The Muslim Brotherhood’s Useful Idiots

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Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

You have to hand it to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. They know how to play power politics. They know how to acquire power. And they know how to use power.

Last Friday, the day before voters by most accounts elected the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsy to serve as Egypt’s next president, The Wall Street Journal published a riveting account by Charles Levinson and Matt Bradley of how the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the secular revolutionaries to take control of the country’s political space.

The Brotherhood kept a very low profile in the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 that led to the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood’s absence from Tahrir Square at that time is what enabled Westerners to fall in love with the Egyptian revolution.

Those demonstrations led to the impression, widespread in the US, that Mubarak’s successors would be secular Facebook democrats. The role that Google’s young Egyptian executive Wael Gonim played in organizing the demonstrations was reported expansively. His participation in the anti-regime protests – as well as his brief incarceration – was seen as proof that the next Egyptian regime would be indistinguishable from Generation X and Y Americans and Europeans.

In their report, Levinson and Bradley showed how the Brotherhood used the secularists to overthrow the regime, and to provide them with a fig leaf of moderation through March 2011, when the public voted on the sequencing of Egypt’s post-Mubarak transformation from a military dictatorship into a populist regime. The overwhelming majority of the public voted to first hold parliamentary elections and to empower the newly elected parliament to select members of the constitutional assembly that would write Egypt’s new constitution.

As Egypt’s largest social force, the Brotherhood knew it would win the majority of the seats in the new parliament. The March 2011 vote ensured its control over writing the new Egyptian constitution.

In July 2011, the Brotherhood decided to celebrate its domination of the new Egypt with a mass rally at Tahrir Square. Levinson and Bradley explained how in the lead-up to that event Egypt’s secular revolutionaries were completely outmaneuvered.

According to their account, the Brotherhood decided to call the demonstration “Shari’a Friday.” Failing to understand that the game was over, the secularists tried to regain what they thought was the unity of the anti-regime ranks from earlier in the year.

“Islamists and revolutionary leaders spent three days negotiating principles they could all support at the coming Friday demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. They reached an agreement and the revolution seemed back on track.”

One secularist leader, Rabab el-Mahdi, referred to the agreement as “The perfect moment. A huge achievement.”

But then came the double cross.

“Hours before the demonstration, hard-line Salafi Islamists began adorning the square with black-and-white flags of jihad and banners calling for the implementation of Islamic law. Ms. Mahdi made frantic calls to Brotherhood leaders, who told her there was little they could do.”


THE DIFFERENCE between the Brotherhood and the secularists is a fundamental one. The Brotherhood has always had a vision of the Egypt it wants to create. It has always used all the tools at its disposal to advance the goal of creating an Islamic state in Egypt.

For their part, the secularists have no ideological unity and so share no common vision of a future Egypt. They just oppose the repression of the military. Opposing repression is not a political program. It is a political act. It can destroy. It cannot rule.

So when the question arose of how to transform the protests that caused the US to abandon Mubarak and sealed the fate of his regime into a new regime, the secularists had no answer. All they could do was keep protesting military repression.

The Brotherhood has been the most popular force in Egypt for decades. Its leaders recognized that to take over the country, all they needed was the power to participate in the elections and the authority to ensure that the election results mattered – that is, control over writing the constitution. And so, once the secularists fomented Mubarak’s overthrow, their goal was to ensure their ability to participate in the elections and to ensure that the parliament would control the constitution-writing process.

To achieve these goals, they were equally willing to collaborate with the secularists against the military and with the military against the secularists. To achieve their goals they were willing – as they did before Shari’a Friday last July – to negotiate in bad faith.

While instructive, the Journal’s article fell short because the reporters failed to recognize that the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the military junta in the same way that it outmaneuvered the secularists. The article starts with the premise that the military’s decision to stage an effective coup d’etat last week spelled an end to the Egyptian revolution and the country’s reversion to the military dictatorship that has ruled the state since the 1950s.

Levinson and Bradley claim, “Following the rulings by the high court this week [which canceled the results of the parliamentary elections and ensured continued military control over the country regardless of the results of the presidential elections], the Brotherhood’s strategy of cooperation with the military seems failed.”

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  • richard sherman

    The 2012 election in Egypt is identical to the 1933 election in Germany. The result will be identical: war and thousands of dead Jews.

    • Choi

      TRY 6,000,000 DEAD JEWS , not thousands, MURDERED by the Nazis and their WILLING Helpers.

  • Steve Chavez

    THE WORLD has been dealing with JIMMY CARTER'S IRANIAN MULLAHS for decades. (Imagine if Barack Obama had supported Iran's GREEN REVOLUTION as vigorously as he did the ARAB SPRING and today there would be "democracy" in Iran instead of a country who's on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons and sends its Armies, funds, and weapons to their proxies in Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah with the goal of "wiping Israel off the map.")

    THE WORLD will be dealing with BARACK OBAMA'S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD FOR CENTURIES since they will never give up power as they DISMANTLE THE VERY DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS that they used in their "democracy." Now they will be free to jail and even kill opponents AND CHRISTIANS, and to use their own Sharia Law to enslave women even as those very women voted for them.

    LOOK FOR A UNITED FRONT/Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, American Dupes, WITH IRAN, and others including our so-called Arab Friends and the silence from Obama even as he fully supports them, AGAINST ISRAEL.

    • Neils60

      Jimmy Carter stated that Israel has nothing to fear, because the Moslem Brotherhood will continue with the 1979 peace treaty with just a few minor modifications. In fact, Carter stated that he put "his trust in the Brotherhood." Surprise, surprise, Morsey, Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood president, stated just this morning that he's re-thinking the entire 1979 agreement and is anxious to strengthen ties with (Adolph Ahmedinijad's) Iran. (Remember, too, this was the same Moslem Brotherhood who promised that they wouldn't run a candidate for president just some 16 months ago.)

  • mlcblog

    Excellent article.

  • Sage on the Stage

    Israel is at war–185 rockets fired at the Jewish state last week-and intense fighting, with Egypt, Iran, and perhaps Hezbollah-isn't far off. Support Israel however you can.

  • Tom Sullivan

    The Muslim Brotherhood is totalitarian, dedicated to worldwide Muslim dominance. Whatever power they have will be spent to destroy all others. The US is their Great Satan, and Israel is the Little Satan. It remains to be seen if the Egyptian military will bow to them or not.

  • stevefraser

    Absolutely excellent analysis of what is really happening in Egypt. Much thanks.

  • Anamah

    My soul goes with you precious Israel. I'm counting the days of this dangerous Obama administration still in power…I do no comply!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    It remains to be seen if the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Military can work together or at
    all, militarsts will not give up power and will destroy any threat to their power. The street
    demonstrations are allowed up to a point and society will have to justify the loss of jobs, food
    rationing and no future outside of going hungry on their prayer rugs which they will eventually wish
    were flying carpets takng them out of Egypt. Israel must remain vigilant as the military will probably
    look the other way for Islamist terrorists to aid Hammas and use the Sinai for continuous attacks.
    I can only see prolonged violence culminating in war. Financial help for Israeli institutions should be
    a serious consideration. Magen David Adom is the Israeli Red Cross and a worthy organization
    to support…………………………………William

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Troll in the neighborhood…………………William

  • Dave

    I doubt that Egypt will be a problem for Israel. I expect it will present opportunities for increased aid and distract attention from settlement building.

    Turkey is portrayed a bogeyman in this article. But consider the fact that NATO, of which Turkey is a member, sent jets into Syrian territory to probe Syrian air defenses and, likely, to provoke an incident that will draw NATO into an attack on Syria. This goes against the interests of the Turkish people, and is really incredibly considering they are acting against their co-religionists. Turkey is a United States poodle, ultimately controlled by Israel.

    Sadly, this is another article causing unnecessary stress to Jewish people, making them feel that the world is against them, and consequently having them side with vested interests (e.g. the military industrial complex) who ultimately cause damage to Jewish people.

    • ziontruth

      "I doubt that Egypt will be a problem for Israel. … Turkey is portrayed a bogeyman in this article."

      Nothing to worry about, go back to sleep. /sarc

      "Turkey is a United States poodle, ultimately controlled by Israel."

      The same old tune sung again, the same old libel, the biggest problem with which is that it isn't true (if it ever had been, "Jewish power" could have prevented so many atrocities that have befallen the Jews).

      "Sadly, this is another article causing unnecessary stress to Jewish people, … ultimately cause damage to Jewish people."

      Your concern is duly noted, as is your being a troll.

      "…vested interests (e.g. the military industrial complex)"

      And your 1968-style Marxism as well.

      "…unnecessary stress to Jewish people, making them feel that the world is against them,…"

      In the Passover Seder we Jews mark the fact that people wish to destroy the Jewish nation in every generation. The Haggadah was written by the Sages of Judaism; I'll take their word over that of a Protocols-believing Marxist concern-troll like you any day.

  • Dennis Metz

    It is so werid how you can read all about hitler and how nazis killed millions of jews but people will not write about farraconvict when he preaches about killing jews and he is a live today? how many black leaders and reverands come out and preach about killing jews/?

  • Bone in my Trous

    History will repeat itself. It always does. Humanity never learns, making the same mistakes over and over again.