Democracy has not worked in the Middle East or in North Africa. It has just led to the installation of Islamist regimes who use the power they acquired in free elections to abolish civil and human rights, enslave women, kill Christians and Jews, end democracy and make war on Israel.
President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice were wrong. Democracy would be the answer, but free elections without guarantees of liberty won’t work.
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey said it best: “Democracy is a street car. When it gets to my stop, I get off.” He is using the power he got by democracy to end it and impose Islamist rule in his country, a nation that used to be the template for secular Muslim rule.
Saudi Arabia, which has neither the inclination nor the security to indulge idealism, was never deceived by Bush’s vision and is now overcoming its opportunistic love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood to embrace the Egyptian military and to send it $12 billion of aid. Its generosity effectively replaces the $1.7 billion the United States — whose president supports the Brotherhood — is suspending.
Is the Saudi vision a combination of Egypt’s army and its money? Will this combination commit itself to intervening anywhere in the Middle East where free elections are likely to topple kings or dictators or to bring Islamists into power?
Egypt has a great army, having been built with American financing, but has no economy or money. Saudi Arabia has plenty of money but not a sufficient or sufficiently loyal population to develop significant ground military force. But together, they can rule the region.
The connection between the two reminds me of the Quadruple Alliance formed in the aftermath of the Congress of Vienna by the Czar of Russia, the Kaiser of Prussia, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and the King of France to intervene anywhere democracy was in danger of breaking out.
The Quadruple Alliance brought monarchy back to style after the French Revolution and Napoleon’s excesses gave democracy a bad name. In 1830 and 1848 it was decisive in killing off revolutions in Greece, Hungary, France and Germany.
The Saudi-Egyptian alliance has the capacity to do just that.
Don’t think the military in Egypt lacks popular support. It may not have the majority needed to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood in a free election, but it draws strong support from the Egyptian middle class, intellectuals, merchants and from the 10 to 20 percent of the nation that is Coptic Christian.
It need not be a military dictatorship, as in Iran, with the vast majority of the population in opposition. Rather the military can act as a sort of regent for the enlightened elements in the population and as a mercenary arm of a Saudi-Egyptian coalition.