Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Why Egypt 2011
Is Not Iran 1979

by Professor Juan Cole - February 2nd, 2011 - Informed Comment

Alarms have been raised by those observing the popular uprising in Egypt that, while it is not itself a Muslim fundamentalist movement, the Muslim fundamentalists could take it over as it unfolds. The best-positioned group to do so is the Muslim Brotherhood. Some are even conflating the peaceful Brotherhood with radical groups such as al-Qaeda.

Suggested as a counter to my posting below, this opinion article by a left wing professor from the hotbed of Islamist thought in America, takes me and others to task for believing that the Egyptian insurrection now happening could possibly go the same way as the Iranian revolution. It is curious because the progressives in the 70s were just as adamantly sure that the Islamist jihadists like Khomeini could not take over the Iranian revolution. My prediction is not that it is the same as Iran, but that violent Islamist thought has become far more pronounced. Trying to pick apart superficial differences between the circumstances as if it has relevance are not persuasive when you look at the overall posture of the various groups. Islamist terrorists are a threat to fill any power vacuum in the Middle East.

The progressives also ridiculed the Bush administration for its concerns that the Taliban could rise from its ashes in Afghanistan and become a threat to the future stability of that country as well. Though I broke with Bush and the neo-conservatives over his attempts to impose Democracy by nation building in Afghanistan, I have never doubted that the Taliban was a cultural force that would recover from its first defeat, no matter how ignominous. I am pre-disposed to dismiss the arguments of those whose track record on predicting the future success of extremists in the Middle East is so abysmal. Certainly progressives were wrong in Iran, are wrong in Afghanistan, and are probably wrong about Egypt - in the long run if not now.

It is only possible to dismiss the propensity of the Muslim Brotherhood towards takeover by violence if you ignore the results in Gaza achieved by the wing of the MB organization known as Hamas. The ties between these two groups are well established and for those who accept their alignment, the arguments of those who dismiss the links ring hollow. The bias of Professor Cole is obvious if you simply note his calling the radical Muslim Brotherhood "peaceful" in his first paragraph. Such a characterization is simply bizarre.

As for more recent predictions, at least one of the commentors notes that predictions that Egypt was not like Tunisia have already been proven ill founded. No matter the outcome of the current discord, the Middle East (including Egypt) is going Islamist unless we start taking the consequences of nuclear Armageddon more serious.


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