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September 23, 2013

Where goest revolutionary Egypt: an analysis

By Arthur Scott

In my previous article entitled: “Principles of Revolution: Egypt”, I had mentioned that revolutions go through three stages: moderate, radical and conservative. In February 2011, the overthrow of Mubarak represented the first stage ushering in wide euphoria among the Egyptian people for democracy and democratic change. This period paved the way for the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood under Muhammed Morsi, which was the only group, other than the military, that had developed a robust party infra- structure strong enough to take power when elections were held in June 2012.

Morsi and the Brotherhood however made a serious strategic mistake by following a too Islamist agenda which alienated many Egyptian secularist in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria including police, military, Copts and women. Morsi also had failed to restore the economy and was reluctant to share power. A fatal Morsi mistake here was not turning to the Egyptian Street and asking it to join with him in limiting the power of the police, cleansing the judiciary, and constitutionally limiting the power of the military. (C

By the summer of 2013, Morsi had alienated large swaths of Egyptians, thirty million, especially the Kefaya coalition, leading to the popular Tamarod (Rebellion) campaign calling for his resignation and the holding of early Presidential elections. It was at this juncture that the military which had hovered over the “democratic” revolution with jaundiced eye stepped in by suspending the constitution, and placed Morsi under house arrest through a military coup d’état similar to Augusto Pinochet in Chile. On 9/11/1973 , Salvador Allende’s democratic government was overturned with the assistance of President Nixon, Henry Kissinger and the CIA leading to a “White Terror” in which thousands were arrested, tortured, and millions fled including Isabella Allende. (Cf, Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, Chps.3-4.).

Morsi’s fall triggered wide spread street violence between the Brotherhood and the Police/Military with the latter under General Abdeb- Fatah al Sisi gaining the upper hand through arrests, intimation, state violence and its control over military hardware. The Muslim Brotherhood finds itself in a state of shock disillusioned by democracy.

At one time the Brotherhood was a terrorist organization that attempted to assassinate General Abdul Nasser, and was tangentially involved with the assassination of Anwar Sadat over his secularism and peace with Israel in 1981. Under Hosni Mubarak the Muslim Brotherhood worked out a political living arrangement by which it thrived and grew playing the game of a loyal opposition. Ironically with the fall of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “alleged” dance with democracy unraveled, and it finds itself once again a pariah in Egyptian politics.

As the revolution enters its conservative phase, the question becomes how severe will the “White Terror” become. “White Terrors” are characterized by extensive use of force, violence, arrests; torture that so “shocks” the social fiber of the nation that it succumbs to a military dictatorship or a facsimile thereof in the name of security and economic stability. Egypt is on the verge of economic collapse with rising unemployment, stagnant exports, and a fading tourism all of which plays into the hands of the coup.

Historically, the military, going back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, has been the dominant institution; it is a State within a state with enormous economic leverage and reach perhaps controlling forty percent of the economy. Even outside of Cairo/Alexandria the military dominates the country despite its incompetence and corruption where it controls real estate, farming and mining (Cf., Its goal is to maintain its secularist political/economic dominance. The Military has never been sympathetic with the Islamist views of the Brotherhood, nor toward the “Arab Spring” which would involve subordinating it to civilian rule. Its closure of Al-Jazeera News and its refusal to be swayed by Washington’s call for restraint and early elections, following the house arrest of Morsi, exemplifies this shift to the Right.

The Military holds all the cards; even the psychological exhaustion now gripping the Egyptian Street after two years of rising expectations about democratic reform plays into its hands. Economic concerns and yearning for stability are preempting democratic themes especially among groups who are fearful of an Islamist agenda including Orthodox Coptic, state media, merchants/ bankers, manufacturers, and even some Tamarod Youth Groups. (

Egypt appears heading for another military dictatorship in which the rule of law will be replaced by the bayonet and by secret military courts that will abuse human rights. Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”, in the person of General Abdeb- Fatah al Sisi, re-emerges in the name of bread, security and order. The people’s desire for a democratic rule, transcending the sectarian polarization exemplified by the Muslim Brotherhood, is being betrayed by the military similar to what happened in Chile. Revolutionary/democratic forces including the young with their technology and social networks will be targeted along with intellectuals, professionals, trade unions and peasants by the “White” counter-revolution. The old Mubarak status quo in Egypt will be restored with backroom applause from Washington and Tel Aviv, which have enough on their plate with Syria and Iran, and can breathe   easier with the return of military rule.

Another deeper issue, demonstrated by the short reign of Morsi, consists of finding a moral/national leader of the caliber of Ghandi, Mandela, or Martin Luther King, who can transcend the sectarian class, historical and institutional differences by rallying these conflicting publics into a new social contract that embraces the centrality of diversity and the rule of law.

 At present, Cairo is still confronted with two major hurdles: creating democratic institutions and harnessing the Military to the rule of law. The “Arab Spring’ in Egypt is still far from over. Time will tell how long a “Thermidor” shift to the Right will last in Egypt.  It is unlikely that the military can hold off democratic changes for another fifty years as it did with Nasser.  Tom Freidman expressed it well: “… the big question for Egypt is not only who rules but how anyone can rule? Can a fragile new democracy make progress in the face of such deep economic dislocation and distress?”(Cf.,

 Arthur Kane Scott is Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California and Fellow of American Institute of International Studies.