Are We Becoming Cowards?

>> 26 August 2013

Last June, Tony Blair in his article commenting on Islamic extremism, referred to Islamic radicals “those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength”. Blair didn’t agree of course with such argument describing “pluralistic, liberal, open minded societies” to be weak.
I’ve lived most of my life in Egypt, surrounded by Nationalists and Islamists, who were repeating every day that westerners and Israelis are weak and cowards. They used to say that they “Islamists” love death as much as westerners love life. At that time, as I was seeing Nationalists and Islamists being defeated in every battle, I didn’t take their arguments seriously. I considered it part of “denial syndrome”. But as I grew older, I learned that the issue is not that simple.
Few months ago, while studying China, I was surprised to know that the Chinese army was defeated when they invaded Vietnam in 1979. I asked a Vietnamese friend, a daughter of a Vietnamese veteran, “What’s your secret weapon? How you defeated both the Americans and the Chinese?” She said that they are being taught from their childhood that it’s fine to die for their country. That’s why they don’t care about anything when they struggle for their country.
What Blair didn’t get, is that those suicidal fighters in Afghanistan, Egypt or Vietnam, who are unemployed, uneducated, under-nutritioned, and maybe deprived from sex, don’t have anything to lose. Their lives don’t worth anything in their eyes. On the other side, European or American soldiers chose to be in the military, not to die, but to have a career to help themselves to enjoy their lives better. A Jihadist dreams to die and becomes a martyr to be able to eat meat daily and to have sex with 72 virgins, while a European soldier dreams of a raise in his salary.
Simply, That’s why USA will never win in Afghanistan. As long the majority of Afghanis are suffering from poverty and illiteracy, they will continue fighting. It doesn’t matter if they fight the Russians, the Americans or even each other’s. At the end, the need to kill themselves fighting, to escape from their horrible lives. The only way to convince them to stop fighting, is to spoil them with our good education and a good life!
Obama’s last statement on Egypt is a nice illustration to this dilemma. As the Egyptian military for the last three years has made every possible offense. They killed and injured thousands of civilians. They may have used chemical weapons against civilians in Nov 2011. They attacked American foundations (NDI, IRI, and Freedom House), confiscated their computers and documents, and held American NGO workers in house arrest (including Ray LaHood, the son of the US minister of transportation) for a long time. they lunched an anti-American propaganda which lasts until today, and facilitated the attack of the Israeli and the American embassies. And after all that, the only reaction Obama made was cancelling the biannual joint military training exercise between USA and Egypt, which means that the 1.3 billion dollar military aid, paid from American tax-payers money, will continue to go normally to Egypt’s army.
In my last visit to the USA congress in 2012, I was told that SCAF members who visited Washington DC few months before made it clear that they will drop Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel if the USA military aid was canceled. At that time I couldn’t understand why USA accepts to be blackmailed by a bunch of third world generals. And if the Egyptian army treats USA like this, how would they treat USA if they have oil or nuclear abilities like Pakistan or Iran?

Some say that if the military aid was canceled, the first ones who will face damage are the American security companies who are benefiting from the aid, creating damaging effects on employment rates and tax revenues in the aiding country. Of course the Egyptian generals know that, and uses this in each chance. Last Tuesday, USA Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest expressed this difficulty saying “providing foreign assistance is not like a spigot.  You don't turn it off and on, or turn it up or down like a faucet”. Isn’t it strange that the superpower in our planet can’t take a decision about aids it’s giving, and has to continue unwillingly to arm a bloody dictatorship like Egypt? If so, who is the weak side here?

Compare Obama’s behavior to George W. Bush crusades in Afghanistan and Iraq, which makes the one wonder if Syrians would have avoided their recent suffering if Bush was in the White House today!
In response to the last massacres in Egypt, The Council of the European Union decided to stop exporting any weapons to Egypt. Egyptians didn’t take such decision seriously. First because Europe didn’t stop military cooperation with Egypt, which includes running projects of training Egyptian military officers. Second, because they know that Egypt still can import European weapons easily through Saudi Arabia or Israel. Third, and that’s the important point, because Egyptians know that Europeans don’t have the guts to stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia. Simply, Europe can’t claim to be moral by stopping weapons exportation to Egypt’s army “the small demon”, while continuing weapons exportation to the Saudi army “the big demon”.
In most of my speeches and media interviews in Europe and Israel, people usually ask me the same questions “weren’t you afraid to stand against your government? Are you afraid to go back to Egypt? Are you afraid from being imprisoned again?”. In fact such questions doesn’t make sense to me. I was detained five times in Egypt, exposed to torture, and could be assassinated in any country if I crossed the red line. I may never recover from the traumas I got in Egypt. Prison and death lost their abilities to affect my decisions. I was smiling after I was sentenced to 3 years in 2011, telling other prisoners that I’m lucky not being killed!
But after a year living in Europe, I started to feel that I’m changing. I’ve lived all my life in Egypt an outlawed, and never cared about that. Now in Germany, I’ve become more interested in following laws and respecting them. I started facing hard questions which I never had to face before, like how to eat healthy food, or how to enjoy a weekend. Life in democracies are spoiling me. I’m not a holy worrier anymore!
Francis Fukuyama in his book “The End of History” said that democracies grow to become “a paper tiger”, scary like a tiger, but weak like a paper. The west may have nuclear weapons, but they are not useful if your enemy knows that you can’t use them. The nice life we have in the first world, which made us vegetarians and pacifists, wouldn’t help at all when we face barbarians. As blood and animalian power is the only language they speak.

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