‘The Day the Revolution Died’: Amid Protests, Egypt’s Military Makes Its Move

Here is what experts, journalists and local bloggers are saying about the situation in Egypt

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Nariman El-Mofty / AP

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi wave national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo on July 1, 2013

The Egyptian military issued a 48-hour ultimatum for President Mohamed Morsi to put an end to the massive showdown ongoing in the streets of Egypt between the opposition and Morsi’s supporters. The move was interpreted by many as the first stage of a coup, with the country’s military intervening against an elected Islamist government that has controversially held sway during Egypt’s current short fling with democracy. Here is what experts, journalists and local bloggers are saying about the situation.

Steven Cook, Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the military has always been angling to retain power.

Despite [authoritarian former President Hosni] Mubarak’s departure and all that has changed in Egypt, the military remains the ultimate source of power and authority in a system that was not actually overturned when Mubarak sought refuge in Sharm el Sheikh during what seems like another era. If anyone doubts this, events of the last few days should convince him or her otherwise …

The tone the military has struck up until this moment is perfectly suited for the officers’ ultimate goal which is, and has been, to salvage what they can from the wreckage of the January 25 uprising and preserve their place in Egyptian society.

Evan Hill, a Cairo-based journalist, details the rise of the opposition forces that culminated in this weekend’s massive protests against Morsi:

Egypt is more polarized than at any point since the revolution. Figures from the old regime — Omar Suleiman’s aide, the son of one of the Nile Delta’s longtime Mubarak power brokers — have re-emerged to rally supporters against the Brotherhood. The irony is not lost on many of the most dedicated revolutionaries, who wonder whether their causes have been hijacked and their voices marginalized once again. Others have set aside such concerns, saying the Brotherhood represents the more clear and present danger. The enduring legacy of Mr. Morsi’s presidency, if he does not survive his four-year term, may be his inadvertent facilitation of the counter-revolution.

Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, calls out Morsi’s “arrogant and high-handed style of governing” on Truthdig.

Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, represents the equivalent of the American Tea Party in Egyptian politics — captive to the religious right, invested in austerity and smaller government, and contemptuous of workers and the political left. In his first year in office, the nation’s first freely elected head of state has squandered Egyptians’ willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has acted like the President of the somewhat cultish Muslim Brotherhood, rather than like the President of the whole country.

Middle East–based journalist Patrick Galey writes in his blog post “The Day the Revolution Died” that the military’s ultimatum is a step backward for democrats.

I’ve learned a basic and terrifying truth today: That many would rather see a military junta rule with impunity and autocracy than see a democratic [administration] govern with fecklessness and error. That many people who call themselves revolutionaries and advocates of democracy simply hate Islamism more than they love freedom. That people are fully prepared to welcome the army back to political life, cheerily, with a cheer, two fingers up to those killed since 2011, and a good riddance to Egypt’s first experiment with democracy.

H.A. Hellyer, a nonresident fellow at Brookings Institute, writes on Foreign Policy that the military’s ultimatum is effectively a coup to ensure stability.

The Egyptian military is not, and never has been, an ideological institution. Its main concerns have been to maintain its independence vis-à-vis the rest of the state, and to ensure the stability of Egypt — without which it would be forced to involve itself in the mess of governing tens of millions of Egyptians …

The statement today can be summed up, perhaps a bit unkindly, as: “We’ve chosen no one’s side but our own in this mess, and we’re rather annoyed that you (the political elite) could not sort out things on your own.”

Mahmoud Salem, an Egyptian blogger and political activist, writes that Sunday’s showing in the streets was sufficient to discredit Morsi’s legitimacy.

While we are at it, dear Western analysts and pundits: please don’t tell us that we shouldn’t take to the streets and overthrow a regime that violates our rights, kills us, places itself above all accountability (popular or judicial) and fails at providing even the most basic functions of the state due to its insistence on resorting to nepotism over efficiency and experience. You have institutions, we don’t.

Caroline Freund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, writes in Bloomberg View that beneath the protests and beyond the politicking, it’s the economy, stupid.

The need for reform is growing more urgent by the day. Unemployment is above 13 percent, from 9 percent in 2010. The most recent data show that one-quarter of the population is living in poverty, and the share is rising. Foreign reserves had plummeted from $36 billion before the revolution to about $13 billion in March of this year before funds from Qatar arrived. The black markets for dollars and fuel are thriving.