Bringing back the “old order” in Egypt

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by Jasmin Ramsey

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside of Egypt watching this footage of Cairo burning last night (Mosa’ab El Shamy’s photographs are also stunning) without saying WTF in one way or another. For those who have been following the events that led to the killing of at least 525 Egyptians yesterday — according to the government, who put the count of the 18-day Egyptian revolution at 843 — this post by the erudite Issandr El Amrani is a must-read:

You could ask a thousand questions about the violence that has shaken Egypt, from why police decided to move now against Islamist sit-ins and with such brutality after making so much of its careful planning in the last week, to whether the attacks on churches and Christians more generally that erupted in reaction are part of a pre-planned reaction or the uncontrollable sectarian direction political tensions take in moments of crisis. But the question that really bothers me is whether this escalation is planned to create a situation that will inevitably trigger more violence – that this is the desired goal.

The fundamental flaw of the July 3 coup, and the reason those demonstrators that came out on June 30 against the Morsi administration were wrong to welcome it, is that it was based on an illusion. That illusion, at least among the liberal camp which is getting so much flak these days, was that even a partial return of the old army-led order could offer a chance to reboot the transition that took such a wrong turn after the fall of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. This camp believed that gradual reform, even of a much less ambitious nature than they desired in 2011, would be more likely to come by accommodating the old order than by allowing what they perceived as an arrangement between the military and the Islamists to continue. Better to focus on fixing the country, notably its economy, and preventing Morsi from sinking it altogether, and take the risk that part of the old order could come back.

Update: I only saw Paul Pillar’s “Cultivating Extremists in Egypt” now, in which he writes (and the official death toll has now surpassed 600 with almost 4,000 people injured):

Wouldn’t the breeding of more Egyptian terrorists be a bad thing from the viewpoint of Egyptian military leaders? Not if they wish to present themselves as a bastion against terrorism and to lay claim as such to American support. The brass may be more comfortable with this sort of claim than with one based on shepherding the introduction of true democracy—given all the uncertainties democracy is apt to pose for the highly privileged position of the Egyptian military and its officer corps.

Photo Credit: Mohammad Omer/IPS

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is an Iranian-born journalist based in Washington, DC.