There are signs that the U.S. misjudged events in Egypt and was leaning too far to the side of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) over the past year. Now it is time to stand back and let the Egyptian people define their needs and take steps toward a reasoned and inclusive democratic rule. And don’t call it a coup.
Some call Egypt’s current uprising “undemocratic” and thus say it should be null and void. But for true believers in democracy, rejection of the MB government must be seen as inspired by this crystal clear passage in U.S. Declaration of Independence:
“… (W)henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Mohammed Morsi was the MB candidate a year ago after a turbulent year-and-a-half period from the peaceful revolution that deposed the dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He indeed was democratically elected, albeit by a slim margin. The people of Egypt accepted the result and looked forward to a democratic rule that was progressive and inclusive. But what happened was contrary to those expectations.
First, some background: For 60 years, the MB was a secretive, religiously-based, underground organization. Its popular support stemmed from the poorer segments of the society. It provided the needy with provisions, food and medical care from funds collected as “alms.” Whenever the need arose, as Mubarak’s government floundered, members of the MB showed up on the scene of an earthquake or a serious accident to provide help. The popular image of the MB as an organization of God-fearing people who care about their society no doubt helped Morsi win last year’s election.
But their new-found power appears to have corrupted the MB leadership. Morsi was never left to decide for himself. It soon became clear that he was only a pawn. All decision making positions had to be vetted by the MB leadership. Morsi was pushed to replace state officials, regardless of the needs or opinions of others, with people whose only credential was obedience to the leadership of the MB. The neglect of the rules of good governance had a disastrous effect on the economy, including tourism, and the country began to slide on a downward slope.
The leadership of the 2011 revolution felt betrayed and began to discuss what to do. As foreseen by Thomas Jefferson in the eloquent beginning of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, they decided in April of this year to initiate “tamarod” (Arabic for rebellion) to “alter or abolish” their government. Their initiative was greatly supported by the people, to the extent of collecting over 20 million signatures of supporting citizens.
On the eve of Morsi’s election anniversary on June 30th, millions began to congregate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in all major cities across Egypt. The army consulted with representatives of all factions, then surrounded the tamarod crowds so things would not get out of hand. Thus, the army’s involvement was in response to people’s wishes — not a “coup d’etat” to grab power and institute a military rule.
The Obama Administration is correct in not labeling what has just happened in Egypt as a coup. Those who insist it was even suggested that the U.S. should withhold the $1.5 billion of aid to Egypt. That was a knee-jerk reaction based on misinterpretation of events. In addition, that aid is part of the Camp David Accords, which have helped sustain peace between Egypt and Israel for the past four decades. Does anyone really wish to unravel any part of that agreement?
The youth of Egypt have proven to be the best guardians of its future. We should consider that revolutions need time to bear fruit, and that democracy is messy and it takes a while to mature. Our judgment should await the result of the uprising. The most positive thing the United States now can do is encourage the creation of a new, inclusive Egyptian government that works for the good of all its people.