by Sam Holliday
21 August 2013
Domestic US politics and preconceptions about civil-military relations should not determine US policy toward Egypt.
After a year most Egyptians opposed the drift of President Muhammad Morsi’s regime toward an Islamist theocracy. Although Morsi spoke against terrorism and claimed that he supported democracy, this action revealed that he was practicing tagiyah and that the Muslim Brotherhood supported the world wide Islamic movement known as the Third Jihad. On 3 July 2013 the Egyptian military, under General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, moved against the Third Jihad supporters, suspended the constitution and took Morsi into custody. Since the Egyptian army and al-Azhar University are the most significant symbols of the Egyptian nation the US should support them. In order to do this the US political elite and the foreign policy establishment must overcome their bias against any move by any military to bring stability to any country. They need to better understand the military virtues of Duty, Honor and Country and how they can now be used in Egypt.
What should be US policy now regarding Egypt? It should be how best to advance US national interests, which are:
- Stability in the Middle East.
- An open Suez Canal.
- A stable Egypt with representative governance.
- Neutralization of those who support the Third Jihad.
- Reduce the cost of foreign policy, but retain the influence needed.
What the United States Should Do Regarding Egypt
1. Support the Egyptian military, but try to get them to focus on effective ways to achieve stability within Egypt, rather than relying on suppression tactics and retention of centralized power.
2. Curtail sending expensive military aircraft and tanks to Egypt.
3. Encourage the Egyptian military to decentralize governance so that there is local security of, by and for each village, town, and district–rather than attempting to provide security by military and police forces controlled by the central government.
4. Stop stating that the US wants “democracy”–meaning pure democracy with universal suffrage, elections, and the rule of law. Start saying that the US supports representative governance, traditional democracy and non-western democracy.
5. Encourage the Egyptian military to form a coalition with business, the judiciary, young liberals, and those Muslims who oppose the Third Jihad. This coalition must be able to out-organize the Muslim Brotherhood with networks in all factions of the Egyptian society and then build a new Egyptian nation able of bringing economic development and representative governance to Egypt.
6. Although the US should not participate in operations within Egypt, the US leaders need to recognize that the coalition formed by the Egyptian military, must:
A. Achieve security throughout Egypt before there can be positive economic and political change. Security is achieved when the government at each level has a monopoly on force within its territory, and no group within that territory is willing to use force to achieve political ends. In addition security for all of Egypt requires the central government to have military and policy forces stronger than any local government, and any group committed to the use of force to weaken or overthrow the central government, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, must be neutralized. This requires:
- An effective intelligence system that will allow rapid response to any attempt at intimidation by the Muslim Brotherhood, or payment to it, plus the ability to identify those Muslims who only believe in the inner jihad, and not only reject the outer jihad but are willing to fight against the Third Jihad.
- A capability greater than that appropriate for policing ordinary crime must be added when terrorism becomes a tool of those advocating the submission by, or killing of, all of those who do not believe in Islam. This will require some temporary limitations on both civil rights and the normal procedures of the legal system.
- Regaining, by military and policy forces, any territory lost to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the killing or detention of the leaders of any group advocating the Third Jihad.
However, too much focus on providing security can actually weaken security in the long run. There will always be criminal activity, so this task must only eliminate those capable of making the country unstable, and not attempt to provide perfect security or to eliminate all political opposition.
B. Insure effective local authority, which means that the Egyptian military coalition must out-organize the Muslim Brotherhood at the local level. Each individual lives in a concrete, human, face-to-face world of clear and specific events and situations. Aspirations and an unseen environment may shape his spiritual and material life, but he knows through what he sees, hears, smells and feels. This task provides local leadership. Leadership which is: alert for signs of problems, inequalities and injustices; able to use initiative and flexibility to win loyalty and produce results; capable of countering acts of intimidation, violence, and destruction; able to see that everyone can earn a decent living; loyal to the established institutions; capable of educating each individual with values which blend freedom, ambition, duty and responsibility in accordance with the customs and traditions of Egypt–not those of the United States.
C. Rebuild an Egyptian nation by organizing and motivating the people. A nation is no more than people welded together by a common destiny that binds together tomorrow, today and yesterday into an active whole. This task creates and maintains shared values, attitudes, habits and goals which shape the institutions through which an Egyptian nation can live and grow: patterns of cooperation and conflict; the fabric of sanctioned relationship; the unseen lines of magnetic strength which link, join and confine; the elusive cultural environment. This task creates kinship. Again, for Egypt in the near future, this can only be accomplished around the various established groups–other than the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. Former military live throughout Egypt and they can form the backbone of the networks needed to rebuild the Egyptian nation.
D. Satisfy aspirations of the people. The fuel of progress is the never-ending attempt to satisfy aspirations. Aspirations can unite the Egyptian people in common effort; yet, aspirations can set one faction against another, preventing improvement. Satisfying aspirations is an elusive, two faced task. Sole concern with satisfying aspirations can only result in turmoil, frustration and bitterness; as past aspirations are approached new and more demanding ones are invented. This task means that Egypt needs its own, unique, national ideology. This task, just like the task of achieving security, will actually be ineffective in the long run when it is carried to an extreme.
Past Foreign Policy Errors
Attempts since the 1950s by the US to develop pluralistic Western-style democracy in other countries have fallen short of expectations. It, therefore, seems appropriate to reevaluate Western-style democracy as the solution to chaos in countries suffering from growing pains or those in the stages of decay. We need to look more closely into which of the devices of democracy some countries should ignore, or others having been attempted, they should abandon. We also need to identify why India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have been able to combine their cultural histories with Western culture to create their own form of representative governance. We need to reconsider how best to introduce representative governance into Islamic countries. Egypt is where this can start.
During the 19th Century, technologically advanced European states established preeminent influence over many less-developed, indigenous people throughout the world. The great powers justified their colonialism in terms of noble and humanitarian goals, of which one was the spread of Western-style democracy. In order to duplicate Western political, economic, and legal systems, the colonial powers centralized secular authority in the name of the rule of law and then attempted to export their own political systems. Too often, however, they made only minimal efforts to create a social contract in keeping with each country’s customs and traditions. This neo-colonial approach should not be repeated in Egypt.
Regarding elections, universal suffrage, and “One Man One Vote” as the bedrocks of good government, the “democracy’” introduced in many non-Western countries resulted in a caricature of that specified by the social contracts of Western nation-states. In some countries “democracy” resulted in authoritarian regimes after one man, one vote—one time. This is what the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt after Morsi was elected. In others it produced instability, sectarian violence, and chaos. This also happened in Egypt. Very few former colonies had the opportunity to develop social contracts based on their own customs and traditions, rather than on qualities that made the West so powerful in the 18th and 19th centuries. They either fell short of success in dividing power among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of a unitary government or they failed to decentralize authority to the lowest possible level of governance. Without checks and balances a democracy can be as great a threat to individual freedom as any authoritarian regime if a majority, legitimized by elections, exploits others.
Since World War II the foreign policy of the United States has treated militant factions in conflict as parties in a system of parliamentary government. There has been an obsession with (1) authority of a central government, (2) rule of law to replace custom and tradition, (3) democracy defined as universal suffrage and elections, and (4) human rights. This perspective has much in common with 19th century colonialism. The post-1950s tunnel vision of American policy makers squandered billions of dollars—with few long-term benefits. The US should not repeat this error in Egypt.
On the other hand, there are places where Western political, economic and social ideas have taken root since World War II. After growing pains, the cultures of India, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea absorbed many ideas from the West to create their own version of representative government, a market economy, and civil rights. The record in Islamic countries is far less promising. Western ideas are openly championed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Niger, and Mali and are putting up a fight against fundamentalist Islam. Turkey is a special case; for years it adopted many Western ideas, but now seems to be going in the other direction. However, throughout Southwest Asia and northern Africa only intellectuals propose Western ideas of democracy, while the people and practical politicians have only adopted Western ideas about statism—not those about representative governance. The military in Egypt, in a coalition with business, the judiciary, young liberals, and those Muslims who oppose the Third Jihad, can bring about change. The US can do very little to determine the outcome—and should not attempt to force Egypt to adopt Western-style democracy or to force Egypt to duplicate our political, social and legal systems.
It must be recognized that pluralistic Western-style democracy as it developed during the 18th and 19th centuries constitutes only one version of representative government, one resting on the values of freedom and equality and relying on the rule of law, universal suffrage, and majority rule within a political process designed to protect civil rights and to preserve the sovereignty of the people. During the 20th century Western-style democracy also assumed a welfare role by making adjustments to correct economic and social inequalities. We must address the question: Are there other forms of representative governance, more suited to countries throughout the world, than those based on the ideology of Western-style democracy?
Starting in Greece, Western democracy rested on individualism and supremacy of state authority through the rule of law. Before colonialism erased it, however, non-Western democracy built on groups (families, tribes, clans, guilds, or villages) existed in many parts of the world. A myriad of local groups and assemblies regulated most social, cultural, and economic activities. Today remnants of non-Western democracy often survive in remote rural areas or where European colonial rule never became established.
Both Western and non-Western democracy can provide means to achieve the basic requirements of sovereignty: (1) a monopoly on the use of force, and (2) the ability to regulate behavior justly. Today Western democracies usually achieve this by the central government having the power to make and adjudicate laws, i.e. they rely mainly on secular authority to regulate behavior. Europe achieved that condition only slowly between 1500 and 1914, a period of ever increasing economic and administrative rationalization and differentiation of societies. During that period, civic virtue (the self-regulating behavior of individuals based upon moral, ethical and religious beliefs) was just as important as the rewards and punishments of law (secular authority) in the regulation of behavior. In time both law and civic virtue became combined with national identity, patriotism, and the scientific method to prevent chaos and to achieve order and a climate of satisfaction.
Western-style democracy implies majority rule, together with the protection of minorities. But “majority” rule does not necessarily mean that the faction with the greatest numbers rules. Nor did universal suffrage exist in Europe until the 20th century. Non-Western democracy, based on groups rather than individuals, relies on consensus rather than elections and majority rule.
Non-Western democracies have traditionally relied on custom and traditions to regulate most behavior—using law (secular authority) primarily for criminal acts. Most non-Western people—even Muslims—are not necessarily opposed to representative governance. Just as in the West there are those that do favor oligarchy, theocracy and dictatorship. Yet most people favor some form of representative governance. The aim should be to find those forms of representative governance that blend with the customs and traditions of the people. And non-Western democracy is a good place to look for a solution for Egypt.
Social Contract Essential First Step
A social contract is the agreement within a body politic that tends to preserve the whole. It assumes that the duties, rights, and responsibilities of both individuals and groups depend on some form of agreement. That might be expressed in a written constitution or understood through custom and tradition. A social contract specifies the relationships of individuals and factions within a polity; it defines what is just or unjust. It serves as the source of laws, and it allows for nonviolent evolutionary change. It defines both the distribution of power within the polity (monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, democracy, and dictatorship) and the structures and processes of governance (unitary, federation, or confederation).
The social contract, not democracy, was fundamental to the growth of Western Civilization, though it is true that versions of democracy emerged from the structures and processes of governance selected under the social contract of most Western peoples. That likely explains why Westerners often think it easy to export their form of democracy to less-developed countries. To escape that thinking, it is important to understand how democracy and the social contract differ.
The assumption that all votes are equal is often associated with democracy. Yet democracy per se says nothing about the identity of the voters. In 5th century BCE Athens only one in eighteen of the total population could vote. At the same time in northern India the ratio was one in twenty. Until the end of the 19th century, in the West only property owners voted because only they were said to have a stake in the success of the country. Since 1887, however, in pluralistic Western-style democracy, and among UN bureaucrats since 1945, universal suffrage, “One Man, One Vote,” and elections by individuals have been seen as essential aspects of “democracy”—though much of the world nevertheless regards that notion as an aspect of Western colonialism.
In the past century, democracy in the West has moved past political equality to forced equality in economic, social and cultural matters. With this has emerged what history has recorded as the defects of democracy in its decline: (1) the poor being able to vote themselves the wealth of the rich, (2) the consolidation of power in the central government, (3) an increase in government bureaucracies devoted to enforcing equality, (4) an emphasis on diversity, rather than on merit and a common identity, and (5) an inability of government to unite the country behind foreign policies.
The social contract is an intermediate step in the building of common identity, shared civic virtue, a sense of nation, and patriotism. It is an essential step in the growing pains of embryonic states and in the restoration of failed states. Without a social contract chaos and factional violence become inevitable, while civil war or disintegration are likely. Nation-states are not directly composed of individuals but of smaller groups. Something must reinforce the social bonds of any nation-state. Patriotism and shared civic virtue (moral, ethical, and religious beliefs that control behavior from within individuals) provide that reinforcement. Patriotism’s strong feeling of loyalty to one’s nation leads to heroic action to protect and preserve it.
Today a social contract for Egypt must recognize the world in which we live. It cannot take only one form or become frozen in the 7th century ideology of the Third Jihad. Today it must include enough checks and balances to limit the harm elites might do so that they do not exploit their fellow citizens. It should be US policy to see that the Egyptians adopt any specific social contract, but rather to do nothing that would hinder the coalition led by the Egyptian military from establishing a social contract in keeping with their own customs and traditions.
The Third Jihad
Today the leaders of Islamic militants throughout the world, regardless of their organizational or sectarian affiliation, consider their violent efforts part of the Third Jihad. It is an aggressive revivalist movement that is accepted, respected and supported by peaceful and naïve Muslims. Of course, most of the terrorists that are the foot soldiers of this movement have no such historical perspective, although they share common beliefs. They are in numerous organizations of many sizes and with various tactical agenda. They are motivated by feelings of envy, frustration, greed, prejudice and hatred that are the result of manipulation by the leaders.
After Muhammad’s death in the seventh century, the First Jihad spread under the caliphs (vice regents) west from Medina across North Africa and then into Spain, France and Italy, and east across the Middle East deep into Southwest Asia. Then Islam consolidated its control of the lands conquered. The First Jihad ended in 1492 when Islam was driven out of Spain. The Second Jihad started with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Turks then implanted Islam in the Balkans and established hegemony over lands from North Africa to India. The Second Jihad was stopped in 1682 with the second unsuccessful attempt to capture Vienna; it was held in check during the Modern Era (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) by European power, and ended in 1924. In 1979 the Third Jihad started with the Shah of Iran being overthrown by Shiite followers of Ayatollah Khomeini. It was given focus in February 1998 with a Sunni fatwa, which declared war on America and its allies. For its leaders, the Third Jihad is just another effort to spread Islam until everyone is governed by “the ways of the Prophet”—and to take down the Great Satan. For the foot soldiers, it is a way to express their feelings. In all three Jihads violence has been an accepted way to eliminate, or convert, non-believers (infidels).
The goal of the Third Jihad is to weaken all of those who oppose the establishment of a single caliphate from Morocco to Indonesia, and to remove the influence of Western Civilization from the Islamic world. This goal of cultural takeover was al-Sharif’s original message. However, many Muslims oppose the Third Jihad and its goal; indeed Muslims are its most numerous victims. Yet they will condemn only “terrorism” but not the goal of a Great Caliphate.
Many Americans and Europeans either do not understand or deny the threat of the Third Jihad, claiming that Islamic terror is caused by our actions in Islamic countries. They stress the differences between Shiites and Sunnis. They often speak of Islamophobia – a term invented to shut down legitimate and vital debate about the threat of the Third Jihad – and narrow their focus to the personal, inner, nonviolent Jihad al Akbar. They are weary, and want to enjoy the good life without effort or worry.
It is clear why our enemies would call their movement a holy war—Jihad. But this puts a positive spin on something that under international law is considered aggression, and for the past 300 years has often been called imperialism.
Therefore, we need to distinguish those who advocate Islamic conquest through violence, i.e. the Third Jihad, from those who merely use Islam for spiritual guidance to improve their personal behavior. Some Islamic scholars consider it impossible to make such a distinction since both a “defensive” Jihad (to regain territory that was once part of a caliphate) and an “offensive” Jihad (to conquer new territory) sanction warfare without limits. They can cite Muhammad himself on this. They point to the refusal of “moderate” Muslims to condemn, and work against, the global Muslim revivalist movement. However, the words Hirabah (unholy warfare) and hirabahists (evildoers who use terror and will incur Allah’s condemnation on Judgment Day) allow this distinction to be made. They should be used more often.
It is necessary for most Muslims in Egypt to be convinced that a distinction between inner jihad and outer jihad can be made in accordance with authentic Qur’anic Islam. The struggle over whether such a distinction can be made illustrates why communication is so important. The current Muslim revivalist movement (the Third Jihad) has simply changed the battlefield. Formerly waged within the territory of a single state, we must now face worldwide warfare by the Third Jihad. This conflict will be won or lost in the battlefields of communication and will. Egypt is a good place to engage the hirabahists (evildoers), with the coalition formed by the Egyptian military presenting a social contract for Egypt, based on its own custom and traditions, which will create a climate of order and satisfaction in which economic development and positive political change can take place.
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