Yesterday Aaron David Miller, a former longtime U.S. adviser on the Middle East (to six Secretaries of State), sounded off against the Muslim Brotherhood, characterizing the group as anti-democratic and questioning whether they could govern in “the national interests of the Egyptian people and not just their own what I would describe as corporatist influence.”
But what are those “national interests of the Egyptian people”? In essence, how smartly the Brotherhood will defer to the United States and shut up about the peace treaty. Notice that by the end of his comments, he’s saying that the military actually knows how to govern Egypt, because it knows how to defer to the U.S.
[NPR’s Steve] INSKEEP: You talked about the question of whether the Brotherhood can deliver good governance. What is good governance in the situation that Egypt is in right now? How would you define that?
MILLER: Well, since Egypt is so dependent on external sources of aid and economic reform, the brothers are going to have to adopt a pretty internationalist, reform-minded modernist view of economic change. And…
INSKEEP: In other words, they need money from America. They need money from elsewhere.
MILLER: Exactly, exactly. And to negotiate with the IMF. I think the real role that they’re going to have to play – and that very much is going to mean toning down their rhetoric or abandoning it with respect to their criticism to the United States, the peace treaty. Because it seems to me that…
INSKEEP: The peace treaty with Israel, specifically, you mean.
MILLER: Well, yeah. I think the brothers, under the pressure of change and being effective, will have to change their vocabulary. But the question is: Will they be allowed to govern? Will the military actually create enough political space and opening so that they will, in fact, shape and influence these kinds of economic decisions? I don’t know the answer to that.
INSKEEP: So they have to make the people at large happy by delivering services and just seeming competent. They have to make their core followers happy by going after some of the basic philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have to make the army at least not too unhappy so the army doesn’t step on them. And it sounds like you feel they also have to make sure they don’t annoy the United States too greatly.
MILLER: It’s a lot of balls to keep up in the air without dropping any for a party that has never, in its eight decades, ruled anything. The Egyptian military has, in effect, run the country under Mubarak. They at least have the shell of a how-to manual. I’m not sure the Muslim Brotherhood has that, and they may well have to defer to the military and cooperate closely with it.
These comments strike me as deceptive. Miller began the interview by saying there’s no Egyptian revolution. That is wishful thinking. To judge from several elections now, the Muslim Brotherhood obviously represent some strong measure of the will of the Egyptian people; yet Miller is saying that the Brothers are invalid representatives of those people inasmuch as they reject the “how-to manual” developed by Mubarak, a dictatorship aimed at keeping the U.S. happy.
The real question here is what’s so great about the U.S. policy that Miller helped to craft. Should a US policy tied entirely to a peace treaty whose promises to Palestinians have been repeatedly been nullifed for 30 years, leading the Egyptians to sour on it, be questioned? Maybe the U.S. ought to start listening to the Egyptian people.