Egypt On The Edge

Juan Cole analyzes the situation:

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.

Paul Pillar has the same thought:

Wouldn’t the breeding of more Egyptian terrorists be a bad thing from the viewpoint of Egyptian military leaders? Not if they wish to present themselves as a bastion against terrorism and to lay claim as such to American support.

Larison adds:

Of course, it is perverse to consider the military a “bastion” against a threat that their actions are making worse, but this will probably be accepted here in the U.S. as a “necessary” arrangement.

Instead of doing our best to disentangle the U.S. from our ties to the leaders of the coup, which seems the only sane thing to do at this point, Washington will find new excuses for why this week’s disaster requires even more “engagement” than before.

Issandr El Amrani worries about a militarized Muslim Brotherhood:

An Islamist camp that, as elements of it are apparently beginning to, sets fire to churches and attacks police stations is one that becomes much easier to demonize domestically and internationally. But it is also much more unpredictable than Egypt’s homegrown violent Islamist movements were in the 1980s and 1990s, because there is a context of a globalized jihadi movement that barely existed then, and because the region as a whole is turmoil and Egypt’s borders are not nearly as well controlled as they were then (and today’s Libya is a far less reliable neighbor than even the erratic Colonel Qadhafi was then.)

Shadi Hamid fears that Egypt’s military junta will prove worse than Mubarak:

Democratic transitions, even in the best of circumstances, are uneven, painful affairs. But it no longer makes much sense to say that Egypt is in such a transition. Even in the unlikely event that political violence somehow ceases, the changes ushered in by the July 3 military coup and its aftermath will be exceedingly difficult to reverse. The army’s interventionist role in politics has become entrenched. Rather than at least pretending to rise above politics, the military and other state bodies have become explicitly partisan institutions. This will only exacerbate societal conflict in a deeply polarized country. Continuous civil conflict, in turn, will be used to justify permanent war against an array of internal and foreign enemies, both real and imagined.

Cook thinks that both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military have imitated the Mubarak regime:

Just as Egypt’s political system before the January 25 uprising was rigged in favor of Mubarak and his constituents, the Brothers sought to stack the new order in their favor, and today’s winners will build a political system that reflects their interests. This is neither surprising nor sui generis. In the United States, rules, regulations, and laws are a function of the powerful, too. But in America, the capacity for change exists; whereas in Egypt, those institutions are absent. Although virtually all political actors have leveraged the language of political reform and espoused liberal ideas, they have nevertheless sought to wield power through exclusion. This has created an environment in which the losers do not process their grievances through elections, parliamentary debate, consensus-building, and compromise — but through military intervention and street protests. This plays into the hands of those powerful groups embedded within the state who have worked to restore the old order almost from the time that Hosni Mubarak stepped down into ignominy two and a half years ago.

Peter Hessler likewise focuses on the effect of Egypt’s past regimes:

In Egypt, the current conflict reflects the vastly different responses that groups can have to a fledgling democracy after decades of dictatorship. For the Brotherhood, this means stubbornly following what it believes to be the correct and legitimate political path, even if it alienates others and leads to disaster; for the military, it’s a matter of implementing the worst instincts of the majority. In each case, one can recognize a seed of democratic instinct, but it’s grown in twisted ways, because the political and social environment was damaged by the regimes of the past half-century.