Loose Canons

Sleeping in the Tank

Egypt goes the way of Turkey, while the administration is asleep even as it keeps switching positions.

By 2.7.11

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On Saturday night, according to a report by the BBC's Jim Muir, Egyptian protesters were "…sleeping under the tracks of tanks to ensure that they could not advance."

To sleep in front of a tank's treads means a brave protester had an uncomfortable night. To sleep under a tank's treads means the protester won't wake up again and the undertaker needs to use a paint scraper and a vacuum cleaner to perform his duties. All of which means that in Egypt's current crisis the ever-liberal BBC editors are just as incompetent as Obama's diplomatic team.

I suppose it is metaphysically possible for American policy to be more confused, but how it could be is not readily discernible. The truth is that America lacks any level of influence over Egypt's future. We have slowly and willfully degraded our power to influence events there -- and across the Middle East -- for decades.

And while the Egyptian crisis drags on, it infects the region. Massive protests have already caused Yemeni President Saleh to say he won't stay in power beyond his present term and will not attempt to pass power on to his son. Jordanian King Abdullah -- the most westernized and influential Muslim ally we have in the region -- has fired his cabinet. And purportedly pro-American President Ali of Tunisia (a.k.a. Carthage) has fled the country when bloody riots reached the point at which he could no longer resist.

But don't we have a president who -- in his 2009 Cairo speech, by his charming personality -- restored American popularity and influence in the Muslim world?

I often write that Obama is not naïve or incompetent because his efforts to reduce us from superpower to also-ran are pursued with malice aforethought. In the Egyptian crisis, however, Obama's perverse intentions are trumped by his and his team's confusion and incompetence.

Last Tuesday night, President Obama said that the he sympathized with the Tahrir Square protesters and that a transition from Mubarak's regime "must begin now." Which, of course, the world and the Egyptian protesters took as a call for Mubarak to resign. On Friday, Obama said Mubarak should "listen" to the protesters and craft a way forward that is "meaningful and serious."

Oh, that word. When a liberal says "meaningful" he is speaking psychobabble, asking for something that makes people such as him feel good regardless of its merit. And when it's our chief diplomat Mizz Clinton, the psychobabble creates confusion even worse than what comes from the White House.

At a Munich conference last week, Hillary called upon new Egyptian Veep Omar Suleiman to lead the country peacefully into a democratic future. (So Mubarak is still out?) Which statement was concurrent with Islamic terrorists blowing up an Egypt to Israel gas pipeline in the Sinai. Her statement -- and Obama's from Tuesday -- were contradicted quickly by Frank Wisner, a U.S. special envoy to Egypt, who said that Mubarak "must stay in office" during the transition of power. (So Mubarak is still in?)

Clinton and the White House denied that Wisner was speaking for them. (So Mubarak is still out?)

Clinton also said, "The transition to democracy will only happen if it is deliberate, inclusive and transparent," and that "the status quo is simply not sustainable."

Oh, that other word. "Inclusive"? Of whom, precisely? Apparently, she means the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.

The Washington Post reported that a council of Egyptian political leaders had refused to meet with Suleiman, as did leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their pawn, former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei. Hillary "…urged opposition leaders not to reject talks out of hand and warned that the alternative could be a takeover by radicals." Apparently the Brotherhood -- by cloaking itself in ElBaradei's unearned UN credibility -- has successfully achieved legitimate status in the State Department's eyes. For Islamic terrorist sponsors, the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has been accepted by the international community is sufficient for them to turn Egypt into another Syria or Lebanon.

On Sunday, the Financial Times reported that Rashad Bayoumi, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, met with Omar Suleiman. According to that report, Bayoumi "…told the Financial Times on Sunday that the group had decided to meet Mr Suleiman 'because we were given to understand that they are prepared to respond to all the demands of the uprising carried out by the youth.'" Suleiman could not have told that to Bayoumi without the military's acquiescence.

The only questions that remain are whether the Egyptian military will join in forcing Mubarak out and accept a radical regime in Mubarak's place. That they are willing to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as one of the parties to the transition bodes ill for their willingness to prevent Egypt from sliding into the radical Islamic sphere.

Egypt is on the path that Turkey has followed since the advent of the Erdogan government. We should expect that a transitional government will be more Islamist and will -- like Erdogan's -- gradually become an Islamist government. But Egypt will be worse, and far more radical. It will -- unless the military prevents it -- become a sponsor of terrorism.

Egypt's military, even after three decades of U.S. military aid and training, is not Americanized. The Egyptian Arab culture is strong within it, and the military's primary goal will be to remain powerful. That will require it to accommodate the increasing radicalism of the government, just as Turkey's military did. The Egyptian military, like the rest in that culture, is susceptible of bribery. Money and power are the key.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and its international sponsors, are savvy enough to understand that. They are well aware of how successfully the once-westernized nation of Turkey has been turned into an Islamic state, though it is not -- at least yet -- an identifiable sponsor of terrorism. The Turkish flotilla incident, in which a ship tried to penetrate the Israeli blockade of Gaza and Israeli forces were attacked with loss of life when they stopped the ship, was a lesson learned in Turkey. Islamic terrorism doesn't always, as in Tehran in 1979, take over a nation suddenly. It can, as it has in Turkey, take root and grow slowly.

In a Meet the Press interview yesterday, Mohamed ElBaradei said he wanted Mubarak to suspend parliament and make way for a transitional regime to take over until an election is held. He quite apparently wants to run that transitional regime and remain in power after an election.

If ElBaradei has his wish, Egypt will be on Turkey's path. And there's nothing we can do to stop it.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.