The World, According to the London Review of Books

February 16, 2014

In Blog


by Ajit  Hegde
Hazem Kandil, a sociology lecturer in Cambridge, has written an essay in the London Review of Books, which to naive eyes might look like the lament of a concerned individual who is upset about the way military dictatorship has been re-established. In fact, if one reads the first and last paragraphs, one might think Kandil is an opponent of military dictatorship.
But the devil, as they say, is in the details. In the guise of opposing the miilitary, Kandil actually blames the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) for every episode of horror, chaos and disaster that unfolded in Egypt for the past 2 years.
First, Kandil claims that “Morsi was no more Egypt’s Allende than Sisi was its Pinochet.” Actually, other than the obvious fact that Allende was a leftist and Morsi is an Islamist, there are quite a few similarities between them. 
  • Both were democratically  elected
  • Both were targets of  largely successful  destabilization campaigns to cripple the economy 
  • Both were overthrown by a military that conspired with outside powers.
Second, Kandil pens this astonishing paragraph:

“The Egyptian military had hoped to relieve itself of the burden of everyday governance in order to focus on more pressing concerns: rebuilding its capacity as a combat force; diversifying its sources of hardware beyond the US; demilitarising Sinai; and finding ways to project its power in the region. They expected the Islamists to pacify the street.”

Kandil writes as if the press officer for Egyptian generals. The claim, for example, that the Egyptian military doesn’t want to rule Egypt is patently absurd.  Kandil doesn’t present any evidence for this stunning claim.  Is it to be inferred that  he was a fly on the wall when the Generals were meeting?
Third, Kandil makes an extraordinary claim about Mubarak’s reasonableness. According to him, Mubarak made many significant concessions to gain popular support: He dismissed his cabinet, the leadership of his party and the infamous Policy Committee, and formed a committee to purge the constitution of unpopular clauses; and then he pledged that neither he nor his son would run in the presidential elections.  Dismissing the cabinet and party leadership are pretty routine stuff in plenty of dictatorships.  The King of Jordan routinely dismisses Government ministers and appoints others in their place. Will Kandil claim the King of Jordan is being reasonable?   As for the claim that neither Mubarak nor his son would run in presidential elections , Mubarak made many such wonderful claims about many things, including lifting the state of emergency, only to ignore them in due course.  It’s embarrassing that a lecturer on Sociology can believe such pie in the sky claims made by  dictators.
Fourth, Kandil is offended by Morsi claiming himself the legitimate ruler for 98 times in a 45 minute speech. It is not clear what is so offensive about a legitimately elected President claiming so.  The Brotherhood won every election after the revolution and all these elections were monitored by international observers.
Fifth, Kandil paints the MB as in open alliance with Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-linked organizations, even linking MB to the Sinai insurgency. But the Sinai Peninsula has long been known for its  lawlessness. Morsi didn’t collaborate with Sinai Jihadists during his reign. He actually supported the military’s operations against them.  Kandil doesn’t mention that the salafist Noor Party (presumably taking orders from their Saudi masters) supported  Morsi’s ouster by the military.
Sixth, Kandil writes that “Everyone knows that the actual perpetrators of violence are the Brothers’ unruly allies”. 
The  phrase  “everyone  knows”  is  the clue. When someone pronounces “everyone knows,” it means  “Don’t ask me questions, just believe me.”
Seventh, Kandil basically claims that Sisi overthrew Morsi in order to avoid Civil War and chaos. According to Kandil, to repress the people on behalf of the Brothers would be to identify with Islamist despotism, as in Iran. Intervention on the side of ‘the people’ seemed the most efficient way to minimise the threat to national security.  This makes as clear as daylight that Kandil supported the overthrow of a democratic government by the military. 
Eighth, there is not a single mention of Saudi Arabia in Kandil’s essay. It is like writing a whole essay about Allende’s ouster without mentioning US.  Saudi Arabia, that plague upon the House of Islam, has long understood the threat of a successful example of reconciling Islam with Democracy. The Saudis know the threat such an example poses to their own grotesque  autocracy. Consequently, no country worked harder than Saudis to destabilize Morsi’s  government and then celebrated his fall.
In garb of opposing military takeover, Kandil blames the MB for all the problems of Egypt. So he should be properly called an apologist for military dictatorship.