In this instance, the author is describing a political ideology that should sound familiar to us — one founded on secular constitutionalism, due process, and property rights. That emphasizes the liberty of individuals to enjoy freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and markets. A philosophy that demands rulers are subject to the consent of the governed, grounded in an individual’s natural right to life, liberty and property.
I’m talking about an intrinsically Western liberalism — an ideology that came to fruition during the Age of Enlightenment. Its progenitor, John Locke, planted the seeds of natural rights, the social contract and rule of law in contrast to absolutism, aristocracy and the Divine Right of Kings. This is the liberalism of the American and French Revolution that justified the ouster of tyranny. This is the universal liberalism that motivated many Egyptians to depose Mubarak.
We do a disservice to Egyptian liberals (yes, they exist) when we lump them in with folks like Krugman, Moore, and those Occupiers, writ large, who long for a government of enlightened autocrats to dictate social and economic justice.
These are the folks we should be rooting for in Cairo. They’re disorganized, naive and green…but they’re ultimately Egypt’s only hope.
So why do leftists (read: socialists, and even communists in the Egyptian instance), Islamists (the MB, et al.), and liberals find themselves — suddenly and implausibly — allied? Well, they’re all living through some strange days over there, and the tired cliché that politics makes strange bedfellows applies.
To be clear, this marriage of convenience is incredibly unlikely and wholly unnatural. Liberal Egyptians — who are often university educated, and envious of basic freedoms enjoyed here in the West — have little tolerance for Islamists who’d rob them of those natural rights I mentioned. As we’ve learned since the time of Marx and Engels, communists and socialists don’t tolerate religion particularly well, so they’re not particularly fond of Salafi aesthetics that would drag the country back to the seventh century. And while the Islamists exist as the most organized faction — they were vaguely tolerated by Mubarak as a shadow opposition to his now disbanded NDP — as you might have guessed, they’re not particularly charitable to their rivals.
However, to co-opt an ancient Arabic proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In Cairo, such disparate parties as Communists, Islamists and Liberals are working together to advance their common goal — namely, uprooting a calcified, Mubarak-era police state that has proven loath to surrender its political and economic stranglehold on post-Tahrir Egypt.
I’m describing the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) — a military junta that isn’t ominous in name only. Rather, upon reactivation of the country’s “emergency law” the SCAF has come to represent stratocracy, in the extreme.
Their decision to disband the government was alarming, but foreseeable — as I predicted back in April:
If [the Muslim Brotherhood] were to capture the executive office [in addition to the 50% of the parliament they already controlled], the movement could threaten the ruling junta’s significant business interests — which are currently shielded from government oversight. A win at the ballots would mean MB control of the parliament, the constitutional assembly and the presidency…not to mention the bank vaults, national industries and corporate rentiers that line the pockets of the strongest and most enduring elements of Mubarak-era oligarchy.
Now, the tension has reached such frenzy in Cairo that wolves are dwelling with lambs, and the liberals and Islamists have found themselves locked in an unlikely alliance against an unholy adversary.
Please note, I’m not defending or deferring to Islamists or communists. They exist in diametric opposition to my system of values. In this case, I am simply attempting to provide some relevant context to the plight of “liberals” in Egypt.
However, as a sidenote, I would conclude that:
Per terms established by Congress last December, the Egyptian “government” must demonstrate a commitment to a free, fair, and tolerant civic society to receive American assistance. It’s obvious to anyone with a pulse — including the majority of Egyptians — that they’re not living up to their end of the bargain.
Now we know the SCAF never had any intention of meeting that measure, in the first place. Well, don’t look now, but Obama’s still financing their debacle with American dollars.
Your taxes at work in Egypt. Just sayin’…