What Egypt Has Become

by Patrick Appel

Jon Lee Anderson compares Egypt’s military junta to the former military dictatorships of Latin America that the US supported in the name of fighting Communism:

Today’s Islamists can be yesterday’s Marxists, it seems: killable on behalf of notional constructs of law and order. … The no-holds-barred military terror in Egypt, and the language the military is employing to justify it, is reminiscent of the worst of human legacies. These are the sort of statements made not by ordinary armies but by armies that have embraced ideological convictions that make it easy to shoot down people in the streets, even civilians, if you believe that they are with the terrorists—or whatever it is you decide to call them.

Nathan Brown looks ahead:

What is clear now is that Egypt’s constitutional moment is over.

The hope born in the 2011 uprising was that diverse political forces would come to an agreement on the rules of politics — ones that would protect human rights, provide for a popular voice in governance, and devise mechanisms of accountability, and do such things in ways that were broadly accepted. That hope is not just dead; it was murdered by the country’s feuding leaders. The question is no longer whether the current course is the wisest one for Egypt  – it almost certainly is not. But this is the choice that Egyptian leaders have made for each other.

The result, while it is based on a destruction of the hopes of 2011, is one that will have recognizably democratic elements (elections, a multiparty system, civilian leaders). It will likely establish itself as operational even if it does not provide full stability or social and political peace. Its actual working will enable rather than avoid repression. Egypt’s international interlocutors in the West may have advised against this path, but they will have to decide soon whether or not to accept it. The current regime’s insistence that this is a sovereign decision will make Western governments uncomfortable for now but they will likely ultimately accept it. They will still face the question of whether to treat it as a distasteful autocracy or a flawed but aspiring democracy — or whether to bother to make the distinction.