08 July 2013

Egypt: with revolution comes terror

In Egypt, it's now a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop after a protest by supporters of deposed President Morsi turned into a bloodbath leaving dozens dead. Of course, both sides claim that the other fired first. The truth may prove irrelevant as several religious figures who had supported the popular coup against Morsi last week are now stepping back. How much will it take before someone straps a bomb on and gets the big show started? For the coup leaders and supporters, this may be fish-or-cut-bait time. It's really hard choices all around. If, as the dominant narrative claims, Egypt has had a revolution that was betrayed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the coup was necessary to preserve the integrity of the revolution, then the notion, entertained perhaps more in the west than in Egypt itself, that the Brotherhood can be made to behave and should be reintegrated into the revolution and the democratic process is probably a pipe dream. If, as its critics claim, the Brotherhood knows no other way than all-or-nothing politics, is out to monopolize power once it gets it, and would never allow itself to be turned peacefully out of power, than there's no room for them in the Egypt the urban protesters -- the people who came out against Mubarak and against Morsi in turn -- envision. There may yet be a silent majority that disagrees with the more secular city folk and are Morsi's constituents, but last week demonstrated that democracy in raw form is all about who shows up, not to mention where they show up. It seems unlikely that the city people will ever trust the Brotherhood. The feeling may be mutual, not just for the Brotherhood but for the multitudes they represent, but the squeaky, more photogenic wheel gets the grease. The cities, it seems, do not want sharia -- at least they don't want the Brotherhood's version of it. Presumably they want a pluralistic Egypt. Can Egypt have a pluralist revolution? Has anyone? Even in the U.S., some people had to go, though the Loyalists had the good sense to go on their own initiative, and even then the pluralism that united slaveholders and free laborers did not endure very long. If the aspirations of the Brotherhood or other Islamist elements are irreconcilable with the other parties to the revolution against the Mubarak regime, there really can't be a place for them in the new constitutional order. It can still be argued that the secular urbanites forced the issue and betrayed the revolution in their own fashion by refusing to trust Morsi, but it can also be argued that the showdown was better off sooner than later, and it might be argued further that the real showdown shouldn't be delayed any further. It can still be argued that the coup was the wrong thing to do, but it might be more important now not to take half measures. If the problem with the revolution is the Muslim Brotherhood -- as opposed to the problem with Egypt being a rotten economy -- then there may need to be a revolution against the Brotherhood. The new regime may need to go Jacobin on the Brothers, with full awareness that the Brothers will certainly hit back. The regime and its constituents put themselves in this situation, and for that reason they would probably deserve the condemnations sure to come from the rest of the world if they follow through with a reign of terror against the Brotherhood. But maybe they were just kidding themselves before in the initial euphoria of victory against a common enemy. Revolution is more than that, however. Rather than resuming now with the overthrow of Morsi, maybe the real revolution is just getting started.

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