Adios, Morsi! Update on Egypt

By Jay Holmes

On July 3, 2013, as Americans were preparing to celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day, the Egyptian military acted on its threat to remove Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi from office. While it seems clear that a majority of Egyptians are happy to have Morsi gone, it’s less clear what the future holds for the Egyptian government.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi image by Trinitresque wikimedia commons

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi
image by Trinitresque
wikimedia commons

After the fall of the ineffective Mubarak dictatorship in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood supported Morsi as their candidate under their newer and more marketable “Freedom and Justice Party” label. They were victorious in Egypt’s first attempt at democratic elections in 2012. Though Morsi may not have had an actual majority, the various nascent opposing political parties were far less organized than the 83-year-old Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and they were simply unable to organize in time to succeed.

When Morsi came to office, he understood the frailty of his power and acted accordingly. The Muslim Brotherhood owned Morsi completely, but held little influence over the police and military. Nevertheless, Morsi temporarily held the police and military at bay by convincing them that they would keep their positions of privilege in Egypt, and that he was operating with democratic intent.

With the police and military acquiescing, Morsi forced through legislation that gave him and the Muslim Brotherhood broad power and seemed to guarantee them dictatorial control over Egyptian political might for the foreseeable future.  It was clear for the world to see that Morsi and his “Justice and Freedom Party” were acting unjustly in pursuit of an anti-freedom political agenda.

Morsi always understood that he could easily be replaced with a new puppet by the Muslim Brotherhood at its convenience. He also understood that the growing opposition to his newer, shinier post-Mubarak dictatorship had to be repressed by the police and military in order for him and the Muslim Brotherhood to remain in power. To achieve this, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood needed to gain effective control of the Egyptian police system, courts, and military.

As scored by events of July 3, Morsi lost the crucial battle to take control of the Egyptian military and courts. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Parliament managed to install new laws that satisfied the impatient radical elements of the Brotherhood, but in doing so, he lost any semblance of majority backing.

Once the frail, but fast-growing pro-democracy movement mustered more protestors and demonstrated their support from the majority of Egyptians, the Egyptian military decided that they had had enough of Morsi. They tossed him off of his throne and suspended the Egyptian constitution.

The US White House miscalculated and expressed concern that the military coup in Egypt that removed Morsi was an attempt by the Egyptian military to seize political power for themselves. The US’s failure to support the removal of Morsi has left President Obama wildly unpopular with the Egyptian public.

For the moment, Constitutional Judge Adly Mansour is acting as Interim President, and Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has been appointed Interim Prime Minister. Mansour is known to oppose Sharia Law and support democracy. Though known for his work as the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, ElBaradei  is a New York University School of Law graduate and a respected legal scholar. As an educated scholar with a reputation for openness and pragmatism, ElBaradei is not popular with the Muslim Brotherhood. Given his reputation for integrity and honesty, he will likely be, at least momentarily, popular with the majority of Egyptians and Western observers.

Interim Prime Minister Mohamed ElBaradei image from US Dept. of State

Interim Prime Minister Mohamed ElBaradei
image from US Dept. of State

At the moment, the average Egyptian voter might not be overly concerned with what Westerners think about their government, but they should be. While the US White House seems to lack a coherent policy toward Egypt, the West on the whole matters to that country.

At least some of Morsi’s inability to remain in office stems from his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to understand the Egyptian economy. Morsi’s unpopularity is primarily rooted in the fact that the majority of Egyptians do not wish to live under a Sharia dictatorship. The Egyptian public’s willingness to stand up against Morsi and his government was accelerated by the economic crisis in Egypt. With each passing day of high unemployment, low foreign investment, and declining economic indicators, the willingness to openly oppose Morsi increased.

ElBaradei and Mansour must quickly build a coalition government that the Egyptian people find acceptable. If they succeed, they will be celebrated in Egypt and the West, but that celebration will be short-lived. In order to jump-start the Egyptian economy, they will need to convince the international community to invest in Egypt. If they fail to do so, then they will face renewed discontent.

From the US point of view, the current situation in Egypt constitutes an improvement. Hopefully the White House will get over its blatant miscalculations and move on to pragmatism. Though the popular anti-Obama protests in Egypt might obscure the fact, the best interests of the Egyptian people and the people of the US are not at cross purposes. Avoiding an Iranian-style dictatorship in Egypt is good news for Egyptians and for the world at large.

While our own lack of employment opportunities and stagnant economy in the US limit what the White House can do to help Egypt, President Obama could do a lot by simply staying out of the way and allowing the private sector to invest as they see fit in that country.

Some of the White House’s seemingly odd response to events in Egypt may be influenced by the US’s complicated relationship with the Turkish government. While Obama is being cursed in Egypt for his support of Egyptian President and Aspiring Dictator Morsi, the Turkish Prime Minister and Fledgling Dictator Recep Erdogan is all but publicly cursing Obama and the US for—in his view—failing to support Morsi.

With the international media focused on the fast-changing events in Egypt, it’s easy to forget that Dictator-in-Training Erdogan has lost his popularity in Turkey. Erdogan has the advantage of having had a full decade to conduct purges and bogus trials to gain a degree of control of the Turkish military, police, and courts that Morsi could only dream of. But Erdogan is showing signs of panic. Last week he was lame enough to play the “jew conspiracy” card to explain the growing protests in Turkey. Erdogan has also been angry at “blacks” lately. How that fits into his persecution conspiracy passion play is yet to be explained. Perhaps a black rap singer did something to destroy Turkey this week. I’ll have to check. But with so many of Turkey’s journalists in prison and a large military on Erdogan’s side, who needs to explain anything? The less obvious foreign policy factor in our relationship with Erdogan is the promise that Kurdish oil will flow through Turkey to the West. Though he had the availability of the Suez Canal to offer the West, Morsi had little oil to offer.

While Erdogan is wildly demanding and openly insulting to the US government, and although he is transparently a creepy despot with little regard for the Turkish people, he is becoming a creepy despot with oil, and that changes everything. But we’ll leave that particular turkey to roast another day.

In Syria, the view of Egypt varies yet again. Dictator Assad is enthusiastically pointing to Morsi’s ouster as “the end of Islamist political forces.” Given that Islamic terrorists have co-opted the Syrian revolution, Assad can enjoy that view of events. Unfortunately for him, nobody has explained this “new reality” to the various Islamic terrorist groups that are hunting for his head.

My best guess is that if the Egyptian military and police can keep foreign terrorists at bay with moderate economic investment by the West, Egypt can indeed grow a workable democracy.

18 comments on “Adios, Morsi! Update on Egypt

  1. Shawn McKibben says:

    Well said indeed. Its amazing to see the connection between all these countries to the Muslim Brotherhood. I can only imagine why our administration was supporting it, other than power to influence policy or the economic gain of selling oil to us. I could see a case made that the administration was attempting to fill the role of the great peacemaker in the end as to look good in the eyes of the media. I wonder how Israel is feeling about this now..

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Shawn.

      The Obama administration has always operated on the theory that Islamic theocracies are a natural and unavoidable phenomena and that friendly relations can be had with Islamic theocracies. So far they have been unable to make that theory work in reality.

      The Israeli government is being quiet and cautious about Egypt. My guess is that to the average Israeli citizen any day that Israel is not at war with Egypt and is not being attacked by Egyptian based terrorists constitutes a good day for Israeli-Egyptian relations.

  2. Complex situation. Egypt has been wobbling for some time.
    You said it here. “President Obama could do a lot by simply staying out of the way and allowing the private sector to invest as they see fit in that country.”
    Recently US has been a bull in a china shop.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Philosopher. It seems that the last “right guess” that the US administration was able to make was on the Libyan revolution. Without his air force Kaddafi was unable to keep the uprising at bay. Unfortunately since our initial responses to the Libyan uprising, our foreign policy has been consistently counterproductive to US interests.

      For about the first three days of his first term, President Obama was not being proclaimed as “Satan” in the Mideast. In the Mideast that pretty well qualifies as “popular.” In Western Europe the same Euro-groupies that couldn’t get enough of Obama during his first presidential campaign are now loudly denouncing him. After his election, the Noble operators quickly threw a Peace Prize at him, apparently based on his potential for delivering world peace. Now many Europeans are wanting him to be indicted as a war criminal. Politics always makes for the most unusual of operas.

      Here in the United States, it seems that only a minority of people care to follow foreign affairs. We Americans have very serious structural problems with our economic system here at home, and that perhaps has caused a decline in interest in foreign policy issues.

      • People need to wake up. With all the multinational companies – and so much business being done overseas, and the emerging market countries, people need to try to understand what is happening and how it impacts individuals here
        Always enjoy the posts

  3. Jae says:

    Great informative post. I hope Egypt can get things figured out. Hopefully Morsi left them enough of a bad taste in the mouth with the Muslim Brotherhood that they stick to democracy and stick it to dictatorships.

  4. tomwisk says:

    I have a question. How is it possible that we’ve dealt with the Middle East travails since 1948 with the birth of Israel and still haven’t got a clue? We’re doggishly loyal to Israel but ignore the Muslim countries or back the wrong horse. The problem as I see it for us is 2014. Are we going to elect a wishy-washy non-confrontational liberal who’ll talk a good game but stay in the lodge? Or are we going to get a warhawk who’ll rely on our not so reliable intelligence operation and listen to pro-Israeli lobbyists who don’t seem to realize that anything that happens there happens here? As far as who rules Egypt? It won’t matter. Sectarians will try to mess it up for whoever is elected.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Tomwisk. “How is it possible that we’ve dealt with the Middle East travails since 1948 with the birth of Israel and still haven’t got a clue? ” I think that many Americans do indeed have a clue. Unfortunately foreign policy is always influenced by the personal views of the President and the Senate as well as their personal agendas.

      I do think it matters to us and the world at large if Egypt is able to create a democracy for themselves. Islamic terrorism is overall mildly weakened when they lose ground in a nation like Egypt. I also think that we in the USA benefit from any democracies that are able to survive in this world. There is a synergetic effect amongst democratic nations. Overall they act as a positive influence on each other both in terms of foreign and domestic policy.

      It certainly also matters to Egyptians whether or not they are able to have the fundamental civil rights that are enabled by democracy.

      I’m not so foolish as to claim that democracies automatically act without corruption and with concern for their citizens. Our own democracy daily proves otherwise but overall the best hope for human rights and reduced human suffering is with democracy.

  5. Pleun says:

    Thank you for your clear explanation! And I think your advice to Obama is as good as can be: stay our of the way. I think he would be wise to ‘fix’ the problems at home first, then he can always go back to meddling in other people’s affairs.

  6. Dave says:

    Great job of showing the interwoven threads running through Middle Eastern politics. Are the folks running the show in Washington naive, stupid, distracted, or just so focused on their vision of the world being right that they’re unable to see things that suggest they might have things wrong?

    It’s disturbing to see presidents so far detached from reality. Even though I disagree with (most) everything this administration has done, it is hard to accept that everyone in it is blind. Who is running this show?

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Dave. It seems that this White House (like the last one) is so focused on it’s own theory of world politics that it is hindered in accepting what is occurring in Egypt and other places. It’s hard to determine “percentages” right now in Egypt but it does seem that a significant number of Egyptians feel that our administration has no clue of what is occurring in Egypt. Many Egyptians are claiming that our US Ambassador to Egypt is actively siding with the Muslim Brotherhood.

      It would be interesting to know what the President actually thinks of the situations in Egypt, Turkey, Syria etc.

      • Dave says:

        Perhaps we should ask his handlers what he is supposed to think today. Now if we could just figure out who they are…

  7. How many revolutions ? How many killed peoples ? Who killing peoples ? Muslims ?

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Odzie. Thanks for coming by. I am afraid that the number of deaths caused by political conflict in Egypt is far from determined. Muslim Brotherhood supporters threw three Egyptian teens from a tall building yesterday because the teens were celebrating Morsi’s ouster.

      Not all Muslim Brotherhood members are rabid mongrels but it seems that the rabid mongrels from within their ranks have taken control of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. Unfortunately for the people of Egypt the violence might be difficult to stop.

      The Egyptian Military is sensitive to claims that they are installing a Mubarak style military dictatorship. They do not wish to stir opposition from Western nations. This makes it more difficult for them to quell the violence.

      I have always had a high opinion of the people of Egypt and it saddens me to see them paying such a high price to obtain a bit of freedom and justice.

  8. Christopher says:

    Thanks for the write up. I followed the events while on Holiday in London. I arrived back in the US on the 10th. It has been interesting to see how the news differs here in the US concerning Egypt.

  9. Jay Holmes says:

    Hi Christopher. How would you compare the two sets of news coverage?

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