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.