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Contentions

The Lesser Evil

I would like to “extend and clarify” my remarks on Egypt earlier today—a privilege customarily accorded to congressmen and, in this case, to bloggers. I wrote about the troubling situation in Egypt where Islamists are poised to take power. I am concerned about this because of reports, such as this one in Tablet  (which I cited earlier), and in the New Republic, about the illiberal intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood—and of course of the Salafists who have emerged as major players in Egyptian politics as well. My primary argument in the article was that this development, troubling as it is, should not cause us to give up on democratization in the Middle East; in my view, there is no real alternative because unpopular autocracies cannot last forever.

Some readers appear confused, however, by this paragraph:

There is no good alternative left in Egypt: Either continue with some degree of rule by the military or cede complete power to potentially radical Islamists. In those circumstances, the least-bad option is for Washington to support the army in continuing to provide a check on unfettered majoritarian rule.

To clarify: I am not suggesting the Egyptian military nullify the results of the vote as the Algerian military did two decades ago—a decision which set off a ruinous civil war in Algeria. That would be a disaster. What I am suggesting is more of the Turkish model, with the army helping to craft a constitution that protects minority rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, and then helping to enforce it, in order to prevent an elected government from trampling on basic liberties. Otherwise, I fear, the result could be “one man, one vote, one time.” I am fully aware, I might add, of the downside of military involvement
in politics. But in the present instance I fear, as I suggested earlier, it might be the lesser evil.

 


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