So lately, the current Egyptian regime has decided to execute Morsi, and there is some consternation regarding this and the Western response.
Of course, the simple retort to all this would be, "Of course it's all okay if they are one step closer to being 'our sort of devils' in charge over there." Whatever that means in the local context of the moment is probably somewhat less of a public concern to American leadership, particularly when it comes to strategically located countries of some strength like Egypt and Turkey. I suppose that is one sort of simple summation of the official Western response (or lack thereof perhaps). But the whole situation after the Arab Spring evokes some difficult questions:
1. What is a proper response when a government installed according to standing procedure (ahem, e.g. George W. Bush) or even a government accepted as the product of a sweeping popular vote (Morsi, if I recall the reports was described that way) begins to adopt policies that threaten the very fundamentals of political philosophy that drive the current arrangement of the state?
I see this as a Constitutional crisis. Yes, the Executive branch has certain powers and there are perhaps "procedures in place" for punishing the Executive such as impeachment in the US. However, it worries me that in many Constitutional crises, the stakes for the population and the shape of the country can be extremely
high. Whole realities change for whole groups of people -- or worse, peoples are made to disappear
in some way! -- while "process" is being dutifully waited out, and in that meantime you could even have another sort of effective coup. In the case of Egypt, the US at least recognized that somewhat among all the upset murmurings about how rightists and terrorists might benefit from the overall rise to prominence of a popular Islamist party. (Not saying that the same response was balanced or unselfish from a US government perspective -- I don't think it was either of those. But there was a fair touch of this logic in there, too.)
When the military removed Morsi, many worried that it sent a signal that the voters' "mandate" had been simply denied and that would itself
have some irrevocable, chilling impact on the expectations of Egyptian citizens when it comes to democracy in local practice. I don't precisely agree with all
of that reaction, because I think Morsi was in the process of elbowing out a large bloc of voters by reshaping basic rules in such sharp ways that they might never again put forward the sort of opposition candidates that would oppose his party line.
There are US parallels too: I have always been shocked and dismayed to recall Andrew Jackson's line in shrugging off the Supreme Court and sending the Cherokee away to the Trail of Tears. He said something to the tune of, the Supreme Court doesn't have an army, let's see them enforce their decision. And an entire nation was displaced halfway across the country with little preparation to boot, leading immediately to mass deaths as well as permanent dispossession.
George W. Bush, who was not even backed by a majority of the popular vote in his election and then had to slip through the "hanging chad" controversy, later proceeded to wage an unpopular, extremely expensive war in Iraq after a rather shady overnight campaign for surveillance and expedited arrest powers under the little-understood Patriot Act. While the beginnings
of actions -- at least the received at least a majority of official legislative support (under those sometimes rushed and politically harried conditions), popular support for Bush W's foreign policy later plummeted to the 40% and I seem to recall (?) even somewhat lower marks. His government, with the very apparent backing of Cabinet-level officials and probably the Vice President if not Bush himself, proceeded to sanction and build historically striking public excuses for rendition (including I believe, even "disappearance" of a few US citizens) and torture. When mass protests finally erupted against such policies, police forces engaged in actions that were later found illegal by the courts, such as arbitrary arrest, unreasonable search and seizure, and incidentally some cases of harassment and assault against detainees. Prominent neoconservatives, some of them I believe in public office, carried on attempting to hint or argue that any voiced public opposition to his signature wartime polices should be spoken of as treason, and must in principle merit at least a close police or counter-intel eye.
It seems to me that there are situations where it is actually better for the good of the country for there to be some intervention. I begin to think I can understand, at this level of concern for imbalances and extreme seizures of power, how perhaps so many militias come to speak of a need to have their own weapons "in case of the worst." I'm doubtful how many American militias would pick the same issues I would to intervene on, knowing how politically bent to the far right some of the overlapping communities seem to be. And I also doubt very few of them could do more than cause what would be simply brushed off as a "terrorist incident" even if I thought they did
for once manage to fight about something that could actually rescue something good from imminent disaster. But, point remains, there IS this room in our system for tyranny to slip in regardless of what exactly people thought they were voting for. If they thought at all when they elected whoever out of the few choices they're generally given, that is. (I don't suppose Morsi was everyone's first choice in the world either; he may have just been better or "different" than ugh
, that other guy...)
I am also beginning to think I have a thing about death. A certain revulsion, if you will?
I do think everyone matters somehow, but I also have a hard time when I try to figure out what else to do about say, Boko Haram or Isis in the immediate to short term, and in direct response to those specific areas where it's spreading like mad and committing atrocities and its own very literal cultural imperialism as a militant organization -- except, umm probably yes bomb/go tactical if doing so seems to matter any.
Anyway, I'm not entirely comfortable trying to figure out just what I make of some of these situations and wondering how much is a lack of good information and being stuck in a global economy and silly American propaganda/more messed up parts of cultural psychology, too! What might make me wonder more how unequally I'm measuring certain Others like even these somewhat unfairly, if I knew it but I don't? I have to wonder a little, because the propaganda/walls of silence on some parts are so thick and I do sense long-term things the West needs to change to deal with some of where Isis is getting support. But there it is.
Death is final. When what's his ugly face put up a formal proposal for killing all the gays in California (I don't care to even bother with reviving the name now!), it got me struggling to say hmm... What else
could you propose that would be so awful and so obviously
against the spirit of hate crimes legislation? And perhaps there are several things we could think up. But the idea that 'everything has to be considered and attempted' swings both ways. So, what happens if a popular vote on mass murder is going to be allowed?
American comparison, a bit of adjusting the lens for the sake of argument perhaps but still: Wait, getting comparative, wasn't the Congressional vote on attacking Iraq a kind of vote on mass murder? It only ended up killing somewhere between 100,000 (conservatively I believe, by now!) to 300,000 Iraqis, yes? But those are those people, their people
. Not the same, right? Although I think there is a point where we should probably worry about how it became different standards for all of them -- particularly once we realize our bombers are so good at harming civilians and our intel/ rules of engagement setup combined seems so clutsy about avoiding civilian casualties. If in fact they know which are
noncombatants, which I often doubt -- how is the enemy getting identified at all, vexes me a bit when it comes to this region where there is very little reporting on backgrounds of the groups and history involved in American mass media.
... A step back closer to Egypt: And what happens if a popular vote is to be allowed on say, never voting again? Is it enough for 51% of the population to approve that? 90%? Or what? Or should anyone who can find the guts and means, intervene and put a stop to this because it would fundamentally remove that society that the Constitution was created to maintain as a functional entity? To put it another way: Does being "democratic" require that should the people ever change their mind once
, they might never be able to get it back because hey, they voted for this other system and that one isn't
going to let you change it. People have said that well obviously, if they voted in these numbers for an Islamist party, then not enough Egyptians were "ready" for real democracy and they'll just have to suffer whatever else they get with a more authoritarian sort of leadership rewriting their whole government (and by now we could say maybe even a bit of US bombing, I have to wonder? down the road?). At least until the next
popular revolution, I suppose that story would go.
However, I'm not really satisfied with that argument. It ignores the likelihood that many people may not have anticipated the sorts of actions Morsi actually took (how many really expected everything that Bush Jr. did?!). It brushes aside concern that he may have been the only "other" candidate seeming viable and the recipient of a protest vote rather than a positive vote on his own platform. And people are probably going to hate this one... But it also ignores claims that some Egyptians consider the army a reasonable political "guardian" of the state, and what if there could be a certain merit to that sort of view? I doubt the army is always
completely benevolent, but I find it interesting that the army would both dismiss Mubarak after so long and topple Morsi just when he was about to revamp the whole edifice of government with a huge dose of Party self-interest and in the face of new mass protests.
2. After retracting support for Mubarak and basically supporting the momentum of the Arab Spring, when it comes to Morsi's trial and sentencing: Should the US government be making pleas or perhaps, applying pressure (or at least threatening to keep support away under certain scenarios)? And why or why not.
I've gone on long enough and I don't have comparisons leaping to mind for this one yet. (Bet there could be some, but still.) I gather there are renewed murmurings about the "optics" of executing an elected leader, no matter how awful. I have to admit, I do feel like it seems a bit much? And it feels like it's being done more to produce a chilling effect. Or did Morsi order executions of opposition and such? It's been a while, so someone do remind me if the man seems to have enough blood on his own hands.
Oh here's a wild comparison: What about the optics of prosecuting, or not prosecuting Bush/Cheney for a preemptive war, waste of national treasure/honor and probable fabrication of stories about WMD?