Thank you, Foreign Policy, for finally calling a spade a spade. Continue reading here.
Foreign Policy, by Michael Wahid Hanna
Let’s make this abundantly clear: No one should be pleased with the division and bloodshed playing out in the streets of Cairo right now, particularly as military repression escalates. But let’s also make this abundantly clear: One man bears the ultimate responsibility for the crisis of leadership — Mohamed Morsy.
With Morsy now arbitrarily detained by the military following his July 3 ouster and Egyptian security forces indulging in violent, reckless repression, the former Egyptian president and his Muslim Brotherhood movement have legitimate grievances regarding their unjustifiable treatment. But let’s not forget how we got to this grim point. On the night of June 30, in the face of unprecedented, nationwide mass mobilization and protest, Morsy was politically wounded, his legitimacy undermined, his ability to govern Egypt irreparably damaged. In response to the bottom-up, grassroots campaign that brought millions out into the streets, critical sectors of the state bureaucracy openly abandoned the president, leaving him with an illusory and nominal grip on power. He faced a country dangerously polarized, its social fabric fraying. At that moment, Egypt had fleetingly few options for avoiding the grim possibility of civil strife — and all of them resided with Morsy.
Despite inheriting intractable political, economic, and social problems, when Morsy ascended to power on June 30, 2012, he had choices — and he chose factional gain, zero-sum politics, and populist demagoguery. In a system without functioning checks and balances, those choices generated increasing levels of polarization, destroying trust and crippling the state. These decisions were a reflection of his hostility to criticism and his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s denigration of the opposition’s role in Egyptian society. In the period prior to this year’s June 30 mass protests on the first anniversary of Morsy’s swearing-in,when concessions and compromise might have found an orderly way out for Egypt, Morsy instead grudgingly offered airy promises and hollow gestures.
The fateful, misguided decisions made throughout his tenure and in the run-up and aftermath of the June 30 protests have now put Egypt on the cusp of civil strife and violent conflict. An intransigent, isolated president chose to ignore reality and set the country on the course for an undeniably unfortunate military intervention into civilian politics. While Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood will undoubtedly now assume their more familiar role as victims, significantly aided by the brutality and stupidity of a repressive Egyptian security sector, the primary responsibility for Morsy’s ouster and Egypt’s perilous state resides with the deposed president and his Brothers. None of this was inevitable.
This is not to suggest that the Brotherhood should now be ostracized, persecuted, or forced underground. The Muslim Brotherhood is an organic and deeply rooted religious, social, and political movement with a robust and resilient base. It must be a part of Egypt’s future. But its part in Egypt’s recent past has been an unmitigated disaster.
Morsy’s fatal final decisions confirmed his insular, factional worldview, which prioritized the Muslim Brotherhood before the nation. Simply put, he failed to comprehend that his secret society had no monopoly on Egypt and that their electoral victories were not an unlimited mandate. The Muslim Brotherhood believed that the series of elections throughout 2011 and 2012, which represented in many ways the last elections of Hosni Mubarak’s era, bespoke something essential about Egyptian society and the Brotherhood’s place within it.
These traits — bullheadedness, insularity, and paranoia —were on vivid display as Egypt careened toward June 30, but they had manifested themselves repeatedly over the course of the Brotherhood’s short, unhappy time in power.