CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Why Did April Spring Become July Fall?

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

It always amazes me what you can learn from reading. Here I sit, looking at the Los Angeles Times headline: “Egypt moves to curb cult of Islamists.” The lead story outlining the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders as the military prepares for new elections to lead Egypt out of two years of turmoil. On television there are thousands of protestors hurling rocks at tanks, while seemingly an equal number are cheering the troops. Which prompts me to dig through a stack of magazines to find the Dec. 24 & 31, 2012 edition of The New Yorker magazine. Appearing in the “Talk of the Town” comment section is Peter Hessler’s lead article, “Brother’s Keepers.” Remember, this was written six months ago.

“Mysteries have surrounded the Muslim Brotherhood since its founding, in 1928. Nobody knows how many members there are, or how much money the organization receives, or where it all comes from. The chain of command is murky; the goals and the guiding philosophy are not clearly stated. The Egyptian revolution, which has rolled and lurched and staggered along for nearly two years, and which included Brothers among its original protesters, has failed to answer these basic questions. But the past year has solved one mystery: we now know how the Muslim Brotherhood behaves when it gets a taste of power.

“[Ever] since Nov. 22 … Egypt has become increasingly tense and politically fractured … The result is a slippery foundation for the future; a number of basic rights – including freedom of the press, due process for justice, and equality for women and minorities – aren’t adequately protected …

“Nonviolence has always been a point of pride for the organization … This restraint, however, like the talk of cooperation, seems to have evaporated with the first taste of power. Sometimes an organization is nonviolent on principle, and sometimes it is nonviolent simply because it finds itself in a position of weakness …

“[T]he military seems to be aligned with [President Mohamed] Morsi, at least for the moment, and the country lacks a strong and coherent political alternative to the Brotherhood … for decades it was banned from full participation in Egypt’s government, so it has never been tested in the more subtle and complicated aspects of national politics. The leadership is dominated by people from technical fields … Their careers may not have taught them the arts of negotiation and compromise, and Morsi, an engineer by training, has shown no real flexibility … From the outside, it’s hard to distinguish between calculation and incompetence …

“‘They are extremely keen to take over power and use it,’ (a prominent Cairo University professor) said. ‘However, the biggest problem they face is the lack of talent qualified to do that.’

“Critics have always made this point – that the worst thing that could happen to the Brotherhood might be a rise to power, because then their weaknesses would be exposed. But this is small consolation in Cairo. The world is full of bad regimes that survive just because they hurt others more than they hurt themselves.”

Whether chaos or celebration, the glow of April Spring has turned into July Fall. And a journalist is forecasting the whole shebang six months ago! So what is CR2S doing reading a half-year-old magazine article? Doesn’t matter. What’s impressive is a spot-on dissection of a world event happening that was doomed from the start. And why.  Amazing. Impressive.

There was much more informative detail in Hessler’s piece: Muslim Brotherhood non-violent history, Hamas affiliation, its lack of governing experience. In CR2S’s opinion, another fine example of journalists being way ahead of diplomats, bureaucrats, political wonks and military brass when it comes to understanding international intrigue. I’ve always contended (qualified) writers would make better politicians and judges than lawyers. But I’m prejudiced.

While politically diseased media talking heads and incompetent bloggers are supposed conveyors of public opinion, we have first-class reporters writing top-level stories in newspapers, books and magazines — largely unread, sad to say. I’m pretty sure The New Yorker isn’t knocking ’em dead circulation-wise, especially when you note a combined issue for last December.

As for The Los Angeles Times, this past Sunday-Saturday cycle page total was a mere 500 pages! What a single Sunday edition used to total in the good old (Otis) Chandler days. [Update: Monday’s edition was an anemic 36 pages, a historic low!  Yesterday, Tuesday’s paper came in at an anorexic 32!!]

CR2S is also a prognosticator deluxe. I told anyone who would listen that Dwight Howard would leave the Lakers months ago. Finally when Kobe Bryant advised him to “follow me,” desertion became a slam-dunk. Want another? Mike Trout will leave the Angels when free-agency eligible.

What am I doing adding up newspaper pages, reading old magazine articles and making predictions? Ah, if only I knew, I would tell you.

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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