Trita tweeted this in reference to the violence erupting in Egypt in the wake of now-former President Morsi being ousted by the military; and the violent reactions by the Muslim Brotherhood movement that Morsi came from. It’s a salient point, especially when you consider the full history of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It was the Muslim Brotherhood that assassinated President Sadat after he antagonized them. Before Sadat, President Nasser tried using the influence that the Brotherhood had in Cairo’s neighborhoods to bolster his own popularity, but the Brotherhood stood against him before he passed away. They remain a strong political force in Egypt despite Nasser banning them from the political process.
On a global scale, the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood produced Sayid Qutb, often thought of as the philosophical forefather of al-Qa’ida. It didn’t help that Qutb was tried and executed by the Nasser administration — hence, made into a martyr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, known in the Western world as “Number Two” in al-Qa’ida, came from the Egyptian middle class, became a doctor, and took Brotherhood views to the extreme. He formed a group called Al Jihad, and later courted Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had the money — which was why al-Zawahiri targetted him — and the drive for Islamist zeal, but al-Zawahiri is the brains behind the operation. In American parlance, you can think of al-Zawahiri as being Dick Cheney to bin Laden’s puppet role as Bush.
Indeed, when you play with the Muslim Brotherhood, you’re playing with fire. You’re also playing with incompetent administrators of government and public services, too. For example, this article from only a coupe of weeks ago said that “Egypt has enough diesel fuel to last eight days, butane enough for ten days and petrol enough for 14 days.”
If your government “governed” you into a fuel crisis, which would have the domino effect of leading you to a food crisis and beyond, you would be out on the streets protesting, too. The Egyptian military intervened to remove an incompetent President Morsi from office — a “military coup”, if you will — but the classical example of a military coup does not have millions of citizens in the streets preceding it. It can be argued that, instead of the military’s actions being a “coup”, their actions can be construed as pre-crisis intervention to save Egyptian lives.
Right now, the question about the Egyptian military’s actions should center around whether or not they are saving lives, or a potential civil war, in the long run. Egypt’s neighbor Libya just went through a bloody civil war. Syria, a country that was briefly united with Nasser’s Egypt as one country, is going through a civil war with no end in sight.
Personally, I never thought that Egypt would face the threat of a civil war because Egypt’s national boundaries weren’t drawn under Western colonial terms. Unlike other countries in the region where different populations of people are forced to live with each other, different groups of Egyptians live together by choice. But I haven’t visited Egypt in a while to get an in-person feel for the mood of the country, and an incompetent government throwing the country into potential fuel, food and economic crises can cause desperation that causes people to act incredibly irrationally.
So, the question remains: Will the actions of the Egyptian military save lives or exacerbate the problems? As Trita mentioned, you don’t want to radicalize the radicals. But are the other options far more worse?
Time, as the cliche dictates, will tell. I hope that we’re seeing the best case scenario play out right now. I’m not defending this scenario as being “good”, but when the other options are Libya or Syria, then you make due with what you have.