Egypt on the way to democracy or Islamist dictatorship?

Transition to democracy? A necessary stage? The surprising ease with which Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected president of Egypt, fired his top military leadership left many puzzled and also worried. There are dozen or more theories as to how and why it was done. I doubt that even  our intel folks have a clear idea. Based on the historical trends however it follows the Nasser process, i.e.  Morsi needed generals beholden to him, and like Nasser, he put in place those who would owe their new power to him. There cannot be any doubt that the next level of military leadership  were   part of the plot.  The Mubarak era  military leadership was moribund, out of fashion, too closely identified with Mubarak, and the U.S. and generally standing in the way of advancement for the generals in waiting, Like al-Sisi.. For  sitting on their hands while their seniors were unceremoniously dumped, the new leadership will be assured that their benefits will continue and perhaps increase. The relatively higher standard of living enjoyed by the military leadership and officer corps will be maintained.

Morsi has  the military leadership in place whom he will need to  protect his back as the inevitable struggle for power will begin…with much of the competition coming from his own Muslim brotherhood ( MB).  Morsi is not the charismatic leader that Nasser was. He is uninspiring and was not even the MB first choice.

Egypt is a casket case economically and with a population riding on a crest of high expectations, Morsi has to  provide either the bread or in the style of most Arab leaders, look for distractions to divert attention from the lack of bread for the people. The most obvious path is of course is to provoke increasing tension with Israel. It is a popular path to follow. As with Nassar however, the potential for miscalculation is always present.  Relying on the U.S. to pull his chestnuts out of the fire when he gets in too deep will be fatal,

.It will not happen. Under Obama we have little if any residual influence to shape events. Watching Assad thumb his nose at Obama every day he remains in power is the lesson for all to  see. .  The Obama “Audacity of Hope” policy in the Middle East basically consists of doing very little or nothing and hope that it will turn out ok…. or at least well enough that his media protection will manage any unpleasant fall-out. So far it has worked  well domestically.  Americans don’t want any more involvement in the Middle East or South West Asia….. and who can blame them?  Unfortunately we may pay a heavy price down the road however. It is not a matter of staying out of the Middle East mess…events will not allow that. We should have learned that from two world wars that we were not supposed to be involved in.

There is the tyranny of the one dictator, like Saddam, or as it appears to be shaping up in Egypt, the tyranny of the majority. The mass of Egyptian population believing that socialism, democratism ,and all other Western imports have failed,  have turned to a form of political Islamism, a mish mash of religion and secularism that  offers hope but no answers…as the Egyptians will soon realize and once gain it will be the military that will keep the regime in power.

Hope I’m wrong but history is on my side.

About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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