The Islamic Vortex (Part 3)
The cartoon would look something like this:
An Egyptian (or it could be a Pakistani) walks into the Bank of America, with a hand-grenade daubed ‘Radical Islam’ taped to his ear, and shouts out: “Hand over the money or my head gets it!”
The teller looks up and says: “You don’t have to keep doing this. There’s a standing order to pay you $1,500,000,000 a year.”
Offended, the Egyptian replies: “But the grenade is the only reason you respect me!”
We could try to update the joke (… “then the black lesbian bank teller says: ‘Why are you repressing that grenade?’”) but there’s going to be more than enough torture in this story already. It suffices to note that in the Egyptian version of the cartoon, the grenade was provided by the bank, and its inscription read: ‘Democracy’. We can fast-forward straight through the explosion stage, and begin on the far side of the ‘Arab Spring’.
So to start over, with a serious question (even if it doesn’t sound like one): How did the first comprehensively Cathedralist administration in American history get to implement a ruthlessly cunning neoreactionary Middle East strategy? In the Crescent, it sleazed a situation in which Hizbollah and Al Qaeda are engaging in reciprocal suicide attacks – even a hyper-hawk with liquid nitrogen blood would have been hard-pressed to envisage such a scenario. And in Egypt? There the dysfunctional ‘realist’ status quo – America’s multi-decade hand-grenade cartoon of a foreign policy – has given way to something quite different.
Assume, hypothetically, that in Middle Eastern affairs the Obama Administration is by far the most mind-melting example of transcendental strategic genius the Anglophone world has ever known. (Are you with me so far?) Now add one straightforward corollary: In respect to Egypt, the goal was to replace a parasitic, dysfunctional, passive-aggressive PITA state, breeding Mohammed Attas like hogs in a factory farm, with a hard, Islamophobic, neoreactionary security state, fundamentally immunized against all democratic temptation, serving as a pole of attraction for counter-Jihad tendencies throughout the region, and machine-gunning even more Muslim Brothers in the streets than you really feel it needs to. Then, if it all works out, as a bonus you even get to threaten the $1.5 billion standing order, whilst tut-tutting disapprovingly about the naughty coup business.
To pull off this kind of unbelievable ju-jitsu requires a very special skill set, starting with a mastery of deception. A Sahara-dry, perfectly dead-pan sense of humor is not strictly necessary, but it adds to the sense of panache.
You probably remember Dark-Lord Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech, in very approximate outline, but do you recall the title? Here it is (seriously): A New Beginning. You’re forgiven a tingly ‘this is beyond awesome’ moment. (Probably Now for Neoreaction, or Hard Reboot to the Future were considered too blunt even for this Grand Imperial Wizard.) In an interview with Al Arabiya, Obama explained with his signature stylistic felicity: “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.” From now on you’ll be killing your own damn people.
The bottom-line problem isn’t difficult to see: the passably civilized fraction of the Egyptian population is far too small to dominate their society, unless tightly compressed by bonds of fear, thoroughly disillusioned about the degraded state of their culture, invigorated by an urgent sense of responsibility to secure their own existence, and terminally freed of all democratic sentiment. Similarly, the regime itself needed to be quickened by existential terror, and driven into nakedly elitist alignment with a newly integrated, overtly anti-populist constituency. For all this to happen, Egypt had to be locked in a cage with itself, hardened by what it found there, until it had learned a lesson as old as the pharoahs. The state had to cease being a pandering platform and pan-handling operation, tailored to domestic populism and correct international opinion, and begin ensuring security, unapologetically, for the residue of civilization that still remained. But we already know what was required: A New Beginning.
Mubarak was grenade-guy. He had to go. The fact that he was using the Muslim Brotherhood in a groove-locked game of chicken with America was far from the most serious problem. He was also playing grenade-guy chicken with the local — uncondensed — non-Islamist demographic. By sheltering Egypt’s educated elite from their own bearded brethren, he was sustaining its most hopelessly sentimental illusions about the nature of the national demos, perpetuating democratic teleology, giving credence to the ‘international’ reform agenda, and deferring to the country’s radically corrupted (Islamo-populist) cultural template. Breaking with all this was something far beyond the Mubarak-circle’s political imagination. The country had to be sprung.
Of course, the Obama master-plan remains far from complete (even without consideration of its application to Pakistan). The Egyptian economy is still skewed towards ruin by a deep structure of populist subsidies, and the recently installed order of neoreactionary legitimation has yet to be overtly proclaimed, or constitutionally formalized.
It is nevertheless important to recognize how far things have come. The Obamazing feint-revolutionary double-flip-back maneuver has, in rapid succession, obliterated the accumulated credibility of the old (‘grenade-guy’) regime, ‘moderate’ Islamist governance, and democratic inclusion. A New Beginning already has the educated middle classes clamoring for a harsher clampdown on the bearded mob, and the security apparatus reaching out for robust political integration with the country’s civilized minority (the ‘Tamarrod’).
In The Weekly Standard, surreptitious Obamanist Reuel Marc Gerecht captures the situation adeptly:
The driving force behind the Tamarrod may be just too far removed culturally from the Egyptian faithful. One thing is certain after the coup: Secular liberals will want to be protected from vengeful Islamists. And for that they will need the army. The ballot box will not do.