Gideon Lichfield suspects the protesters are being played and that a “Morsi ouster might not be another victory for the people, but for the military”:
When it became clear that popular support for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood was overwhelming, the SCAF allowed him to win but passed a series of sweeping measures just before he took office to consolidate its own power and weaken the office of the president. Morsi’s presidency since then has been a power struggle on two fronts, fighting the SCAF with one hand and repressing liberal, anti-Islamist forces with the other.
These two enemies of Morsi may now have found common cause temporarily. And some liberals, like the journalist Mona Eltahawy, believe this uprising will be the real thing—the event that finally tips the balance of power over to the forces of democracy. But there’s another interpretation: The pro-democracy activists are serving as the army’s tool. Once it is back in power, the SCAF will be in no hurry to liberalize; indeed, it is likely to only step up the repression against the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains popular with a sizable chunk of the people.
Steven A. Cook explains the military’s long game:
[T]he military has been at great pains to emphasize that it “respects the presidential authority,” despite whatever problems it detects and concerns it harbors. All this helps to create the impression that the officers are the ultimate nationalists who only have Egypt’s interests in mind.
This brings one back to the flag-dropping choppers. It is plausible that the pilots and crews were acting of their own volition, but it seems unlikely. Those helicopters were dispatched specifically to Tahrir Square. Could there be any better way to signal to the Egyptian people that the armed forces is with them and, in turn, burnish their prestige and influence after the searing eighteen month transition than to send flags to people waiting in “Liberation Square” below? As any number of analysts have pointed out, this morning General al Sisi is the most powerful man in Egypt. To rule, but not govern….
H.A. Hellyer’s view of the situation:
The Egyptian military is not, and never has been, an ideological institution. Its main concerns have been to maintain its independence vis-à-vis the rest of the state, and to ensure the stability of Egypt — without which it would be forced to involve itself in the mess of governing tens of millions of Egyptians. That is what was behind its move to depose Hosni Mubarak in 2011, whose continued presence was perceived as a liability in maintaining stability. It is also what was behind its self-reconstitution in 2012, retiring Tantawi and taking itself out of governing Egypt. Today, it continues in the same pattern. The military was fervently hoping that President Morsi would prove up to the challenge of governing Egypt, precisely so that it would not have to deal with any mess arising from his failure. The statement today can be summed up, perhaps a bit unkindly, as: “We’ve chosen no-one’s side but our own in this mess, and we’re rather annoyed that you (the political elite) could not sort out things on your own.”
Cairo-based journalist Patrick Galey vents:
I believe that if you gave two shits about the poor people who gave their lives for the revolution, who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that Egyptians could be free to choose their own leaders, you wouldn’t try to mitigate or explain away a return to military rule – you’d rage against it.
What I remember, moreover, is the people who were killed, tortured and terrorised under SCAF. I remember the blood and the injustice and the horrible, terrifying lack of accountability that comes with autocratic rule. I remember the police blinding people outside the Interior Ministry, when – forget birdshot and teargas – fucking bullets were felling people. I remember seeing the grainy video, recorded on a cellphone of a Masri fan in Port Said, of an Ahly fan being physically beaten to death as the police stood and watched.
Now some people are carrying the police on their shoulders. I believe that is a betrayal.