Egypt’s Transition Has Failed: New Age of Military Dictatorship in Wake of Massacre

The horrible bloodshed in Egypt on Wednesday marked a turning point in the country’s modern history, locking it in to years of authoritarian paternalism and possibly violent faction fighting. The country is ruled by an intolerant junta with no respect for human life. Neither the Brotherhood nor the military made the kind of bargain and compromises necessary for a successful democratic transition. It is true that some armed Brotherhood cadres killed some 50 troops and police, and that some 20 Coptic Christian churches were attacked, some burned. But the onus for the massacre lies with the Egyptian military. Mohamed Elbaradei, who resigned as interim vice president for foreign affairs, had urged that the Brotherhood sit-ins be gradually and peacefully whittled Way at. His plan was Egypt’s only hope of reconciliation. Now it has a feud.

Egypt began a possible transition to parliamentary democracy in February of 2011 after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Although the military had made a coup, the aged Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi was not interested in ruling himself and sought a civilian transitional government that the military could live with. He wanted guarantees that the new government would not interfere with the military’s own commercial enterprises and attempted to assert a veto over the new constitution lest it veer toward Muslim fundamentalism.

The major political forces said they were committed to free, fair and transparent parliamentary elections. The Muslim Brotherhood, the best organized political group, pledged not to run candidates in all constituencies so as to show they weren’t greedy for power, and said they would not run anyone for president lest they give the impression they were seeking control of all three branches of government. The Brotherhood said it wanted a consensual constitution.

Behind the scenes, generals like Omar Suleiman (d. 2012) were furious about the constraints being lifted from the Brotherhood, convinced that they had a secret armed militia and that they were angling to make a coup over time. His views turn out to be more widespread than was evident on the surface.

In 2011-2012, the revolutionary youth, the liberals and the Brotherhood made common cause to return the military to their barracks.

But then the Brotherhood broke all of its promises and threw a fright into everyone– youth, women, Coptic Christians, Liberals, leftists, workers, and the remnants of the old regime. The Brotherhood cheated in the parliamentary elections, running candidates for seats set aside for independents. Then they tried to pack the constitution-writing body with their parliamentarians, breaking another promise. They reneged on the pledge to have a consensual constitution.

Once Muhammad Morsi was elected president in June, 2012, he made a slow-motion coup. He pushed through a Brotherhood constitution in December of 2012 in a referendum with about a 30% turnout in which it garnered only 63%– i.e. only a fifth of the country voted for it. The judges went on strike rather than oversee balloting, so the referendum did not meet international standards. When massive protests were staged he had them cleared out by the police, and on December 6, 2012, is alleged to have sent in Brotherhood paramilitary to attack leftist youth who were demonstrating. There were deaths and injuries.

Morsi then invented a legislature for himself, declaring by fiat that the ceremonial upper house was the parliament. He appointed many of its members; only 7% were elected. They passed a law changing the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60, which would have forced out a fourth of judges and allowed Morsi to start putting Brotherhood members on the bench to interpret his sectarian constitution. He was building a one party state. His economic policies hurt workers and ordinary folk. He began prosecuting youth who criticized him, his former allies against the military. 8 bloggers were indicted. Ahmad Maher of The April 6 youth group was charged with demonstrating (yes). Television channels were closed. Coptic school teachers were charged with blasphemy. Morsi ruled from his sectarian base and alienated everyone else. He over-reached.

In my view Morsi and the Brotherhood leadership bear a good deal of the blame for derailing the transition, since a democratic transition is a pact among various political forces, and he broke the pact. If Morsi was what democracy looked like, many Egyptians did not want it. Gallup polls trace this disillusionment.

But the Egyptian military bears the other part of the blame for the failed transition. Ambitious officers such as Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Morsi’s Minister of Defense, were secretly determined to undo Morsi’s victory at the polls. They said they wanted him to compromise with his political rivals, but it seems to me they wanted more, they wanted him neutered. When the revolutionary youth and the workers and even many peasants staged the June 30 demonstrations, al-Sisi took advantage of them to stage a coup. Ominously, he then asked for public acclamation to permit him to wage a war on terror, by which he means the Brotherhood. I tweeted at the time: “Dear General al-Sisi: when activists call for demonstrations, that is activism. When generals do, that is Peronism.”

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.

81 Responses

  1. Finally! Finally you reached the conclusion, which was obvious on June 28th–the day a military general without any popular mandate gave an ultimatum to an elected official. That was the end of the Egyptian democratic transition, and the end of the Arab Spring.

    Well, it’s not a surprise at all to me. The history of military coups is almost all the same.

    PS: You haven’t probably read the New York Times piece that said (with solid sources) that Al-Sisi went to the opposition and told them “get me some folks in the streets and i will get rid of Morsi.” This deal was made 5 months before June. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet.

    • If, as some say, this is a war between modernity and fundamentalist oppression, the MB had already declared war through its subterfuge and illegality, underscored and enforced by the extreme and widespread violence it perpetrated against innocent people even once it had already been elected. If left in power till next presidential election, its coup would have been completed and its war won. Egypt would have been brought back a century into backwards fundamentalism.

      As all generals will do if wise in battle and in war, in this case a war already in progress initiated by the MB using deception and violence as political tools, they had the Egyptian military strike when it had the greatest chance of winning, which is what the Egyptian military did. The military did this so the truly democratic majority of Egyptians, the revolutionary youth and all else, would not have to fight the armed MB in the streets for years and years to come. What will come now will be less harm than would have occurred had the military had not intervened. Remember, and be realistic, the MB would never have relinquished its power to turn Egypt fundamentalist, even if it lost elections. The MB was not a democratic force and will never be a democratic force, because democracy is its chosen enemy, as is modernity.

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    BBC reports yesterday’s death toll as 421, with three thousand wounded.

    Will the rebels who are slowly being defeated in Syria head off to Egypt to give the Army a hard time?

    From what we are told the Army in Egypt has been feathering their nest and I wonder if they are combat ready. Certainly the missing 4000 SAM from Libya must give pause for thought.

    Certainly yesterday’s excitement won’t do much for the tourist industry, and I will feel even more unhappy being anywhere near the El Al Check-in desk at Cairo International Airport.

    A bit of shooting among the bikini clad lovelies on the beach at Sharm and Hurghada will really put the cat among the pigeons.

  3. From one point of view the fact that those 2 groups are incompatible is a relief. If they had been capable of coalescing it would have been a frightening coalition. But the rejection by the Brotherhood of a degree of power-sharing proposed by the military shows that the Brotherhood’s confidence was underestimated.
    Whilst they have alienated many/ most Egyptians they have clearly been strengthened in other parts of Egyptian society during the period of Morsi’s presidency. They have what was clearly a coup, although you may be right that that was a counter-coup, and now a mass martyrdom to campaign around.
    El Baradei has been humiliated – the democratic revolutionaries and workers movement are hard to see and will find it hard to organise as the military and Ikhwan move into a period of brutal conflict. It is hard to believe Sisi wouldn’t have shared with the US government his intended actions if not the level of brutality he would authorise. But even if the West seriously pressured now for ‘restraint’ – the damage has already been done. The Algerian option seems, unfortunately, increasingly likely.

  4. I seem to remember columnists, writers and politicians everywhere were extolling the virtues of the Arab spring and there was a rush to arm Libyan terrorists and currently Syrian terrorists who actually practice cannibalism. There can be no doubt that the uprising in Egypt was largely orchestrated by the West and the present bloodshed and chaos is the result. Mubarak ran the Country well and he was the best man for the job. He must be having a quiet laugh from his sick bed at the moment. There never was an Arab spring and the whole thing was manufactured by a few individuals who had malevolent intent.

    • The “West” hasn’t orchestrated anything to do with the Arab Spring unless you think that agents from the CIA or MI6 doused a Tunisian fruit vendor with petrol and lit him on fire.

      The actual cause is quite simple. Economic stagnation stemming from the Great Recession of 2008-09 caused the people of the Arab world to withdraw legitimacy from the corrupt governments who’s policies only benefited the entrenched elite. The turmoil has been restricted to Arab countries who haven’t been able to use a resource boom to placate their populations. Old ethnic hatreds and anger at brutal oppressive regimes have bubbled to the surface.

      Now I don’t want to reduce the causes of such a complex and dynamic situation to just one or two things, of course it much more complicated than that, but the one thing that I can rule out is that the “West” has any influence to dictate how things go one way or the other. This is an Arab problem with Arab causes and Arab solutions.

      • Yeah, an Arab problem. But of course our Great Gamers wer, have been, are, and will be in there trying, offering inducements of cash and weapons and “training,” maybe even Viagra as to the warlords in Afghanistan, looking for levers and seams to wedge and pry things apart, aiming to extract as much wealth from those unhappy areas as possible. Studied up on the plans and activities of the Whole Earth Network-Centric Battlespace System much? Could have been written and activated by the Aliens from the movie “Independence Day,” if they used writing, though of course they were telepaths… and further linked together by a Star-System-Wide Network-Centric Battlespace System.

        What do you find when you just follow the money?

      • well said, Don. So many supposed leftists fail to see how western control of the region has declined. (this geostrategic change is one reason for the upheavals). their belief that everything in the arab world is controlled by the devilishly clever White Man absurdly underestimates the agency of arab people. casting them as pawns in western hands is in fact a form of racism, and it destroys any possibility of analysis. the syrian regime rapes, murders and tortures to death on a mass scale, but the syrians wouldn’t have done anything about it if american-israeli agents hadn’t incited them… ridiculous. it’s important to analyse the policies of the us, britain, france, saudi, iran, qatar, turkey with regard to the revolutions, but stupid to imagine that the syrian dynamic isnt primarily syrian, the libyan libyan, and so on

        • Just so.

          If you don’t understand that the West has been scrambling around, responding to events they didn’t foresee, and trying to figure out what to do – if you think it has all been one well-choreographed performance – you just aren’t paying attention.

  5. “In my view Morsi and the Brotherhood leadership bear a good deal of the blame for derailing the transition, since a democratic transition is a pact among various political forces, and he broke the pact.”

    I agree with you Professor Cole, but I would go one step further and place most of the blame on Morsi. Had Morsi not attempted to subvert and undermine the very democratic process that brought him to power, the majority of the Egyptian people would not have opposed him, and the military would not have intervened with the support of that majority.

    • I agree, Bill. The MB declared war on democracy long ago. The MB presently and maybe forever is completely incompatible with democracy. Their aim is to prevent and/or destroy it. The MB’s rise to power was a coup itself, instituted by deception and the use of violence as a tool of deterrence and oppression. The military coup was to prevent a much greater loss later, and I think it horrible but a wiser choice than to have done nothing and regretted that choice later. The MB was NEVER going to relinquish power ever again, except at the barrel of a gun as is happening now. This is what most Egyptians realize and are grateful about, though understandably worried still and concerned for their country.

  6. Those who supported the military coup on June 30 have responsibility for this as well. There intention may have been good but the path they embraced had far greater risk than working to build parties and pursuing corrections through the voting booth. They naively blamed all the problems on the MB, and chose not to participate in the governing, and further made the assumption that the military, with the falool would not seize the opportunity to take make the gains made in 2011.

    • Sherman, I think your excellent idealism is blinding you to the nature of the MB. They would never relinquish power willingly through elections. That is why they began stacking the deck from the beginning. It was a slow coup that was acclerating and would have metastazied at the time of the next election, whether the MB would have lost or won it. MB was going to come out victorious no matter what the result. Clearly, the MB is incompatible with democracy, in contrast to a huge segment of the Egyptian people.

    • Sherman, I just re-read your comment and realized your idealism is blinded further by your ignorance of the situation. The democratic forces in Egypt did not “refuse” to participate in governing. Morsi and the MB totally shut them out authoritarian-style. And it was only going to get worse from there. Pay attention so your comments have some relevance, okay?

      • Larry, the ingorant person here is YOU. It is obvious that you cannot see it because of gullibility factor. You obviously cannot see that your persident is lying day and night. Juan Cole knows it but try to cover it for the first black ‘president’, a zionist puppet.

      • Larry,
        I am not particularly supportive of the MB, just the democratic process, however the opposition groups did not do the work to form parties throughout the country. They withdrew from the constitutional convention stopping the process. They refused ministries.
        We should also recognize that just prior to the coup there were daily power outages, 2 hour long gasoline lines, and no police in the street. The day after the coup, everyone had power, electricity and the police were back. We cannot ignore the remnants of the old regime that were still running parts of the country.

    • Larry, I think you are being too critical. There is some truth in what Sherman is saying. Certainly the reformers get a D- for their political organizing. No leadership with demonstrated backing has emerged to demand participation. Who’s to blame for their pathetic showing in parliamentary elections?

      The blame can be spread around broadly.

  7. Prof. Cole, I am an avid reader of your blog and thank you for your contribution to information on middle east. However, I must take issue with your narrative in this blog. You seem to blame the MB disproportionately and use language like Morsi pushed through a constitution with only 30% participation. Come on sir, what kind of participation and victory margins have we had in the greatest democracy (USA). You also forget to mention that it was the Mubarak era judiciary with the covert backing of the military that dissolved the duly elected lower house. In my opinion, Morsi was forced into taking action to counter the forces of the military and the elite that lost the elections! I BTW, am not a supporter of religion in politics, am of Indian (Hindu) origin. I just want to call it as I see it. The blame lies very squarely in the lap of the military and its supporters(incl.US government) who never wanted a popular democracy in Egypt or region for that matter (Hamas in Gaza).

    • Prof. Cole’s analysis was balanced and clearly documented.

      spiral00, you say you are not a supporter of religion in politics, I believe you, but you hold the Muslim Brotherhood blameless, an unsupportable, emotional position.

      The Muslim Brotherhood has pursued a doomed strategy since the coup. Like you, they refuse to recognize that they governed in an undemocratic, exclusive manner; they refuse to accept the reality that they were left isolated. The MB governance was fundamentally misdirected, it wasn’t just a matter of “some mistakes were made.” To see this, you just have to acknowledge the breath and and size of protests demanding that Morsi leave office.

      The MB are now out in the streets trying to effect another revolution by paralyzing governance & the economy. One can understand their feelings, but circumstances are far different from the revolution that brought down Mubarak. The MB do not have the sympathies of Egyptians outside their hardcore supporters. They are on a death mission, and now the deaths have come.

      I don’t excuse the military one bit, but the MB had political options smarter than provoking a civil war.

      • Richard, your response is focusing on motives of MB, something that I do not have the ability to know, all I can do is provide my reading of the facts. Please provide some objective reference to how Morsi governed in an undemocratic manner. My reading is that they won three separate elections/referendum. The only reason he took supreme power for a short period of time was to avert the Mubarak appointed supreme court from dissolving the constitution writing body (they had already dissolved a duly elected lower house of the parliament). On the question of exclusive manner: sure he packed the upper house with pro Morsi supporters, but that was not illegal and democracy does have winners and losers. The liberals should have waited for the next round of elections which were due within the next year. To ask for military to stage a coup was undemocratic. Finally, I believe, your expectation of MB to not protest is expecting too much of some one whose duly provided rights have been taken away by a military coup (and that is what it is)!

        • spiral007, the motives of the MB are self-evident: they are acting and speaking to depose the current government and restore Morsi to power. No speculation or insight required.

          “Please provide some objective reference to how Morsi governed in an undemocratic manner … the only reason he took supreme power for a short period of time was to avert the Mubarak appointed supreme court … sure he packed the upper house with pro Morsi supporters, but that was not illegal and democracy does have winners and losers.”

          There is no example of MB heavy-handed behavior that cannot be explained-away. Worst of all, the MB rushed-through a constitution that did not have broad support. I’ve heard the rationalizations.

          The violent impasse we are at is the inevitable result of BOTH sides taking absolutist positions. The MB does not have broad support, they are in no position to demand that the government step-down. You say the liberals should have waited for elections. Well, the same can be said about the MB today – elections are scheduled for 6 months from now.

      • I think spiral007 has a point here. Do we characterize Democrats or Republicans redistricting as “Coups” worthy of our military to intervene and protect our constitution? I don’t think so. Do the Republican and Democratic Presidents, when they get to power, not govern in an exclusive manner (see Bush’s 8 year presidency, and his language of, “either you are with us or you are with the enemy”). The actions of the brotherhood were incredibly self-serving, short-sighted, and I exclusive. BUT they were democratically elected, and their constitution they “Pushed through” was also elected in. When 56% of US citizens show up to the polls, no one is asking or describing it as an illegitimate election because almost half of the population didn’t even bother to show up and vote. No one. But in Egypt, making similar mistakes apparently is worthy of a coup, and then multiple bloody massacres of your supporters. Hypocrisy at its worse.

        • The heavy handed behavior of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. is in no way comparable to that seen by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian Military.

          The 20 million people in the streets protesting Morsi would be equivalent to 90 million in the United States. If 90 million Americans were in the street, our government would fall too.

          We have checks and balances in our mature system that people come to trust. Obviously neither the Morsi supporters nor detractors are willing to wait until the next election.

        • Those redistricting plans can be and often are subject to review by courts and so far no governor or president in the US has revoked the power of the courts to rule.

          Have to agree with Richard, one can explain away anything, so what’s the point?

        • Folks who follow the redistricting processes, which mostly “Republicans” have subverted and dominated by persistence and organization and demonic fury on certain issues been the ones drawing districts and now of course purging voter rolls of likely Dem voters and instituting Voter ID laws and other stratagems including ballot creation and destruction, would laugh at the idea that “judicial review” by judges who, via the same application of ‘democracy’ have over time become very friendly to ‘conservatives,’ are any kind of effective check on gerrymandering. Seems even the packed Supreme Court found a way to decide the outcome of a recent presidential election that even they said was a one-time event…

          As to presidents and governors revoking judicial review, all the Prez has to say is “national security” and “executive discretion” and the federal and state courts waive any jurisdiction, and governors and their attorneys general routinely make the decisions that keep all kinds of issues away from any judges that might rule, however impotently, against their power plays, while using all the semi-legitimacies of “it’s legal” to pack the courts with cronies and fellow travelers.

          There’s a reason it’s called “the spoils system…” link to

    • I think this is a really good and timely post.
      Yesterday ended the Egypt revolution. What I would like to hear about is what has been the role of US
      policy in this? What should it have been? Who is in charge of it? To me it has been incoherent from the time of Obama’s Cairo speech and bent badly toward Isreal.
      It now seems that among those paying no attention to the US are Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Russia, Pakistan. Thanks!

    • The blame lies very squarely in the lap of the military and its supporters(incl.US government) who never wanted a popular democracy in Egypt

      Uh, the Egyptian military’s “supporters” in the Obama administration didn’t lift a finger to save Mubarak (even working to undermine him), worked closely with Morsi in the early months (such as on the Gaze cease fire), and have taken actions (such as delaying the shipment of military equipment and canceling joint military exercises) against the Sisi regime that they never took against Morsi.

    • You seem to blame the MB disproportionately and use language like Morsi pushed through a constitution with only 30% participation. Come on sir, what kind of participation and victory margins have we had in the greatest democracy (USA).

      The low voter turnout for the constitutional referendum was not, like low American voter turnout, a phenomenon of disinterest that crossed party lines. The opposition (stupidly, in my opinion) boycotted the vote because of corruption and cheating. That is not the same thing at all.

      • “The opposition boycotted the vote” and now they invite the army to conduct a coup and topple a duly elected government. I believe the sacrosanct western media / civic groups also said the elections that brought in Morsi were fair and square. People are giving 20Mil number in the streets; the best I have heard is 1.5M; I think the people confuse it with 20 mil signatures (not verifiable). Anyway, I think the tiger is out of the cage and the liberals will rue the day and I feel very sad for ALL the people of Egypt.

        • One election doesn’t give the President free rein to make himself Pharaoh. Even Hitler’s party won one election.

          He was voted into office to oversee the writing of a constitution, and he decided that the constitution was going to read “L’etat, c’est moi.”

  8. Great recap and analysis Prof. Juan. I want to translate it to Arabic and post it on my FB page -is that OK with you?

  9. German television is reporting over 420 dead and thousands injured, just as an addition or update. Civil war looks like a very real possibility right now. The Egyptian academic they are interviewing on ZDF says frankly there are no short term solutions at all. I hope he is just being pessimistic.

  10. If Morsi was so bad as you say Prof Cole how come the people so badly want him back?!

  11. Morisi was not committed to a democracy. Morisi was committed to a theocracy. That was really the problem and why the transition had no real chance of working. The various factions that put their differences aside when trying to topple Mubarak wanted fundamentally different things. If he was already trying to jail people for criticism of him and charging Coptic Christians with Blasphemy for practicing their faith and he had not even really consolidated power yet, how would the Muslim Brotherhood have behaved when they actually had consolidated power. When they did control the military or had a powerful enough militia to rival it. The art of democracy is tolerance, compromise. If your aim is a theocracy, tolerance and compromise is not going to be on the agenda.

    • Beautifully said, Ann. Thanks. MB were totalitarians in democratic clothing before elections. I hate it when someone blames the victims, and MB folks are dying and hurting right now, but did they really expect to get away with anti-democratically turning Egypt fundamentalist?

    • The art of democracy is not tolerance! Ha! Far from it. I think we put too much hope in the concept and think it somehow means being a humanitarian and egalitarian society. In the Egyptian failed experiment, democracy produced the MB. If elections were held today, I bet you they still will win a sizable portion. Statesmanship is about being tolerant and able to work with all parties. Clearly Morsi wasn’t a great statesman (I mean have you heard one of his boring speeches?), but neither is this Sisi (aka the New Mubarak).

  12. @ Barry –

    It’s more impressive that the New York Times had solid sources. Frankly, that’s a tactic, whipping up demonstrators, that has been used for eons in demonstrations in the Mid East. It’s not anything new. If the NY Times tried to make it seem a scoop, that would be disengenous but not surprising

  13. This is all very sad and of a piece with the purges in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and Assad’s increasingly strong counter revolution in Syria.

    The Arab Spring looks more like nuclear winter

  14. Is this what Susan Rice and the Obama regime wanted? Now they will have a totalitarian Egyptian government with far less of the religious commitment that had them in tizzy over the Muslim Brotherhood. And a military regime will be susceptible to American pressure through through the weapons channel. Israel, too, will likely be happy — or happier than with either the Muslim Brotherhood or a robust democracy.

    • A tizzy over the Muslim Brotherhood?

      You mean, the government that they worked with to negotiate a cease-fire in Gaza?

      The government that they never made any move to distance themselves from, unlike the delay of the F-16 shipment and the cancellation of the joint military exercises?

      • Joe assigns unwarranted significance to both this second delay, not cancellation, of war games, and the DELAY of delivery of 4 of 20 F-16s that are part of at least a billion bucks in military “aid” to the Egyptian warlords that is still on the way.

        Small change, of course, compared to annual military aid tribute to “the mouse that roared” across the Sina…

        • So, kindly lay out for me the actions the U.S. government took in opposition to the Morsi government.

          You talk about the aid continuing to the Egyptian government; you do know that the same aid continued, wholly unimpeded, throughout the Morsi period, right?

        • JT,

          If I was citing the actions of the Obama administration against the generals’ regime to argue “The US sure is giving hell to the Egyptian military regime,” your rebuttal would be valid.

          But I’m not. I’m citing those actions in response to claims that the US government is backing the military regime over the Muslim Brotherhood government.

          Whether you think Obama’s response is strong enough or not, the undeniable fact is that they are being much harder on, not more supportive of, the Sisi government than the Morsi government.

        • you do know that the same aid continued, wholly unimpeded, throughout the Morsi period, right?

          Joe, of course that was my point exactly. The whole strategy and doctrine is to create all across Africa and the other COMs a “military cooperative” that’s all Interoperable and working from the same playbook that is informed by those always invoked, always unspecified, but always Sanctum Sanctorum “national interests,” a strategy and doctrine that the US “security structure” has written and keeps trying to refine and impose. “We” need to play nice, for the time being, with all those militaries and militias and regimes, to cozen or coerce or “influence” them into what used to be called “alignment,” and keep the arms sales and other market opportunities for even post-national “US” corporations open. F-16s, GMO seeds, earth movers so upstream countries can dehydrate downstream ones, stuff like that.

          The daily details of tactics and “the news cycle,” as I’m sure you know, stuff like stealing more Palestinian living space and water, and weapons to Syrians that McCain likes, and droning in Yemen, and now this new bit of murderous idiocy in Egypt, are just blips and sideshows on the larger path to — what, again? What does “Security” mean, again? We use it all the time, but it’s just a convenient feely-good fog-word.

          As to differences in treatment of “Morsi” and the military while he was in office, and the current rulers, looks to me like the difference between being beaten with a noodle al dente, or with one that’s been slightly overcooked…

          And I guess I’m just obtuse, but looking back upthread at your citation of the four-of-20-F-16 ‘coitus interruptus’ and the postponement of “Operation Bright Star” this year, it sure looks like you were arguing that showed how “harshly” the Empire is treating the Current Military Leadership for its Assault on Democracy. And it sure is hard to figure out just what obscure point you are contending for, and what difference it makes in the greater flow of events. It’s fun to go down these side roads, though — keeps many people distracted and entertained, and obscures the bigger-picture stuff.

          And your statement of some “undeniable fact” to the effect that The Empire is “being much harder on, not more supportive of, the Sisi government than the Morsi government” ain’t on the evidence, either undeniable or fact. In fact, in the frame you yourself have insisted upon, such a statement, “as everyone commonly knows,” ought to be accompanied by citations and support. And it’s a nice subtle distraction and impeachment, but really, what I wrote has nothing to do with what I think of the RIGOR of the Empire’s response, vel non.

        • Your “point exactly” seems to have changed quite a bit.

          Fine, fine, the Obama administration being harder on the Sisi government than the Morsi government proves exactly the same point as the Obama administration (allegedly) favoring the Sisi government and helping to remove the MB government.

          As always, all roads lead exactly where you want them to.

          And your statement of some “undeniable fact” to the effect that The Empire is “being much harder on, not more supportive of, the Sisi government than the Morsi government” ain’t on the evidence, either undeniable or fact.

          Actually, I’ve cited the evidence and provided the links. I’m afraid your “Nuh-uh, you gotta be wrong, cuz narrative” pushback seems little thin.

  15. Why I am not surprised.
    1.) First of all, except under exceptional circumstances, democracy is a stupid idea in the first place.
    2.) Even where people think they have democracy it is often a sham, especially in the USA.
    3.) Even these sham democracies often needed several tries to achieve some level of stability.

  16. “They said they wanted him to compromise with his political rivals, but it seems to me they wanted more, they wanted him neutered.” But, Juan, as you rightly said, the MB began their pre-coup even before the presidential elections, by lying and other deception and trying to play both sides against the middle, and, once Morsi won, the more accelerated coup began. By the time the next presidential election rolled around, it would have been too late to stop the MB from assuming full authoritarian, possibly totalitarian control, having by that time decapitated the military just enough. Their lust for power and hubris blinded them to the flaw in their plan: They didn’t yet have as much control as they thought; the tyrannical never do.

    I still think this level of bloodshed, horrible though it certainly is – and NEVER realistically avoidable since the MB was NEVER going to peacefully relinquish the control it already had commandeered and the fuller control the planning and execution for which was well underway – this level of bloodshed will have proven to be far less than the blood it would have taken to root out the anti-Democratic MB, which never did anything politically in good faith from the beginning, from the dictatorial authority it was in the process of illegally and unethically achieving.

    To sum up, the MB, having lied and cheated into power, were never going to go quietly even if losing an election. The current amount of blood and mayhem was inevitable once the MB had fooled enough of the people for the first time. They were skillful at achieving this lower rung of power, less so a higher rung of power, and the military wisely stepped in to forestall a much, much greater chaos ahead. In other words, the MB always meant to undo Egyptian’s revolution and bend Egypt to its fundamentalist will against popular and democratic desires. The military, long and often the villain, was left to do the dirty work of the revolution. Instead of the actual democratic forces having to personally fight the MB in the streets, armed as the MB was as the military understood, the military is doing it for the people. The MB had already declared war on Egypt and would have violently fought this same war for power anyway, but would have had the upper hand. The military intervened when it did to prevent that.

  17. Question for you Juan:

    ElBaradei had been put forward for PM, but he was rejected by the Salafist Al Nour party. Would his position as PM have made any difference?

  18. @Barry

    You are correct. The Arabist wrote about “The Delegitimization of Mursi” back on June 30.

    The delegitimization continues. Egyptian and other talking heads are starting to appear around the media with the old “blame the victim” line.

    The fact is that Mursi will be remembered in history books as the first freely elected Egyptian president. And that he was removed from office by a military coup. And that the coup and the massacres that followed were fully supported by the self-described “secularists, liberals, democrats, et al”.

  19. Of course, all of the above occurred before our own leader spoke from Martha’s Vineyard. Because of the faith Arabs around the world, like his Democratic Party loyalists, have placed in his words, we can look forward to both sides in Egypt confessing the errors of their ways and discussing how they can all live together happily every after.

    Now about that bridge I mentioned before. Any takers?

    • Apparently, the President’ speech is so meaningless that complaining he made it is the only thing you found notable enough to comment on.

      It must have been a heck of a speech, since you can’t even find anything to denounce.

      • Is that what Bill Bodden said, Joe? Really? And you find it compelling enough ironic text to have to reinforce the utility and effect of Obama’s pontifications and pronouncements in this little space by mischaracterization and other bits of impeachment gamery?

        • I recognize all of those words, JT, but damned if I can figure out what they’re doing together.

          You’re unhappy. I get that much.

  20. Prof. Cole wrote, “some 20 Coptic Christian churches were attacked …” What he did not say was that several Coptic Christians have been murdered, and others beaten–the attacks are not simply against property.

    We have to be honest: the MBs are a hate-filled quasi-terrorist organization. They are scapegoating Christians who have only a very minor role in the downfall of their government. They are lashing out against a weak minority simply to terrorize it and vent their anger and create an anarchistic situation. During Morsi’s rule they behaved like bullies, not democrats. Since Morsi’s removal they have behaving with maximum belligerence toward the Christian population.

    I don’t think the military attacking the MB camps was ideal, but was there any other realistic alternative? Can a legitimate government that wants to stabilize society and create conditions for free elections allow that kind of violence against Copts (and even the military itself) that the MBs were in fact practicing and preaching? The MBs put themselves outside the law by opting for violence against innocent civilians who had little to do with their situation, not unlike Timothy McVeigh or any other terrorist who scapegoats the innocent to foment hatred and anarchy. The MBs are not unlike the KKK and other White Supremacist groups in the US. They are purveyors of irrational hatred and violence against the weak to make political points. Again: what alternative did the military have? The MBs after six weeks showed no sign of softening, and indeed they were becoming more enraged and more dangerous.

  21. Let’s reflect on the role of “pro-democracy” groups funded by the United States:

    They cheered the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president and the suspension of its democratic constitution. They cheered the military coup. Most of them now are standing by silently as the Islamists of various stripes, who represent 80% of the Egyptian public, are systematically and brutally excluded from the political process.

    The pro-democracy groups have won. America is smiling as its old friend, the military, funded to the tune of billions of dollars, regains power. Israel is smiling, as the border with Gaza is sealed again by an Egyptian state that will maintain silence about Israel’s depredations in West Bank and Gaza.

    What the pro-democracy groups call the “ignorant masses,” that is, the 80% of the public with Islamist sympathies, have lost all representation. Congratulations, Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party. Congratulations, Republicans. Congratulations, Israel.


    • I can’t decide which statement is the most hilarious:

      That the constitution approved in an election so corrupt that the election monitors resigned and the opposition boycotted is “democratic.”

      That the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys the support of 80% of the Egyptian public.

      Or that western liberals are being silent about Egypt.

      • They opposed nominated constitution via a referendum so they abstain from the vote en masse instead of voting against it.

        Somehow, despite having a significant opposition movement that chose not to vote against the constitution the proposal passed.

        And somehow it’s considered undemocratic because the opposition decided not to participate.

        This was the presumably the same opposition that took to the streets to demand that the government which was voted into power a year earlier be removed even though they’d barely begun their term of office.

        Somehow I don’t think that the Muslim Brotherhood are the only participants who haven’t quite figured out how this newfangled representative democracy thing is supposed to work.

        On a side note, is Morsi still imprisoned or has he been released?

        • A constitution isn’t the same thing as an ordinary bill. It’s perfectly ok for one side to win and the other side lose in a debate over what the top tax rate should be, or how much to spend on tanks.

          But a constitution needs to be a consensus documents that all parties buy into.

        • Joe on the Constitution: “a consensus document that all parties buy into.” If that’s the test, what kind of logicisticational legerdemain is required to show that what we US-ans have is a “Constitution?” Maybe it’s just how one defines who the “parties” are, hey?

          Go to South Carolina and look for the “U.S. Constitution,” or the nether regions of Texas, like around Waco. Where the result of the War of Northern Aggression is still seen as at best a North Korea/South Korea standoff… You’ll find fragments, of course — the 2nd and 10th Amendments, and parts of the 5th… and a lot of violently ripped shreds.

          Many people have pointed out that “constitutionalization” is a scam that “we” are trying to peddle or compel, along with the BS about “democracy” as the only acceptable form of government, a form that morphs every time “we” have a change in “national interests.”
          link to
          link to
          link to

          I used to work on a large legal case opposite a hot-shot silk-stocking attorney who was just deLIGHTed to have gotten himself appointed to one of those USAID groups that were sent to Central Europe to “write the constitutions” for the breakup bits (our spooks never saw THAT coming, through the special prisms and blinders they still wear) of the former Soviet Empire. This was the Ground Floor Opportunity, the guy told me, for him and his club to be in on the setting in cement of the “constitutional” conditions that would benefit his Business Interest clients, letting them “legally” waltz in and make some serious shekels in those New Unplucked Markets.

          The same scam was pulled, as I understand it, in Iraq, under the US-an Proconsul, L. Paul Bremer, and is under way elsewhere. What is worshiped as a faith tenet turns out. like so many such manipulable but seductive beliefs, to be so very much different than the fuzzy glow that the word conjures in the breasts of so many “patriots.”

          Interesting and illustrative choices of what you would deem “ordinary bills:” tax rates, and how many tanks to buy. Our “constitutionaldemocracy” government rulers really basically agree on the two answers to those issues, lower, and more. A more telling subject for a bill would be the scope of acceptable spying on everyone everywhere all the time. Oh, wait! I know the apparent answer to how the “parties” would treat that one too! Or how about “chained CPI?” In our system, it sure looks like the only “Winners” are the moneyed interests and their Congressional lapdogs that make what they do “not illegal.” The Losers? Well, look around…

      • I did’t say 80% support the Brotherhood. I wrote 80% support Islamism (the mixing of Islam & politics). Actually, that was probably an understatement, since the opinion polls put the support for Islamism at more like 85%.

        By contrast, the pro-Western, “liberals” make up no more than 15% of the population.

        My point remains: 80% of the population now have no voice, thanks to the colluding of the pro-West “liberals” with a brutal military that is funded by the US to the tune of billions. I don’t see what about any of this is controversial. These are the plain facts.


  22. The NYT article Barry refers to is at link to

    I wonder if the Muslim Brotherhood would have moved in the direction of radical Islam if there had not been a concerted effort to subvert it politically? A real opposition conspiracy lends power to the radicals in any party.

  23. Sir, western liberals are also to blame:

    They thought it more prudent to immediately displace the Muslim Brotherhood with the bullet, rather than let them continue to earn a trip to the dust bin of history through a full term of incompetence. Also, the west could have easily set up new elections with Egyptian Military oversight while a neutered Morsi was still in power. When a gun was put to Morsi’s head, he blinked and went for the elections, did he not?

    Secondly, especially in terms of the US, establishment liberals debated more about whether the effect of following the law was good or bad, rather than pressuring the government to actually follow the law concerning monetary support to the Egyptian military. Following the law: a quaint notion, perhaps, but how long until America resembles Egypt? Penny wise, pound foolish “liberals”…

    Over time, doing the right thing will yield a good result in the Middle East. Paradoxically (or not) western interference saves Islam’s bacon. When people of the Middle East find themselves in a Catch 22 of western creation, they turn to Islam as “liberalism” is a sick joke leading to thousands gunned down in the streets and widespread poverty and economic exploitation. When the west allows Islam to “win”, it will lose.

    This coup is more likely to end in Khomeini than El Baradei. And no, Morsi was not Khomeini.

    • Good heavens, what a strange and illogical rant.

      “Western liberals” took no discernible position on Egypt, certainly not what you are suggesting.

      And then you claim “the west could have easily set up new elections with Egyptian Military oversight while a neutered Morsi was still in power.” You must be joking.

      I take it you think the U.S. should have cut-off military to Egypt. I disagree, but that’s a debatable point. It’s hard to see how it would have made any difference. I don’t know how you decided that liberals were against cutting off aid.

      • Oh, Richard, you missed the point: Western liberals are always and everywhere to blame. QED.

  24. The Army can be brutal because it doesn’t fear US aid cut off as long as it enforces oppression of Palestinians via the Camp David treaty.

  25. The attack on the Copts by the MB is evidence that we have backed Islamic thugs.

    • “attack on the Copts by the MB:”

      Is the MB a unitary thing, or are there subsets and branches and divides in what we try so insistently to personify? Remember “Better Dead Than Red,” from the same people who now proudly claim Redness as their soul? Some soccer fans kill referees and brawl and trash stadiums and downtowns, so all soccer fans are anomic, nihilistic thugs? Maybe in posse, like the rest of us too…

      We all have this sense that there is a “Rightness” somewhere, that can somehow be recognized and appealed to and applied. “Democracy” and “Rule of Law” and The Will of YHWH or Allah or Buddha, maybe? Too bad our habits of tribal behavior, and incredible powers of rationalization and obfuscation, and the presence of sneaks and bullies with addictions to power and powers of oration, let us presume its existence, and the correctness of our actions as consistent with that longed-for “Rightness…”

  26. First off, I thank you Juan Cole, for your time in trying to articulate the gross insanity in Egypt. Second, after reading dozens of comments below your article,the only conclusion I have is no conclusion. I am more confused and in the dark than every before. I can only see how possibly the powers that be, the rich, the powerful, the elite, in Egypt, the ones who do know what is going on, want the world to be confused right now and directed away from the highest truth. And if anyone here does not think the US elite corporations that control the US government has no agenda in Egypt, has no hand in its welfare, is smothering his or her own common intellect, and probably close to completely killing it off!

  27. Mb has nothing to gain from attacks on places of worship; they should strongly condemn such an act and actively prevent it. Sectarianism only benefits the gulf Arab despots and their clown posse in rcc and makes their own mosque a target for the extremists.

  28. That New York Times article is worth reading. Al Jazeera just ran an old documentary entitled “Manufacturing the Truth” made about the Egyptian state media during the protests against Mubarak. It is uncanny that exactly the same methods, terminology and accusations used against Mursi and his party by the media in Egypt today (the generals closed all pro-Mursi media) is. After all, Mubarak’s journalists had to find employment somewhere.

    And of course the old church burning meme was big under Mubarak to demonize the Brotherhood. Somehow these same people fail to notice that a large and important mosque in Cairo, the Rabia al Alawyyia mosque, was completely trashed and burned out by the generals. Not to even mention that some of the women and children sheltered inside were shot.

    Indeed, truth is being manufactured wholesale, as is consent being manufactured. I’m waiting for the Brotherhood to be soon accused of harboring al Quaeda.

  29. joe from Lowell, your quote below is an example of pure inflammatory and baseless commentary.

    ‘One election doesn’t give the President free rein to make himself Pharaoh. Even Hitler’s party won one election.

    He was voted into office to oversee the writing of a constitution, and he decided that the constitution was going to read “L’etat, c’est moi.”’

    I believe Kassandra above makes good points worth pondering about.

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