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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Does Egypt Suffer a Mass Psychological Disease?

“I know no class of my fellowmen, however just, enlightened, and humane, which can be wisely and safely trusted absolutely with the liberties of any other class.” — Frederick Douglass

Dr. Keith Ablow, a frequent contributor to Fox News wrote an opinion piece for the Fox News Channel online. As a practicing psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, Dr. Ablow wrote about the possibility of a mass psychological disease affecting Egypt. Here is what he had to say.

Personal liberty is an elemental, irreducible, ultimately undeniable form of truth. And the truth always wins, whether in a person's life or the life of a nation. This is why the story of Egypt today is the story of every man or woman who has known oppression and lived long enough to bear witness to the fact that it is, ultimately, an unsustainable perversion of the Nature of Man.

“A good deal of my work as a psychiatrist involves restoring autonomy to the people who visit me for help. Their lives have drifted, in one way or another, outside of their control.

Some of them are hostage to self-defeating ways of thinking that are legacies of having their best intentions frustrated by controlling, unloving parents.

Some of them are hobbled by so desperately trying to avoid painful memories that they have become enslaved by anesthetics like alcohol or cocaine or heroin or compulsive gambling or compulsive eating.

Some of them have labored for many years to make marriages work in which there is no real intimacy, because their true thoughts and feelings and dreams are not embraced.

Some of them have had such cruelties visited upon them in life, through no choice of their own, that their capacity for empathy has been shattered, and they have themselves committed terrible acts of violence.

Try to live a long time according to the dictates of another, suppressing your reality, at a distance from free will, and you will fall victim to depression, addiction, anxiety, psychosis or disabling rage. It is inescapable. And it is in the inevitable turmoil, the failure of a false center, the instability of a fake foundation, that the hope for Resurrection--for genuine freedom of thought and action--always lies.

So it is today in Egypt. An entire nation is waking up to the fact that there is no substitute for real self-determination, there is no benevolence in any dictatorship. The failure to live or die for autonomy--the ceding of self to a force that opposes freedom of thought and freedom of speech and, therefore, freedom to dream--is a disease state no different than psychosis or heroin dependence. It is a perversion of the true nature of man, mimicking cancer in the way that one cell type in the body fails to respect the boundaries of others, ultimately and inevitably obliterating the very structures necessary for the maintenance of well-being and, ultimately, for life itself.

Certainly, patients of mine lurch from one way to avoid self-determination to another. They may leave an abusive relationship, only to enter another. They may put down alcohol and begin to eat compulsively. They may attempt to use antidepressants or Adderall or any other psychopharmacological solution as a complete answer to restoring their will to live free lives consistent with their God-given potential and path. They may leave homes in which they were subjugated; only to join lock-step groups that are no better. But, ultimately and thankfully, none of these ways of avoiding the self--of avoiding liberty--work for long. Only genuine, individual insight, leading to independent thought and action, is curative.

Egypt may, like other nations have, veer away from a strong man toward the tyranny of extremism. We have seen this before. But that is no different than a body, depleted of its natural immunity, hosting one disease after another. Because the way mankind was intended to live, consistent with his soul, is in freedom. Anything less is illness. Mass psychological disease. A culture-wide psychiatric, neurological, ethical, moral epidemic. And, ultimately, the culture either restores itself to liberty, or it dies. This is the natural order of things. It is as it should be.

Until Egyptians are free, being Egyptian is, by definition, a disease state.
The Constitution of the United States, seen this way, is not a set of ideas, it is a transcribing of truth, consistent with the only healthy, sustainable manner in which human beings can exist--in freedom.” You can read his article by clicking here.

After suffering years under the dictatorial governments of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak the worldwide euphoria that has greeted the Egyptian uprising is understandable. All revolutions are blissful in the first days. The romance could be forgiven if this were Paris 1789. But it is not. In the intervening 222 years, we have learned how these things can end — usually with another, worse dictatorial government.

The Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support. But only a child can believe that a democratic outcome is inevitable. And only a blinkered optimist can believe that it is even the most likely outcome.

Yes, the Egyptian revolution is broad-based. But so were the French and the Russian and the Iranian revolutions. Indeed in Iran, the revolution only succeeded — the shah was long opposed by the mullahs — when the merchants, the housewives, the students, and the secularists joined to bring him down. And who ended up in control? The most disciplined, ruthless, and ideologically committed — the radical Islamists.

This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time. That would be Egypt’s fate should the Muslim Brotherhood prevail. That was the fate of Gaza, now under the brutal thumb of Hamas, a Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood

As Dr. Ablow states; “patients of mine lurch from one way to avoid self-determination to another. They may leave an abusive relationship, only to enter another. They may put down alcohol and begin to eat compulsively.” Will this be the case in Egypt?

We are told by the talking head analysts not to worry about the Brotherhood because it probably commands only about 30 percent of the vote. This is reassurance? In a country where the secular democratic opposition is weak and fractured after decades of persecution, any Islamist party commanding a third of the vote rules the country. (Hitler came to power in 1933 with 33% of the vote due to the numerous political parties on the ballot.)

Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

The House of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled, and not running for reelection. The only question is who fills the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.)

Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline, and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20 percent of parliamentary seats. ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history within Egypt at all.

He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, a useful idiot whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman.

Some people claim the Military is the best bet for Egypt. Andrew McCarthy, former federal prosecutor and expert on Islamic terrorism writes in National Review Online; “It’s true enough that Egypt’s highly professional armed forces constitute the most revered institution in the country. Their professionalism has been purchased at a cost of nearly $40 billion from U.S. taxpayers since 1978, when Sadat made the peace with Israel that drove the jihadists to kill him. Thus, when analysts herald the stability of Egypt’s military — fortified by a generation of training and cooperative relations with U.S. warriors — the implication is that this will be to our benefit. Their patriotism will prevent Mubarak’s worst excesses and usher him out the door, and their pro-Western bent will guard against that worst of all worlds: the very sharia state Khalid Islambouli ( the army officer who assassinated Sadat on October 6, 1981) and his fellow jihadists sought to impose 30 years ago.”

Since spearheading Nasser’s coup over a half century ago, the military has followed more than it has led. Nasser dragged it from the British-backed monarchy into the Soviet orbit. Sadat moved it into America’s column. Under Mubarak, it has maintained a cold peace with Israel, but it would be foolish to think new leadership could not shift the military back to hostilities with a nation millions of Egyptians revile — a nation with which Egypt fought four wars between 1948 and 1973.

McCarthy cites two conflicting recent examples of the Egyptian Army. “In the last 20 years, two former Egyptian military officers have come to prominent attention in the United States. The first was Emad Salem, a pro-American Muslim, who volunteered to infiltrate the New York terror cell formed by Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian “Blind Sheikh” who had issued the fatwa authorizing Sadat’s murder, who called incessantly for the killing of Mubarak, and whose followers bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Without his help, the FBI could not have disrupted these jihadists, several of whom were arrested in June 1993 while mixing explosives for a planned bombing spree against the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the United Nations complex, and a number of U.S. government targets.”

“The second was a contemporary of Salem’s, Ali Mohammed. He infiltrated the American military on behalf of Islamic Jihad, stealing sensitive files that he took to New York, where he used them to help train the Blind Sheikh’s cell. Later, he became al-Qaeda’s top security specialist, helped bin Laden move his headquarters from Sudan to Afghanistan, forged the terror network’s East African cells, and drew up the plans those cells later used to bomb the American embassy in Nairobi.”

In Cairo, if the Egyptian military is our last, best hope. We shouldn’t be overconfident.

You can read McCarthy’s column at NRO by clicking here.

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