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Home What if the Problem Really is the People?

What if the Problem Really is the People?

A thousand talking heads and neo-conservative experts on the region assure us that a bright future stretches out before Egypt like a magic carpet. "Democracy," "Freedom", "Representative Government" are the buzzwords that trickle wetly out of their printers. All cynicism is disdained and skepticism swept into the dustbin. History is being made here. But the tricky thing about history is that it isn't a point on a map, but a continuous wave. Like the tide, history is made and remade over and over again, formed and repeated, washed and beached on the shores of time.

Mubarak is the problem, we are told. And he certainly is their problem. The pesky 82 year old air force officer standing in the way of their dreams of a new Egypt. If not for him, Egypt would be a liberal model for the region. Just like Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq. But is it the dictator or the people who are the problem? The protesters are unified by a desire to push out Mubarak. But what do they actually stand for, besides open elections.

59 percent of Egyptian Muslims want democracy and 95 percent want Islam to play a large part in politics. 84 percent believe apostates should face the death penalty. That is what Egyptian democracy will look like. A unanimous majority that wants an Islamic state and a bare majority that wants democracy. Which one do you think will win out? A democratic majority of the country supports murdering people in the name of Islam. Mubarak's government does not execute apostates or adulterers. But a democratic Egypt will. Why? Because it's the will of the people.

The cheerleaders shaking their pom poms for Egyptian democracy don't seem to grasp that the outcome could be anything other than positive. It's an article of faith for them that freedom leads to freedom. That open elections give rise to human rights. That the problem can only be the dictator, not the people. Never the people. That is their ideology and they will stick to it.

Ever since World War II, we have been working off the "Hitler Paradigm". The "Hitler Paradigm" says that there are no bad nations, only bad governments. The people themselves are perfectly fine, but occasionally a tiny minority of extremists seize power. This allows the liberally minded to reconcile the need for occasional wars with their faith in mankind. Instead of fighting wars against nations, they fight wars to liberate nations from their despotic regimes. And ever since we have been fighting these "Wars of Liberation."

We fought to free Korea and Vietnam from Communism, but we lacked one basic thing. Ground level support from the people we were fighting to protect. Today South Koreans like Kim Jong Il more than they like us. We fought to free the tyrants of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein. As a reward, they financed the terrorists who have been killing us ever since. We fought to free Iraq from Saddam, and the entire country imploded into armed camps. Our "Victory in Iraq" came about because we cut a deal with the Baathists against the Shiites and Al Qaeda, essentially restoring a broken version of Saddam's old status quo. We fought to liberate Afghanistan, and now we find ourselves allied with some Muslim warlords who abuse women and rape little boys-- against the other Muslim warlords who abuse women and rape little boys.

Handing out democracy like candy does not fix existing cultural problems. It does not end bigotry, free women or stop murder in the name of Allah. Open elections are only as good as the people participating in them. And the 84 percent of Egyptians who want to murder apostates have issues that democracy will not solve. The problem with Egypt is not Mubarak-- but the Egyptians.

Let's take another example. In Jordan, the next target on the freedom tour, King Hussein passed a bill to criminalize the honor killings of women. And their democratically elected parliament voted 60 to 25 to strike the bill down. It took them only 3 minutes. That's what democracy would mean for the Jordanian girls murdered by their husbands, brothers and fathers. The right of the people and their duly elected representatives to legalize the murder of women.

The Hitler Paradigm says that all you have to do is take away the dictator and his staffers to usher in democracy, freedom and mutual amity. But what if the dictator is not the problem, but the symptom of a larger cultural problem?

Take the Cold War. We defeated Communism without a massive war. The Berlin Wall came down. Democracy came to Russia. Except here we are back to square one. The situation in the region has been reset back to before WW2, with a chaotic Eastern Europe and a predatory Russia. Economic liberalization and even the end of Communism did not change the underlying pattern. Despite a brief period of democracy, Russia reverted to a totalitarian regime with designs on the rest of the region. And that should have shocked no one, because it is exactly what happened after the fall of the Czars culminating in the Bolshevik takeover. All the reforms and liberalization did not give the average Russian what he wanted most-- stability, order and a strong nation.

Freedom is culturally determined. It is not the same thing as democracy. Nor is democracy as ubiquitous and universal as its advocates would like us to believe. Like all forms of power, it can only be exercised by those who are ready for it. Much of the world is not ready for it, no more than 12th century Europe was ready for the Constitution. Given the power to choose, they will choose tyranny. They will choose the known over the unknown, the stable over the unstable, and order over freedom.

A society with a social hierarchy embedded in its culture will preserve that hierarchy even with democratic elections  Such elections will not give women freedom or rights to religious minorities or freedom of expression to unpopular views. These are things which stem from legal guarantees such as the Constitution, they do not arise out of the natural course of open elections. And the pundits who are busy pretending that this is how it works in the columns of every major newspaper are playing the fool.

The United States has freedom due primarily to its culture. Those freedoms were an outgrowth of the rights of Englishmen and the Enlightenment. They cannot be exported to another country-- without also exporting the cultural assumptions that produced them.

Egypt's period of greatest liberalization was under British rule. Since then its cosmopolitan nightspots have been torched and it has drifted closer to Islamization. Even Egypt's current level of human rights under Mubarak is above that of most of its neighbors. And the reason for that is Mubarak's ties to America. The more democratic Egypt becomes, the more its civil rights will diminish. Its rulers will see social issues as an easy way to compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood. As Egypt's cultural ties to the West diminish, so will its freedoms.

The Islamists understand this far better than the neo-conservatives. That is why they campaign so ruthlessly against Western culture. They understand that it is cultural assumptions that dictate behavior, more than any law. While we try to export institutions to the Muslim world, they export Muslim culture to us. And they have had far more luck changing us, than we have had changing them. Institutions are shaped by culture, but cultures are not shaped by institutions. Export every aspect of American government to Egypt, and it will run along Egyptian lines, not American ones. And within a year, Egypt's government will run the same way it does today. Only the window dressing will be different.

Mubarak is one of the last of the Janissaries, the Western trained army officers who seized power across the Arab world in order to implement some twisted semblance of a modern system of government. When the army's grip on power fails, then Egypt will fall even further. The loss of power by the Turkish military meant a descent into Islamism and terrorism. It will mean the same thing in Egypt.

The "Hitler Paradigm" is the ideological blindspot of so many liberals and the liberally minded who insist that an entire nation cannot be bad, only a dictator, just as a religion cannot be bad, only a tiny minority of extremists. Their knee jerk response to every crisis is to insist that a change of government will change everything, that opening up the system will inherently and inevitably mean freedom. As is so often the case, a single bad idea can lead to tremendous folly.

A people who do not believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will not be free no matter how many times they go to the polls. You can place voting booths outside every home and run elections every week, and it will still do no good. Freedom may be the birthright of every man, woman and child on earth-- but it cannot be theirs until they claim it. As long as they believe in the right of the majority to oppress the minority, in the value of order over liberty, and the supremacy of the mosque over any and all civil and legal rights-- then they will never be free. Never. Their elections will either give rise to chaos or tyranny. That is how it is in the Middle East. That is how it will always be until they claim their birthright by closing the Koran and opening their minds.


  1. Anonymous7/2/11

    Yes. Exactly on point. Demographics is destiny. Behold the future.

  2. Everyone can see and agree with what you write. Now the real thinker will ask "so wise one, what is the solution?".

    What do YOU suggest is done or can be started that will move the mass to a different point of understanding and mass enlightenment? How do you advise they are guided to see the right way to move?

    Of course they will need to be shown the benefit of a new course. How do you advise it to be done? Wh

  3. the article deconstructs the intellectual fallacy and points the way to the truth

    understanding that is a starting point in the debate

  4. Hi SK, your recent posts have been spot-on, thanks for the insights! However, this one assumes that the Western-liberal-democratic culture/way is THE way for mankind, which is actually also part of the problem! That "culture," if you can call it that, has taken liberalism to the extreme. Killing babies in utero [aka abortion], legalized homosexual marriages are just two examples of what I mean. There is no more absolute morality, only relativism. A sad & sorry state indeed.
    This explains, to a certain extent, why Islamic fanaticism has such an appeal to the Arab & Muslim states. Looking around at to where "modern" Western culture has come to, makes them run in the opposite direction.
    So in addition to the time necessary for them to adjust to a more open society, a new approach in the West is also necessary.
    The only solution I know of that addresses all these problems is our Holy Torah. You, as a Jewish blogger, should be presenting this as well! B'hatzlacha!!!

  5. Anonymous7/2/11

    "As Egypt has approximately 5 percent of Christians that means 100 percent of Muslims want Islam to play a large part in politics"

    I agree with all your article but this part....
    Copts percentage is difficult to evaluate but is considered to be between 10-15 % of the whole population !

    Keep on your great work,
    Trumpeldor from brussels,eurabia

  6. mindRider7/2/11

    Excellent piece again! But how did the mediaeval European culture ever wrestle itself out from under the yoke of dogmatic Catholicism? Did we Jews ignite that spark of liberty or did Luther by his schism and subsequent gradual loss of power by papal Rome cause such? And how can dogmatic Islam ever create a similar movement towards enlightenment?

  7. Anonymous7/2/11

    Our first challenge is to force our intelligentsia to admit that all cultures are NOT created equal. In Egypt's case it certainly doesn't help that the media round the world as well as our own president calls for the removal of Mubarak. Until we can discuss the results of culture and religion without being accused of hate crimes there is very little we can do.

  8. jsteff said...

    >>Everyone can see and agree with what you write. Now the real thinker will ask "so wise one, what is the solution?".

    If only it was the case that everybody could see (let alone agree) with what Daniel wrote. Sadly, nobody in the MSM or the political elite who are setting the narrative, either sees or understands it.

  9. yitz, whether it's the way forward or not is a separate debate. My point is that if Americans expect Egypt to emulate their form of government, they would have to emulate its culture as well.

    Trumpledor, I've seen numbers from 5 to 10 percent on different sites.

    mind Rider, change the context and you also change the culture. Broadening horizons, the rise of a mercantile class and cultural enrichment helped bring it on in Europe. Whether that will work in Islam is a trickier question. 20 years ago people would have said yes. Today the answer is much less certain.

    anonymous, exactly

    Edgar, most don't. Even most republicans don't.

  10. mindRider7/2/11

    There is a big difference: Reforms, schisms or Vatican Councils...as you may know, tried to go back to the authentic teachings of Jesus or a modern interpretation...

    In Islam, the process is the opposite. A system of government and morality that rules over every single issue, from female masturbation to imposed taxes... can not be "revived" or corrected... What makes Islam modern is its own ignorance or lack of orthodoxy.

  11. mindRider7/2/11

    The second mindRider is not the original one. Pls use an other name!

  12. These words are desperately needed to be heard, so this 'Hitler Paradigm' can be laid to rest in a shallow grave, and better, more realistic views can be adopted in its stead.

    The indoctrination runs so deep, that the mere act of pronouncing the simple truth - that not all nations, all cultures, all people are equal - is taboo these days.
    Therefore, the first step, as always, is to break down the mental wall.

  13. Excellent one.

    "That is how it will always be until they claim their birthright by closing the Koran and opening their minds."

    When 85% of Egyptians want death penalty for those leaving Islam, this will never happen.

  14. With the exception of choosing Russia as an example, I have to completely agree. Excellent observations and very well said.

    I would not dignify the efforts of Muslim struggles to "modernize" their governments and societies. Mostly they have been concerned about adopting technology from the west and east too. They are happy to be middle class and civil when exploiting the west and socialists when exploiting the east in the days of the Soviet Union. And when these resources have been exhausted, they will go back to their Muslim beliefs and suffer it's enforcement like they have been in Saudi Arabia since its beginning. Really, democratization applied independent of the necessary changes in belief is just another adaptation of western technology. Remember the Soviet Union claimed to be democratic too and so also have other socialist countries made the same claim.

    But you made the right point when you observe the importance of freedom as a necessary value at the roots of the culture of democracy. And the culture of democracy is not passive. It is aggressive and seeks dominance over cultures that reject personal freedom as a value. This is what is so disturbingly missing in the Obamination's manipulations in Egypt and the Middle East in general.

  15. Anonymous7/2/11

    Great job Sultan. Our views are remarkably similar, but just written differently. See Egypt: Out of the Pan and into the Fire by Andrew Stunich at the islam-watch.org website.

  16. Anonymous7/2/11

    Basically Right but with major fallicy —
    Your article is right overall. But US freedom is not as you say " the outgrowth of the rights of Englishmen and the Enlightenment..." but rather the publication and putting The Bible, particularly the New Testament, into the hands of the common man begun by John Wycliffe, and the rise of the Protestant Movement- which,by the way, is still a Movement toward a Church which will arise. This is the source of true liberty.

  17. Anonymous7/2/11

    Sultan Knish,

    I really enjoy your blog. Your words are powerful and well chosen.
    Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom. G-d has given you a gift, and you use it well. I often share your blog on FB, because the truth needs to counteract all the BS being injected into our collective veins via the beholden networks. If only more Americans would yank out their I.V. lines and refuse to be fed the pablum of talking points and deception...
    Thank you for speaking the truth. I hear you loud and clear.

    ~USMC Mom

  18. thank you, I'm glad you do

  19. Sultan Knish,

    If anybody doubts that your article describes the truth, they just have to go and take a look in the no-go areas in Europe, where Muslims are slowly creating Islamic hellholes right in the middle of democratic countries. Nobody can be free as long as he is a slave to Allah.

    Would you mind if I translated this article in Dutch and put it on my blog?

  20. Why must the US do anything for the Middle East? We buy their oil and let them fight each other. We don't get involved, we don't send troops to help the Muslims fight their wars. We don't give aid to the Muslims. We carry a big stick. We stop all Muslim immigration and curb Islam in America.

    You look back at the wars we have fought and for many, you have to ask - Would we have been better off not getting involved but let the war run its course? Look at the UK? Look what they have done to themselves, now overrun with the barbarians, and they won't even acknowledge it. Look what we are doing to ourselves - decadence, refusal by our elite to control our borders, persecution and shunning of those who speak the truth. The West is in terrible trouble and we are fed the big lies day in/day out - multiculturalism is good, diversity is strength, all races are equal, all religions are equal. Lies.

  21. sure antivenin, go ahead

  22. Anonymous7/2/11

    The problem is a religious one and without preaching I'm going to give some Honest and Intelligent insight (not that you don't already know this.) The peaceful Middle East is NEVER going to happen from our perspective -- Not for anything more than a show to the west (which is all it has been for years.) The west does have loads of hypocrisy when it comes to Christianity but it also has small glimmers of Real Truth that aren't battered into submission - At least Not YET. There is ABSOLUTELY no Truth in Islam EXCEPT that it is a Lie. It is a backwards religion stolen from the pages of Truth and the Koran shows the map of Islam's Truth very clearly. The only unity the Middle East may obtain is not going to be good for anyone but those practicing their religion and the US Media (and certainly this current administration) is absolutely in the dark. They could all learn a lot from frequenting a few blogs like this one but that's not going to happen.
    Anyway I'm preaching to the choir I know - and I understand your website is to inform - but inform is all it will do because Islam won't change as long as there are polytheist heathens to subject to Allah's Will.

    Nuff Said.

  23. Sadly, you are correct.

  24. Anonymous8/2/11

    Interesting blog!

    I only would like to add,
    that biblical faith is
    sometimes implicite in
    values of
    free world.

    (I'm a protestant of Lutheran origin, so my point of view is of course biased...)


    Muhammed told to murder your enemies.

    Christ told to love your enemies.

    It's not that simple -

    but some things are sometimes very simple.

    (Or at least implications of different premises can be totally different in real life...)

    Reader from Finland

  25. Anonymous8/2/11

    Hello mr. Greenfield.
    I also used Pew's polling data for some of my posts.
    But i'm amazed to see that you, and other prominent commentators (Barry Rubin if i remember correctly) as well as "The Globe and Mail" made the same mistake - the poll is based on egyptian muslims only, not "egyptians", and it does not include the christian copts.

    The data is interesting and it can be found here -


    Btw keep up the good work, i often read this blog.

  26. This is an excellent article! The only thing missing is using the word MENTALITY as the core concept behind everything Mr. Greenfield says here.

    Mentality is the sum total cultural assumptions and collective perception of life. Mentality is contains the culture's attitudes about life and their assumptions about how life works. Mentalities don't change much because it is based on historical experiences of the culture and is taught by parents to their children from the earliest age. Parents teach their kids what they understand to be normal in society and the way things are. Perceptions and assumptions about these things vary from culture to culture and a vast majority of people in this world have no understanding of how this works so we all naturally assume that everyone else thinks like us. The only way to truly understand how one cultural mentality is different from another is to actually move away from one's homeland, live in another society for a number of years and learn the local language. Without that one can know intellectually that there are different cultural mentalities, but only after living in another culture can one truly understand how it affects a society.

    So I suggest using the word "mentality" in this context because that's really what is moving such events and is exactly what Mr. Greenfield is referring to.

  27. John Sobieski,

    Why must the US do anything for the Middle East?

    The US must do something for itself and that is keep its independence and freedom of action which means that if it permits oil rich region to come under the control of extremist elements it is going to find itself being blackmailed in trade and foreign relations.
    The US won't be able to just sit back, buy oil, some coffee and smile at the violent antics but will find itself being cornered into an unpleasant posture for its citizenry by the newest bully on the block.

  28. What you are talking about at the start of this article is a very old dilemma of democracy. Does the majority have the right to tyrannize the minority, to deny rights to the minority? Is majority rule the same as democracy, if the minority is deprived of rights? Etc.

    But this dilemma has never existed for Islam, since Muslims have believed from the beginning that Muslims as a group have the right to rule over non-Muslims, whatever the numerical relationship may be. Indeed, this situation existed throughout the centuries of Islamic rule. At the start of Islam, and in the period of the Arab/Muslim conquests, the Muslims were the MINORITY everywhere that they had conquered. Indeed up to 1914, non-Muslims were the majority in Constantinople [now called Istanbul], just as Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem since 1853.

    Muslims never believed that being in the minority vitiated their right to rule over those cities with non-Muslim majorities. They now demand dividing the city of Jerusalem while they are a minority. If they were the majority, they would hide under the democratic principle of majority rule and reject any Jewish demand for separation of the part inhabited by the Jewish minority. However, since the Muslims are the minority, they know that they can't get away with demanding rule over the whole city in a time when democracy is the hegemonic idea.

  29. yes, a theological justification for authority comes with no limits on that authority, and no concern for the rights of those under it.

  30. Daniel,
    Beautiful, beautiful final paragraph.
    So simple, so full of poetic truth They will not find the right road even though it is there, within their grasp.

  31. Anonymous10/2/11

    The problem is a large portion of the people that can be easily manipulated for any number of reasons, It is the "Manipulators" of the sadly simple that have questionable motives that usually revolve around power and control.
    America's liberal elite and Soros's minions don't understand the fatal nature of Islam. The "Cold War", had a detente principal of mutually assured destruction, Islam does not respect life, so martyring whole groups of people is not a problem. Evil has many faces, many willing to sell their souls,to manipulate the poor and eneducated is truly man demonstrating his fallen nature. Whether an American Politician or Arab Pedophile or Disenfranchised Former Radicals that never matured, The "Manipulators" need to be culled and perhaps true men of courage will become leaders.

  32. this is the most important piece that you've written, Sultan. Yes, the central problem of human development is that society's culture defines society's life. Rigid dogmatic schema's of social construction change nothing until "the psyche" of a nation is changed - its CORE MORAL VALUES, it's ETHICS system.

    The Arab/Moslem societies of today are autocratic - self-oppressing: their oppression is innate, ingrained in their fabric of day-to-day life, not a consequence of any external "dictator" who's rule is often a counterweight to it and a guarantor for some limited form of personal rights (like it was for women in Saddam's Iraq for instance, and of course the Egypt's Mubarak).

    Of course we can define the cultural assumptions behind Freedom in a little bit more explicit terms than just "the Englishmen rights". It is the rule of Law; equality of all before Law; and the most importantly, the Law being a manifestation of *Negative Golden Rule*:
    Do No Harm!
    (i.e. do not do unto other that which you wish were not done onto you).

    Plus, the Imperative of Individual Freedom:
    Freedom of Thought and Choice!
    (the Right to Know, to Think, and to Choose for yourself), and

    Any ethics system based on these three moral axioms can not but lead to a Freedom Society, of free and responsible individuals.

    A specific governance scheme is less important then. A responsible citizen will even refrain from voting on issues with which she is less familiar.

    The most dangerous crime in such a system would be conscious spreading of LIES, half-truths and omissions of facts in order to influence the thinking process of individuals. That is of course widespread today.

    The problem of false perception remains (to wit, the Daily Kos's and HuffPo's of today), but Rational Thought is not an easy and passive endeavor.

  33. Yes it's not, and self-oppressing is a great term for it.

  34. Anonymous9/12/14

    The Problem with Egypt lies (lays) in your Military
    in order to change the Country, you first must Eliminate every Military Officer
    over the Rank of Major, and Start over.
    This will not only return control the country to the people, it will return Resteraunts, Hotels, Travel & Land back to the people stolen by the very people who should have been looking out for You? It's Laugh
    Then you must Eliminate the Judicial System start over - Fact you donot even have a Judgical Sysatem....you have bribe collector who deal with the highest bidder
    While Egypt in in debit 40 Billion Dollars, that is atleast better than Ukraine at 140 Billion.


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