Liberals and conservatives alike are celebrating the possible advance of democracy in Egypt. The Mubarak regime is reeling, his heirs apparent have fled the country and images of “people power” are filling television screens worldwide. Excited rumors of the police and military taking the side of the protesters against the regime are being reported as dreams of a Western secular democracy on the Nile fire the imagination of humanists everywhere.
However, this excitement is every bit as ill-conceived as the neoconservative adventures that brought democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. And seeing that Egypt lacks a military occupying force, it is unlikely that the establishment of a democratic government in Cairo will end as well as the foundation of the corrupt puppet regimes in Baghdad and Kabul have to date.
What those who make a political fetish of democracy repeatedly fail to understand is that it is nothing more than a means; it is not an end in itself. The collective will of the Egyptian people, who have repeatedly voted for the Muslim Brotherhood party in parliamentary elections despite it being banned, has very little in common with that of the American people. The voters in the Palestinian Authority gave Hamas 76 of the 132 seats available, and it can be expected that if Mubarak is chased from power, his dictatorial governance will be replaced with radical Islamic rule that is more similar to the regime in Tehran than the one in Washington, D.C.
The primary difference will be that a new Egyptian government will almost surely be more democratically legitimate than the U.S. government, as the growing divergence between national polls and congressional votes tends to demonstrate.
The Western democracies have successfully constructed a political system in which the will of the people is systematically denied in practice by the political ruling class while simultaneously being honored in theory and rhetoric. That this Western pseudo-democracy is a complete sham can be seen in every federal bailout, in every judicial overrule of popular referendums, in every expansion of the European Union’s unelected powers and, indeed, in every congressional vote that involves a political representative abandoning the position that won him electoral support.
Since they have not had the benefit of decades of political double-talk and its propagandistic justification by the mass media, the unsophisticated voters of the Third World have no idea that their collective will is not supposed to be taken at face value, or that it can be overridden at any time by a small group of judges appointed by the political aristocracy. So, they vote their actual values instead of voting for factional letters and trivial class identifiers like Western voters do, values which have very little in common with those of either the political aristocracy or the voting populations of the West.
Regardless of how one feels about it, radical Islam has been a huge success for the Arab world. Even more than the wealth being produced by the huge oil reserves of the Middle East, it has increased the status and power of the Arabic people throughout the world. Since Egypt’s neighbor to the south, Sudan, is already a radical Islamic state that enjoys popular support, as is the Palestinian Authority to the north, it should come as no surprise if Al-IkhwÄn becomes the dominant power in a truly democratic Egypt.
This is why Vice-President Biden spoke out in favor of keeping Hosni Mubarak in power and why the U.S. government is so badly conflicted about the present situation in Egypt. The prospect of real democracy in Egypt will not only create new and complicated geostrategic challenges, but will underline Western hypocrisy by demonstrating the extent to which the people of the West are denied genuine democracy themselves.