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The Daily Debate - 7/1/2013

By Robert Tracinski

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July 1, 2013

1. Egypt's Do-Over Revolution

2. "Stasi 2.0"

3. Dispatches

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1. Egypt's Do-Over Revolution

When Egypt had its first revolution to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, some people saw Egypt's young, educated, secular liberals marching side-by-side with the Muslim Brotherhood and thought that this was normal and natural and heartening and showed how a pious Muslim religious party could embrace democracy.

The rest of thought this couldn't possibly last.

Since Tahrir Square, it has become pretty clear what the Muslim Brotherhood thought: thanks, liberals, for making this revolution for us—but now we're taking over.

Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi's rule has become increasingly authoritarian, and at the same time he has done nothing no revive the nation's collapsing economy, to establish public order and the rule of law, or to rein in rampant corruption. Egyptians have begun to fear they're getting the same old regime, but in an even more restrictive, Islamist version.

Resistance to the Brotherhood's rule has been building up and exploded over the weekend with the "Tamarod" or "rebel" protests that brought millions into the streets.

"The scale of the demonstrations, coming just one year after crowds in Tahrir Square cheered Mr. Morsi's inauguration, appeared to exceed even the massive street protests in the heady final days of the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in 2011....

"Demonstrators said they were angry about the near total absence of public security, the desperate state of the Egyptian economy and an increase in sectarian tensions. But the common denominator across the country was the conviction that Mr. Morsi had failed to transcend his roots in the Brotherhood, an insular Islamist group officially outlawed under Mr. Mubarak that is now considered Egypt's most formidable political force. The scale of the protests across the country delivered a sharp rebuke to the group's claim that its victories in Egypt's newly open parliamentary and presidential elections gave it a mandate to speak for most Egyptians."

In effect, Egyptians are asking for a do-over on their revolution: this time, can we do it without the Brotherhood? And the answer is clearly: yes, they can.

Tom Friedman puzzles over the purpose of street protests in a democracy, where the people presumably have recourse to the ballot box. Part of the answer is that folks in Egypt (and Turkey) aren't so sure they are going to have recourse to the ballot box. They are demonstrating because they think the Islamists are going to take away their political freedom. But there is another purpose massive protests serve even in societies where the right to vote isn't in doubt: they are an opportunity for the people to make their numbers known in an unmistakable way, as a kind of shot across the bow between elections.

The massive street protests brought out such a significant portion of Egypt's population—some have calculated that it is the equivalent of 30 or 40 million people in the US—that they have undermined any claim Morsi and the Brotherhood have to claim the consent of the governed.

As a result, the Egyptian military has stepped in—with it own ulterior motives, no doubt—to issue an ultimatum for Morsi and the protesters to come to an agreement within 48 hours.

"Egypt's military issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Islamist president and his opponents on Monday, saying either a solution is found or it will intervene to put forward a political road map for the country and ensure it is carried out.

"In a statement read on state television, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi described the mass protests on Sunday, which brought out millions of Egyptians calling for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's resignation, as 'glorious.'

"Al-Sisi said the military should 'not be a party in politics or rule,' but that it has a responsibility to act because Egypt's national security is facing a 'grave danger.' The declaration was met with delight on the streets of Cairo, where protesters cheered, beeped their car horns and waved flags.

"'We give Mohammed Morsi until 5p.m. (3p.m. GMT) on Tuesday July 2 to leave power, allowing state institutions to prepare for early presidential elections,' Tamarod said in a statement on its website....

"The group claims to have collected 22 million signatures in an online campaign calling on the president to resign."

That sounds to me like the military intervening to basically push Morsi into resigning, or at least into calling a new election.

At any rate—and I am happy to say that I managed to be a little ahead of the curve on this—the Tamarod movement, along with the recent protests against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, constitute a new phase in the Arab Spring, a new revolution against religious authoritarians rather than secular ones.

———

2. Gentlemen Reading Each Other's Mail

The NSA scandal is branching out with new allegations that the US government wasn't just spying on terrorists or on geopolitical rivals like Russia. We have also been spying on our friends.

"Just how unscrupulously the US government allows its intelligence agencies to act is documented by a number of surveillance operations that targeted the European Union in Brussels and Washington, for which it has now become clear that the NSA was responsible....

"The NSA appears to be even more unscrupulous on its home turf. The EU's diplomatic delegation to the United States is located in an elegant office building on Washington's K Street. But the EU's diplomatic protection apparently doesn't apply in this case. As parts of one NSA document seen by SPIEGEL indicate, the NSA not only bugged the building, but also infiltrated its internal computer network. The same goes for the EU mission at the United Nations in New York. The Europeans are a 'location target,' a document from Sept. 2010 states."

French President Francois Hollande has issued a stern demand.

"'We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies,' Hollande told journalists during a visit to the western city of Lorient. 'We ask that this immediately stop.'

"Hollande said 'enough elements have already been gathered for us to ask for explanations' from Washington about the spying allegations.

"'There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States,' Hollande told journalists.

"It was an apparent reference to sensitive trade talks which are set to start between the US and the EU on creating the world's largest free trade zone."

How serious is it getting? The Europeans, particularly the Germans, are falling out of love with President Obama.

"In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up. Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone. In the past 80 years, Germans have felt the betrayal of neighbors who informed for the Gestapo and the fear that best friends might be potential informants for the Stasi. Homes were tapped. Millions were monitored....

"With Edward J. Snowden's important revelations fresh in our minds, Germans were eager to hear President Obama's recent speech in Berlin. But the Barack Obama who spoke in front of the Brandenburg Gate to a few thousand people on June 19 looked a lot different from the one who spoke in front of the Siegessäule in July 2008 in front of more than 200,000 people, who had gathered in the heart of Berlin to listen to Mr. Obama, then running for president. His political agenda as a candidate was a breath of fresh air compared with that of George W. Bush. Mr. Obama aimed to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, end mass surveillance in the so-called war on terror and defend individual freedom.

"But the senator who promised to shut Guantánamo is now a second-term president who is still fighting for its closure. And the events of the past few weeks concerning the collection of metadata and private e-mail and social-media content have made many Germans further question Mr. Obama's proclaimed commitment to the individual freedoms we hold dear."

This op-ed mentions protests against previous surveillance programs which featured signs with the motto "Stasi 2.0"—a caption now appearing under pictures of President Obama.

Meanwhile, what has happened to the whistleblower who revealed these programs? Edward Snowden is still trapped in an airport complex in Moscow, his expectations of asylum in Ecuador now in limbo. He can partly thank that megalomaniac, Julian Assange, whose attempt to make this story all about him has apparently backfired.

"Last week, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa slowed down Snowden's asylum process because he was worried that the WikiLeaks leader was taking over the role of his country's government. The Guardian reported that Correa killed a temporary travel document that would have helped get Snowden out of the Moscow airport where he has reportedly been staying for the last week. In leaked communications, Ecuador officials seemed bitter by how much attention Assange was taking, with a Ecuador's U.S. ambassador telling a presidential spokesman 'I suggest talking to Assange to better control the communications. From outside, [Assange] appears to be running the show.'

"On Sunday, President Correa told the Associated Press that Snowden is 'under the care of the Russian authorities' and that Snowden 'doesn't have a passport. I don't know the Russian laws, I don't know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can't.' To further complicate Ecuador's role, Correa said that the Ecuadorean consul in London made a 'serious error' in not consulting anyone in Ecuador before issuing Snowden a letter of safe passage. Correa said that if Snowden does make it to an Ecuadorian Embassy, 'we'll analyze his request for asylum.'...

"And tensions over Snowden and Assange in Ecuador aren't just at the governmental level. With the Obama administration threatening to keep in place tariffs on rose imports from Ecuador, flower growers in the country have a direct financial interest in the outcome of Snowden's flight. 'We can't put the interests of 14 million Ecuadoreans at risk because of a 29-year-old hacker whom we don't even know,' Gino Descalzi, who employees 280 people in the rose business, told the AP. 'This gentleman doesn't mean anything to us.'"

My own speculation on this is that Snowden took seriously the leftist/libertarian notion that the United States has a somehow uniquely evil, "imperialist" foreign policy. In this upside-down world, it makes sense for an advocate of individual liberty to flee America to seek refuge in China or Russia or Ecuador—and not the other way around. But to the leaders of these countries, Snowden is just a pawn in their own geopolitical machinations. And he has largely served his purpose already, which makes him very expendable.

———

3. Dispatches

The bursting of the bond bubble is beginning.

Don't look now, but we just won a war in the Philippines against an Islamic terrorist group that goes by the unfortunate acronym MILF.

The technical hurdles have apparently been overcome to attempt a head transplant.

———

—Robert Tracinski

The Daily Debate

edited by Robert Tracinski

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Robert Tracinski is also editor of The Tracinski Letter.

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