03 July 2013

Egypt: Coup de grace

Responding to the demands of millions of protesters while ignoring those of millions of others, the Egyptian army has declared President Morsi deposed, suspended the constitution and taken steps to suppress Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters. They have taken TV stations sympathetic to Morsi off the air and arrested some of the staff. Morsi refuses to acknowledge his overthrow but his power to influence events appears limited. Many observers conclude that he brought events upon himself by violating the constitution and attempting to monopolize power. Yet today's events seem to disprove at least part of the case against Morsi. At the least, he clearly had not consolidated power to the extent that he could prevent the army from acting as it has, much less use it against his own enemies. Egypt has seen a preventive coup d'etat, on the suspicion that Morsi and the Brotherhood were conspiring to acquire dictatorial power. But the Muslim Brotherhood is more than a conspiracy. It's a mass movement representing millions of Egyptians who must now think themselves as completely shut out of power as their enemies feared they would be eventually. It may well be that the Brotherhood will need to be destroyed if Egypt is ever to have a stable democratic system, but that stability would certainly come at a high price. Again, my sympathy with an Islamist movement is automatically limited, but I still can't shake the feeling that this week's tumult has been a triumph of bad faith. Without pleading Morsi's innocence, we can still suspect that many Egyptians never gave him any benefit of the doubt, despite the apparent legitimacy of his election. Ideological and sectarian biases almost inevitably rendered Morsi a dictator in the making in the eyes of those most opposed to his agenda. It's one thing to be vigilant against encroachments on our rights, and another to assume reflexively that someone who disagrees with you politically will encroach on your rights. A pluralist democracy cannot survive while such assumptions prevail. Egypt's democratic revolution will not be complete until parties or interest groups no longer feel the need to continue their campaigns in the streets after the election, after the inauguration, etc. Instead, the revolution continues, and today it has devoured one of its own.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the Egyptians have a far better perspective on who Morsi is and what he stands for. If the Muslim Brotherhood is like the Taliban - seeking to impose Sharia law upon those who don't wish it, then they should be barred from power.

After all, any individual has a right to live their own life according to those principles. There is no necessity to impose it upon other people.

Samuel Wilson said...

One way in which Morsi, at least, differed from the Taliban is that he stood for an election rather than seizing power by violence. If a critical mass of Egyptians refuses to have sharia imposed on them by duly elected leaders, they had better make that clear in their constitution. Whether a constitution with that clause could be ratified by the Egyptian masses is another story...

Anonymous said...

Well, there must be some reason he has been accused of attempting to set up a despotism. If it were simply a small number of dissidents, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt, but since it seems to be millions of people - as well as the military - there must be some basis.

Neither you or I are there, so we can only surmise, but I would have to give the benefit of the doubt to the people of Egypt, rather than a member of a conservative pro-ismlamic group. Although I will it admit it is because I detest Islam (along with every other power structure posing as a monotheistic religion.

Sometimes I think we should just nuke Mecca, Jerusalem and the Vatican and be done with religion once and for all.

Samuel Wilson said...

I don't presume Morsi innocent, but as an American I grow cynical when any bunch of people loudly accuse another political party of despotic intentions.

Anonymous said...

In a nation where the majority rulers of the past, oh, few thousands years have been despots. . .

Samuel Wilson said...

Until last year Egypt had "majority" rulers only in the passive sense of mass acquiescence. If they want to avoid a cycle of elections-coup-elections-coup they either need a more ironclad constitution, perhaps even on the American model if they're that afraid of majority tyranny, or else they have to start trusting elected leaders. And if a large number of Egyptians can't trust the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps they should destroy it once and for all while "revolutionary" conditions still apply.

Crhymethinc said...

I agree. But they should also consider eliminating any faction that is (more-or-less) a puppet of outside forces.

Samuel Wilson said...

Crhymethinc, the problem with that recommendation, well-meaning as it is, is that many in Egypt see the anti-Morsi movement as foreign backed, the backing allegedly coming from the Saudis who, despite their own fundamentalism, saw the Brotherhood as a model for something that could threaten their regime. Meanwhile, the anti-Morsi people are, if not anti-American, at least hostile to the Obama administration, presumably because the U.S. dared treat Morsi as a legitimate leader for any period of time. In this volatile environment, each side can accuse all others of having foreign puppet-masters.