Events in Egypt have resulted in a defacto coup against President Morsi of the Muslim brotherhood. This put the West in a bit of an awkward position, in particular the US (who provides a billion dollars in military aid to the Egyptian army each year).
On the one hand they have been perplexed at the rise of an Islamist organisation into such a position of power. Consider that the inspiration for the people who flew the planes into the twin towers was from Sayyid Qutb, one of the key figures in the evolution of the Muslim brotherhoods. Indeed Al Queda’s number 2 (Ayman Zawahiri) was also a key member. He would be rotting in prison (or worse) right now, for his involvement in the assassination of President Sadat….if it weren’t for the fact that he was (along with many followers) sent off to Afghanistan to fight the Russians (and hopefully as the regime calculated, get themselves killed!). Now while it has to be said that Morsi has shown himself to be very much a “moderate” by the standards of Islamists. But many religious minorities, notably Egypt’s Coptic Christians would disagree quite strongly with this suggestion!
However, the fact remains that Morsi was democratically elected Egypt’s president. I suspect that if back in the days of G. W. Bush had the US Army pitched up with tanks on the White House lawn, few democrat’s would be applauding. And not least because they realise that supporting a military coup would be political suicide. Indeed, this isn’t even fair. Morsi was democratically elected, while G. W. Bush was put in office via some elaborate ballot stuffing by his brother and a conservative leaning supreme court.
Ultimately this coup is good news for nobody. It could lead to the Muslim Brotherhood doing even better than before potentially with an even more conservative candidate. It also puts back the country’s transition to democracy as well as harming the Egyptian economy (tourists don’t generally go to countries in political turmoil!). And of course some hot heads within the Brotherhood may well decide that democracy isn’t compatible with their beliefs (as many Islamists will argue) and that they should start terrorists attacks.
Meanwhile in Europe, Evo Morales the Bolivan President was denied access to several European countries airspace, forced to land in Vienna and his plane searched out of fears CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden might be on board. This is a complete violation of the principles of diplomatic immunity. Needless to say President Morales seems to be hoping mad about it as are most of the South American governments.
And I don’t blame him! Think about it, how would the UK react if call-me-Dave‘s plane was forced down and searched by the Argie’s? How would the US react if the Mexicans forced him down? At the very least a strongly worded letter would be sent to the UN, if not a few smart bombs being lobbed in their general direction!
And of course the consequence of this action has been to see Edward Snowden’s asylum application fast tracked, with them now virtually queuing up to grant him asylum.
Diplomatic immunity is an ancient principle going right back to the time of the Pharaoh Rameses the Great. The Europeans riding rough shod over it for the benefit of the US, even thought the NSA had been spying on them also, is a dangerous and entirely counterproductive tactic. Not least as it provides the likes of the Mugabe’s or Kim Jung-un’s of this world a loophole that they’ll go and drive a bus through. Like democracy, protecting this principle vastly outweights the benefits of temporarily suspending it.