Post-coup in Egypt, we are left with the question of “what now?”. Has this quasi-coup been a good thing or a bad thing? Is it good for the Jews? And for the West too.
Several people have attempted to answer these questions.
Stratfor looks at the Egyptian uprising within the context of the broader “Arab Spring” and its own history of military involvement in government:
The Arab Spring was an exercise in irony, nowhere more so than in Egypt. On the surface, it appeared to be the Arab equivalent of 1989 in Eastern Europe. There, the Soviet occupation suppressed a broad, if not universal desire for constitutional democracy modeled on Western Europe. The year 1989 shaped a generation’s thinking in the West, and when they saw the crowds in the Arab streets, they assumed that they were seeing Eastern Europe once again.
There were certainly constitutional democrats in the Arab streets in 2011, but they were not the main thrust. Looking back on the Arab Spring, it is striking how few personalities were replaced, how few regimes fell, and how much chaos was left in its wake.
This is what makes Egypt so interesting. The Egyptian uprising has always been the most ambiguous even while being cited as the most decisive. It is true that former President Hosni Mubarak fell in 2011. It is also true that elections were held in 2012, when a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s election as president highlighted the reality that a democratic election is not guaranteed to produce a liberal democratic result. In any case, the now-deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, won by only a slim margin and he was severely constrained as to what he could do.
But the real issue in Egypt has always been something else. Though a general was forced out of office in 2011, it was not clear that the military regime did not remain, if not in power, then certainly the ultimate arbiter of power in Egyptian politics. Over the past year, so long as Morsi remained the elected president, the argument could be made that the military had lost its power. But just as we argued that the fall of Hosni Mubarak had been engineered by the military in order to force a succession that the aging Mubarak resisted, we can also argue that while the military had faded into the background, it remained the decisive force in Egypt.
Modern Egypt was founded in 1952 in a military coup by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser was committed to modernizing Egypt, and he saw the army as the only real instrument of modernization. He was a secularist committed to the idea that Arab nations ought to be united, but not Islamist by any means. He was a socialist, but not a communist. Above all else, he was an Egyptian army officer committed to the principle that the military guaranteed the stability of the Egyptian nation.
When the uprisings of the Arab Spring came, Nasser’s successors used the unrest to force Mubarak out, and then they stepped back. It is interesting to consider whether they would have been content to retain their institutional position under a Muslim Brotherhood-led government. However, Morsi never really took control of the machinery of government, partly because he was politically weak, partly because the Muslim Brotherhood was not ready to govern, and partly because the military never quite let go.
In part, the military did not want to see chaos, and it saw itself as responsible for averting it. In part, the military distrusted the Muslim Brotherhood and was happy to see it forced out of office. As in 2011, the army acted overtly to maintain order and simultaneously to shape the Egyptian political order. They deposed Morsi, effectively replacing him with a more secular and overtly liberal leadership.
But what must be kept in mind is that, just as in 2011, when the military was willing to pave the way for Morsi, so too is it now paving the way for his opposition. And this is the crucial point — while Egypt is increasingly unstable, the army is shaping what order might come out of it. The military is less interested in the ideology of the government than in containing chaos. Given this mission, it does not see itself as doing more than stepping back. It does not see itself as letting go.
The Jerusalem Post also considers the role of the military in deposing Morsi and the political and economic chaos that is bubbling just beneath the surface:
Time is up – the Muslim Brotherhood is being removed from power. Does this mean the “Arab Spring” is over? Are we witnessing the comeback of the nationalist military dictatorship model that former president Hosni Mubarak represented?
Two years ago, the world was ecstatic over his fall, now there is praise for the return of military rule.
The constitution has been suspended and the army is to announce a road map and oversee a transitional period and elections.
What if, after the coup, the economy crashes, and then the Muslim Brotherhood brings its supporters to the streets and fills Tahrir Square again? David P. Goldman reports at PJ Media that we have now reached the worst-case scenario: “chaos in politics, violence in the streets, complete cessation of tourism, and economic breakdown.”
[…] He goes on to predict that a military regime would probably do a better job of dealing with the economic issue because it would be more likely to receive aid from the Gulf states, besides Qatar, which “might decide to provide funding for a military regime that suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The spiraling economic disaster combined with what may be a Muslim Brotherhood struggle against the military – possibly including terrorism, urban warfare, assassinations and mass protests – may be difficult to manage even with billions of aid money. Qatar already gave Morsi’s regime $5 billion and it only served to postpone a much worse situation.
Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and a co-founder of the Hudson Institute told The Jerusalem Post, “I never believed in the Arab Spring,” so he does not see it as being reversed.
Israel and Egypt “are better off with the army and democrats than with the Islamists,” said Singer, warning that there still will remain problems with the army and the opposition, “but the Islamists are a more dangerous enemy.”
Asked about what the coup could mean for US policy, he responded that President Barack Obama has taken the position that the Brotherhood is not the enemy. This is a big mistake, Singer said.
Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and who is a contributor to the Post, told the Post that the army worked with the protesters to fix the revolution. Dialogue between the Brotherhood and the opposition became impossible because Morsi refused to cooperate, wishing to push his party’s agenda.
“The Muslim Brotherood are in shock – they cannot believe it,” said Mazel adding that in time the Islamists will “wake up and there may be violence.” The Islamists now will begin planning for a struggle to return to power, he asserted.
Professor Barry Rubin weighs in with some speculation of his own:
4. What will the government be? Probably either military or a cabinet of experts under an appointed technician. More daringly they could just pick someone they like and say he is a compromise president.
5. It is hard to believe that some Islamists will not take up arms and there could be a civil war, knowing this the army will be cautious. It could be quite bloody even if the Brotherhood surrenders.
6. Remember this is not utopia, the same old corrupt dictatorship will be in power but probably with more freedom.
7. This doesn’t solve the country’s economic problems.
8. The army would hope that the United States will give support. Probably U.S. statements would say they America would like the return of democracy as soon as possible. Under a realpolitik U.S. government, it would rush loans and aid to show favoritism for a renewed non-Islamist regime. This president could punish the military for daring to seize power from a democratically elected president.
9. The army regime would not want international friction. It would be reasonable toward Israel, would not help Hamas, and would be tougher in fighting Syria and Iran. Beyond the past, if Islamists fight the army might be in a war with Hamas since it would support the Islamist rebels!
10. The only alternative to the army taking power–directly or behind the scenes–is to force some changes on Mursi and make him broaden his coalition. This is hard to believe but might be possible. Remember the army does not want to take power and is still unhappy from last time it did so
11. A good way out for the army is to work with the anti-regime courts and get elections voided. The courts are already scheduled to rule on the validity of the elections.
12. Supporters of the White House will soon start claiming that Obama planned this all deliberately. Let the Brotherhood get power and then let them fail and discredit themselves. Watch and see.
The ever-thoughtful David Horovitz also gives us his thoughts on the ouster of an undemocratic, elected President:
1. Elections do not equal democracy
A genuine, thriving, stable democracy requires the protection of a range of rights and freedoms, not just a one-time opportunity to cast a ballot. These include freedom to vote your conscience without fear of the consequences, true freedom to speak your mind, access to diverse and uncensored media, minority rights under majority rule, freedom of religion and of assembly, and a great deal more. Egypt had hardly begun the process of transition to such an era, and Morsi did not accept many of democracy’s imperatives. […]
2. America’s incoherence
It is striking, however, that the world power best qualified — in terms of its influence, its financial clout, and its moral standing — to at least try to signal a path that would lead to long-term democracy has become so marginal to what began as the Arab Spring. The United States chose not to support the brief, brave push for freedom in Iran in 2009; it has tried to keep out of the ongoing slaughter in Syria; it opted to encourage the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and sought to delude itself about the anti-democratic, Islamist nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. And it appears simply to have thrown up its hands in self-assumed impotence at the events of the last few days, sending incoherent messages that few are even bothering to try to interpret. […]
3. Meanwhile, in Gaza
The Israel-Hamas ceasefire that concluded last November’s Operation Pillar of Defense was brokered by Egyptian foreign minister Kamel Amr. Amr tendered his resignation to president Morsi earlier this week. Now Morsi has gone too, and with him, for now, his Islamist regime. The Islamist Hamas, by contrast, is very much here, in charge, running Gaza. Morsi, the duly elected president of Egypt, was overthrown in good part because of the will and guts of the Egyptian people. What does it say about the will and guts of the Palestinians in Gaza that Hamas, which took control in a violent coup against an elected Palestinian president, still so firmly retains its hold?
4. Worse than Morsi
Mohammed Morsi is an anti-Semite who, before the West was looking at him closely, publicly castigated Israelis as “these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs” […]
Morsi’s ouster notwithstanding, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is anything but finished. It mustered the support of half the country in elections, and retains the support of a goodly proportion of those voters. Nobody should be laboring under the delusion that widespread Islamist-led incitement against Israel is likely to recede with Morsi’s departure.
5. Israel’s continuing solid ties with the Egyptian army
While the Brotherhood strategizes on how to respond to the coup against its president […] the fear is that Egypt will now be torn between Islamist forces on the one hand, and a revived, nationalist, neo-Nasserist mentality. […] Strikingly, indeed, it is the Egyptian army that has maintained what Israeli security officials openly acknowledge is a well-coordinated relationship with Israel, even over the past year of the Morsi government. The hope in Israel is that this quietly effective relationship can be preserved, and the army’s legitimacy maintained in the eyes of the Egyptian masses, even as Egypt again finds itself plunged into revolutionary crisis.
6. Appointing the man who brought him down
Iran’s Islamists cemented their hold on power after ousting the shah by taking firm control of the armed forces. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been engaged in a similar process, ousting and jailing generals, and replacing them with loyalists or intimidated nonentities. If Mohammad Morsi now finds himself with time on his hands for reflection, he might consider that one of his less astute moves was his appointment as military chief, just 10 months ago, of one Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
I don’t think any of this speculation or these questions are going to be answered any time soon, if ever. As always, Israel will have to settle down and wait while its neigbours try and sort out their own crises.