Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is Egypt Totally Without Hope?

The military assault on the Muslim Brotherhood which has left hundreds dead and thousands injured is the logical aftermath of the July 3 military ouster of President Muhammad Morsi.  This is not to say that the Brotherhood is blameless.  Far from it, as both Steven Cook and Juan Cole explain, their own desire to dominate the system confirmed the fears of their political opponents and drove those opponents into the streets, creating the conditions under which the military ousted the government which just a year before they had decided they could live with.

Leading up to and amidst the current violence, Brotherhood leaders have engaged in inflammatory and at times violent rhetoric, even if it is unclear whether instigatory as opposed to defensive violence characterized their actions in Cairo's protest camps.  There was, however, extensive violence outside of Cairo, much of it directed against Christians and probably out of the control of the Brotherhood leadership.  This violence on both sides gives this week's events an aura of hopelessness.  There is simply too much blood, too much betrayal, for a political solution which puts Egypt back on a path toward a democratic transition.

This, at least, is the conclusion of most knowledgeable Egypt watchers.  If there is a ray of hope, however, it might lie in the fact that going back to the beginnings of the Tahrir Square protests in January 2011, expert opinion has often been wrong.  What could happen?  The worst case scenario is a return to the factional political violence of the late 1930's and 1940's.  The best is a move toward new elections in which the Brotherhood and perhaps some other Islamist factions do not participate, but which still feature a legitimate contest in which the interests of the public matter, and which create a political climate in which leaders are held accountable and issues debated and compromised upon, a climate into which Islamists can be drawn in after a period of years.

Is that best-case scenario actually likely?  I have no idea.  As I keep pounding at, however, revolutions develop slowly and chaotically over a period of years, and especially if Sisi does not seek the presidency, this summer's events might not be the end.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always enjoyed your classes as a grad-student and have enjoyed reading/checking your blog for updates.

Having a place to read short "snippets" or academia interpretations of the news is a saving grace from the lengthy monologues or diatribes found elsewhere.

Just wanted to give you some kudos.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Brian Ulrich said...


4:54 PM  

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