July, January, and June

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July, January, and June
Ahmed Maher

http://www.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=1181765

Revolutions don’t happen other than when there is a need among the people. A revolution cannot be replicated, nor can it be fabricated, nor can one be externally designed. Therefore, July ’52 has been considered a revolution despite at its beginning being considered a military action and coup against the monarchy. But nobody denies that there was political corruption and fragile democracy before July ’52, and nobody denies that there was poverty, hunger, corruption, and iniquity.

Before July ’52, there were parliamentary elections yielding elected governments. But the king tried to dismiss it and turned against it. There was intervention from colonial forces toward a change of governments and control of Egyptian decisionmaking…

Therefore, people came out to support the military action. If not for popular support, why did it succeed and have legitimacy? And if not for the presence of real concerns necessitating revolutionary action and undertaking, why did it have recognition? As there wasn’t the darkest-black picture before 1952; there were some white blotches. There wasn’t the clearest-white picture until after 1954. Thus despite the values of social justice, national dignity, and independence, rather, under the pretext of combating a bygone regime, exceptional laws and the emergency law were enacted, along with military trials, death sentences, and prisons in which labor leaders like Khamis and Baqari were executed. In ’54 came the example-making of Sanhouri Pasha, who had contributed in his own way since ’52, through the enactment of exceptional legislation, constitutional declarations, revolutionary trials. Parties were dissolved, and then the “Massacre of the Judges.”

The January 25th Revolution wasn’t undertaken other than for objective reasons. It was the natural product of thirty yeas of corruption, tyranny, repression, monopoly of power and wealth, and the absence of justice and dignified treatment, alongside a dependency on America and total docility to American desires, as a means for cling to power and as a means for Mubarak to bequeath power to his son. So, together, we’ve suffered from corruption and the administrative failures. Together, we’ve all been through the monopoly and the absence of social justice alongside the marriage of revolution and power and the election-rigging. And together, we’ve all lived through the arrests, the torture of citizens, the fabricated charges, the killing of defendants, the absence of justice and a state of laws, the suppression of demonstrations, the dragging of protesters, and the dissolution and banning of parties. Therefore a revolution was necessary.

A popular revolution is neither reproduced nor contrived. In it, the people go out proclaiming freedom, democracy and social justice. It was possible for us to move down the right path from the beginning, implementing the current roadmap, if the military council hadn’t allied with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 and had insisted on the direction of the March referendum which brought us where we are now… If the implementation of the roadmap of June 30, 2013 occurred in February 11, 2011, Egypt would have been better off now and more stable, and we would have avoided the disasters which have occurred since the March 2011 Referendum.

And because of the errors of military rule in 2011, and the tyranny, foolishness, and intransigence of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012 and 2013, a course-correction was necessary on June 30, 2013. But instead of crying over spilled milk and tongue-lashing over whom is at fault, why don’t we think of the best in building a new Egypt and avoid the mistakes since 2011, while also avoidng the mistakes since 1954? And let’s not expound upon those exclusionary, repressive, or extra-legal measures – or any measures or thoughts inconsistent with the values and objectives of the revolution – which speak of freedom, dignity, social justice, tolerance, coexistence, respect for others, and respect of differences. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Finally, yes, we are all against terrorism and support the police and armed forces carrying out its role in eliminating terrorism and protecting citizens. However, it is also necessary to have a state of laws.

Aside

Institutions and Legitimacy

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I don’t feel like editing my work anymore

There are two key differences between the coup that ended the January 25 Revolution and the coup that began the January 30 Revolution – to still unclear results. The mechanism allowing the army to rationalize the coup – whether genuinely or not – is similar. However, the underlying interests behind each differ vastly.

Firstly, this is demonstrated by the differences in timeframe. Arrests of senior NDP officials including Mubarak took a lot longer than one day; and many of them have never been tried or convicted. Moreover, the military re-appointed Chief Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, who immediately resigned. This is a strong symbolic repudiation of Morsi’s administration, which made Meguid’s dismissal a priority to the extent of pursuing constitutionally dubious power-grabs. Likely Morsi’s Sinai and Syria policies, vocally conspiratorial statements, and forced retirement of top long-term military officials further influenced prior military planning. But the carefully timed ultimately, coinciding with Sami Anan’s resignation, and the swift and carefully executed arrest of Morsi, and immediate shut-downs of satellite channels and round-ups of a large number of Freedom and Justice Party officials and then top Muslim Brotherhood officials.

Secondly, the National Democratic Party was established in 1978 by President Sadat. By 2011, it was all but a state institution. Therefore, an aggressive dismantling of those networks would have been appropriate, but didn’t really occur. Conversely, there are widespread elite complaints about Brotherhood autocracy. I am personally wary of how influential such complaints are on the ground. Previously, Egyptians have consistently preferred decisive, powerful presidents in opinon polls. However, his very public bumbling probably also attracted due attention that bothered the military in addition to virtually every non-Islamist political faction.

But the aggressive response in rounding up the Brotherhood and the FJP is not analogous to the NDP. Because despite general fears, and undoubtedly a ridiculously blatant and fascistic trend towards autocracy and power-consolidation by Morsi was occuring, the level of anger produced in comparison to that of 30 years of oppression under Mubarak is irrational, and somewhat surprising. Based on my own demographic knowledge, which in these protests is limited, friends have mentioned that they are much more diverse – in part simply because are larger than in 2011-2012.

But I suspect a new segment between those periods – from anecdotal observation of friends – is former regime members nominally or otherwise – people who for whatever reason may not have directly participated on the streets in 2011, and chose to now. But again, the level of joy and unbridled celebration is as disturbing as it is utterly unwarranted. I cannot defend President Morsi. I genuinely don’t understand both how progressive manipulation and de-legitimzation of the constituion could subsequently be ignored to argue now – where it matters to him – that he is the constitutionally legitimate leader.

Certainly there is a commonly understandable element of truth to that; but constitutional legitimacy requires a respect for constitutionalism that left Morsi, in the end, lacking in broadly perceived legitimacy. And traditionally, rebellion or mass civil disobedience is a good indicator of legitimacy. In this case, the world has made much of anti-Morsi protests, but it is not clear – now that he is out – what either majority or plurality want. There is a high degree of division. But alignment past the immediate moment, for instance on other substantive issues, is probably not so clear cut. However, arguably a key problem with Morsi’s ouster is not that he is out.

The FJP leadership must have known it was overplaying its hand in terms of how outright their majority support was. And in fact they must know that the majority of Egypt would not outright support the Brotherhood or FJP. But since they won a number of elections for whatever reason, there were fears they were trying to consolidate in lieu of future free or fair elections – a long-term fear of Islamist groups. And plenty of people who went out to protest in so-called ‘pro-‘Morsi protests were really protesting against extra-legal and extra-judicial measures that negate democratic procedures. This is the second military coup in two and a half years. And structures tend to reproduce themselves. One need only look to Turkey until very recently as one example, Syria after World War II, Sudan, Chad, or Mauritania.

But in the end, as intolerable as the situation may have been, this was probably the worst resolution from a structural sense. A referendum could have been forced, or early elections. These would have allowed constitutional continuity and would have majorly undercut a key source of ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of Morsi’s supporters – at least in discourse. But worst of all, the country is now divided in the most intractable manner, having begun its infighting with an eye towards likely much more. But the military retains an autonomous, politically active role without civilan control.

A former professor, Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, mentioned in an interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9hA9RiKq7k) that he believed mass mobilization would constitute an adequate mechanism for pressuring either the army or autocratic rulers. In the latter case, I think this is probably right. But in the same structural manner, people have – at least initially – overwhelming welcomed military domination with a short span. And this is highly troubling, because it suggests the army is far and away more popular than any of the leaders that hope to subordinate it – at least for the moment.

Partisan Retribution under the Guise of Liberal Republicanism (راح النظام… جاء النظام)

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I’m too depressed at the moment to write anything serious.  All I can say is that like during the January 25, 2011 revolution and subsequently after the election of Morsi and appointment of Sisi, I got lost in the moment.  Until February 2011, I didn’t really think about the 1952 Revolution; only when a friend mentioned removing the eagle from the flag did I really started to consider that dimension.

And then progressively, with a great many ‘hiccups,’ (did el-Baradei call the most recent spate of arrests?) it seemed the military might really be allowing a civil state to take hold in return for the military maintaining extensive economic privileges.  Morsi’s presidency was a failure on political and constitutional grounds in part because he is not a skilled politician or diplomat.  It would have been genuinely difficult for Egypt to maintain civility or international standing over what would have been three more years.

However, my inclination is both that most people were not protesting for that so much as economic reasons, ideological opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, and lastly (by a good deal) political reasons.  And the final issue is problematic because it highlights a segment of the population who demonstrated yesterday but is still ultimately unhappy with the military coup – and will likely increase in unhappiness as the military shoots more unarmed protesters. It also highlights the diverse agenda of protesters, like before Mubarak’s ouster.  And once the symbol’s gone, which is now, that unity is no longer cohesive.  This is more or less indicative in the already retributive nature of post-coup military actions – and they have so far targeted only the FJP (as far as I am aware).  It took substantially longer for the military to move or allow state institutions to move against Mubarak and his family, and top members of the NDP not widely publicly reviled.

There is a senseless rapidity to the informal coalition-building that is slowly eroding everyone’s legitimacy other than the army’s, which seems to be fully cyclical.  But even if the army does exactly what it did last time (…), it will still have the vast majority of weapons.  It is an autonomous political entity not subordinated to civilian, and under clandestine, control.  And in that respect, I’m pretty sure Sisi is not in charge – at least not fully.  Why suspect that the hierarchy has changed simply because Morsi altered the facade?  Keep in mind who just corrected the alteration.

I had read that Sisi informed Morsi on Monday that he would step down or be deposed; and I am relatively sure this was before Morsi’s speech.  I suspect the manic dualism in Morsi’s speech was the result of a more diplomatic pre-planned speech, although one probably not compromising enough, and an extemporaneous element under severe duress from having just been threatened by the guy he thought was his chief military ally.

I cannot believe people aren’t really discussing Sami Anan’s resignation and Morsi’s Republican Guard sort of just all simultaneously walking away from their posts. And unlike after January 25, 2011, arrests occurred almost immediately. The military is not known for its brashness – not since 1948. And the appointment and immediate resignation of former Chief Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud is more or less the most obvious symbolic bollocking the military could offer to Morsi’s crashing legacy.

A former acquaintance – a semi-senior Morsi adviser – is presumably detained, I guess without charge but it is possible there was a warrant.  His family hasn’t gotten any information on the matter as far as I know.  Bassem Youssef spent part of the afternoon tweeting about how Morsi was really just about to shut down all the liberal media before the coup.  I don’t necessarily doubt the veracity of what he’s saying; but I don’t understand how that justifies reprisal shut downs and arrests.

Egypt’s partisanship really threatens to tear it apart, and the military has not helped in its own incompetent political maneuvering that has led to this point – albeit with impressively unrefined and accidental Brotherhood assistance.

Now Revolutionaries like Ahmed Maher of 6 April, el-Baradei, and socialist Hamdeen Sabbahi have attempted to justify the coup.  But a large minority having protested, like a large minority is doing on the other side today, is an invalid criterion – because the ballot box is the proper mechanism for measuring support.  And the second criterion is Morsi’s constitutional autocracy.  I agree with the latter criticism, and empathize with their consternation.

But I believe this is a demand of the intelligentsia; and while very important, in and of itself does not actually address the ‘people’s demands.’  One can argue as to whether a similar scenario existed after January 2011; and it may have then been a fluke that things appeared to be moving toward pluralistic democracy.  I really hope that with these first-day of #not_a_coup arrests and shootings and shut downs, that Mansour is somehow able to create this idyllic rights-haven that I can’t believe he will…  And the logic of de-institutionalizing political behaviors by employing those behaviors is somewhat twisted; though perhaps no more so than Morsi’s own.  But the direct implications for a truly liberal political culture are not promising.

Their is a possible silver lining for supporters of a civil state, although it may take significant bloodshed or internal shuffling to materialize, is that sustained and large scale mobilization on both sides may eventually force the military to accept subordination under a civilian leadership.  That was just one other argument these protests should have addressed; but instead they borrowed an easy if undemocratic method.  And now they’re trying desperately, and somewhat inarticulately justify the necessity of plurality-rule based on the ‘disappointing outcome’ hypothesis.  And because the protests did succeed in being huge on June 30, the military seized on the opportunity to elevate calls for Morsi’s ouster – particularly after his manic speech.

Square Zero

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So… protesters’ demands are satisfied.  You’ve got your coup.  Is there something else you wanted?
[From their Facebook page:
It is looking clear that there is a Military Coup in Egypt. We are now back to square zero (not even one)]
In all seriousness, Morsi was (supposedly) placed under a travel ban almost immediately after the deadline expired.  As far as I recall, Mubarak’s travel ban took over a month after his resignation.  ‘Revolutionaries’ are calling for him to be tried for … being a bad president.  And Baradei has whined about how Morsi ‘favors his own party.’
I am truly ashamed…  Maybe the military can solve sexual harassment when they ban protests again.  Or maybe more forcible virginity tests – later justified by the current Defense Minister – are the answer.

The Day of Dismissal or Resignation

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Update:  I still refuse to believe that this is some developing situation, regarding the army – and that they were moved by protests.  Sami Anan’s resignation, the mid-protest statement, and the newspaper headlines seem very well-timed and in calculatingly perfect succession.

But it is no fait accompli, and there I really do not think they intend to oust him.  I suspect this is indeed blow back for what must have been a genuine ‘forced retiring’ of Former Defence Minister and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff and Lieutenant General Sami Anan.  Morsi must have felt he had a reliable partner in al-Sisi, but it would appear that this was a miscalculation.  Or at least that has been made brutally clear to him at the worst possible time.  And the newspaper headlines are inked proof that Morsi cannot rule a newspaper if they do not let him.  This may be comical, but it should not be.

I suspect the military feared he might face them down eventually.  But anyone who’s observed a Brotherhood-affiliated educational facility might not be totally shocked.  Still, the calls for Morsi’s ouster are very widespread – and did originate in radical camps a while back.  Headlines of ‘international pressure’ have also been mounting.  But it is not clear just how popular these calls are, though they are very vocal.

I had thought about this, and ironically al-Gama’ah al-Islamiyyah apparently just endorsed it [they’ve subsequently denied that], but Morsi could and should have considered a straight up-and-down referendum on his presidency – which was the way presidential elections were run in Egypt until 2005.  But opinion polls suggest he would probably lose.

Were I Morsi, in my capacity as President of the Republic, I would immediately call for the formation of a 25-30 person ‘National Salvation Council’ or ‘Renaissance Council,’ or whatever, to be selected by himself, al-Sisi, Mohammed el-Baradei, Adli Mansour, Ahmed el-Tayyeb – more or less as many people outside the immediate circle of the Brotherhood.  At this rate, he should be a lot more concerned with pleasing everyone but his base – because his base is a lot more likely to forgive him than everyone else.

In any event, this relatively socially broad committee – not solely comprised of personalities one would hope – would select an equally broad 100 person constituent assembly – hopefully better than the last few.  They would write a constitution.  Subsequent to this constitution, Parliamentary elections would occur – after a longer time for preparation, though not necessarily campaigning, period than the previous time.  Morsi would remain president and steward this process.  It could very well be his legacy, but it would no doubt accomplish his goal of safeguarding legitimacy.

This solution, I think, would be least desirable to the military because even though much of it involves what they did, would do, and would have to do anyway, they would not have outright control of the process.  That is ultimately what led to this point.  There is almost every reason to believe that it will lead to this point.  Or worse, it will lead back to 1952 – so we will be back around to this scenario in 2072.

Unbelievably, this is apparently al-Ahram’s Wednesday headline.  It is possible that this is the result of – a little ironically – military intervention within al-Ahram.

http://ruleduke.tumblr.com/post/54493302542/arabic-script-problem

Who Will Replace President Morsi?

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In the wake of the army’s ultimatum and President Morsi’s subsequent speech, there has been much discussion – mostly speculation – over what is next to come.  There appear to be widespread and vocal calls to return to military rule, and intransigence on the part of the President and his camp.  In this climate, Salafis seem to be nervously backing off of their own overly ideological and infrequently qualified support for their fellow Islamist.  While some have joined pro-Morsi protests, the leadership appears to be endorsing calls for early elections.

Rather than polarization, the not totally unexpected scenario has pushed the new regime against a wall.  It is a similar wall against which Mubarak, probably under the influence of his wife and younger son, and his technocratic coalition were pushed.  The overzealous population of bureaucratic institutions with loyalists, and the overzealous pursuit by President Morsi of questionably constitutional methods of problem solving have stoked some serious flames.

But the kindling was split between a very broad complicity in and acceptance of the methods and thinking of the former system and a purported and wholehearted enthusiasm for its removal.  But the political system, much like Mubarak’s ouster, was clearly based on the underlying republican structure of Egypt – which is based on the military.  I had debates with friends, almost immediately after Mubarak resigned, as to whether this constituted a military coup – and I believed it did.

Still, whatever one’s metaphysical inclinations, without a clear unifying symbol to oppose, the opposition fractured both among and within itself.  Early examples ranged in ridiculousness from education-qualified voting or the ban on former National Democratic Party candidates, which was later ruled unconstitutional.  Liberals were almost immediately fractured into a tiny minority of democrats and those whose methodology is eerily similar to that of filoul.  But all of this occurred against a more or less untouched military backdrop.

Almost nobody can hold claim to a continuous mantle of liberalism in Egyptian politics.  Even the socialist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi recently repeated a call for military intervention.  That is a disturbing pronouncement for someone who had more or less represented radically democratic hopes for a chunk of the population.  But President Morsi’s speech was reminiscent of Mubarak’s speech – and it was replete with references to legitimacy.  The obvious difference is that Morsi was elected; and in that respect has a more obvious claim to legitimacy.  The problem is that elections are a democratic mechanism.

Democratic states nearly always fade or wither without the solidification of constitutional republicanism.  And in this regard, President Morsi’s attempts to dismiss the Prosecutor General or to seize legislative powers makes it difficult to accept his argument of legitimacy.  It is equally difficult to accept his argument that simply remaining in power is his duty.  In large part, his lethargy or ambivalence in dealing with Egypt’s crises have made it far easier for the majority of the population to nominally withdraw their support.  Simply saying legitimacy enough may subliminally alter the stars, but people can use it as little more than a meme.

This is notwithstanding that qualifying the election results by turnout and voter registration, Morsi actually received about 24.6% of the total vote in Round 1 or 11.2% of the total number of registered voters.  Turnout was slightly higher in the second round – and at just over 50% argues for the broadly acceptable legitimacy of second round results – but qualified by registration Morsi still only received support from just over 24% of the electorate.  Morsi did have a slim democratic mandate.  However, these figures highlight both how slim it really was (particularly qualified by the first round) and the large number of disenfranchised from the outset of Egyptian elections.  It may not be an unusual feature among new democracies or democracies in general.  But it adds a pretty powerful wildcard.

So, much speculation has concerned Morsi’s potential departure.  Speculation persists over the interests of the military, with many perhaps indicating they have forgotten that the military ceded power only a year ago.  Still more have forgotten that the military seized power in 1952 and has ruled more or less unchallenged since then.  But Morsi’s departure will resolve itself tomorrow.  Similarly, President Mubarak resigned in a day; although technically he didn’t resign, and he didn’t go fully of his own accord, necessarily.

But issues of blame and appearance are not necessarily paramount.  People have forgotten that the army is in large part to blame for some of the current crises.  Morsi seems to forget that the minimum wage hike he took credit for apparently occurred under the SCAF.  The New York Times reported on a number of Morsi-ally arrests, although the only thing I have seen regarded the body guards of Khairat el-Shater, with his whereabouts unknown at the time.

Very little speculation seems to concern how this situation would differ from January 25th, or how the competency of politicians or the military has been altered in that interim?  What exactly would change if Egypt returned to the policies it had pursued since at least the mid-1950s?

Hezb el-Nour, the Salafi Party, may have backed off its support.  But they must know that they will never rule Egypt.  However much things have come to a head between the military and the President and Brotherhood – and it is clear that they have – they were still unwilling allies at times.  The same cannot be said of Hezb el-Nour.  It is not necessarily relevant, but I had seen some suggestion that Nour could emerge as the major player if the Brotherhood were once again banned.  This is implausible, as the only mechanism for power since 1952 has been through endorsement of the military.

Reasons given for Morsi’s ouster do not seem to match broader stated goals.  In fact, many of the underlying problems Morsi is claimed to have not addressed are also not being addressed in the most recent round of protests.  Beneficiaries of such an ouster are really unclear; because while the Brotherhood will almost certainly lose new Presidential elections, a new president will face similar problems.  And any new president will be equally constrained by the omnipresent military structure of economics and politics.

But a new president is also unlikely to have as cohesive a support base, making action additionally difficult.  People may have forgotten almost entirely that a military is supposed to defend against external threats.  But this could be explained by police forces never really taking the lead in protecting people domestically anyway.

On some level, the military benefits most from a nominally stable political situation without a strong, social movement-backed political force.  A recent video blog post by a friend mentioned the situation in Egypt prior to revolution, in which there was a sort of three-way split between the palace, the parliament, and the British.  Nasser himself acknowledged that Egyptians were fond of cyclical identification: and slogans used against the Ottomans were subsequently adapted to the British.  But unlike during that time, Parliament and Palace – in this case – were not really in conflict.

Moreover, the impact of American involvement is very unclear.  The strongest relationship between the US and any Egyptian political players is clearly with the army, which receives American aid but which also maintains interpersonal and lobbying relationships.  Ultimately, the jubilant calls in the street signal the worst kind of counter-revolution.  It threatens to once again legitimate the military rule that has already continued unabated throughout this period.  And it threatens to do so at the expense of the nascent attempts to institutionalize democratic processes.

In fairness, Morsi does increasingly seem to be intractably incompetent.  And he cannot, at least not yet, claim that he was threatened despite all attempts at outreach.  He is not seen as a reliable player among most political entities or the public.  But most political entities would probably meet and deal with him anyway – even if they would publicly eschew meetings.  And this is where my fear and condemnation of the ‘opposition’ movement is starting to grow in anticipation of tomorrow.  [I should clarify that I mean my annoyance grows with their own intransigence, and a lack of recognition that the goal should not be Morsi’s resignation.]

Constitutional issues are, ironically, not of paramount import.  This is mostly because the constitution has been sidelined since the issue of Islam as the continuing official religion wasted everyone’s energy and political capital.  The constitutional issues at root are far more fundamental, and cannot be encoded in a document without being resolved in the broadest possible consensus.

When protests started in 2011, they galvanized and changed a lot of people.  In part, feeling part of something bigger and having hope for change and vox populi was inspiring to many who had lived under a semi-official policy of forced political apathy.  And then that apathy somewhat resurfaced.  Some ‘career’ revolutionaries may not see a path back to normal governance.  Yet others have no connection to the revolution; and the most recent protests seem to have fused together various [‘original’] revolutionaries and various non-revolutionaries [or nouveau-revolutionaries].

This is dangerous to the former, who already clearly are seen as the greatest threat by the military and political establishment.  Their lack of connection to either, and the looseness of their hierarchy make them difficult to co-opt consistently.  But the idea that the military has ‘left,’ is absurd.  And the idea that the military should re-intervene is a matter of showmanship and sleight of hand.  Ultimately, the majority of the population has apparently not been sold on the need for radical social reformation – or at least not in the direction originally envisaged by most revolutionaries.  Conversely, a subset has not really been sold on the politics of normalcy – and I am not sure they want to be.

In part this is due to the lack of reliable information through polling material.  I am both lucky and sad that my own attempt to start a polling company in Cairo in April 2011 ultimately failed.  I would undoubtedly otherwise be in jail for espionage.  But one must wonder about the democratic prospect of such a situation in which gathering critical information on the public’s composition and demands is extremely tightly controlled.  [Maybe I’m misinformed and it’s wonderful now.  But it seems that from the Presidential palace to Mohammed Mahmoud, I don’t seem to be much less aware of what’s going on…]

And the media also shares a lot of blame in the scenario for printing all news – they’ve simply mitigated the fitness criterion.  Many papers treated Morsi’s ouster as all but a fait accompli over the weeks leading up to June 30.  The condition on the ground is unclear, but I have read several accounts of random street violence involving serious firearms.  If some of this sounds similar to January 2011, it probably should.  There is a greater degree of freedom in public discourse and media, but it is qualified by partisanship.  It is a free press as existed in 18th century America.  And what followed that were the sedition acts that are likely to follow any new transition away from democratic structures.  Another key difference is that the military has been more visibly political in a way not apparent for decades prior.

But they have not subsequently left power; and they did not enter into power in February 2011.  They clear waded a little further with Morsi.  But my inclination is that they will not ditch him if possible.  [This may be an attempt to forestall his own notions of a civil state, however.]  To borrow from the pages of January 2011, two possibilities have not been explored in great depth:  the first involves his direct military ouster, and the second involves him being ditched by his party.  He doesn’t really have a party, so it is difficult to see how a coalition could push him out.  For once it seems he may be more of a public liability to the Freedom and Justice Party than vice versa.

But ultimately, the military will almost certainly not find a more reliable partner in the opposition scene – unless they are banking on some miraculous return of Ahmed Shafiq.  In all, democrats undoubtedly stand to lose the most.  If the military forces out the Brotherhood and FJP, they will have signaled an exclusion of any future relationship with Islamists moving forward.  This would bring jubilation to some of the population.  And why not?  No doubt many of them missed their opportunity to demonstrate in 2011; so they will get their fill now – when their interests more directly oppose a movement away from the NDP and previous corrupt structures.  Many could afford to live under such structures.

But Mubarak ruled for decades.  Morsi has ruled for three days over a year.  The same type of symbolic resistance is not appropriate.  There is a sense of juvenile fascination – like an infant learning about its body.  There is a great corresponding sense of justice accompanying a breaking point after which people confront decades of oppression and stagnation.  But like hatred of Obama over his deficit, and clearly not due to at least partly latent racism, many protesters simply hate the Brotherhood because it’s an Islamist organization.  It was disheartening to see discussions on Sandmonkey’s twitter feed calling Morsi Egypt’s worst president – even worse than Mubarak.

Anyone can say what they want – to a point.  But that level of anger is somewhat difficult to understand.  It is particularly difficult to understand coming from someone so personally harassed and affected by the former regime.  But moreover, returning to a fifty-year old policy of excluding the Brotherhood entirely would be a devastating to Egypt’s nascent democracy.  And it would alienate a large segment of the population – including those to the right of the Brotherhood.  Liberals, and there are not many, should have no doubt that once their role in legitimating a re-transition is satisfied, they too will return to jail.  [Most will go abroad.]

It is very disheartening that political and policy disagreements have been allowed to cloud the vision of previous visionaries.  But worse, I am shocked that in the year and more that the opposition has had to think, and ponder, and articulate they have come up with no actual unifying positive measures forward.  [In fairness, Baradei has, but he came up with it either around or before like February 2011.]  Morsi has become a symbolic victim as much as Mubarak.  Neither is wholly undeserved.  But such objects of mobilization are frightening because there is no corresponding mobilization in support of building institutions or entrenching constitutionalism.

Foreign Hands Aren’t So Bad (if it’s your junk they’re knocking around)

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This morning, it became clear that President Morsi considers the Army communique to be akin to a coup (communique akin to a coup). This is not entirely surprising. The President appears to have the type of personality and employ a style of governance that suggests anything not his own is some sort of foreign conspiracy.

The irony in this case is that Morsi is now relying on American support to prevent a military coup – at least this is what has been claimed. In reality, that situation is even less clear. Khaled Fahmy, in a scathing bit recently called out Ambassador Anne Patterson for misrepresenting the scale of discontent and overplaying the President’s desire to actually offer meaningful concessions. But it is not clear where American interests lie in the eyes of President Obama.

During Mubarak’s tenure, he was loathe to break away. Apparently several key regime officials had staunchly argued for that policy. But whatever one’s distaste for the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP – either because they are Islamists or Muslim, or because they seem to be incompetent – displacing elected leadership seems unlikely to be the moment President Obama would opt for decisiveness.

And both extremes in Egypt are increasingly acting like infants with no sense of scope. I suppose were an infant capable of such cognition, they would cry on watching their candy stolen from them. But at a certain point in this contagious process, everyone’s crying and nobody has candy. President Morsi, who like SCAF and the last days of Mubarak and Suleiman has relied on threats of shadowy foreign conspiracies, has now put all his eggs in that basket. For those of us whose personal safety was affected by those rumors, it’s a little difficult not to feel a sense of schadenfreude.

But there are several broader issues at stake here. On the face of it, the military’s suggestion to abrogate the constitution is not unreasonable. Lawmakers notoriously passed an election law that did not follow the guidelines of the constitution written by some of the same people. And when the lower house of parliament was dissolved by court decision, the President attempted to usurp additional constitutional authority. I wrote about this a little – though not much – more in a previous post. But shortly, it is nearly impossible for any serious observer to believe that the President or most if not all prominent FJP lawmakers have any real understanding of Egyptian constitutionalism.  But the 1971 Constitution, for instance, was not bad.  Passing a new constitution, I agreed with a staunch revolutionary once, was more about a symbolic transition.

And there is another angle that is very interesting. Presuming the Presidency’s announcement that it was not aware of the announcement prior, then people’s perception of it as a threat against Morsi and the FJP is justified. I think, personally, the jubilant opposition will be again covering their balls shortly.  But factions and politicians in this context seem to have the foresight of a goat and the memory of a fruit fly.

Still, this does suggest that my original inclination regarding the ‘forced retirement’ of Anan and Tantawi in favor of al-Sisi was not undertaken with considerable military complicity.  Many if not most believed this was an orchestrated fait accompli orchestrated to prevent their prosecution.  I think, reinforced by recent events, that I hold to my original position. Morsi may have pushed them out under agreement with a newer guard. And the old guard is probably maneuvering for at least some revenge – even if merely humiliation. And Anan’s resignation in that respect is not surprising. But for many others who assumed a greater level of complicity, this probably should change some calculations.

In particular, it is probably wrong to think of Morsi as some sort of dictator. Dictators, at least in Rome, were elected but they had absolute power – and for life. Morsi is gradually having his back hair planed off through the bureaucratic friction he has inherited.  And he has also stoked this by virtue of an abrasive style and by simply being an outsider. The real problem is that many of the people calling for his ouster and the return of the military are probably mostly upset because of the military’s economic and political domination. And it seems, at least as of yesterday, that domination has continued more or less unabated.