COLUMN: Muslim Brotherhood and military threaten Egyptian democracy

on February 03 2011 1:08 PM

Egypt wants freedom from the oppressive regime of President Hosni Mubarak. But as one dictator is in the process of being ousted, Egyptians should make sure that another -- in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood or the military -- doesn't take his place.

Sure, Egypt's riots were sparked by economic difficulties (like high food prices and unemployment).  However, the fundamental problem and the root cause for the passionate outpouring of anger is that Mubarak rules by force, not consent.

He has stayed in power for 30 years despite the fact that he's clearly unpopular. Contrary to the opinion of US Vice President Biden, Mubarak is a bonafide dictator.

 

Why is dictatorship a bad thing?

 

One, the dictator, his family, his allies, and his enforcers (e.g. the secret police force) loot, steal, and abuse the people; they rule at the expense of the general population.

 

Two, the dictator is more interested in keeping his power than improving the lives of the people. Some politicians in democracies are guilty of doing the same thing, i.e. their number one priority is to get re-elected so they manipulate public opinion.  

 

For dictators, though, this tendency usually manifests in the form of bolstering the state police force and cracking down on freedoms.

 

Three, if the people want a change of government, the dictator won't allow it. This is the most basic problem of dictatorships.

 

Even in countries like China, where one can argue that the government is a benevolent dictator because it has instituted the right economic policies, it's a problem.

 

Once a benevolent dictator stops making the right choices, he will still stay in power.  For dictators who were never benevolent in the first place, they, too, stay in power.

 

Cuba's Fidel Castro and Germany's Adolf Hitler are good examples of benevolent dictatorships gone wrong. In the beginning, both improved the livelihoods of their people and enjoyed public support. However, once they began taking their countries down disastrous paths, the people couldn't do anything to remove them.  North Korea's Kim Jong-il, who made wrong policies from the beginning, also stayed in power for decades.

 

Modern history has discredited the concept of dictatorships; they just don't work and some end in horrible tragedies. The best government is one that governs by consent and this is the type of government Egypt needs.

 

The military and Muslim Brotherhood threaten Egypt's chance to be ruled by consent.

 

A military government (sometimes called a military junta) almost by definition rules by force rather than consent. Modern history has also proven that they're bad for the people. I defy anyone to name a successful example of a military junta in the 21st century.

 

If the Muslim Brotherhood were to take over, Egypt would be essentially a theocracy.  A theocracy is able to enjoy the consent of millions of Egyptians. However, it can also violate the rights of Coptic Christians, which represents about 10 percent of the population.

 

Moreover, theocracies don’t have a good history of succeeding either in the 21st century (see Pakistan).

 

Lastly, an Islamic theocracy can potentially be more oppressive than Mubarak's regime because its 'religious police' can impose Islam laws on the people.  The Muslim Brotherhood is a relatively moderate group, especially compared to some of the other Islamic organizations in the Middle East, so this outcome is unlikely.  Still, it's a risk that should be considered.

 

For all its flaws, Western-styled democracies -- where people vote for the government officials -- have the best track record of producing governments that serve the people's economic needs and enjoy their consent. 

 

These countries are generally the most prosperous in the world. Also, their leaders stay in power for much shorter periods than Mubarak's 30 years.

 

Egyptians have revolted against dictatorship in 2011. Some gave their lives for it.  What they need -- and deserve -- is real a democracy.

 

Critics may argue that Egypt is too 'backwards' and 'not ready' for democracy. One, that's an insult to the Egyptian protesters. Two, the uncertainties of a fledgling democracy is better than a relapse into dictatorship.

 

 

 

 

 

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