Syria and Egypt

Moris and Assad

Assad, Morsi

I know a number of people who can’t stand Danziger’s Cartoons (or politics), but I have had a long-running soft-spot for some of his dark observations about politicians, political campaigns, and foreign leaders. But I wanted to actually deconstruct this cartoon about Assad and Morsi because I think that it doesn’t work.

The target of this comic is Assad, not Morsi. As such, it is the latest in a long series of cartoons in which Danziger is critical Assad being allowed to kill thousands of citizens in Syria and the joke is that if Assad is allowed to murder thousands of citizens in order to keep power, then Morsi should take a hint and do the same thing. Now that the joke has had any trace of dark humor flogged from it, I need to point out that the joke falls flat because, unlike the best observations Danziger makes, it shows no trace of awareness about the situation in that part of the world. Instead, it seems to have taken the casualty count from the civil war in Syria, the headline that Morsi was resisting protests, and a wise-crack that maybe Morsi ought to use military force to suppress the protests.

But Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian military, led by General al-Sisi, a man who considers himself an heir to Nasser.[1] In the wake of Morsi’s ouster, Assad praised the Egyptian military for removing him, saying: “Whoever brings religion to use for political or factional interests will fall anywhere in the world.” He draws a comparison between the Syrian opposition and Morsi’s government, suggesting (unfortunately not without a shred of truth) that he (and the army) is ruling a secular government and protecting religious minorities. Like in Turkey, the army in Egypt receives credit for ensuring secular government and stands apart from a government that leans toward one religious denomination or another. So Morsi never had control of the army and had its support for only a short time. Danziger’s joke targets Assad, but brings in Morsi even though their situations were nothing alike. The better comparison to Assad was Mubarak and could potentially be al-Sisi, but Mubarak is gone and al-Sisi is not (yet) a target. And then there are differences between Syria and Egypt in terms of ethnic and geographic makeup.

[1] The army has been saying that they are acting on behalf of the Egyptian protesters (who they may have incited) and limiting the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. But, to put it cynically, the problems that prompted the protests against Morsi’s administration were largely the same problems that prompted protests against Mubarak’s administration. I do not know what, if anything, Morsi’s government did to fix those problems, but anyone who supports democratic governments should be watching Egypt with some concern. Conversely, the past few years have been hopeful for democracy in Turkey in that the military has allowed top officers to be arrested and have not overthrown the Erdogan government. Of course, the result in Turkey has been massive protests met with curfew, tear gas, and arrests by the police.

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