since I’m more “tail” than “left” or “right wing”, I’ll be posting this in more than one place, and hope to get comments from all sides…

On the face of it, Zuckeman is applying what’s arguably a racist double-standard. He advocates democracy, “totally” and “without question” – but not for the Egyptians, or at least not today or tomorrow.

On the face of it, the Egyptian public seems distinctly unenthused by Mubarak’s regime and will, in a democratic election, presumably vote in a fair number of Muslim Brotherhood representatives – though it’s by no means clear that they would be in the majority, and their present ideology in any case is closer to the processes of electoral politics than those of violent jihad.

So there is reason for Israel to be concerned, and reason for those who support democracy to see some hope for democracy, in the ongoing events in Egypt.

Let me put it this way: Quote #1 illustrates why Zuckerman might make the remarks quoted in Quote #2, while Quote #2 illuminates why Hamza might make the remarks quoted in Quote #1.


And here’s the thought experiment — I’d like to come at this from a Maslovian angle.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I’d like to suggest that “democracy” is an ideal, or to get away from that word with its somewhat ambiguous political connotations, an activity of the “the better angels of our nature” – and thus, from a Maslovian perspective, an aspect of a group or nation’s “self-actualization” level of interest, whereas “stability” would fall under “safety” or even “physiological”.

If that’s right, Zuckerman is at least arguably articulating a “stability first, eventual democracy would be ideal” position.

Does that “Maslovian” formulation throw any additional light on the situation?


The problem with the position I just described is nicely articulated by Mohammad Fadel at the very end of a Foreign Policy post, Can Black Swans lead to a sustainable Arab-Israeli peace? — and it’s only his conclusion I’m quoting here:

Tunisia and Egypt have demonstrated categorically that any peace which relies on the stability of police states is doomed from the outset.

If a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can in theory cause a tornado in Texas – heaven alone knows what someone blinking in Cairo or Jerusalem or Washington can do.

Myself, I pray for empathy, which seems a reasonable request, I hope for wisdom, which seems a great deal more chancy — and I long for peace.

In the current environment of hatred and mistrust, that seems entirely beyond the capacity of anyone’s present thinking to achieve.

This entry was posted in DoubleQuotes, Geopolitics, Middle East, Peace. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to DQ Egypt: impact on Israel

  1. back40 says:

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see….”
    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”

    Douglas Adams, in So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish (1984) Ch. 36

    If there were no lizards it would be easier to engage with the spirit of your post, but from this distant position it seems that this is the issue, and it’s very hard to see which lizard is the right one.

    Perhaps you can help square this circle?

  2. hipbone says:

    Hey, Gary — neat to find you here, and that quote is quite a treasure!

Leave a Reply to back40 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s