Wednesday, 25 September 2013

An excellent discussion of Egypt
with Karl Sharro

I was sent this link out of the blue by Vivita at WORLDwrite and watched the discussion through. I thoroughly recommend it. Asked to comment at the site, I did so, as below. 

Karl Sharro has a very clear view that he articulates intelligently, patiently, but passionately. I am, needless to say, no expert on Middle Easten matters so offer apologies in advance for any misunderstanding and ignorance in that respect, but aim to be an intelligent dispassionate listener with opinions stitched out of shreds and patches.

The comment:

Thank you for sending me the link. It is an excellent discussion where many of the central questions are raised and articulately answered by the admirable Karl Sharro The ideas are clear and I don’t quarrel with any of them. I would only add that in terms of realpolitik - the way things actually happen – there has never been an absolutely clear choice between the unquestionable good and the unquestionable bad, and that, at the moment of the coup, many, including myself, didn’t know how far the Morsi government had exceeded its democratic mandate or how far the army had support from a disenchanted electorate. The geopolitical (or realpolitikal) fear was that the Morsi government would rush into the arms of Iran or further, into the wilder reaches of Islamism. How far that was a realistic fear I don’t know. Even if it was, however, that was no reason to rush to support the coup and in terms of principle – in so far as real states ever act out of principle – there were very firm grounds to condemn it.

One of the most interesting things Sharro said was that a better idea might have been to split the army. This is in fact what happened in Hungary (my country of birth) in 1956. It happened pretty well spontaneously as far as we know and the army as a body quickly went over to the revolution. I have no idea whether the circumstances in Egypt were ripe for that, or, if not quite, how long it would have taken to produce such a split. As it is, the situation in Egypt, on the surface, is comparable to that in Hungary 1956, in that people might claim that the army did in fact go over to the revolution, like the Hungarian army did in 1956. I very much doubt that was the case myself (I am sure Karl Sharro would refute any such idea).

The role of the USA and ‘the West’ in general, is usually very complex. Like any body of states with a common interest they pursue those interests and hope as far as pssible to square that with some given principle. The US has been invited to intervene, somehwat against its will, on various occasions: in WW1 and WW2 and in Bosnia. The West, including the US, has the same kind of interest in what goes on in the Middle East as has any country in matters that affect it. The big difference is that the US has great military power and is able to exert economic pressure.

That is realpolitik and it has been the situation ever since I was born and presumably long before. I don’t describe it because I like it or support it but because it seems to me the case. In the meantime we have the legitimate interests of the Egyptian people in their own condition. And in this respect Karl Sharro is abslutely right. The coup has legitimised further coups and may have deepened divisions in the country.

In so far as I can judge I think Karl Sharro is essentially right in all he says and that the situation is as he describes it, with the likely consequences he foresees. In many ways the questions he raises are questions for us. How do we respond, if we respond at all, to a situation such as Egypt’s? What effect does that have on our own ideas of democracy, where we are? How do we relate to democracy in whatever form we find it? How do we value it?

1 comment:

Gwil W said...

Great to see all these intelligent and articulate young people discussing such difficult and important problems. I shall put a link to on my blog.