Streetwise Professor

November 24, 2012

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Filed under: History,Politics — The Professor @ 10:11 am

Egyptian President Mohamed Mosri, already clothed with immense legislative and executive powers (and yes, Lincoln inspired that line), has now usurped judicial powers in what opposition figures are referring to as a coup.  Of course Mosri claims that his assumption of these powers is merely temporary.  Of course he claims that he is only doing so to “protect the revolution” and secure democracy.

How many times have we heard that before?  How many times has it turned out to be true?

Mubarek, whom Mosri replaced (and whom he is now retrying) was a corrupt, autocratic bastard.  It’s too soon to tell whether Mosri will be, as virtually all of his ilk eventually become, corrupt.  But it is not too soon to tell that he is an autocratic bastard, and an Islamist one as well.  All in all, Islamist trumps corrupt.  Easily.

So the title of this post isn’t quite right.  Mosri isn’t exactly the same as Mubarek.  And the crucial difference-his Islamism-makes him a far more dangerous figure.

The timing of this is telling.  Very telling.

Mosri made his move within hours of his brokering of a cease fire in Gaza.  He received fulsome-sick-making, actually-praise from Obama and Hillary Clinton for his role there.  For his peacemaking role, he was lionized.

And more to the point-he was also immunized.  Immunized from criticism of his power grab.  How could Obama possibly criticize him or take measures to oppose him in response to his putsch after having praised him to the heavens just hours before?

Not for the first time on the international stage, Obama was not a player.  He was played.

I wonder if he realizes that.  I sort of doubt it.  Speaking of immunized, he seems immune to recognizing his errors.

One more thing about the timing.  Mosri no doubt has been contemplating this for some time: the judiciary has represented the only check on his power.  But he no doubt had to tread carefully, given Egypt’s fraught economic condition (especially regarding its parlous food situation) and resultant dependence on American aid.

Perhaps Mosri just acted opportunistically, seizing the chance to execute his coup when circumstances tied American hands.

But perhaps-and this is just an observation that is consistent with the data, but not proved or likely even provable-there’s something more than that.  Perhaps Mosri is like the arsonist who makes himself a hero by rescuing children from the building he set alight.  He goads Hamas into action, or at the least, signals to them that he will support them in an attack on Israel.  Hamas takes the bait, and Mosri offers his, er, good offices to a desperate US to broker a settlement.  He then banks US goodwill for getting Obama out of the difficult political problem of supporting Israel, which is very popular in most of the US and very unpopular everywhere else, and among Obama’s prog constituency.  Goodwill in the bank, Mosri makes his move.

In any event, Obama is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that the situation in Gaza has cooled down.  But this is only a respite.  An Islamist who is fundamentally (or should that be “fundamentalist-ically”?) opposed to the US is consolidating dictatorial powers in the largest Arab nation, and can exert tremendous leverage on the US via his ability to regulate-or not-the conflict in Gaza.  Mosri has Obama by the balls, and can squeeze at will.

Apropos the Who song that inspired the title: I tip my hat to the new (Egyptian) constitution; take a vow for the new revolution . . . . I get on my knees and pray, we won’t get fooled again.

But my prayers will not be answered, almost surely. Obama will get fooled again. And again and again.

A programming note.  Wordpress informs me that this is SWP post #2000.  Hard to believe.  The blog started in January, 2006, so that works out to about 6 posts/week.  (It seems I take off the seventh day too :-P).  I am writing this from Eltville am Rhein, Germany, which is kind of appropriate I guess since I’ve posted from 15 countries on four continents.  (This also represents the completion of my Axis Tour 2012: I was in Italy in June and Japan earlier this month.)

I owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have read SWP over the years.  I am continuously humbled by your attention.  The blog has gone in directions I had never anticipated when I started it.  It has had an influence, in a small way, particularly on arcane matters related to financial regulation, a subject I arguably at least know something about.  But the posts on Russia and politics-subjects I did not intend to address when I started SWP, and which some would claim I arguably know nothing about-have attracted the most interest and comment.  I value all the comments, and appreciate all the commenters-even those who bust my ass on a continual basis.  I truly miss people when they disappear from the comments.

This blog has evolved into an interesting micro-community uniting disparate people from around the world with somewhat overlapping interests, and whose interests overlap my rather diverse and idiosyncratic ones in some way.  It has changed my life in ways I had never expected.  I hope it has added something to yours.

And to close, a musical interlude (complete with my role model, Keith Moon!):

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12 Comments »

  1. Excellent post, Prof. The NYT had a good summary of the events here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/world/middleeast/amid-protest-egypts-leader-defends-his-new-powers.html

    I think Morsi’s overplayed his hand — he moved too quickly, in what obviously was intended to be a slower, long-term takeover of the Constitution-writing process, then the state, by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is, nonetheless, being completely consistent within the superstructure of his political organization and his faith. Within the MB, as with Islam itself, there is no separation between “church and state.” His actions thus come as no surprise, since, in this government-belief structure all power is concentrated in a strong-man rule. The ruler supports the faith, while the religion and its proscriptions support the ruler. These are co-dependent elements of a single society.

    The rest of Egypt has to get comfortable with this. A lot sooner than most thought.

    Oh, and thank you for running this blog, for your insight,erudition and dedication to the free exchange of ideas. This is a wonderfully well-informed site with a lot of great commentary. Here’s to the next 2,000 posts, and the 2,000 to come after that, and …

    Comment by markets.aurelius — November 24, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  2. Congrats Professor-I can’t praise your posts highly enough. I always enjoy reading your site.

    Please don’t make your 2012th post on this year’s Winter Solstice-just saying.

    Comment by pahoben — November 24, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

  3. Thanks so much, @markets and @pahoben. I very much appreciate your very kind compliments, and your frequent and insightful comments. I will continue to strive to deliver what you’ve come to expect, and to value.

    @markets-You may be quite right that Morsi overplayed his hand. That would be consistent with the opportunistic explanation for his action. He wanted to move more slowly, but the ability to move with no fear of a US backlash tempted him to accelerate his timetable. Whether he will ultimately come to regret this throw of the dice remains to be seen.

    You are completely right that the ideas of separation of church and state; separation of powers; and checks and balances are all alien to him, the MB, and Islam as a whole. All of the starry-eyed romanticizing of the “Arab Spring” totally overlooked the very basic nature of Arab and Muslim political culture which make strong man rule inevitable. But it’s not surprising that the usual suspects are surprised by the obvious.

    @pahoben. Don’t worry. I won’t go all Mayan on you! Keeping my usual pace will put post 2012 10 days or so before the solstice :-)

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 25, 2012 @ 4:59 am

  4. This latest move by Mosri comes as much of a surprise as Christmas. Issuing decrees that his rule may not be challenged, how long before he declares himself “president for life”?

    As for your 2,000th post, congratulations and long may they continue! Your economic and political posts are gratefully read by me.

    Comment by Tim Newman — November 25, 2012 @ 6:42 am

  5. @Thanks, Tim. Means a lot.

    And no, it’s not a surprise at all. It amazes me that anyone would expect anything different. Note this Deep Thinking in The Atlantic. (And BTW, I claim precedence for the Lincoln connection!) It should be the presumption that anyone in a revolutionary situation who claims that he is a revolutionary, would assert arbitrary powers in the name of The Revolution and Democracy. And that goes N-fold for the Arab-Muslim world. It would be a cataclysmic shock had anything different transpired.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 25, 2012 @ 9:21 am

  6. Congratulations on reaching your 2000th post; I look forward to many more rounds of 2000 posts in the future. Yours is a creative and independent voice that is serially worth listening to. Thanks for providing your unique take on many of the issues we face.

    Comment by Phil Rothman — November 25, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

  7. Congrats on your 2000th post.

    Taking of ass-busting… :)

    FTR, I have been opposed to this “Arab Spring” charade from the get-go, and events appear to almost uniformly confirm my impressions every single month. How on earth do you expect liberal democracy to flourish in a country where 75% of the people say they want the death penalty for adultery and apostasy in opinion polls?

    And yet you continue supporting the Syrian jihadis, mostly I suspect just to rip Russia another one. Totally bizarre. Cognitive dissonance. Cut off the nose to spite the face. The worse the better. Typically Bolshevik.

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — November 26, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

  8. @Sublime. 1. FTR, I have thought the Arab Spring was a mirage from the start and doomed to failure. 2. You are wrong re my views on Syria & Russia. It is a trade off between bads, IMO. I criticize Russia precisely because by backing Assad to the hilt it is making a jihadi-dominated outcome more likely. Giving Assad the boot early on would have increased the likelihood of an Egypt-style outcome. As bad as that is, it is about the best that could be expected in that part of the world, and would be better than a continued Assad dictatorship. But by backing Assad to the hilt Russia basically ensured it would be a war to the knife in which radical elements would eventually dominate. There’s also the geopolitical aspect of Syria, namely, it is the only real ally of Iran, and is the key link between Iran and Hezbollah. There would be a major geopolitical benefit to eliminating that ally and link. Jihadis are definitely not a good, but the problems they pose are more easily coped with than those posed by an Assad-led Syria.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 27, 2012 @ 7:50 am

  9. Oh-thanks for the congratulations.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 27, 2012 @ 7:52 am

  10. The west dubbed it the Arab Spring. The uprising began due to rising food prices, hunger, not a quest for liberal democracy

    Comment by MG — November 28, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

  11. @MG. Anyone who believes that the revolutions in N. Africa were a quest for liberal democracy are idiots. It would be wrong to say that the concept is alien. It is actively despised by virtually the entire populace. Islam and liberal democracy are antithetical.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 29, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  12. We love you, man! No, really, I continue to learn from you. Your passion is most appreciated, thanks Professor.

    Comment by Freddie — November 30, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

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