Calling A Coup A Coup

Jay Ulfelder insists that the overthrow of Morsi was a coup:

Force deployed? Check. By political insiders? Check. Chief executive replaced? Check. Legal procedures not followed? Check. That the army’s apparent ouster of President Morsi may be popular doesn’t make it legal or erase the fact that he only “agreed” to go when coerced. That military leaders may not claim executive authority for themselves does not obviate the fact that they are pushing out a sitting president at gunpoint. That the coup could push Egypt onto a more positive trajectory doesn’t change the nature of the initial act.

Larison adds:

Virtually all military coups come in response to a crisis. They don’t cease to be coups because of that.

When the military overthrew the elected president of Mali last year in response to the government’s failure to cope with the Tuareg rebellion, everyone could understand that it was nonetheless a coup. We shouldn’t pick and choose which military interventions in politics qualify as coups depending on whether or not we agree with the politics of the deposed leader. By law, the U.S. is required to withhold aid to a country when there is a military coup, but most likely that will be ignored in this case. Even so, there is no point in our pretending that it isn’t a coup, nor should we imagine that Morsi’s supporters will view it as anything other than this.

Jeremy Pressman thinks that this was an unusual sort of coup:

[W]hat happened clearly meets the definition of a coup. That said, this is an unusual case because it was matched, really preceded by, a huge mass mobilization on the part of the Egyptian people. I am not sure what precedent we have for that (any ideas?), and I think those millions who mobilized have a right to think they drove the train and compelled the military to step in. In other words, the fact that it fits as a military coup does not preclude the perception from developing among the popular anti-Morsi movement – millions of people – that it was somehow different from your average military coup and the military’s role was secondary, a tool of the people.

And Joshua Keating wonders whether this will be considered a “democratic coup d’etat”:

[A]re there cases when a coup can advance democracy? In a 2012 article for the Harvard International Law JournalOzan Varol, now a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, argues that while the vast majority of military coups are undemocratic in nature, and lead to less democratic political regimes, there are significant examples of “democratic coups d’etat.”

What’s Next For Egypt?

Douthat wonders:

Is the failure of the Morsi government an example of how “time moves quickly now,” with the Egyptian public swiftly seeing Islamist rule for what it is and rejecting it decisively, opening the door for more liberal alternatives? Or is this a case where the process [Reuel Marc] Gerecht hopes for [in his book The Islamic Paradox] hasn’t even had time to get off the ground, and the military’s intervention will just return us to the same old cycle of secular dictatorships pre-empting democracy in order to keep the lid on fundamentalists, whose popular appeal endures and eventually prompts another upheaval down the road? The Morsi government was in power long enough to produce a mass protest movement against the Muslim Brotherhood, but was it in power long enough to actually discredit the Brotherhood (at least in its current form) as the most plausible alternative to military rule? If the military actually holds new elections now, will they produce anything like a viable third way between Islamism and dictatorship, Morsi and Mubarak, the minaret and the tank?


Will We Cut Egypt’s Aid?

Fisher doubts it:

It is probably unlikely that the Obama administration will want to substantially cut aid to Egypt. (Put aside the Camp David money for a moment — it’s not clear to me that this is effected by the Foreign Assistance Act, and even if it is, it’s very difficult to imagine Congress or the White House being willing to jeopardize this lynchpin of peace with Israel.) Like many aid programs, the hundreds of millions of dollars that goes to Egypt is not meant as a present or a reward; it’s considered to ultimately serve U.S. interests. Egypt’s troubled economy has been a key contributor the political instability there. That instability is bad for everyone, including U.S. interests.

Can Anyone Govern Egypt?

Marc Lynch worries about the consequences of today’s coup:

There remains a very real, urgent risk of major violence and further political or even state collapse, of course. But even if the worst is avoided, Egypt faces a real risk of becoming trapped in an endless loop of failed governments, military interventions, and popular uprisings. The very idea of democratic legitimacy has taken a severe beating, and the coming constitutional reforms and new elections will not pass easily. Building real consensus behind genuinely democratic institutions has to remain the guiding light for U.S. policy and the Egyptian political class, no matter how difficult this appears.

Larison expects that “large numbers of Morsi supporters will regard any new government created as a result of the coup as illegitimate and will seek to sabotage and undermine it”:

That bodes ill for religious and political minority groups that will probably be scapegoated in response to Morsi’s overthrow, since they will make for easier targets and have been identified with the coup. Perversely, the coup may have done what the Muslim Brotherhood could not have done for itself, which is to return it to the role of a persecuted opposition movement.

What Lessons Will The Muslim Brotherhood Learn?

Nathan Brown asks:

The immediate reaction among its members will be to complain that the Brotherhood was cheated. And in a sense it was, but complaint will not substitute for reflection forever. What will be the movement’s more studied reaction? In a conversation two months ago with a Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag, I made a bold prediction that in ten years, the organization will regret having sought the Egyptian presidency in 2012. He politely disagreed. In retrospect we were both wrong: The regret will likely set in over the next several months.

And what will this reflective organization regret?

He goes on to outline three possibilities.

Morsi Out

America Can’t Control Egypt

Jeffrey Goldberg wishes the US had put more pressure on Morsi:

The crisis of the past few days, which may end in a military coup (which would then start the next crisis), might have been avoided had the Obama administration used its leverage — the $1.5 billion in aid the U.S. is giving Egypt this year, for starters — to force Mursi to include the opposition in his government from the outset. It didn’t. And the Egyptian masses noticed.

Charles P. Pierce is puzzled:

The argument seems to be that the administration didn’t bring sufficient pressure to bear on the current Egyptian government to diversify its governing coalition. Withholding military aid seems to be the suggested technique, although how that would have made Mursi and his government less autocratic will have to be explained to me better than Goldberg does here. Mursi is, after all, the elected president, no matter how badly he may have turned. Withholding arms from him would have given him his own special piece of anti-Americanism to use among his followers.

Marc Herman flags research showing that the “seemingly intuitive move to use aid as a carrot to encourage democratic reforms—and as a stick when those reforms disappear—may cause more instability than it prevents.” Larison thinks Egyptians will hate the US no matter what we say or who rules Egypt:

As long as the U.S. provides aid to the Egyptian military, the U.S. is bound to be resented by whichever political groups do not control the government. That isn’t going to change even when the government is a genuinely elected one. If the protesters are successful in driving the extremely unpopular Morsi out, there will always be an incentive for the forces defeated at the last election to stage mass protests demanding the early resignation of the incumbent. There will also be an incentive for those protesters to identify the U.S. as the incumbent’s supporter in order to blame Washington and to vilify the current leader. Because the U.S. will presumably continue to provide aid to the Egyptian military for reasons that have little to do with internal Egyptian politics, there is no way that Washington can “fix” this by throwing its support to the “right” people.

Using Elections To Thwart Democracy

Koplow looks at how Morsi has subverted the will of the people:

In Egypt, which is not yet a democracy no matter how many people would like to believe otherwise, Morsi became president following democratic elections, and has ever since pursued a narrow, sectarian policy in which he has made clear that he believes he is the president of the Muslim Brotherhood rather than all Egyptians. He too has fallen back on the fact that there were elections to justify all sorts of policies that rankle most Egyptians, and the fact that Egypt this week saw what were likely the largest demonstrations in human history makes no difference to him. He cloaked himself in the mantle of elections in order to shunt aside Egypt’s courts and force through a new constitution six months ago, and during the crisis of the last two days, he has refused to acknowledge having made mistakes or grant that changes need to be made because he his policies have the ultimate legitimacy emanating from the fact that he was elected. Morsi is using elections not only to justify his position, but to justify any actions that he takes.

Much like Bush after the ’04 election. The Big Pharaoh explains why Egyptians are in the streets:

The failure of Westerners to understand why Egyptians revolted against an elected regime is stemming from the fact that they, the Westerners, are secured in their inclusive constitutions, bills of rights and rule of law. We have nothing of these. We only had one facet of democracy – election – which brought a cultic organization with a fascist twist that decided to cancel the other facets.

Is Egypt About To Erupt?

Eric Trager believes that, at this point, violence won’t do the Muslim Brotherhood any good:

[T]he Muslim Brotherhood has suggested it might organize its cadres into formations, and equip them with clubs and helmets. On Tuesday, these makeshift units ran laps around the Brotherhood’s main protest site at Rabaa El-Adawiya chanting, “Strength, determination, faith, Morsi’s men are everywhere!”

Yet far from projecting strength, the existence of these units only reinforces Morsi’s utter powerlessness. Moreover, the fact that some of the would-be combatants are armed with tree branches gives the entire operation a certain Lord of the Flies quality. But more importantly, these units—and the Brotherhood’s protests more broadly—are completely outnumbered given the massiveness of the opposition’s outpouring. So while violence is inevitable given what’s at stake for the Brotherhood, it will be hard for Morsi’s allies to leverage the kind of violence that ends the protests and thereby saves his presidency.

Shiraz Maher compares Egypt to Pakistan:

In many respects the country is beginning to resemble the failures of Pakistan. Its civic institutions are weak and, where functioning, are threadworn and riddled with corruption. The country itself is also deeply divided, fractured between urban elites and the rural poor, divided between secularists and religious fanatics.

Transcending all this is the army. Seen as a truly national institution that protects both the country and its people, the armed forces operate beyond the law, are unaccountable, and exercise greater power than the civilian administrations they ostensibly serve. A Zogby poll conducted in May revealed that the Egyptian army’s approval rating stood at 94 percent while Mursi’s had slumped to just 28.

Dalia Ziad comes out in favor of the military:

The people trust the military more than they trust any other institution in the country. This is partly because of the military’s historical legacy that has left it as the strongest in the region. Another important reason is that military officers, who are very much part of the fabric of the country, are very patriotic and loyal to no one but Egypt. Much of this is because the military has sustained a professionalism that has allowed it to be independent in making its own decisions. The interests of the military are not dependent on the interests of the regime or any supreme authority in Egypt.

That is why it was easy for the military to abandon Mubarak in 2011 in favor of the people, something that the police, for example, could not do because their existence relied heavily on the existence of the then regime. Mubarak’s Egypt was not a military state: rather it was a police state that abused the armed power of the police to fasten the regime’s grip on the neck of the opposition.

The Lede is live-blogging the situation. Recent updates on the Dish here and here.

Egypt On The Brink, Ctd

Josh Marshall updates us on the situation:

This morning the military will or already has convened a meeting of all political factions to discuss its ‘road map’ for post-Morsi Egypt. With the military, the Interior Ministry lined up against it, significant non-MB Islamist factions standing apart and millions remaining in the street, Morsi and the Brotherhood appear already to have lost control of the state. The ‘coup’ seems almost to have happened in advance of itself. But the prospect of deadly street battles seems very real regardless.

Juan Cole was surprised by “the brevity and completely uncompromising character of the speech” Morsi gave last night:

Morsi did not offer to revise the hated constitution. He did not offer to form a government of national unity, with cabinet members from the opposition parties. This, even though his cabinet is collapsing, with six resignations, and even his own spokesmen have resigned. He did call for a reconciliation commission, and promised parliamentary elections in a few months. But these are not new ideas and are unlikely to resolve the conflict.

Marc Champion wishes that Morsi had taken a different approach:

What Mursi should have said in his rambling speech last night was that the military’s ultimatum was unnecessary, and that when he had earlier offered to engage with the protesters, he had in mind creating just the kind of road map and transitional coalition government that the armed forces appeared themselves to be proposing. What would he have had to lose? By then, at least five members of his cabinet had resigned, abandoning what they saw as a sinking ship.

Instead, Mursi decided to call the military’s bluff, always a bad move when the other side has tanks and you don’t.