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Egypt must cooperate, or it will fall

Posted: July 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The land of the Pharaohs is in dismay — again. On July 3, the Egyptian Army ousted the democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, in a coup d’etat that was initially bloodless, but now is slowly turning violent as various political factions clash in the streets of Cairo and elsewhere. Egyptians must now recognize they stand on the precipice of disaster.

I will admit I never saw the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011 coming, but I wasn’t surprised given the air of revolution that permeated the region at the time. After Mubarak was deposed, the Egyptian Army (the strongest and most respected institution in the country) manned the helm of state for 18 months, but unfortunately found itself unable to govern effectively.

In early 2012, the Egyptian people became increasingly frustrated and began to rally and call for elections which ultimately brought the Muslin Brotherhood to power, and with it, Mohamed Morsi. The Army accepted the will of the people, but was weary about how the Islamists would govern and whether or not Egypt’s secular traditions would be eclipsed by the crescent. To be clear, the Army’s only desire is to maintain the stability and integrity of the Egyptian state — and has no desire to govern.

So now, one year later, many of the concerns of the secularists, liberals, and the Army itself have come to life as Morsi proved to be just as ineffectual at governing as the Army was and made a grab for more and more power, to the exclusion of others among Egypt’s political factions. Once again, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets and demanded Morsi resign.

On July 1, the Army gave Morsi an ultimatum to meet the demands of the protesters within 48 hours or they would intervene. Morsi defied the Army’s ultimatum and refused to leave office. On July 3, the Defense Minister relieved Morsi of his office and the Army soon appointed the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court as the interim President of Egypt. The Army has pledged to quickly prepare for new elections and has banned parties based on religion.

Egypt’s future is more uncertain now than it has ever been as various forces within and without Egypt exert themselves and attempt to influence its political trajectory. The United States finds itself in the awkward position of having first supported the ouster of a longtime secular friend in Mubarak, calling for elections which subsequently (and democratically) brought Islamists to power — and has now backed a military coup d’etat against a democratically elected government.

The United States obviously prefers a more secular government at the helm, but America’s top concerns are namely that Egypt will not attack Israel and that the Suez Canal remains open to international trade. If American foreign policy sounds dysfunctional, that’s because it is. I wish I could tell you what President Obama wants to see in Egypt, or in the rest of the Middle East, but frankly, I don’t think even he knows.

Egypt must come to grips with the many challenges it faces. The secular forces of the Army and the old guard must find a way to include all political factions in Egypt (yes, even the Islamists), and the Muslim Brotherhood must learn to moderate in a modern world and reject violence as a tenet of Islam and their political ideology. Everyone must be included or stability will continue to elude Egypt.

Thomas Friedman recently remarked in his column in the New York Times that “the Brotherhood posits that “Islam is the answer.” The military favors a return to the deep state of old. But more religion alone is not the answer for Egypt today and while the military-dominated deep state may provide law and order and keep Islamists down, it can’t provide the kind of fresh thinking and educational, entrepreneurial, social and legal reforms needed to empower and unleash Egypt’s considerable human talent and brainpower.”

Mr. Friedman captures the essence of the type of political reconciliation Egyptians must undergo in order to build a brighter future for themselves and their posterity.

Kevin Bayona is a Valencia resident. He earned a BA in international relations and political science from Fairfield University, studied global affairs at New York University, and is a member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.


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