Egypt, Islam, and Modernity

Herbert E. Meyer has a track record of seeing the big picture when others are mired in the details. When President Reagan proclaimed his Cold War strategy to be, "We win; they lose," it was Herb Meyer who mobilized the CIA into devising the strategy to accomplish this, a task that resulted in his being awarded the nation's highest honor for intelligence service.

Meyer has no turned his attention to Egypt, and outlined his views in an interview with Grove City College's Center for Values and Vision. The entire interview is well worth a read, but here are three key  excerpts:

Islam is finally starting to do what Christianity and Judaism did centuries ago: figure out how to reconcile faith with the modern world. In effect, the Islamic world has started to write the code for Version 2.0. This is a momentous development in world history. Remember that it took us a long time to get it right, so to speak, and we shouldn't expect the Muslim world to accomplish this overnight.

For 30 years, Hosni Mubarak kept Egypt from becoming modern. He and his military took control of the economy, and they wrecked it. This is a country of 90 million people, half of whom are illiterate, 70 percent of whom live on the land - and which imports half its food. This was okay with U.S. policymakers, because in return for keeping Egypt from moving forward Mubarak kept the peace with Israel. At some point the lid on this pressure cooker had to blow off, and that's what happened last year. It was idiotic for all of our (self-proclaimed) professional conservatives to say we should have urged Mubarak to put the lid back on. That cannot be done; at least, not without gunning down 20,000 or 30,000 protestors and then explaining that the U.S. said it would be okay.... (snip)

Morsi did absolutely nothing to make Egypt "modern" and, in fact, was taking it backwards. Moreover, Egypt now is on the verge of mass starvation. The country is dead broke - its only successful industry, tourism, no longer exists. It's this prospect of mass starvation that brought 20 million Egyptians into the streets this month. They're running out of food, and also fuel. I don't know if they'll "get it right" this time. But if they don't - well, they'll try again and keep trying until Egypt is finally on the road to modernity. It'll probably be a mess for a while, but as I keep pointing out, in the real world there's no rewind button. You can only go forward.

If U.S. policy would focus on "modernity" we would have a global framework on which to base our policies, and on which to decide which groups we support in other countries and which we oppose. (snip)

We want the world to become "modern" for several reasons. First, modernity will bring a massive reduction in poverty. Second, societies that are modern and increasingly prosperous become middle-class societies. And middle-class societies are less likely than failing societies to start wars. Human nature is imperfect, but we'll be safer when the overwhelming majority of people in the Islamic world would rather have a Starbucks on the corner than a car bomb; when they'd rather see a Wal-Mart or an IKEA being built in their neighborhoods than another radical mosque.

Keep another point in mind: As the world emerges from poverty, it means the total customer base for every product and service American and other Western-based companies can provide will grow enormously. And that will create the jobs we need in our own countries for our young people.

Read the whole thing.

Herbert E. Meyer has a track record of seeing the big picture when others are mired in the details. When President Reagan proclaimed his Cold War strategy to be, "We win; they lose," it was Herb Meyer who mobilized the CIA into devising the strategy to accomplish this, a task that resulted in his being awarded the nation's highest honor for intelligence service.

Meyer has no turned his attention to Egypt, and outlined his views in an interview with Grove City College's Center for Values and Vision. The entire interview is well worth a read, but here are three key  excerpts:

Islam is finally starting to do what Christianity and Judaism did centuries ago: figure out how to reconcile faith with the modern world. In effect, the Islamic world has started to write the code for Version 2.0. This is a momentous development in world history. Remember that it took us a long time to get it right, so to speak, and we shouldn't expect the Muslim world to accomplish this overnight.

For 30 years, Hosni Mubarak kept Egypt from becoming modern. He and his military took control of the economy, and they wrecked it. This is a country of 90 million people, half of whom are illiterate, 70 percent of whom live on the land - and which imports half its food. This was okay with U.S. policymakers, because in return for keeping Egypt from moving forward Mubarak kept the peace with Israel. At some point the lid on this pressure cooker had to blow off, and that's what happened last year. It was idiotic for all of our (self-proclaimed) professional conservatives to say we should have urged Mubarak to put the lid back on. That cannot be done; at least, not without gunning down 20,000 or 30,000 protestors and then explaining that the U.S. said it would be okay.... (snip)

Morsi did absolutely nothing to make Egypt "modern" and, in fact, was taking it backwards. Moreover, Egypt now is on the verge of mass starvation. The country is dead broke - its only successful industry, tourism, no longer exists. It's this prospect of mass starvation that brought 20 million Egyptians into the streets this month. They're running out of food, and also fuel. I don't know if they'll "get it right" this time. But if they don't - well, they'll try again and keep trying until Egypt is finally on the road to modernity. It'll probably be a mess for a while, but as I keep pointing out, in the real world there's no rewind button. You can only go forward.

If U.S. policy would focus on "modernity" we would have a global framework on which to base our policies, and on which to decide which groups we support in other countries and which we oppose. (snip)

We want the world to become "modern" for several reasons. First, modernity will bring a massive reduction in poverty. Second, societies that are modern and increasingly prosperous become middle-class societies. And middle-class societies are less likely than failing societies to start wars. Human nature is imperfect, but we'll be safer when the overwhelming majority of people in the Islamic world would rather have a Starbucks on the corner than a car bomb; when they'd rather see a Wal-Mart or an IKEA being built in their neighborhoods than another radical mosque.

Keep another point in mind: As the world emerges from poverty, it means the total customer base for every product and service American and other Western-based companies can provide will grow enormously. And that will create the jobs we need in our own countries for our young people.

Read the whole thing.

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