August 16, 2013

No Spring Without Blood: Egypt Faces A Legitimacy Crisis And A Terror Crisis

Photo Source: Ahmed Gomaa (via SFGate).

It is hard to give an opinion on the events in Egypt because there is so much contradictory information coming out of the country. Reporting on the crisis accurately and objectively is damn near hopeless at this point. Any one-sided depiction is naive and ignorant.

Just to give one example, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood claim that over 2,000 of their supporters have been killed by the government, but the country's health ministry puts the number in the low hundreds. The MB uses deception as a tactic to gain public credibility and international sympathy, so on this controversy the health ministry is probably telling the truth. Of course the military is not trustworthy either, and it has more media resources with which to manipulate public opinion inside the country.

But it is a mistake to demonize the generals and blame everything that has gone wrong on them. The military was put in an impossible situation in the days and months prior to the June 30 coup/nationalist revolution. Morsi broke with Egyptian public opinion and sought to take Egypt towards a direction that its citizens did not want. But from the military's point of view that wasn't even the worst thing that Morsi did. What made them act was Morsi's radical foreign policy decisions.

Morsi had declared war on Syria, closed down its embassy, and exploited anti-Shiite opinion in meetings with like-minded leaders, all signs that he was getting ready to sacrifice the interests of the Egyptian state and its alliance with its historic Arab neighbour in order to help create a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Syria.

Such an extreme action by Morsi demanded an extreme response by the generals who want no part in the stupid growing sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis in the Muslim world. The generals saved lives and the sovereignty of Egypt by their actions, and that must not be forgotten in this crisis.
Also, we should not let this grand term "the Arab Spring" to cloud our thinking and mistakenly believe that democracy is under attack every time protesters are killed in the Arab world. Most of the time the protesters are armed radicals, as they were in Syria at the beginning of the anti-Assad uprising, and as they are in Egypt.

There never was an Arab Spring in Syria to begin with. And in Libya the popular opposition against Gaddafi was hyped by the international press. The people who were fighting Gaddafi's forces were Islamic radicals who had air support from NATO. So this term is pretty much useless in describing what is going on currently in Egypt, Syria, and other countries.

A better term would be "CIA Spring" since, as this Egyptian law professor points out, Washington is orchestrating chaos in Egypt just like it has done in Syria for over two years now by supplying Jihadist terrorists with arms and cash. 

But so as long as this term continues to dominate mainstream discussion about Egypt then it should be remembered that there can be no revolutionary spring in the current circumstances without blood.

Blood moves history forward, not White House talking points. Since no charismatic figure was at the center of the anti-Mubarak uprising in 2011 that the entire nation could rally around, and since no leader had grabbed the bull by the horns and taken charge of ruling the country until now in the figure of General al-Sisi, we can expect a lot of fighting between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.

General al-Sisi originally had the enthusiastic support of a large amount of the Egyptian people, but the excessively violent response to the Muslim Brotherhood's defiance on Wednesday has stained his reputation in the eyes of various revolutionary political groups from right-wing Islamists to secular leftists. Read this article, "Nour Party, April 6 Youth and Revolutionary Socialists condemn pro-Morsi sit-in dispersals," published in Ahram Online on August 15. 

Juan Cole writes in, "Egypt’s Transition Has Failed: New Age of Military Dictatorship in Wake of Massacre":
Although al-Sisi said he recognized an interim civilian president, supreme court chief justice Adly Mansour, and although a civilian prime minister and cabinet was put in place to oversee a transition to new elections, al-Sisi is in charge. It is a junta, bent on uprooting the Muslim Brotherhood. Without buy-in from the Brotherhood, there can be no democratic transition in Egypt. And after Black Wednesday, there is unlikely to be such buy-in, perhaps for a very long time. Wednesday’s massacre may have been intended to forestall Brotherhood participation in civil politics. Perhaps the generals even hope the Brotherhood will turn to terrorism, providing a pretext for their destruction.

The military and the Brotherhood are two distinct status groups, with their own sources of wealth, which have claims on authority in Egypt. Those claims were incompatible.
For more analysis and news about Egypt, read the following articles:

Cultivating Extremists in Egypt (The National Interest).
Why Egyptians Don’t Like America (Al Monitor).
Churches torched across Egypt in anti-Coptic violence by Morsi loyalists (Ahram Online).
Egypt stumbles on path to democracy: Our view (USA Today).