What has just happened in Egypt is an amazing story, and its meaning for the
region is earthshaking. The apparent tidal wave of advance for revolutionary
Islamism has been flicked aside by the courage of millions of Egyptians but –
let’s remember – it would have been futile if the army had not taken their side.
Just as in Gettysburg 150 years ago to the day, another such great battle ended
in the preservation of the United States.
There are many lessons in this
and here is a brief discussion. A cautionary note: We are far from out of the
But before discussing that, it is positively important to take
some I-told-you-so’s. Itold- you-so’s are valuable because they tell you who to
listen to and who not to heed.
They also reveal the real forces at work
so that in future we can interpret things correctly.
history and political events is not some matter of taking things in a
disconnected way, as if things just happen.
We must employ these
discoveries to develop a coherent analysis. Or, to put it in one sentence, why
do things happen.
Let me mention, however, two important points which
better be understood if Western civilization is to survive and flourish and
other societies to advance. What has just happened in Egypt is truly a teachable
moment and that should not be wasted by being lost in details.
everything that exists in the imagination can be achieved. Wishful thinking is
no guide to policy. Just because you desire something does not mean it will or
can be achieved. The whole purpose of human logic is to estimate the odds and
A three-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in
which everyone lives in peace and harmony is desirable. It isn’t going to be
achieved, at least for many decades. A democratic Middle East in which
moderation rules over the region isn’t going to happen for a long
Karl Marx referred to revolutionaries as “heaven-stormers” but
gravity and human nature does not concede such possibilities of instant
transformation. It doesn’t end well as the Communist, fascist, Arab nationalist
and Third World radicalism stories show over and over.
The grasp cannot
exceed the reach. Social conditions, history, ideas, experiences set limits and
directions in human history. That doesn’t mean nothing good can happen but it is
going to happen according to a serious estimate of reality. Of course, there are
also accidents and places where things can turn out differently on the decision
made by an individual.
Fundamental transformation is not an easy
There are certain times, of course, when, as some sources say, the
losing of a horseshoe nail, which unhorsed King Richard III, was a turning point
in English history at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. The fact
that an arrow hit King Harold II of England in the eye at the Battle of Hastings
on October 14, 1066, meant that the fate of England was altered from a Germanic
to a French/Latin civilization.
The existence of great leaders – or
terrible ones – can change the course of events, too.
But why does a
given leader or idea or movement appeal to large numbers of people at one time?
Second, though, within limits change of a positive nature is possible. That’s
why one has to experiment and try. On these decisions and deeds many lives
depend. The decision of American colonists to take on the strongest power in the
world, Britain, in 1776 and that of Israeli leaders to declare independence in
1948 were risky ventures.
Yet although outsiders might judge them more
so, those involved realized that the attempt was not beyond the possibility of
But, again, you have to understand, with unflinching realism,
the problems and the risks involved. This judgment is not a matter of ideology,
of set and predetermined and unwavering blind belief. At a certain point,
ideology gets in the way.
This is especially important for those who
would make – or prevent – social change.
Mao Tse-tung called this, “The
concrete analysis of concrete conditions.”
When the mass media,
educational system, opinion-makers or decision-makers are paralyzed by ideology
– of the do\s and don’ts of Political Correctness (which means the systematic
enthronement of “well-intentioned” lies) – the self-imposed blinkers will likely
take the carriage off the cliff.
That happened to an incredible extent in
Western analysis of Egypt. Among these factors were wishful thinking, the
romance of extremism, the refusal to deal with unpleasant facts and hidden
parallels between the desire of some to fundamentally transform their own
societies and quite different ones.
No, not all societies are alike. It
should be self-evident that all men and women are created equal and that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain rights. But it doesn’t mean that they
think of these rights in the same way or define their goals in the same way. If
you are going to believe in the cult of diversity, remember that some of the
diverse people think that it be wonderful to kill you, oppress you and use power
to control your life.
Ideally, it is true that to secure these rights,
governments were instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed. But that’s not the way it often works out. In fact,
more often than not it isn’t the way that things work out.
governments are also instituted to protect their citizens against those of a
different opinion. Those governments should apply realpolitik as their
Once the situation is clear – after the failure of appeasement of
Germany in 1939, the evidence that the USSR was aggressive in 1946, the failure
of the peace process and the launching of the Second Intifada war of terrorism
in 2000 or the war of radical Islamism against the West on September 11, 2001 –
it is the duty of governments and public understanding to take heed of those
It does not matter in the least how unpleasant these facts are or
how contrary they may be to our prejudices or conventional wisdom or desires.
Attention must be paid.
And, sorry, but if that means that popular
totalitarian movements don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their election or
military victories so that they can better wipe you out, then so be it. So that
government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish
from this earth. And one day, others can enjoy those benefits when conditions