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    The Muslim Brotherhood Blows It

    One of the most startling things about the terrible events in Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the great-granddaddy of all Islamist movements, has blown its shot at governing the country, a chance the Brotherhood spent decades waiting and planning for. That does not excuse the military coup, and the Brotherhood isn't the only party to blame. But there's no point in pretending that Morsi and the Brotherhood have been defenders of constitutional democracy either, and their refusal to share power or respect civil process helped create the mess their country is in tonight. Those protesters in Tahrir Square are real, and their anger is real, and it's the Brotherhood that made them angry. Even if you took the Brotherhood's own position on events, that the military was just looking for an excuse for a coup, the Brotherhood gave them that excuse.

    If any Islamist group seemed capable of profiting from the Arab Spring, it was the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. They are the original Islamist party, founded in the 1920s, and they long ago became a major and venerable national institution. They are heavily involved in charity work across the country. They have steadily resisted decades of military rulers, and the British before them. They have proved themselves capable, for long stretches, of non-violent resistance, and they proved impossible for Farouk or Nasser or Mubarak to root out, because the Brotherhood has become an intrinsic part of Egyptian society. We are not talking about some upstart freak show like al-Qaeda, who are literally good for nothing but mayhem. The Muslim Brotherhood are Islamists, not jihadists. They're supposed to be the grownups, focused on building the country. And while I've admitted that I disagree with nearly all of their policies, I once had guarded hopes that the Brotherhood would settle down and become a normal political party inside a constitutional framework. The Brotherhood was, for many reasons, the Islamic religious party most capable of growing up, sharing power, and being a responsible role model for other Islamist groups. Now they've blown it. 

    The big mistake is refusing to share power. They have ruled like the single-party apparatus they used to resist, when the most important thing is to build national unity and make sure all constituencies are represented. That Morsi won the presidency with 51% should have been a warning, and it was. But Morsi refused to accept it. (51% of a presidential vote is okay in a mature democracy, where all the major parties are in agreement on the really big things, like who our national allies are or what form of government we have. A 51% victory in a brand-new democracy is a mandate to reach out and make partners, because you need them.) Morsi chose to rule like a dictator, issuing decrees to give himself more power and decreeing the court system powerless against him. I'd prefer to see the courts, and not the army, rein in Morsi, but Morsi himself made that impossible.

    And while ignoring any constituency but their own, the Brotherhood ignored the constituency that toppled the Mubarak regime. The Brotherhood waited decades for their movement to topple the generals, but it did not. The Mubarak regime was only toppled when a new protest movement, not associated with the Brotherhood and not necessarily sharing their goals, appeared in the streets. This was the revolution the Brotherhood was waiting for, but not the one they planned. They have spent the past two years treating the revolution that actually took place as if it had been the revolution they originally expected, a revolution of and by the Brotherhood alone. They ignored their revolutionary partners, who had put them in power in the first place. Now the people they refused to treat as partners are back in Tahrir Square, and the Brotherhood hasn't been shown any idea what to do about that except to try to hold on. It took them only two years to change places with Mubarak, in the worst possible way.


    I can't argue with your assessment that Morsi screwed up. He had his moments, like when he unilaterally reasserted presidential authority and fired Tantawi. But he also had colossal lapses of judgment, like when he virtually endorsed a holy war in Syria.

    The man was a product of his decades-long allegiance to the Brotherhood and, though he repeatedly proclaimed himself the president of all Egyptians, he couldn't sublimate that primary loyalty. Brotherhood leadership never shook off the mindset of an underground insurgency, and that made it hard to accommodate pluralistic viewpoints.

    But nobody comes off a winner in this coup -- except maybe, very temporarily, the army. It's depressing to see the celebrations in Tahrir Square, as people who just over a year ago risked death for democratic rule welcome back the autocrats they rightly overthrew. And the idea that the Brotherhood is just going to slink away in defeat is naive. If anything, the coup will re-radicalize them, and Egypt may be in for a new stretch of political turmoil, even violence.

    It's also odd to see the odd bunch of bedfellows who have welcomed the coup: Egyptian secularists and liberals, of course; the Saudi monarchy -- and Syrian President Bashar Assad, who hailed it as the end of political Islam. I suspect the Saudis instead see it as the elimination of a major rival for the leadership of political Islam.

    Actually the people come off a winner - it's not just a 1-trick back on your heads deal - they do want freedom & real democracy. I've been depressed that the Arab Spring had morphed into a West-backed military-backed motif for regime-change like Libya & Syria. Egypt just reclaimed the term - or "Tamarod" (rebel). Tunisia is doing same.

    Additionally, it's confirmation that choosing an Islamic government isn't a 1-way street, that they can shift out of it as well. And it seems to confirm that the military may have learned some lessons in being the backstop for political crises.

    But to support 1 of your comments, people note that the opposition is better at protesting than actually forming an effective political alternative and getting that elected. The Brotherhood won't shrink away. We'll see what happens next.

    Oh, I wouldn't pretend the military coup is a good thing. And I won't pretend to know how this is going to end up. There are so many possible bad endings here, and only a few good ones. When the Brotherhood blew its shot, it also blew Egypt's best chance for a sane and peaceful transition.

    I will say that most revolutions take place in phases. That's cold comfort, because the later stages have often gone badly. It is natural that a country doesn't immediately produce a workable political system immediately after getting rid of a failed despotism. On the other hand, each failed attempt makes the next try even more difficult.

    Juan Cole has a pretty good take, though I doubt his coinage of "revocouption" is going to catch on. Obama can't say it for domestic legal reasons, but it's a coup:

    Despite its claims of disinterest in political power, the military is already overreaching. The Mubarak-era judiciary and the unreformed Interior Ministry are leading the charge, with arrest warrants out for 300 Muslim Brotherhood officials. They are investigating two top MB leaders over eight deaths during a mob attack on MB headquarters, and in the case of Morsi trying to reinstate a Mubarak-era jail term on him. The crackdown is more than precautionary; it's vindictive and destabilizing.

    So far the Brothers have urged restraint on their followers, but having played the democratic game fair and square, they are not going to quietly accept being delegitimized again.

    It's very good, Juan Cole at his best.

    Edit to add: as to one of Juan Cole's main voiced concerns, I note just now that the NYT's Kirkpatrick  got an interview with El-Baradei, the article just published a couple hours ago, and there's this in it:

    Mr. ElBaradei, whose precise role in the interim government that is replacing Mr. Morsi’s is still unclear, vowed to ensure that “everybody who is being rounded up or detained, it is by order of the attorney general — and being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is no crime.”

    Except that ElBaradei is not yet in a position to know that or ensure that. The two trumped-up cases (and the number of arrest warrants) that I cite suggest a witchhunt.

    Well, it's also part of Mansour's first talking points. (And I note the National Salvation Front is echoing that.) So if they're doing a witch hunt, looks like they would have to be doing a "good MB" and "bad MB thing." They could maybe get away with hiding doing more if they keep the MB media under muzzle, but it's real labor intensive to do a complete job of that these days with the internet available.

    I'm not disagreeing or agreeing with most of your comment. Its difficult for me to sort out. Are the Brothers calling for restraint or terrorism and jihad? I think a case can be made either way depending on which leader you read. Clearly befoer the coup many were calling for civil war and terrorism, less so now. Are the arrests destabilizing or stabilizing? A case could be made that they are necessary to stop the Brothers from starting a civil war or that it is only the arrest warrants that are causing some leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood to urge restraint. Its just too soon for me to form clear opinions about these issues. I'll wait a while to see how it plays out with military rule.

    One thing though that I do disagree with is your view that the Brotherhood played the democratic game fair and square. The Brotherhood may have won the elections fair and square, though even that is in doubt. A third of the seats in parliament  were supposed to be reserved for independent candidates and contrary to its promise, they ran candidates for those seats. It was for this reason the Supreme Court dissolved the lower house of the parliament

    After Mursi brokered the cease fire between the Hamas and Israel he used his new found international reputation to issue several decrees expanding his power,  protecting his constitutional convention from any legal challenge, and decreeing that no law or declaration issued by him between his inauguration and the election of a new parliament could be overturned. by any authority including the judiciary. Certainly not "fair and square" and probably illegal.

    That's as good a breakdown as I've read anywhere.

    I'm struck by the differences between Erdogan and Morsi. Turkey and Egypt are very different, but both men led moderate Islamic parties and challenged secular militaries with a history of political interference.

    Erdogan was very smart about it. He slow-played his hand, building up his popularity with effective governance while gradually sidelining the military. He didn't openly confront the generals until 2007, five years after he took office. By that point, he had enough political muscle to defeat them. Only then did he begin to employ the strong-arm tactics that incited the Tahrir Square protests, which is why the Turkish military showed no sign of intervening.

    Morsi, on the other hand, overplayed a weak hand, as you've eloquently described.

    [assume you meant Taksim Square and Gezi Park for Turkey]

    Somehow this feels like conflating 2 different things. Morsi did a huge constitutional power grab. You can say "Erodogan slow-played" but it's not even slow play - he's governed pretty much in a secular style. The Taksim protests have been about knocking down part of the Ataturk cultural center to put in an Ottoman barracks and shopping center - not exactly a Sharia priority, but a combination of feared nostalgic revival and more handouts to monied interests.

    Erdogan is struggling to push his neo-Ottoman vision - and after his 3rd election, you might call it a mandate for change. Aside from the greater arrest of journalists in the last year, his big affronts have been to discourage drinking, to rename a bridge for a Sultan and to try to push through the barracks. At the same time as pushing his "neo-Ottoman" influence in the Balkans, he's very pro-EU. Of course secularists can still be worried about increased influence of Islam, there seems to be much less tangible than the rash of US legislatures pushing through anti-abortion legislation at night the last couple weeks. Yes, Erdogan decreased the power of the military over the last 10 years, which is only right in a country that's becoming stably democratic and aspiring for the EU. And while I admire Ataturk, I don't see a modest pride in the Ottoman period (no one's bringing back scimitars and fezes) as much more threatening than our love of cowboy attire despite its symbolism of a bloody phase in our history. Erdogan's actually improved relations with the long-suffering Kurds - yes, it also reflects the shared religion and conservative values, but isn't that part of democratic representation?

    Erdogan's biggest flaw has been his response to the recent protests, by then acting more authoritarian, sending in the police in bloody charges, and refusing to budge against obvious public sentiment. And he's being punished for this - by the very-much-alive courts which just canceled his project plus threw out additional penalties for actions against the state, and other political opposition. In short, the system is working and Erdogan hasn't dismantled it all - though seems the unimaginativeness of the opposition is also a problem in pulling together popular support.

    Nevertheless, the military remains a big question because of actions Erdogan took in early June to put over 120 generals on criminal trial for a decades-old coup, and then more actions announced June 27 to eliminate any military authority to respond to internal threats (coupled with a big denouncement of Egypt's military coup today).

    The point being that everything significant has happened since Erdogan's last re-election and mostly in the last month, not really a slow dissolving of power.

    Compare all this with Morsi, who having a weak hand to start, in his first year made several huge power grabs against the constitution and the pre-installed military to take powers into his own hands, as well as trying to drag Egypt into the Syria conflict.

    I don't see a fundamental disagreement between you and Michael, although I'd point out his extra-constitutional "power grabs" were aimed mainly at regaining powers that the military stripped from the presidency virtually the day he was elected. Also at keeping Mubarak-appointed judges from dissolving every legislative body on pretexts that were raised only after it was clear who had won. Morsi may well have been ham-handed, but please acknowledge he was fighting a rear-guard action against the "feloul" from Day One.

    It's interesting to compare Erdogan and Morsi, but I find debating whether Morsi got what he deserved frustrating in the same way I do discussion of Snowden: hero or traitor? Distractions. The real questions are what does this all mean for the future of Egyptian democracy, and what does this all mean for the future of U.S. democracy?

    As far as Egypt goes, I share this opinion:

    I'd point out his extra-constitutional "power grabs" were aimed mainly at regaining powers that the military stripped from the presidency virtually the day he was elected

    That's an extremely pro-MB interpretation. Protestors in November certainly didn't feel that way. It's a puzzle to me why are you so eager to make excuses for a party that roughly only a quarter of the Egyptian population has any confidence in after a period of rule. It's one thing to opine that Egypt is going about this the wrong way, it's another to make excuses when most Egyptians don't seem to agree with you. Why do you think you know better than that 75%? Or the more than 15 million that signed the petition calling for Morsi's removal? (22 million according to Tamarod.) Do you have family in the MB or something? Some special feelings for them? To me it's sort of like a Canadian coming on Dagblog and making excuses for the Tea Party, saying that they are not as bad as the majority of Americans are cracking them up to be.

    Whoa, art. Where is this ad-hominem stuff coming from? Do I have family in the MB? No, neither I nor any of my relatives are Muslim; I'm kinda irreligious, and would find it difficult living in a theocracy, or in Texas for that matter. But would it make a difference if I were? I offer my opinions on the same basis you do. They may be right or wrong; counter them if you want to and if you can.

    Same thing for "a Canadian coming on Dagblog and making excuses for the Tea Party." They are definitely not my cup of tea, but if I thought they were being unfairly impugned, I would feel free to say so. I follow both international and domestic U.S. policy closely enough that I feel qualified to comment on them. When my citizenship becomes a violation of Dagblog TOS, believe me, I'm outta here.

    Is the quote of mine you cite "an extremely pro-MB interpretation?" No, just factual; if I recall correctly, voting had already begun when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces stripped the presidency of most of its powers. Morsi's firing of the military's old guard was skilfully done and widely welcomed; his attempt to grant himself immunity from court rulings was not, and his reaction was to rescind it. The guy tried to walk a tightrope and failed. That doesn't make him evil incarnate.

    As for your assertion that three-quarters of Egyptians disagree with me, where's your data? Egypt has 85 million people. My sympathies lie with the educated, liberal and secular Cairenes and Alexandrians, but I recognize the majority of Egyptians remain poor, ill-educated, rural and devoutly religious.

    Yes, Morsi failed to craft a consensus between those worlds, but anyone who thinks the military understands how to unite the country is incredibly naive. Maybe the opposition can unite behind someone with the skill and the vision to do that before the promised early elections, but past performance suggests no. 

    And to clarify my intent in this thread, I thought it was a given that Morsi had botched it. (There's not much upside to a 1-year reign where he grabs a bunch of extrajudicial powers and then rushes to back Assad)

    My intent was to give Erdogan some credit - he's been pretty well demonized, but until the last month or 2, he's run a very stable acceptable government for over 2 terms despite a lot of doom-and-gloom at the beginning. His shelf-life is past, leaders by 3rd term are often awful, and his is proving the rule with his attitude towards protest & dissent.

    Nevertheless, Russia builds up cooperation via threats & goodies with its old Soviet minons, France has economic cooperation with all its former colonies, Britain still maintains its union of former colonies and spinoffs, Spain holds a special place in negotiating and trading with all its former conquests in the New World - but Turkey is demonized for any mention of Ottoman times or traditional links in the Balkans or Levant. Quite hypocritical. A touristic nostalgic monumentt to an Ottoman barracks won't bring back the Sick Man of Europe, and 100 years after Ataturk a woman who wears a headscarf shouldn't threaten Turkey's well-established position as a western-focused country with a secular Muslim outlook.

    Morsi didn't rush to back Assad; he did the exact opposite, tacitly backing the jihadi-led rebels. Similar to the policy Turkish protesters are holding against Erdogan.

    Sorry - actually didn't care about which side - getting involved in Syria's problems is a major distraction for Egypt's fragile new democracy. Palestine & Israel at least share a border.

    What I've read suggests that by the time he took part in that conference on Syria, Morsi already knew his days as president were numbered. If the expected coup materialized, better to have tossed the hardliners a bone to keep them on his side. Given the poor state of the economy, I doubt it had much resonance, even within the MB. If he was sucking up to the salafis, it didn't work. They backed the coup.

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