Turnip Truck Tom explains Egypt to you
Up with Egypt - Thomas Friedman - February 9, 2011
One of the best insights into what is happening here is provided by a 2009 book called "Generation in Waiting," edited by Navtej Dhillon and Tarik Yousef, which examined how young people are coming of age in eight Arab countries. It contends that the great game that is unfolding in the Arab world today is not related to political Islam but is a "generational game" in which more than 100 million young Arabs are pressing against stifling economic and political structures that have stripped all their freedoms and given them in return one of the poorest education systems in the world, highest unemployment rates and biggest income gaps. China deprives its people of political rights, but at least it gives them a rising standard of living. Egypt deprived its people of political rights and gave them a declining standard of living.They did it - Thomas Friedman - February 13, 2011
Some people worry, though, that the Egyptian Army will strangle this Egyptian democracy movement in its crib. Personally, I think the army leadership is a little afraid of the Twitter-enabled Tahrir youth. The democracy movement that came out of Tahrir Square is like a tiger that has been living in a tiny cage for 30 years. Having watched it get loose, there are two things I would say about this tiger. One is that anyone who tries to put it back in that little cage will get his head bitten off. And, two, any politician who tries to ride the tiger for his own narrow interests, not for the benefit Egypt, will get eaten by it as well. Iran, the other day, issued a declaration urging the Tahrir youth to make an "Islamic revolution," and none other than Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood told Tehran to get lost because the democracy movement here is pan-Egyptian and includes Christians and Muslims.Pay Attention - Thomas Friedman - May 29, 2011
If elections happen in September and the Muslim Brotherhood wins a plurality it could have an inordinate impact on writing Egypt's first truly free Constitution and could inject restrictions on women, alcohol, dress, and the relations between mosque and state. "You will have an unrepresentative Parliament writing an unrepresentative Constitution," argued Mohamed ElBaradei, the former international atomic energy czar who is running for president on a reform platform.Egypt: the Beginning or the End - Thomas Friedman - December 7, 2011
BOTTOM LINE The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis have been living underground, focused largely on what they were both against and confined in their ideology to platitudes like "Islam is the answer." Now that they are emerging from the Arab basement to the Arab street, they not only have to define what they are for but do it in the context of a highly competitive global economy that will leave Egypt's 85 million people, about one-third of whom are illiterate, even further behind if they don't get moving. This will eventually require some wrenching ideological adjustments by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis to reality. This story is just beginning.Watching elephants fly - Thomas Friedman - January 7, 2012
If you do, the first thing you'll write is that the Islamist parties -- the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Al Nour Party -- just crushed the secular liberals, who actually sparked the rebellion here, in the free Egyptian parliamentary elections, winning some 65 percent of the seats. To not be worried about the theocratic, antipluralistic, anti-women's-rights, xenophobic strands in these Islamist parties is to be recklessly naive. But to assume that the Islamists will not be impacted, or moderated, by the responsibilities of power, by the contending new power centers here and by the priority of the public for jobs and clean government is to miss the dynamism of Egyptian politics today.First Tahrir Square then the classroom - Thomas Friedman - June 17, 2012
Dalia Mogahed runs polling in the Arab world for Gallup. She would not predict if the Muslim Brotherhood candidate would win this weekend's Egyptian presidential election, but she did note that, since January, support for the Brotherhood and Salafists in Egypt has fallen by 20 percent. Why? Because they misinterpreted their parliamentary victory as a religious/ideological mandate, she said, "and it wasn't." When a female parliamentarian from the Brotherhood's party made statements suggesting that female genital mutilation no longer be criminalized, it triggered a backlash from Egyptians worried that this is what the Brotherhood's priorities were.Morsi's wrong turn - Thomas Friedman - August 29, 2012
I find it very disturbing that one of the first trips by Egypt's newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, will be to attend the Nonaligned Movement's summit meeting in Tehran this week.
Excuse me, President Morsi, but there is only one reason the Iranian regime wants to hold the meeting in Tehran and have heads of state like you attend, and that is to signal to Iran's people that the world approves of their country's clerical leadership and therefore they should never, ever, ever again think about launching a democracy movement -- the exact same kind of democracy movement that brought you, Mr. Morsi, to power in Egypt.Can God save Egypt - Thomas Friedman - December 12, 2012
God is not going to save Egypt. It will be saved only if the opposition here respects that the Muslim Brotherhood won the election fairly — and resists its excesses not with boycotts (or dreams of a coup) but with better ideas that win the public to the opposition’s side. And it will be saved only if Morsi respects that elections are not winner-take-all, especially in a society that is still defining its new identity, and stops grabbing authority and starts earning it. Otherwise, it will be all fall down.This somewhat arbitrary survey of Friedman's columns over the past two years shows that he has occasionally shown skepticism towards the Muslim Brotherhood. I went back over his columns because I had remembered his cheer leading of the Egyptian revolution. I wanted to see if he had anticipated Morsi's power grab.
Friedman's biggest weakness is that his analyses have little predictive value. He might be able to describe the situation at a given time, but his superficiality doesn't allow him to envision the future accurately. Even now he still seems to believe that political pressure will force Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to moderate.
In reaction to Friedman's "When elephants fly" column, Barry Rubin wrote Friedman Cheers as Egyptians Are Enslaved:
Now he has a new, materialistic explanation for why Islamists will become moderate: they need the money. He cites how Egyptian Islamists have issued conflicting statements about allowing tourists to have alcohol and bikinis as proving that they must make lots of accommodations with reality. No oil money, you see.
But I heard similar things about Iran in the late 1970s — they’ll have to be moderate because they need to sell the oil — and about Yasir Arafat at the start of the peace process in the early 1990s — he’ll have to be moderate because the Palestinians he rules will demand garbage collection and decent schools. One might just as well have posited that the Turkish government would never turn against Israel because Israeli tourists brought in so much money.
There have been many examples of the Friedman theory since Karl Marx first wrote that the means of production detemined the shape of society. When Lenin invoked the New Economic Policy to get the new-born USSR through its tough, post-World War I period, naive Westerners announced that Communism had been tamed. My relatives and their neighbors in Poland — I can document this — comforted themselves by thinking the Germans wouldn’t kill them because the Nazis needed their forced labor.
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