Egypt, Islamism, and a Grim Future

What are we to make of the uprising in Egypt? I am not an expert in Egyptian affairs, but a little history lesson might help here as we ponder what might happen next.

Egypt was one of the earliest enemies of the state of Israel. The wars in 1967 and 1973, in particular, were primarily between Egypt and Israel, although other Arab countries joined in. In both cases, Israel came out on top, especially in 1967 when it gained a lot more territory once the war ceased.

Anwar Sadat, who took over for the deceased Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970, made a historic decision after the 1973 war to make peace with the idea of the existence of Israel in the Middle East. This culminated in the famous Camp David Accords in 1978, where the two countries officially established diplomatic ties. That made Egypt the only Arab country to acknowledge the right of the Jews to have their own nation. This well-known photo marked a new path for Arab-Israeli relations:

Sadat’s actions made him a pariah in the Arab world. Three years later, while reviewing the military, he was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist transnational movement and the largest political opposition party in Egypt:

Sadat’s assassination was a major blow to the Israelis and to the United States, Israel’s strongest ally.

His successor, Hosni Mubarak, has now been in power for 30 years. He rules as a strongman with a military that has been loyal to him throughout his tenure. He continued Sadat’s relationship with Israel [strained at times] and has been an ally [of sorts] of the United States, working for a peace settlement in the region. But life in Egypt is pretty bad for most of its citizens; poverty is the rule, prosperity the exception. That certainly has fueled much of the current protest.

The key to a proper analysis of the situation is knowing how much to attribute to a general outcry against Mubarak’s heavy-handed rule and how much might be the result of agitation by the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to impose Sharia law on the nation and lead Egypt into full participation in the worldwide Islamist jihad against the West.

Mubarak, without doubt, is no great leader. His goal is staying in power and enriching himself. On that basis, I find it difficult to support him. However, if he should fall, what will emerge? Will it be the Muslim Brotherhood as the ascendant power in the state? If so, that will be a disaster not only for Egypt, but for the Middle East and success in the war on terror.

Change is not always beneficial.

If Mubarak is unable to maintain his position, we have to hope that others not associated with the radicals rise to power. If the military resists radicalism, that is possible, but the trend toward the jihadists may be difficult to stop.

Even if the radicals don’t take over, any new government will probably be more antagonistic toward Israel and America. The portent for the future is grim.