NY Times Columnist David Brooks: Egypt Lacks ‘Basic Mental Ingredients’ For Democratic Transition

New York Times columnist David Brooks generated quite a bit of controversy this morning for his column defending the Egyptian’s military coup replacing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. The controversy came not from his defense of the military coup itself, but from particular lines that seem to suggest he believes elements of the Middle East are “mentally incapable” of leading a democratic government.

Brooks made the case that while the coup was undemocratic in nature, it was necessary because it removed radical Islamists from power. “The goal is to weaken political Islam,” he said, “by nearly any means.” Those who believe in the authoritarian brand of radical Islam, he said, are incapable of running a healthy democracy:

World events of the past few months have vindicated those who take the substance side of the argument. It has become clear — in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere — that radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government. Many have absolutist, apocalyptic mind-sets. They have a strange fascination with a culture of death.

[…] Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them.

Later on in the column, Brooks paraphrased a professor who has asserted that “there are large populations across the Middle East who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical idea how to make things better.”

And then came the concluding paragraph, which has seemingly generated the most outrage: “It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.”

Brooks’ analysis generated plenty of outrage from other journalists. Long-time national security writer Spencer Ackerman slammed the column as “vile.” His colleague Heidi Moore called Brooks “an ignorant disgrace.”

Gawker flipped the controversial column’s theme upside-down, going after Brooks with a piece titled “David Brooks Is Mentally Unprepared for Egyptian Democracy.” Salon author David Sirota excoriated Brooks’ “ugly meaning… bigoted rant.”

Read Brooks’ full column here.

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