Egypt Comes Full Circle -- Again

Here’s the opening of Eric Trager’s latest on Egypt in The Atlantic:

Nearly six months after the mass uprising-cum-coup that toppled Mohammed Morsi, the key cleavages of Egypt’s domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable. The generals who removed Morsi are engaged in an existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood: They believe they must destroy the Brotherhood—by, for instance, designating it a terrorist organization—or else the Brotherhood will return to power and destroy them. Meanwhile, Sinai-based jihadists have used Morsi’s removal as a pretext for intensifying their violence, and have increasingly hit targets west of the Suez Canal. Even the Brotherhood’s fiercest opponents are fighting among themselves: the coalition of entrenched state institutions and leftist political parties that rebelled against Morsi is fraying, and the youth activists who backed Morsi’s ouster in July are now protesting against the military-backed government, which has responded by arresting their leaders.

Egypt has come full circle twice—first when General Sisi made himself the second coming of Hosni Mubarak, and again now that young activists are at war with the government.

The idea that Sisi would ever “restore” the democracy that went “off track” with Morsi, as so many activists claimed when he seized power, was always delusional. Egypt had no democracy to begin with. (A single election does not a democracy make.) Nor does the Egyptian military have a democratic cell in its corpus.

Egypt’s choice is the same now as it has been for decades: Islamic theocracy or military dictatorship. It can’t be sustainably settled at the ballot box, so it will be fought over instead in the streets.

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