Brookings & the Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood is in talks, which it threatens to break off any minute now, with the very Egyptian regime that bans it as a terrorist organization. Not to worry, say Brookings Institution Middle East watchers.

“Westerners should not lose sleep over the Brotherhood’s inclusion,” writes Brookings’ Shadi Hamid. “A pragmatic organization at its core, the group will avoid getting tied up in foreign policy, knowing that this might cause the international community to withdraw support.” Bruce Riedel, a Brookings senior fellow, assures readers at The Daily Beast that the Brotherhood “renounced violence years ago” and is judged by scholars to be “the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today.” Americans, he concludes, “should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Had the Brookings Institution not received word that Mohamed Atta, leader of the 9/11 hijackers, was a member of the Brotherhood? What about Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command? And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks,” according to The 9/11 Commission Report?

Strange that so many odious characters came out of this one organization. Americans should be afraid of that; Egyptians, more so. In 1948, a Muslim Brother assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi; in 1954, a Muslim Brother attempted to assassinate Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser; in 1981, Muslim Brothers assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

The actions of the Brotherhood should have clued the Brookings Institution in to their extremist nature. Their words should have too.

The group’s motto would seem to undermine the generous assessment of the Brookings scholars: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

Eliot Spitzer’s CNN interview last week with Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Morsy illustrated the contrast between the face the Brotherhood shows to the West and its face in the Arab world.

Three times Spitzer attempted to ask the Brotherhood spokesman if his group came to power would they recognize the state of Israel. Three times Morsy evaded, labeling it a “heavy question.” It was “ridiculous to ask about the future,” he incredibly told the former New York governor. He assured the host that the Brotherhood condemned violence, then added the caveat that the Palestinians engaged in “resistance,” not violence. Especially instructive was his response to Spitzer giving him the opportunity to condemn 9/11. “We are against whoever did this to the civilian people,” Morsy explained. “We are against this act and we said we want a fair trial, not just an accused, and if you prove by a fair trial—you Americans, if you prove by a fair trial who did this, we are against that whoever did it with you. We stand with you against whoever did this if you can prove really who did this.” [Emphasis added]

So many caveats; so few condemnations. Is 9/11 really such a whodunit? What type of renunciation of violence assigns euphemisms to violence committed by allies?  Does an inquiry about the recognition of Israel not lend itself to a simple “yes” or “no” answer? The Muslim Brotherhood’s ambiguity isn’t very ambiguous. Their avoidances and evasions tell us as much as any straight answer.

Alas, such forked-tongued spokesmen enable Westerners wanting to believe in the Brotherhood to tout them as credible reformers. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt, they reason, particularly when they stand against as loathsome a character as Hosni Mubarak? After all, Morsy sort of condemned 9/11, didn’t quite say that the Brotherhood wouldn’t recognize Israel, and claimed his group condemned violence. The Muslim Brotherhood understands the Brookings Institution better than the Brookings Institution understands the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s 80-plus-year record of assassinations, terrorism, and bigotry, Brookings Institution scholars talk as though the group remains an enigma. “The real question—what the Brotherhood is—is very much an open question,” Brookings’ Dan Byman told PolitiFact. “In Egypt, in a way, we don’t know. It’s hard to know what part of its rhetoric to believe.”

Would any Brookings scholar express such agnosticism toward Hosni Mubarak? Born in Egypt in 1928 just like the Society of Muslim Brothers, the Egyptian president has made enough history for Brookings to rightly regard him as an autocratic thug. But a jury-is-still-out tone pervades the Brookings Institution assessments of Mubarak’s Muslim Brotherhood enemies. There seems to be an unwillingness to believe that bad’s enemy is worse.

The very people who regard the mixture of religion and politics in America as incipient fascism dismiss warnings about an Islamic takeover in Egypt as proof of Western intolerance. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, their Western flaks have one line for the West and another line for the Arab World.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Sky News, PBS, CSPAN, and other broadcast networks. He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at

  • Chezwick_Mac

    "Why is the left-wing think tank giving Egyptian Islamists a pass?"

    Uhhhh, maybe because it's left-wing?

  • antifascist18

    Brookings gave us RINO Brent Scowcroft and odious Polish Anti-Semite Brezezinski…enuff said, wouldn't be too surprised if one George Soros, Nazi collaborator, is also behind them as well as his other Lefty Neo-Fascist groups.

  • Dr. Dre

    Is Strobe Talbott still the Director of Brookings? Remember him? This should provide a clue to what's going on there, although if there is a future Clinton administration, I am not sure he will be invited back.

  • frank

    Know your enemies. Salafism is not the same thing as Wahhabism; not all Salafists or Wahhabists are Takfiris.

    1) Zawahiri left the MB more than 40 years ago, while still in his teens, to found Al-Jihad. Precisely BECAUSE the MB wasn’t a terrorist group, and he wanted to do terrorism.

    2) As for Mohammed Atta, the closest he ever got to being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was joining a group that is “linked to” the Muslim Brotherhood – meaning, some of its other members, are or have been members of the MB as well. His road to 9/11 leads through the Al-Quds Mosque, in Hamburg: Wahhabism, not Salafism.

    3) The Muslim Brotherhood is not nearly as relevant, to Egypt’s current situation, as people think. They came late to the party, and are not by any means its guest of honor.

  • Wesley69

    The Brookings Institution is just one of the Liberal apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood. They would have us believe that this terrorist organization in now mainstream. If we think that, we do so at our peril.

    Unfortunately, the actions of the Obama Administration shows that they believe this. This is avoidable, but Obama will use the Muslim Brotherhood in his anti-Colonial rage to chastise, what Obama believes is the last Colonial power in the world.

  • waterwillows

    What we have here is just another attempt by the looney left to continue with false claims that Islam has been hijacked. This is just throwing sand in the eye to distract us from seeing that the only thing that has been hijacked, is democracy by the socialist lefties. They are dictators disguised in democracy and hiding in pc, the refuge of lies.
    The sad reality is that whatever muslim government gets into power; they are still followers of Islam. That path always leads to bloodshed. If not today, then tomorrow.

  • tagalog

    Too bad we can't ask Anwar Sadat how "pragmatic" the Muslim Brotherhood is.

  • Questions

    The Brookings Institution, in all fairness, is not "Leftist" by any stretch of the imagination. It is assiduously centrist on almost all issues, whether slightly to the Right or slightly to the Left. Indeed, it was set up that way back in the 1920s.

    In recent years Brookings, in fact, has published useful free-market-oriented studies recommending repeal of CAFE auto mileage standards and institution of curbside pricing for mass transit. Back in the day, I contributed to a pair of Brookings reports myself. This is not a Leftist organization. The charge is ridiculous.

    • USMCSniper

      James B. Steinberg, the director of the Brookings Institutionís foreign policy studies program He wants Brookings to take the lead in exploring America's turbulent relationship with the Islamic world. "There is such a profound failure to communicate between the U.S. and The Muslim world, We just canít survive in a world in which most people in these countries see the U.S. as an enemy and threat. "This is going to be a very long-term challenge," he continued. "It ís going to take a very sophisticated answer. We have to understand much more deeply the the Islamic world. The people there must see that the U.S. is on their side by opposing Zionism."

      Ahhh… yes…. abandon Israel is his message. Not only leftist, but back door alignment with the Jihadists.

      • Questions

        The fact that Brookings hired a jerk like Steinberg (a Jewish name, which means he's got issues of his own, apart from those of his employer) doesn't negate more than 80 years of Brookings' solid nonidelogical research on hundreds of issues.

        As an aside, there are plenty of Muslim enablers on the Right. If you don't believe me, check out recent articles by Paul Craig Roberts, Eric Margolis or Justin Raimondo. These are Old Right people. And yes, I take strong issue with them.

        • Chezwick_Mac

          Reminds me of Dan Rather insisting to Bernie Goldberg that the New York Times is "middle-of-the-road". Granted, Brookings isn't FAR Left, but if it is "centrist", then the word no longer denotes residing in the center of the political spectrum.

          • Chezwick_Mac

            PS – However Justin Raimondo chooses to characterize himself, he's an anti-Semitic, anti-American, leftist as far as I'm concerned. A fair-minded scrutiny of his positions would clearly indicate they dove-tail with the far-left, where he is often quoted…(imagine the political spectrum being circular instead of linear…the far left and far right meet up at the bottom end and are much closer to each other than either is to the center).

            PSS – Your reference to Roberts, Margolis & Raimondo is a poor analogy. USMCSniper referenced a prominent member of Brookings, the organization in question (which you are defending). You cite three unaffiliated writers whom no-one here is defending.

    • ziontruth

      Who cares about those labels? I tend to focus on the Left/Islam alliance because it's the most prolific and visible source of the New Anti-Semitism (Jew-hatred under the excuse of anti-Zionism), but there's nothing to prevent other groups from jumping on that bandwagon, or clinging to the older wagons of classical Jew-hatred (racial theory or even the ancient deicide accusation). All are enemies of my nation.

  • Ronin

    Follow the money!!! There is 1.5 billion muslims in the world and in the most cases they have the petro money to spend…..Guess what Buliderburg Group suggest????
    The group sold Shah to Islamist and they would repeat the same plan to other muslim countries……The group put money and profit ahead of the principal untill the day that is too late!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • SoCalMike

    The Left has yet to meet a malignant mass murdering thug it could resist the urge to French kiss.
    It's just how they are and what they do.

  • Welldoneson

    That there are posters on this forum denying Brookings is pro-Moslem only shows the depths of the Institute's propaganda.

    And Steinberg's name means he has issues? And abandoning "Zionism" (sic) would be a good thing? Good lord!

    • Questions

      You're utterly twisting my words. I'm a strong supporter of Israel and always have been. Brookings didn't brainwash me 30 years ago (I worked on domestic policy anyway) and it hasn't done so recently. Maybe you've got some issues.

  • ziontruth


    "Know your enemies. Salafism is not the same thing as Wahhabism; not all Salafists or Wahhabists are Takfiris."

    All are Islam. All are obligated to the duty of instituting shariah law over the entire globe. Only the methods differ.

    "Zawahiri left the MB more than 40 years ago, while still in his teens, to found Al-Jihad. Precisely BECAUSE the MB wasn’t a terrorist group, and he wanted to do terrorism."

    He had a preference for Fast Jihad over Slow Jihad. As I said: Methodology.

    "The Muslim Brotherhood is not nearly as relevant, to Egypt’s current situation, as people think. They came late to the party, and are not by any means its guest of honor."

    Hmmm, now where have I heard this before? Oh yeah, there were pundits saying the same thing about Khomeini and his merry band of clerics in 1979. Ambassador Andrew Young even went so far as to imply Khomeini was merely an inspirational symbolic image for the revolution, which was of course under the control of people who wanted nothing but democracy and would make sure democracy would be the only possible result.

    *sigh* It's not that I don't know of optimism, it's just that I try not to fall into the trap of making my optimism too short-term. My optimism consists in the certainty that God is victorious in the end; but until then, I say let everyone just be a little more guarded.

    • frank

      “All are Islam. All are obligated to the duty of instituting shariah law over the entire globe. Only the methods differ. ”

      There is a difference between someone who thinks you get there through the mass killing of random innocents, and someone who thinks you get there through charity work and setting a moral example.

      Method matters. There’s a lot more to it than “fast” versus “slow”.

      As for the Iranian revolution… I’m old enough to remember it. The religious nuts were at the forefront from the get-go. “Not East, Not West – Islamic Republic!” Khomenei was clearly the leader of the whole movement, years in advance of any protests – the protests started when the government didn’t show “proper respect” for his dead son!

      In contrast, the current revolt in Egypt is mostly secular, and leaderless. They aren’t even vaguely similar.

  • Coastal Eddie

    The far left end of the stable is exclusively kept for geldings!

  • california girl

    When America became so prosperous, many people forgot the source of all the wisdom and power that enabled them to pursue their own interests so productively. When food just arrived at their tables without much effort, the people became complacent. Then when they realized that so few people on earth lived so grandly, they began to feel guilty. Since they no longer had any roots in the history of the judeo=christian ethic, much less the constitution of the United States, they became easy prey for any ideology that came along…. There are still some people who know that guilt can be washed away, and that if it isn't, people see through a glass darkly. They no longer recognise evil when it rears its ugly head. Any religion that preaches death instead of life is evil. Life is precious.
    What is happening today in the world is a religious war, period.

  • mmc

    Follow the money