In 1933, a neo-fascist "Young Egypt" movement,
modeled on the Nazi Party, was founded. Among its supporters were two young
nationalist officers, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat.
When, in 1942, Rommel's Afrika Corps smashed into Egypt and was 100 miles
from Alexandria, Sadat, colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood, planned an anti-British
uprising. In a proposed treaty with Nazi Germany, Berlin was to recognize an
independent Egypt, which was to be pro-Axis. In return, Sadat wrote, "No British
soldier would leave Cairo alive."
In 1970, when the dictator Nasser died, he was replaced by his vice president,
Sadat, who demanded return of the Sinai, lost in the Six-Day War. Ignored, Sadat
launched the Yom Kippur War, crossed the Suez Canal in force, and, with his
Syrian allies, threatened Israel itself.
President Nixon reacted immediately, sending massive aid to Israel and
warning Moscow not to intervene, as Ariel Sharon led his brigade across the
canal to cut off food and water to Egypt's Third Army on the east bank. Nixon
and Kissinger intervened with Israel to prevent the annihilation of the Third
In 1974, Nixon made a triumphal visit to Egypt. Four years later, Jimmy
Carter brokered the Camp David accord between Menachem Begin, who had blown
up the King David Hotel in 1946, and Sadat, the Nazi collaborator. Begin, Sadat,
and Carter would all win the Nobel Prize for Peace for Camp David.
Nixon's Middle East policy was designed to secure U.S. vital interests
in the region, which required restoration of ties to an Egypt led by a military
dictator and ex-Nazi sympathizer. Neither Nixon nor Carter insisted that Sadat
hold elections before brokering the truce with Israel or the permanent peace.
They did not let the best become the enemy of the good.
Nor did the Israelis make such a demand. Indeed, in Israel in June 1967
with Nixon, I heard David Ben-Gurion himself express the hope that Nasser would
survive his humiliation in the Six-Day War because, said Ben-Gurion, Nasser
alone could conclude a peace with Israel that Arabs might accept. Ben-Gurion
did not believe you needed to democratize Egypt before you made peace with Egypt.
This is a slice of the U.S. record in the Mideast that Condi Rice dismissed
as six decades of failure last
summer in Cairo:
"For 60 years, my country … pursued stability at the expense of democracy
in this region … and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course.
We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."
And how is the Rice-Bush democracy project coming in Cairo?
Not so good. In September, President Hosni Mubarak, who succeeded the assassinated
Sadat in 1981, won yet another six-year term in an election marked by fraud.
In the parliamentary elections just ended, the Tomorrow Party of Ayman Nour,
leader of the secular democratic forces, looked like the Party of Yesterday.
It won next to nothing, and Nour ended up in a jailhouse, courtesy of a Mubarak
By harassing opponents and excluding the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak fixed
the outcome so his National Democratic Party won 314 of 454 seats, the two-thirds
needed to make parliament a rubber stamp. But if the biggest loser was the democratic
opposition of Nour, which got a pathetic smattering of votes, the winner was
the Muslim Brotherhood.
Denied the right to participate as a party, the Brotherhood backed independent
candidates who swept to victory in 60 percent of the races they contested. They
would have done better, were it not for the thuggery of NDP mobs and Mubarak's
security police, which The Washington Post described in an editorial,
"The last days of Egypt's month-long parliamentary election were shameful.
Government security forces and gangs of thugs from the (NDP) blockaded access
to dozens of polling sites where opposition candidates were strong. In several
cases they opened fire on citizens who tried to vote; 10 people were reported
killed. Inside the election stations, government supporters blatantly stuffed
ballot boxes in full view of judicial monitors."
Where does that leave Egyptian democracy? The Mubarak regime, once the
pillar of U.S. policy in the Middle East, has been delegitimized by brutality
and fraud, and has jeopardized its $1.8 billion in U.S. aid. The Muslim Brotherhood,
target of the thuggery, has seen its credentials burnished and is now the alternative
So it goes. We hail the fall of Czar Nicholas and get Lenin. We go to war
to hang the Prussian Kaiser and get an Austrian corporal named Hitler. We cut
off aid to the "corrupt" regime of Chiang Kai-shek and get Mao Zedong. We denounce
Lon Nol and get Pol Pot. We destabilize the Shah and get the Ayatollah.
How many times must we relearn the lesson? The road to hell is paved with
good intentions, and the fruits of Wilsonian idealism are rarely ideal.
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