Sunday, July 07, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Egypt After Morsi -- The Failure To Understand The Coup And What Comes Next

From Arlene Kushner
July 7, 2013

It's Not Over

In Egypt, that is.  Nor should we be terribly surprised:  The Brotherhood had threatened that they were going to generate all the unrest they could.  Over the weekend there was considerable violence, with over 30 more dead.
An announcement had been made that ElBaradei -- who had been a political rival of Morsi's -- had been appointed interim prime minister. But then several sources carried the story that this appointment had been put on hold because of Islamic outrage over it. 
In fact, there have apparently been calls by ElBaradei for the Brotherhood to share in rule.  The Brotherhood is being placated at some level, and this may provide a hint as to where things are going.
Notions of democracy ruling in Egypt are pie-in-the-sky.  An election does not constitute "democracy."  Neither does yielding to the will of a violent mob.  Genuine liberal democracy connotes several things that are totally lacking in Egypt -- rights of minorities, freedom of speech and press, etc. etc. 
This is what journalist Fiamma Nirenstein said about Egypt in a very thoughtful e-mail posting three days ago, "New Wishful Thinking on the Arab Street" (emphasis added):
"...It is terrible to see Egypt fall apart. This is exactly what is happening right now, however, right before our eyes. And let's make no mistake. For the time being, no democratic solution is in sight.

"...The Army will back up the interim technocrat Cabinet that it has announced, but it is clear that the Generals, more than the revolutionary crowd, have ousted the Morsi government, recognizing the urgent need to avoid further bloodshed.  Still, while the mayadin (the squares) filled with waves of hate and confrontations, while the Army tried to control the situation, we invented a happy ending to the story, with the good guys -- the seculars – taking power and chasing out the bad guys -- Morsi and his Islamists.

The real story, however, is one of failure, of the popular rejection of a mediocre man, who, once in power, predominantly worked for his own organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, systematically placing his friends in key posts and shutting out everybody else. It is the story of an incompetent leader who never uttered the word 'technology' or gave hope for some work for the youngsters in a bankrupt country because he was afraid that it would be taken as an endorsement of modernity and incur the disapproval of his Sunni sheikhs. Morsi has stirred up the lava of hate simmering under the lack of a democratic outlet and a free press, as well as an extreme economic crisis… Egypt’s opposition has always been composed by a crowd who lacks the privilege of power. In one year, Morsi became the bogeyman of half the country. He had a moment of glory when General Tantawi left the post-Mubarak interregnum to Morsi and the power that came from having been elected. For the people, there was the illusion of democracy. But this word is dysfunctional for Egypt.

"Professor Bernard Lewis has said that the elections are a point of arrival, not a point of departure. Now, it has been written that the Islamists are democratic but not liberal, and that the liberals are not democratic. Actually, they are overturning an elected government. The same crowd that overturned Mubarak and sang the praises of Morsi throughout the various incarnations of Tahrir there again, now enraged against Morsi…"
As to that crowd, which turned from fury to cheers when Morsi was removed from power, I note that there have been reports of group rapes of women within the demonstrations, with no one coming to the women's aid.  See "The noble savage is naked, and violent"
Barry Rubin -- "some thought on the latest events in Egypt" -- has written something very similar to what Nirenstein said about the situation, albeit in more prosaic or "tachlis" (down to business) terms (emphasis added):
"The latest events in Egypt confirm one of the salient patterns that have governed the upheavals in the Arab world of the last years. This is the troubling but unmistakable fact that despite all the chatter about peoples’ power, democracy, civil society and the rest of it,when it comes to the real, grown-up exercise of political power in the countries in question, there remain only two contenders: the forces of political Islam, and the armed forces of the ancien regime.

"That this is so seems empirically irrefutable – from Algeria to Gaza, via Syria and Egypt – the forces that when the talking is done go out to do battle with one another for the crown are the Islamists and the armed men of the regime (the latter usually organized under the banner of a secular, authoritarian nationalism.)

"What is currently taking place in Egypt is a military coup in all but name. The army – the force through which Mubarak, Sadat and Nasser governed – is mobilizing to end the one year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. It remains to be seen whether Mohammed Morsi and his comrades will yield to this mobilization, or attempt to resist it.

"If they attempt the latter, Egypt will stand before a situation analogous to that of Algeria in 1991, when the regime’s military sought to annul the election victory of the Islamist FIS movement.The result was a bloody civil war which in retrospect may be seen as the precursor of what is now taking place in Syria, and what may now lie ahead in Egypt."
Caroline Glick looks not just at what is happening in Egypt but also the failure of those in charge of American policy to understand it in "Clueless about Cairo coup" (emphasis added):
"Wednesday Egypt had its second revolution in so many years. And there is no telling how many more revolutions it will have in the coming months, or years. This is the case not only in Egypt, but throughout the Islamic world.

"The American foreign policy establishment's rush to romanticize as the Arab Spring the political instability that engulfed the Arab world following the self-immolation of a Tunisian peddler in December 2010 was perhaps the greatest demonstration ever given of their utter cluelessness about the nature of Arab politics and society. Their enthusiastic embrace of protesters who have now brought down President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime indicates that it takes more than a complete repudiation of their core assumptions to convince them to abandon them.

"...There are only three things that are knowable about the future of Egypt. First it will be poor. Egypt is a failed state. It cannot feed its people. It has failed to educate its people. It has no private sector to speak of. It has no foreign investment.

"Second, Egypt will be politically unstable. Mubarak was able to maintain power for 29 years because he ran a police state that the people feared. That fear was dissipated in 2011. This absence of fear will bring Egyptians to the street to topple any government they feel is failing to deliver on its promises — as they did this week.

"Given Egypt's dire economic plight, it is impossible to see how any government will be able to deliver on any promises — large or small — that its politicians will make during electoral campaigns. And so government after government will share the fates of Mubarak and Morsi.
Daniel Pipes -- in his "Intricacies of Egypt's Coup d'Etat Explained" -- indeed does deal with several complexities  confronting Egypt right now that are not addressed by the other commentators. 
He, too, says that (emphasis in original):
"There are only two powers, the military and the Islamists: This sad truth has been confirmed repeatedly in the past 2½ years of Arabic-speaking upheaval, and it has been confirmed again now in Egypt. The liberals, seculars, and leftists do not count when the chips are down. Their great challenge is to become politically relevant."
But he addresses a great deal more as well.  Most significantly that (emphasis in original):
"The military officer corps has a vast and unhealthy control over the country's economy. This interest transcends all else; officers may disagree on other matters, but they concur on the need to pass these privileges intact to their children. Conversely, this materialism means that they will make a deal with anyone who guarantees its privileges, as Morsi did (adding new benefits) a year ago."
Pipes suggests that Sisi may be in league with the Salafis, and that Mansour may be a figurehead, although it's too soon to know these things yet.
So let's put aside notions of democracy in Egypt and pray that the military will have the strength and determination to secure some modicum of stability in the country.  The alternative would be catastrophic and a weakened Brotherhood is to the good.  But it should not be imagined that the military -- while it may serve the nation well right now -- is a benign force that acts primarily according to national interests.
With all of this, the outrage continues, as Kerry continues to pump for "peace negotiations" in the face of crises all over the Middle East. 
In my next posting I will look at this, and other significant issues that remain on the front burner, such as Iran.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
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