An independent foreign correspondent, Michael Totten has explored the world.
In his latest book, “Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucuses,” he tells of his adventures in the outer edges of the Western world.
Totten lived for a time in Beirut, Lebanon and his work is heavily focused on the Middle East. In an extensive interview with The Daily Caller, Totten discusses the state of Egypt, what would happen if Israel attacked Iran, why he believes the West should intervene in Syria and, of course, his latest book:
You’ve spent some time reporting from Egypt. What’s your take on what’s going on there? Do we have a full-fledged Muslim Brotherhood coup on our hands already? Or is the military still plotting behind the scenes?
I have no idea what the military is plotting behind the scenes. The brand new presidency of Mohammed Morsi could expire tomorrow morning for all we know. For now, though, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader is consolidating power as though he wants to rule Egypt the way [former President] Hosni Mubarak did, only as an Islamist rather than as a military man.
When I was in Cairo last summer, that’s exactly what I was told we should expect by some young Egyptians I met who had recently resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood. None of them thought the Brothers would govern the way the Christian Democrats do when they win elections in Germany. And since these guys once belonged to the organization, I trust they have a much better understanding of what their former bosses are up to than any Western journalist like me ever could acquire by parsing the leadership’s unreliable, and often bogus, public statements.
I know you were conflicted about the Egyptian revolution. If I remember correctly, you feared an Islamist takeover but couldn’t find yourself siding with Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak against some of your liberal friends in the country who were protesting in Tahrir. If there was a way to implant Mubarak back in power today, would you pull the trigger seeing what has happened so far and could very well happen in the near future?
You’re right: I was conflicted about the Egyptian revolution, and I still am. I want to see the end of every dictatorship in the world. But at the same time, the idea that it’s springtime in Egypt right now is absurd. Cairo is not Budapest, and it is not Prague. It has more in common with Tehran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, although it’s not as bad as that yet. At least Egypt has a national army, while the Brotherhood has nothing like Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guard. Still, I would not put Mubarak back in power today if I could.
The biggest reason I wouldn’t restore Mubarak isn’t because I think the Muslim Brotherhood is the lesser of evils. In all likelihood, a Muslim Brotherhood government is the greater of evils. The reason I wouldn’t put Mubarak back in the saddle is because it has been apparent to me for years that Egypt was sooner or later going to pass through a period of Islamist government. Keeping someone like Mubarak around was only going to prolong the inevitable.
The only way Egypt will stand a chance at having anything like a liberal democratic government at peace with itself and with its neighbors is if it experiences an anti-Islamist revolution like the one that that has been brewing in Iran. I don’t like what happening in Egypt at all, but it’s a gate through which the Egyptians must pass and it’s probably best to just get it over with.