The Arab Spring ends, the Arab Winter begins

This is the salient intra-Muslim political news from Cairo. Christians don’t really matter in the liberal worldview. So the television journalists have certainly forgotten the ongoing torment of the Coptic church, whose believers make up more than 10 percent of the Egyptian populace and on whom they focused for ten minutes early on during the first disturbances. Perhaps serendipitously, on Sunday, The New York Times carried stories, not news stories but reflective little essays, on the prospects for non-Muslim people in the new Egypt. At the top of one page was a piece by an unusually learned and literate writer, Andre Aciman, himself a Jew born in Egypt, pondering the Christian future in Egypt, a country where Christian civilization predates Islam by more than half a millennium. The other article is by Pulitzer Prize winner (twice), Anthony Shadid, also writing on what the future holds for Christian believers in a place where Muslim extremism is on the rise. (I am right now reading his newly published, very elegant book, House of Stone, a memoir from Christian Marjayoun, a place I know from my visits along with Israeli soldiers during their Lebanese adventures. What a splendid writer he is. In Tuesday’s Times you can read a mellifluous piece on Bahrain.) There are virtually no reports from elsewhere in Egypt. So maybe there’s peace in Alexandria. Maybe not…

Absent the United States, there is one new player on the cartography of the Arabs. And it is non-Arab but Sunni Muslim Turkey or, more precisely, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey. Now, Erdogan has several advantages. Millenarian Islam is experiencing a transcontinental ascendancy. His economy is robust. His army is ready, relatively well-supplied and trained (by Israel). Also big, though its commanders are unwilling to go on adventures. And one more thing: The president of the United States is a big fan. He may encourage Erdogan to do what he wouldn’t, heaven forbid, think for a moment that his own country might do. Which is, among other initiatives, lay down a no-fly zone over all of Syria. It would be a cinch for Turkey to do that. Erdogan has already threatened to establish what amounts to a Turkish buffer on Syrian soil. After all, the territorial settlements of the post-World War I era were not universally accepted. Certainly not by Turkey or Syria, and these differences have arisen from time to time between the two countries. This is Turkey’s great moment: to help establish a Sunni government—it couldn’t be anything but a tyranny—in Syria with its Muslim Brotherhood in power and aching for revenge, revenge that would be gruesome but very comprehensible.