EGYPT’S MILITARY junta is in a pickle! It can’t dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in camp, as it has vowed to do, without a catastrophic bloodbath. That would make the military junta an international pariah, especially after it overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohammed Mursi. More ominously, a large-scale army massacre would rally more and more Egyptians behind the Brotherhood, paralyzing the military administration. On the other hand, if the administration of Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi fails to carry out its threat to remove the anti-coup crowd from Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, the outcome would be the same, and more dramatic. A victory over the military regime would rejuvenate the Islamist organization and expand its support base, probably to an unprecedented level. That, too, would paralyze military rule. Either scenario could also dissuade the Sisi regime from proceeding with its so-called democratic reforms. A strengthened Brotherhood party – the Freedom and Justice Party – would return to power with a vengeance through any democratic process in which it would participate. The Egyptian military’s power grab, though still not considered a coup in Washington, has also put the Obama administration in an embarrassing pickle. The administration isn’t willing to jettison the Egyptian military, whose adherence to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty has been pivotal to Israeli security. Yet its tacit support for Egypt’s murderous military dictatorship has got the administration stuck in an unseemly foreign policy fiasco. I have a suggestion that could help the Obama administration pull its chestnut, along with that of the Sisi cabal, out of the Egyptian fire. President Obama may want to call on his Turkish friend, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, to begin mediation between the the Egypt’s military government and Muslim Brotherhood. Erdogan would be trusted by the Brotherhood and acceptable to the military brass. He is uniquely placed to broker an arrangement to de-escalate the dangerous confrontation, and help usher in a process to restore democracy in Egypt. Mustafa Malik is an international affairs commentator in Washington. He hosts the blog Beyond Freedom.
My hats off to Egypt’s secular and Islamist revolutionaries for the courage and spirit of freedom they demonstrated when they bundled out Hosni Mubarak’s monstrous dictatorship.
Over the decades I have developed an interest in Egyptian society and politics. I cherish my friendship with Egyptians in Egypt and the United States. I understand Egyptian secularists’ frustration with President Muhammad Mursi, who could have been more thoughtful in his dealings with them and in his approach to their demands.
I hope, though, that the secularists realize that the military didn’t overthrow Mursi to give them their cherished version of freedom and democracy. Never in history has a military force willingly democratized a society.
The secularists should know by now that their generals have taken them for a ride. Using their protests against Mursi as a cover, the army has stamped out the democratic process for which they paid an enormous price, including the blood of scores of martyrs. General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and his comrades ditched the Mursi regime only to regain their levers on government and politics and preserve their obscene, ill-gotten wealth. The military brass will now try to continue their divide-and-rule policy (pitting secularists against Islamists) to maintain their repression and exploitation of Egyptian society, albeit through their lackeys in business suits.
About the only way Egyptians can rescue freedom and democracy from their power-hungry generals is to restore the national unity that enabled them to overthrow the Mubarak dictatorship.
Secularists and Islamists are two integral segments of Egyptian society. Neither can banish the other from the public space. Their estrangement from one another can serve only to perpetuate the military stranglehold on their political and economic life.
It’s time the two ideological camps reach out to each other. They should thrash out their constitutional differences in a spirit of compromise. And together they should send their swashbuckling generals back into their barracks, never again to venture into politics and governance.