SO, the ‘Arab Spring’, a phrase as misleading as ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’, and just as uncritically adopted by Western policy-makers, is grinding to a grisly halt just about everywhere.
Libya is a mess. In Syria, those who fought against President Assad have just surrendered Aleppo to government forces. And, perhaps most disappointing of all to the fantasists in the Foreign Office, Egypt has come full circle: the Arab Spring there has turned out to be merely a political Groundhog Day, exchanging one brutal military dictatorship for another. Inelections to be held at the end of May, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will be elected president by those who can be bothered to vote.
A popular uprising in 2012 managed to unseat the air force general Hosni Mubarak and paved the way for a general election, won convincingly (as most people expected) by the Freedom and Justice Party allied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammed Morsi was duly elected president and then set about doing what the Muslim Brotherhood had promised and what people of his worldview tend to do everywhere – he embarked enthusiastically on a programme of Islamification.
These programmes tend to be similar whether applied to schools in Birmingham or to an entire country like Egypt. Sharia law becomes supreme and anyone who stands in the way is removed – allegedly through clever and persistent micro-intimidation in Birmingham’s schools, or more energetically in Egypt under Morsi’s rule. But Morsi had a clear mandate for his actions, winning a two-horse run-off by a bigger margin (51.7 per cent) than President Obama did in 2012 (51.06 per cent).
In Egypt it would seem that there are large numbers of people who vote happily for the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s the way they are. They want to live in a traditional Islamic society. Yet to the horror and distaste of the liberal Western elite they fail the burka versus bikini test. As a result the United States and its poodle the UK acquiesced in a military coup against Morsi.
Heavy-duty Islamists may be an unsavoury crew but Egypt’s current military regime is hardly any better. Thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested and are no doubt being treated roughly – we got a glimpse of how the Egyptian Secret Police went about its business during the demonstrations against Mubarak in 2012.
In March an Egyptian judge sentenced 529 men to death for the murder of a police officer. On 28 April the same judge condemned another 683 men in a separate case to be hanged. This exceeds the number of death sentences imposed by Hitler’s favourite judge, Roland Friesler, after the 20th July Plot.
Morsi is currently on trial for a range of offences, including espionage – extraordinary given that the coup against him was probably coordinated between the USA and the Saudis. Like Charles I’s opening words at his trial in 1649 – “I would know by what power I am called hither” – Morsi has refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court. When asked his occupation he stated simply: “President of Egypt”. Quite.
Thankfully, non-intervention in the affairs of other countries is a newly invented and already firmly entrenched tradition in British politics. The vote in the House of Commons on Syria in October 2013 established a new constitutional etiquette – even a small-scale military intervention requires the assent of the House of Commons. People are happy enough for liaison officers from the SAS to assist the efforts to rescue Christian schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria – but that’s about it.
Yet, oddly, our political elite takes an almost imperial attitude in assessing the Egyptian people as incapable of making the right choice in a free and fair election. Perhaps too many of them have stayed at taxpayers’ expense in the British ambassador’s residence in Cairo, where the entrance hall is dominated by vast, moustachioed, Technicolor portraits of those arch-imperialists Lord Kitchener and General Gordon of Khartoum.
That the people are incapable of choosing wisely is also an idea close to the hearts of a number of villains in the contemporary political pantomime such as Eurocrats and the BBC to name but two.
You would have thought that, even as our influence abroad wanes, we would still be prepared to stick up for democracy. As Winston Churchill said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” ·