Erbe: Growing wary of the Arab Spring's results
Russia is apparently moderating its stance on Syria. So far, President Vladimir Putin has supported Bashar al-Assad's dictatorial regime through two years of civil war that has cost the lives of 40,000 Syrians and created millions of refugees both inside and outside Syria's borders.
One might ask why. The obvious and first answer is money; Russia has been Syria's main arms supplier for decades. But the second is more complex and justifiable: The Russians fear that the government replacing the Assad regime could be even worse.
A dangerous pattern is emerging. Islamic countries more often than not replace tyrants with religious dictators who can become even more despotic than their predecessors. Look at Iran. Unfortunately, look at Egypt. What we now see emerging there is a theocracy that appears headed in the direction of becoming more oppressive than the autocracy it rebelled against.
Westerners naively believed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi would back down after public protests against his outrageous, undemocratic power grab. As Eric Trager wrote in The New Republic: From Western journalists' "vantage point, criticism of Morsi's move from within his own government, threats of judicial strikes, and the sheer magnitude of popular anger could force Morsi, in the words of The New York Times, 'to engage in the kind of give and take that democratic government requires.' " So much for that, eh? Western media almost uniformly cheered on Egypt's second-ever election (in which there were two candidates) that took place in June. I sat by watching anxiously. Unfortunately, my negative expectations were borne out.
First, by assuming total power in his latest move, Morsi has undone the outcome of the hard-fought revolution. Second, since Morsi took power, the status of women in Egypt -- my particular area of interest -- has been nothing but downgraded. The supposed democratic government appointed no women to the committee that drew up the new draft constitution in Egypt. In Parliament, the percentage of female legislators dropped to 2 percent from 12 percent after quotas were abolished.
Should we be surprised? Not in the least.
As The New Republic reported, all you needed to do was read Morsi's resume to see he is not someone prone to compromise: "Prior to last year's uprising and his subsequent emergence as Egypt's first civilian president, Morsi was the Muslim Brotherhood's chief internal enforcer within the Guidance Office, steering the organization in a more hard-line direction ideologically while purging the Brotherhood of individuals who disagreed with his approach."
The report goes on to cite a litany of experiences in which Morsi took extreme positions and refused to yield on his demands. He led the Muslim Brotherhood's 2007 drafting of a political platform that "called for restricting the Egyptian presidency to Muslim men and establishing a council of Islamic scholars to approve all legislation for its sharia-compliance."
That does not mean that Morsi is unfamiliar with the American political system's propensity to spin events to make it look like he is something he is not: collaborative as opposed to exclusionary.
Morsi, after all, spent time in California in the 1980s, where he earned a doctorate in engineering and later taught in that state's university system. During his presidential campaign, he reached out to secular and Christian leaders telling them he would include them in his government. Instead, he filled his cabinet, "primarily with Muslim Brothers and non-ideological technocrats."
So Western journalists and governments should wise up and view the so-called Arab Spring with greater suspicion.
Bonnie Erbe, a TV host, writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.