Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman . . . Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder
High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . Reagan’s Vision Lives!
E-Mail Message 130823
On El Sisi’s Democracy . . .
Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
August 23, 2013
General Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s 2006 Army War College Thesis on Democracy in the Middle East is worth a read to help understand how events in Egypt may unfold. While the military’s support for the moderate faction of the Egyptian body politic that protested against Mohammed Morsi’s rule is a welcome sign, his thesis includes some troublesome statements that raise questions about the future.
In last Tuesday’s email message, I emphasized several points, including:
- Our Founders’ gift of a republic that pitted our three distinct branches against each other to protect our liberty from a federal government they did not trust;
- The historical failures of democracy;
- Our failed attempts to capture the benefits of an alleged “Arab Spring” in which we supported rebels who sought to throw out Middle Eastern despots, only to empower the Muslim Brotherhood and/or the tenets of sharia law, which seeks a theocracy—not a democracy—on the way to establishing a global Caliphate;
- Egypt’s unfolding story, with U.S. inconsistent and self-defeating, companion policies illustrating yet again our growing limited influence in the Middle East, as well as the failure of democracy in serving the interests of Egypt under Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and their sharia-based constitution; and
- The consequent weakened foreign policy/defense leg of Ronald Reagan’s three legged stool (the other two dealt with economic and social issues) that he advocated as the basis of his conservative approach to governing.
Now, executive branch spokesmen and the congressional representatives of both parties (during the current congressional recess until after Labor Day) are debating about what we should do next—including whether to support restoration of Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood (against which there was a mass uprising seeking the return to a democratic process) or General El Sisi, who aided that uprising by seizing power and reportedly seeking to form a new “democratic” government. We are also debating whether to continue funding Egypt—but that has become a bit of a moot point since Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are providing an order-of-magnitude more aid to El Sisi’s efforts against the Muslim Brotherhood than what we had previously committed.
It is difficult for the layman to unscramble the issues involved in Middle Eastern conflicts that have raged for over a millennium. Without getting into the reasons for the strains of Islam that lead Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, it may be worth exploring the views of General El Sisi, who after all is currently calling the shots in Egypt—with little apparent influence from the U.S. leaders. For example, will he be for “democracy?”
El Sisi’s Views on Democracy, Vintage 2006.
Check here to read El Sisi’s thesis, Democracy in the Middle East, (thanks to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information request) that should be pertinent to this question, even though it was written under the tutelage of the Army War College, dated 15 March 2006, when he was a Brigadier General. I suggest that you read all 12 pages, including references. Consider the following abbreviated introductory excerpts with minor edits:
- One must take into account the religious nature of the [Middle Eastern] people when conducting diplomatic negotiations and establishing policy.
- The strategic nature of the region [including oil and strategic maritime pathways] coupled with the religious nature of the culture that . . . challenges establishment of a democracy throughout the region in the near term.
- The Arab-Israeli conflict . . . is not strictly a Palestine and Israeli conflict but a conflict that affects all Arabs . . . will slow the emergence of democracy . . . and may justify a brand of democracy that truly reflects Middle Eastern interests and may bear little resemblance to a Western democracy.
- [T]he remains of dictatorial and autocratic regimes . . . and tension . . . from the conflicts in Iran, Afghanistan and the conflict surrounding Israel . . . need to be resolved before democracy can be more fully accepted . . .
- [Many] autocratic leaders claim they are in favor of democratic ideas and forms of government, but are leery of relinquishing control to the voting public . . . for some valid reasons: 1) [C]ountries not organized to support a democratic form of government; 2) [S]ecurity concerns both internal and external . . . [e.g.,] different constituencies don’t guarantee that police and military will align with the ruling parties . . . [and] security forces need to develop a culture that demonstrates commitment to a nation rather than the ruling party; 3) [R]egime populations must be prepared to assume a participatory role . . . [which] will require time to educate the population . . . [and] develop the democratic processes that will enable democracy to gain traction.
- Many question the motives of the U.S. and her desire to establish democracy in the Middle East . . . [D]emocracy development will not emerge in the Middle East if it is perceived as a move to further U.S. self-interest. . . . [I]t must reflect Middle Eastern interests . . . and be beneficial to the people of the Middle East—showing respect to the religious culture as well as improving conditions of the common man.
- A key benchmark for testing democracy . . . is how democracy emerges in Iraq. Will America allow Iraq to develop in its own way . . . or will it try to shape democracy into a pro-Western form or regime?
- Simply changing the political systems from autocratic rule to democratic rule will not be enough to build a new democracy . . . It will take time for people and the nation’s systems to adjust . . . existing countries need be supportive and patient . . . democracy need a good environment, reasonable economic situation, educated people, and . . . [public support from religious leaders].
- Due to the change that will be required and the accompanying time requirements, one cannot expect Middle Eastern countries to convert quickly to [democracy] . . . Middle Eastern countries [must] move towards democracy in a logical, steady and controlled manner on the terms of Middle Eastern countries . . . [while] Western democracies provide economic education and technological support . . .
Perhaps most notably, El Sisi dwells on an Islamic perspective of democracy, including the following points:
- Democracy, as a secular entity, is unlikely to be favorably received by the vast majority of Middle Easterners . . . [Some] believe democracy can coexist with the religious nature of Middle Eastern society; [others] believe the tribal culture of the Middle Eastern countries may not be suitable for democratic rule as too many factions will emerge . . . [leading] to a fractured society that cannot effectively unite . . . [perhaps impacting] the cohesion produced by the Muslim faith. . . . [Balancing these concerns will challenge Western democracies which] maintain a separation of church and state . . . [If] democracy grows in the Middle East, it is not necessarily going to evolve on a Western template—it will have its own shape or form coupled with stronger religious ties.
- [Considering fundamental Islamic concepts that date to the time of the prophet Mohammed, the fundamental words governing the Middle Eastern form of democracy likely will reflect] fairness, justice, equality, unity and charity . . . [whereas U.S. democracy is traced to] ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [Rather than the three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—in Western democracies, Middle Eastern democracy may add a religious branch. But if the executive, legislative and judicial branches take Islamic beliefs into account], there should be no need for separate religious branch. However, to codify the major tenets of the Islamic faith, they should be represented in the constitution or similar document. This does not mean a theocracy will be established, rather it means that a democracy will be established built on Islamic beliefs.
- [T]he most important action is [to let democracy] emerge . . . allowing some factions that may be considered radical, especially if they are supported by a majority through a legitimate vote.
- [The Middle East is ripe to consider democracy. Many] feel that the autocratic forms of government that currently and previously have existed have not produced the progress that people expected, especially when compared to some other parts of the Muslim world . . . let alone some of the Western countries.
- [El Sisi then misrepresented that the U.S.] Constitution provided some separation of church and state, but religion was not eliminated from government, despite what some believe. [The Constitution contains no such provision, of course.] Clearly, in the early days, religion was important and shaped the American nation. In the Middle East, the approach is really no different with the exception that the Muslim faith is the basis upon which the Middle Eastern form of democracy will be built . . . The challenge is whether the rest of the world will be able to accept a democracy in the Middle East founded on Islamic beliefs. Practically speaking, this should not be an issue because Islamic beliefs produce behavior that is more than comparable to other religious behavior.
El Sisi then discussed the challenges to forming Middle Eastern democracies, including wide spread poverty, lack of education, little economic incentive and/or free market systems, widespread unemployment, and centralized government controls—including over the media—upon which the population tends to depend. He notes that extremists see a Caliphate as an ultimate goal whereas moderates prefer emerging democracies. El Sisi posits three possibilities by which democracies might emerge:
- Democracies with an extremist bent, like Hamas . . . effectively organize and meet the needs of the population they represent. The challenge is whether they can effectively compete on the world stage without cutting themselves off from the international environment, ultimately disenfranchising their constituents.
- The tradition of the moderates like Egypt or Lebanon where extremist theologies are not readily accepted, yet problems with corruption within government are underrepresented and are not well understood by the masses.
- The [unlikely] Western form of democracy . . . which will serve as a model of democracy in the Middle East, but the complexities of the Middle East are unlikely to mirror a Western image . . . democracy in Iraq will be a benchmark for Gulf countries in the future . . . [particularly if it deals with multiethnic Sunni, Shia conflicts in a peaceful manner and resolve problems of widespread poverty.]
El Sisi’s conclusions and recommendations were:
- Education and media are key enablers . . . there must be a shift from state controlled media to population controlled means . . . [As] the internet and television become more prominent, their ability to influence education from the bottom up will tend to energize the masses. [Extremists also understand and are exploiting modern media.]
- The role of religion in government will be a key issue among many. The moderate view is that there is a place for Islamic beliefs. Historically, for democracies, including religion has been a problem; yet this does not mean the Middle East will not succeed. A common religious understanding among all ethnicities and cultures must exist and there must be consideration given to non-Islamic beliefs.
- The Middle East must view itself in the same manner as the European Union [and organize as a region, galvanizing the Middle East to] foster free market interaction which is conducive to democratic development.
- As the Middle East develops, the rest of the world should seek ways to assist in promoting democratic values and means. Investing in educational means would be a good starting point.
My Summary Reflections.
I urge all to consider the above commentary, with the understanding that El Sisi was writing for an American audience in an academic setting, and his views may have changed in six years as he advanced in rank and political importance. In my opinion, there are several pertinent observations still applicable today:
- I, like our Israeli friends, favor the Egyptian military being in charge rather than the Muslim Brotherhood—at least as long as the “moderate” elements in Egypt offer a viable alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is not clear that Brigadier General El Sisi’s views were really all that different from Mohammed Morsi’s before he was elected. El Sisi’s thesis and actions so far suggest that at least for the moment he will pursue that course. Note, he survived Morsi’s purge of the military and was selected as Morsi’s Army chief of staff—see the picture below.
- It is troubling that, in his thesis, El Sisi rejected the idea of a secular state, contrary to the hopes of those seeking positive outcomes from the current situation in Egypt. Indeed, he observed that “democracy, as a secular entity, is unlikely to be favorably received by the vast majority of Middle Easterners, who are devout followers of the Islamic faith . . . Although concerns exist, for the most part, the spirit of democracy, or self-rule, is viewed as a positive endeavor so long as it builds up the country and sustains the religious base,” by which he means the Islamic faith—read sharia.
- It is unclear whether El Sisi favors a new constitution with any less linkage than the present constitution to Sharia law, which is the heart of the Islamic faith; how that linkage evolves will test whether an administration of his choice will pursue a distinction without a difference from Morsi’s. There is little comfort to be found in his statement: “[T]o codify the major themes of the Islamic faith, they should be represented in the constitution or similar document. This does not mean a theocracy will be established, rather it means a democracy will be established built upon Islamic beliefs.”
- Then, as we noted in Tuesday’s email, democracy is not an end in itself—in fact democracies have usually eventually failed to protect the citizens ostensibly under their protection.
- The U.S. has little influence to deal with important issues in the Middle East, not only in dealing with Egypt—for example, President Obama over a year ago threatened “enormous consequences” if Syria crossed a “red line” and used chemical weapons. They apparently have, twice including a few days ago and over a thousand have died—and we have done nothing. And things are not looking good for Iraq as we depart the scene—which, according to El Sisi’s 2006 view that the outcome in Iraq would be a “benchmark” for democracy in the Middle East, bodes ill for democracy in the entire Middle East.
- If President Obama wishes to regain some standing, he should urge El Sisi to protect the Christians in Egypt, while supporting the new Egyptian government’s effort to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood.
Stay tuned . . . and don’t let these troublesome events distract you from the concerns about the existential threats to the United States posed by Iran—and our needed defensive countermeasures.
High Frontier Plans.
We at High Frontier will continue to inform the powers that be of existential threats to the American people—as we have discussed in our emails for many months—and to urge them to “provide for the common defense” as charged by the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Hopefully, key federal authorities and members of congress will soon begin to deal more effectively with this existential threat. Key initiatives are to undertake both the Shield Act and efforts to enhance our ballistic missile defenses, especially for our citizens on the East Coast and around the Gulf of Mexico, where they are completely vulnerable to ballistic missiles launched from vessels in the Gulf—or from Latin America, e.g., Venezuela.
But frankly, we have come to doubt that Washington will act in an expeditious way. Thus, we are also taking the message to grass roots America. Our local and state authorities need to understand these issues and what they might do if their federal representatives continue to fail “to provide for the common defense.” It would be wise for them to follow Maine’s initiative and harden the electric power grid in their states, while holding the Washington authorities accountable for their oath to provide for the common defense.
And what can you do?
Join us at High Frontier in seeking to alert the public and your local and state authorities to the existential threats posed by both man-made and natural EMP events—and what can be done about these threats.
We can use your help in spreading this information to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do. Will you do your part?
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter!