The Coup D’Etat In Egypt Is Not A Good Thing. Yet It May Lead To Good Changes Cairo is not Paris. There is no established democratic tradition in Egypt. Morsi was both arrogant and incompetent

By Paolo von Schirach

July 5, 2013

WASHINGTON– It is really hard to have any regrets about the abrupt end of Mohammed Morsi’s brief presidency. Sure, in principle, we should condemn any military coup. In principle we want the armed forces, whatever their country, to stay in their barracks and respond only if and when required to do so by legitimate governments an the basis of properly adhered to constitutional powers. Yes, in principle.

No good alternative

In practice, in Egypt there is no established democratic tradition. In practice the whole process leading to Morsi’ election and to the drafting of a new constitution has been a horribly divisive mess. In practice, Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood followers are guilty of both overreach and fantastic ineptitude. 

The military may very well have its own private agenda. But we can also believe that the  generals saw a country sliding into chaos, while there was a genuine, massive opposition to Morsi. Does this justify a forceful removal from power of an elected President? In principle no. In practice, most probably there was no good alternative.

Help the generals?

That said, it would be foolish for the Obama administration to try and punish the Egyptian generals for their illegitimate use of force by cutting ties with them and –most importantly– by suspending the delivery of the huge military assistance package Egypt gets every year from Washington. 

I do not want to minimize the significance of the use of force to abruptly transform domestic policy. Still, as a coup d’etat, so far at least, this is a relatively mild one. Besides, at the moment, the Egyptian armed forces are the only element of stability in a country in chaos. Assuming that the generals will actually do what they promised, their stated program is to hold new elections and then draft a new constitution. In the meantime they proclaimed the goal to form some kind of an interim national unity government. All this looks mildly encouraging.

America can help

Look, these matters are never neat. And no, imprisoning elected politicians and subverting the constitutional order is never a good thing. Still, Cairo is not Paris or Berlin. Egypt is an extremely messy place. Morsi was a disaster both as a politician and as a policy maker. The country is in economic ruin.

Can the generals steer Egypt in a better direction? That is a more inclusive, more secular and hopefully more effective  democracy? Let’s hope so. In the process, let’s hope that the US military, on account of its long history of good relations with the Egyptian armed forces, will be able to have a positive influence on this rather tortured process.



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