The Terrible Choice
The New York Times reports:
The ferocity of the attacks by security forces on Islamist protesters in Cairo this week appears to have been a deliberate calculation of the military-appointed government to provoke violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, a number of Arab and Western historians of Middle East politics said Friday.
The objective, they said in interviews, was to demonize the Islamists in the eyes of Egypt’s broader populace, validate the July 3 ouster of the Islamist president and subvert any possibility that dialogue would reintegrate the Muslim Brotherhood into Egypt’s mainstream politics.This highlights the terrible choice that the Muslim Brotherhood faces as it struggles against Egypt's junta. You can gather in large unarmed groups, which are then easy to slaughter. (The soldiers can boldly murder the protesters without putting themselves in much physical danger.) Or you can try protecting yourself, at the expense of allowing your movement to be portrayed as thuggish/dangerous/terrorist (a characterization that the Egyptian media and much of the western media will be all too happy to embrace).
I think a lot of people in the U.S. have a rosy view of this, because of our own experience with the civil rights movement, which largely succeeded through nonviolent methods. But as terrible as the U.S. was for black people, there were powerful forces trying to protect them and the media was ready to tell enough of the truth that it would have been impossible, for instance, to suppress civil rights protests by firing on the crowds. Tactics that worked for Gandhi and MLK won't necessarily work for the Muslim Brotherhood.
By way of example, here is a racist thug attacking a black journalist in Little Rock in 1957:
And here is a black girl walking into Little Rock Central High School:
Vicious right? But here is what happened next:
The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't have the U.S. army on its side. It doesn't have the equivalent of a New York Times or Washington Post or Chicago Defender. It doesn't have a massive operation by the FBI to infiltrate and destroy its persecutors. And so those Muslim boys are dying by the hundreds and if they do anything to protect themselves they will be condemned around the world. The Egyptian military knows this and is taking the opportunity to unleash large-scale violence with impunity.
It goes without saying that U.S. conservatives think we should back the Egyptian military:
The Brothers refused to budge or engage in political negotiations, insisting on nothing less than Morsi’s full restoration to the presidency. They wanted martyrs and, sadly, they got them — in the hundreds, though not without taking at least 43 Egyptian policemen with them.
But the military’s horrific violence yesterday does not alter the U.S.’s calculus. The Muslim Brotherhood and the military government are now at war, and the latter remains the best hope for securing American interests and, ultimately, a free Egypt. We should therefore continue our financial and matériel support for the Egyptian military and maintain as close a relationship as possible to push the government toward our objectives.They wanted martyrs. (I suppose the protesters at Tianenman "wanted martyrs" too.) They are now at war with the military government. See how this works?