It was almost 250 years ago. The government of French King Louis XV was under challenge for its corruption and ineptitude. As the crisis loomed, the King’s mistress, Madame Pompadour posed this famous choice: “Apres nous, le deluge,” literally, “After us, the flood,” or to put it more colloquially, “If we – the King and I – go, we all go, to Hell.”
That’s often the view from the inside of a government headed for the trash heap – it’s us, or chaos.
Faced with that unappetizing choice, the view from the outside often is…to cite another famous historical cliché: “Better the Devil we know.”
And so have survived many historic devils.
So it was in the 18th Century, and so it still seems to be in the 21st Century, where the inept and brutal Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah al-Sisi hangs onto his precarious grip on power by projecting that same choice: we may be bad, but what would come after us would be much worse – Islamist terrorist chaos.
Among those who seem to be buying al-Sisi’s proposition is President Barack Obama. The American President, in the face of daily escalations in al-Sisi’s war against the Egyptian people, their human and civil rights, is asking Congress to sign on – not only to years of guaranteed billion-dollar arms gifts to the Egyptian military, but with no questions asked.
Critics in Washington and elsewhere say the Obama policy is not only immoral, it is foolish. They say, it would not be the fall of al-Sisi and his military tyranny that would bring on Islamic terrorist rule, it would be the continuation of a government increasingly hated and despised by its own citizens.
Michele Dunne is the director and a senior associate in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, where her research focuses on political and economic change in Arab countries, particularly Egypt, as well as U.S. policy in the Middle East. She was the founding director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council from 2011 to 2013 and was a senior associate and editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 2006 to 2011.