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Egypt under military rule


The resignation of Mohamed el-Baradei from the provisional government set up by the generals has signaled what everyone already should know: the government of Egypt has been re-taken by the military.  There was a short, quasi-democratic interval under President Morsi.  As we have seen, Morsi’s accession to the “supreme power” of the presidency was engineered by a rigged election that failed to offer any leadership to the democratic, freedom-loving people in the middle.  He was unable to control the levers of power, namely the police and intelligence services, and by the time he was deposed they were in open rebellion.

To make the coup more transparent, a judge ordered ex-President Mubarak released from prison, although the order is still pending at this writing.  It is important to remember that Mr. Mubarak was a general in his youth, prior to his thirty year dictatorship that was abruptly terminated in 2011.

The army has now assassinated prisoners in custody to the number of at least three dozen, an unnecessarily harsh punishment for an aborted escape attempt if the army is to be believed.  This is in addition to the six hundred in one day in Cairo during an army operation to clear demonstrators from their positions.  There are several hundred members of the Muslim Brotherhood in military custody, including their spiritual leader and ex-President Morsi.  We should not expect that the conditions of their detention are necessarily friendly ones.  The Brotherhood has openly accepted an offer of martyrdom.

The great irony is that the military coup occurred immediately after truly enormous popular demonstrations against Morsi’s administration were repeated daily all over Cairo.  The size of the demonstrations surprised even the organizers.   It is incumbent upon investigative reporters to determine if there was any collaboration between the generals and the representatives of the popular demonstrations.  There is also the coincidence that police and traffic service dramatically improved within a day or two after the coup.

Because of the severity of the military repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, there has been a great deal of unnecessary violence on the streets of Cairo.  Villages in rural Egypt are oppressed by one faction or the other.  There has been some tolerance of, at least, membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, and some ability to put on marches.  The leadership has been decimated.  Surviving underground leaders will no doubt re-organize to include violence more readily in their strategic planning.  Their primary weapon of deception will still be used.

The influence of the United States as an organization in Egypt is probably low; the military wing still counts the US as an ally and source of spare parts and training, although they have been cut off from joint military exercises.  If the US is forced to cancel its $1.3 billion subsidy, Saudi Arabia has pledged to make up the deficit.  From this news, it becomes clear who is really in power in Egypt now: the military, with a heavy subsidy from Saudi Arabia and other moderate Sunni Islamic oligarchies.  Egypt as a country is unable to stand economically without a subsidy because there are too many people living on too little productive land.

Egypt desperately needs development of its economy, agriculture, and infrastructure.  To revive its old tourist economy would require an end to violence, a route the army has disdained.

The influence that should be hoped for is that of the Internet.  Connections between people result in democratic opinion-making and the spread of new ideas.  Whether this is always a good thing is open to question but it is clear that some results are good.  It appears that the Internet was helpful in organizing the demonstrations that led to Morsi’s downfall.

There is yet another irony: the evil military coup that brought down the good democratically elected President Morsi was actually a good thing for a lot of people.  President Morsi was doing his best to destroy democracy from almost his first day in office.  The Constitution that was suspended by the coup, and had been put in place by a plebiscite, was anti-human rights, pro-Sharia, and boycotted by the liberal half of the Constitutional Committee.  Morsi attempted to impose his will on the entire government rather than just the Executive Branch, but was widely subverted by disloyal long time employees held over from the Mubarak administration.  The Judicial Branch, in particular, was mostly composed of holdovers from Mubarak’s time.

The government that was overthrown by coup was completely dysfunctional.   The government that President Morsi aspired to would have been anti-democratic, oppressive and intolerable to our sensibilities.  To that extent, there has been some good from the coup.  Beyond that, there is little to like.

To make it clear that things could always be worse, there were reliable reports of a nerve gas attack in the eastern suburbs of Damascus that has probably killed hundreds of civilians.  The Syrian government denied responsibility.

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