The truth is that President Al-Sisi of Egypt can move his nation forward both as a strongman and as a hero of the Arab Spring by learning the lessons of past failures of Democracy in the Middle East and understanding that George Orwell’s book 1984 cast tyranny in the wrong way.
By Ray Hanania
In the public war of words over the Democracy goals of the Arab Spring and the real needs of the Arab Street, Egypt have proven that the Arab World needs iron fisted rulers to suppress the rising threat of Islamic extremism.
Radical Islam takes no prisoners and it doesn’t compromise. It’s all or nothing in its war to change not only the Arab World, the Middle East and the Islamic World, but the Western World, too.
As much as I want to see the Arab World embrace true Democracy, and how much I hated to see Democracy stumble in the now dead “Arab Spring,” the truth is that human and civil rights in the Arab World can only survive under government practices that balance tyranny against Westernization.
Mohammed Morsi may have been elected to lead Egypt in the first truly Democratic elections in its 6,000 year history, but Morsi quickly moved to impose his religious fanaticism on the people and began a process that would have cemented both his leadership and his extremist religious agenda into Egypt’s society.
Morsi’s Islamicization of Egypt, which has remained independent and secularized for centuries because of its ability to keep the religious fanatics in check, was almost tot he point of destroying the nation when the Egyptian military stepped in and arrested him. General Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi launched the coup that toppled Morsi and put the Islamic revolution on hold there.Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi is the sixth and current President of Egypt
He then stepped down and ran in a “Democratic” election where the religious extremists were banned from participating. Born in Gamaleya, Old Cairo, Sisi graduated from Egyptian Military Academy and U.S. Army War College, Al-Sisi became Egypt’s sixth and current President, elected in 2014.
The truth is the Arab World isn’t ready for reform. Democracy can’t work in a region when religious fanaticism threatens it destroy it at every turn. The same thing happened in Palestine, which is occupied by Israel, a quasi Democracy that is in a separate category driven by it’s Apartheid embrace of one religion, Judaism, at the expense of Christians and Muslims.
While Israel has gone in the direction of military brutality, occupation and oppression, implementing the most effective strategies of Apartheid to contain its non-Jewish populations inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories, Egypt has gone the other way. It’s oppression is not driven by an Apartheid hatred of other religions, as is Israel’s. Egypt’s efforts are focused on containing extremism regardless of religion, although the only real extremist element in the Middle East neighborhood besides Zionism is the growing radicalization of of the Islamic populace.
Once again, Egypt proves that the Arab World needs a strongman.
Syria has had a strongman, too, and so has Iraq. In both Syria and Iraq, the countries were run by Mafia-like families distinguished by their religions. In fact, the government of the tyrant Saddam Hussein, who played so easily into the growing militarism of the United States after Sept. 11, 2001, was driven by a religious sect that stood behind him from his village of Tikrit. He built his power by combing tyranny and socialism in the Ba’ath Party and by oppressing Shia and Kurds, and by bullying Chaldeans and his own people.
The Assad family represents the Islamic minority sect of Alawites, which are a spin-off of the Shia religion and have oppressed anyone who dared to challenge their power, massacring hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians over their family’s five decades of rule.
But Al-Sisi represents a new experiment by the West, which created this whole mess immediately after World War I. The US invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, a former client who became America’s poster child of Arab World extremism, has installed a strong arm government that uses a balance of Democracy and oppression to keep the country stable. Jordan is the first Arab country to apply this “balance between Democracy and Tyranny.” The Jordanians have long mixed both oppression and Democracy under the veil of a claimed lineage to the Prophet Mohammed and British-like monarchy that was in fact set up by the British.
Jordan has the most brutal Secret Police and was actively engaged in torturing Muslim Arabs illegally arrested by the United States during the War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jordan was considered the most brutal sub-contractor for the American torture machine.
For President al-Sisi, though, Jordan is the starting point of what he needs to do, but he can improve it quite a lot.
President al-Sisi can model his new nation after Jordan without the pretense of a monarchy. He can also eliminate the oppressive secret police, the Mukhabarat. There’s no need to murder civilians.Jordan’s modern Queen Rania, the wife of King Abdullah II
Jordan is almost the perfect model for how a secular Arab government can survive in a radicalized religious Islamic neighborhood like the Middle East. But Jordan isn’t there, yet. Syria and its tyrant Bashar al-Assad is at the opposite end.
The key to succeeding in the Arab World is through communications and public relations.
Let’s face it. George Orwell painted a picture of what Tyranny might look like in his 1949 novel of government oppression called “1984.” What Orwell got wrong was the idea that “Big Brother” would be a Hitler-like image of cruelty and that the oppressed state would be dark, drabbed and absent of worldly pleasures. (Has anyone even bothered to notice that George Orwell looks like Bashar al-Assad? Could be his brother.)
In fact, Jordan is a kind of modernized 1984. But instead of having the symbol of a stern bullying face of a dictator, Jordan has the very appealing face of a Westernized King, now King Abdullah II. His wife is careful to dress in Western clothes as does the King, who also balances his bedouin culture in his public image, too. Rather than putting the face of the mukhabarat out front and on posters to frighten the people, as Orwell envisioned owuld be done in a future tyranny in his book, Jordan has hidden the Mukhabarat. The secret police are not out front. They are not the face of the government as they were in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and are in Bashar al-Asad’s Syria. They hidden behind the Wizard of Oz curtain as the King’s muscle.
President al-Sisi doesn’t need to declare himself a King or claim to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed to claim leadership. What he needs to do is impose some aspects of Democracy, using the true American model that King Abdullah II of Jordan uses.
America is a Democracy, but it is also an oppression tyranny. The difference is that in America, critics are not immediately placed in a Gulag prison system as they are in Israel, for example, or even in Jordan. Critics are marginalized. American tyranny has developed a thick skin of tolerance, but also a memory for their enemies. They don’t arrest you, torture you and then kill you as they do in Arab countries financed by the United States. Instead, they marginalize the critics and the exclude them not just from the political system, but also from the unique system of manipulated communications called the American News Media.
The news media bullies and vilifies those in that narrow circle of oppression for the US Government. The American news media helps decide what is right and what is wrong, stepping in to succeed where George Orwell’s vision of future tyranny and repression went wrong.
President al-Sisi needs to built a “free” news media of his supporters and to embrace the practices of public relations and communications. That’s how Israel is able to present itself as a “Democracy” and to curry the favor and the involuntary generosity of American taxpayers int he form of billions of dollars of foreign aid every year. Israel, like Jordan, tries to put on the face of happiness, although the occupation exposes Israel’s efforts at every turn. Israel can’t seem to stop itself from excessive cruelty and brutality against the non-Jewish population or the non-Jews under its brutal miliatary occupation.
But unlike brutal Israel, Egypt doesn’t seek to elevate one religion in an Aryan race-like system where one people is better than all others. In Egypt, your race and your religion doesn’t matter as much as does your politics. If you are an extremist, you are jailed. If you are a moderate embracing Westernization and oppose the tyranny of Radical Islam, you have a future.
Egypt has put forward the happy face of a modernized strongman who is constantly smiling. Egypt doesn’t discriminate against its citizens because of race or religion, as Israel does.
But in order to succeed. It can’t just be the Egyptian military imposing order. Egypt needs to strengthen its news media and allow them to cover almost anything freely, with only certain restrictions, as Israel, Jordan and the United States do with their news media. Egypt needs to bolster that improved system by also launching a massive PR campaign to “spin” its Smiley Strong Arm Face. You can’t succeed without brightening up Big Brother. You have to replace the colorless world of 1984 with a colorful world of hope and belief for the majority.
Sure, a few will suffer.
But in the long run, if the Islamicists take control, far more will suffer. Iran under both the Ayatollahs and the Shah, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, and Israel are all examples of where far too many people were oppressed at the expense of preserving the small minority of privilege.
In today’s 1984, you don’t need to oppress all of the people to keep Radical Islam or any extremist movement from destroying your Wizard of Oz poppie field.
In Egypt today, the majority of Muslims are free. It’s just the Muslim Brotherhood that is targeted, a religious political movement.
Maybe Gen. al-Sisi’s first step should be to bring back Zahi Hawass, the arrogant and oppressive former face of his strongman predecessor Husni Mubarak, to become the face of Egyptian happiness. Hawass, who was ousted with Mubarak, understands public relations better than anyone. But while Hawass may be able to tidy up the afce of Egyptian antiquity, which is an important asset to use to cut through the negative stereotypes of having undermined Morsi, President al-Sisi needs to launch a massive PR Campaign to recast Egypt.
Some possible slogans for President al-Sisi’s PR Campaign might be:
Maybe the slogan might be:
“Egypt — We can be a better than Jordan.”
“Egypt — We’re not Israel!”