A Brief History of Modern Egyptian Politics

As Mubarak Lay Dying

Posted by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker

June 20, 2012

Sixty years ago, a group of military officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, forced Farouk I, an Ottoman leftover who styled himself King of Egypt and Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, Kordofan, and Nubia, to rush to his yacht and seek exile in Monaco. In this effort, they were assisted by the C.I.A., which was dismayed by the decadence and corruption that characterized Farouk’s reign. The operation was known informally as “Project FF”-Fat Fucker. It was one of the many attempts to steer Egypt in what American policymakers think might be the right direction. They must look back at that period with a sense of woe-if, indeed, they ever reflect on history at all.

Nasser’s charisma and energy awakened the entire region to the postcolonial era, but he failed to find an accommodation with the Islamic trend, and he turned to Israel as a scapegoat. Sadat, his successor, had the courage to reach a peace treaty with Israel. He saw the foolishness of depending on the Soviet Union as an ally and socialism as an economic model. He also tried to find a way to incorporate the Islamists into civil society, at least by letting them out of prison, and they responded by murdering him.

Hosni Mubarak, who now may be dying-Tuesday, he was briefly reported clinically dead-was an excellent military officer, and a capable bureaucrat, but he had no independent vision and no idea how to escape the impediments to progress that the original coup had imposed. Immediately after Sadat’s assassination, in 1981, Mubarak imposed emergency rule, which essentially authorized unbridled dictatorial power masked by a façade of democratic elections. Under his rule, freedom of speech and assembly were tightly constrained. These restrictions on liberty crushed other forms of political expression, so that the Islamists-the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical forms of political Islam-became the only real way to voice opposition to Mubarak’s reign. Military dictatorship and Islamism became the axis upon which Egyptian politics revolved.

The decision by the Egyptian military to dissolve a freely elected parliament earlier this month-predicated on a court decision by Mubarak holdovers-amounts to a second military coup. Once again, it has been assisted by the American decision to continue to support the antidemocratic forces that have retarded the development of Egypt. A moderate Islamist government, responsive to the social needs of the country, is the best that the U.S. can expect now, and what the people of Egypt have demanded by their votes.

America is unlikely to have any influence on the future of Egypt if it continually opposes and demonizes the longing of Egyptians to achieve real democratic expression, with all its hazards. Sixty years of unaccountable military dictatorship have shown how sterile the alternative is. … (I)t’s time to pull the plug on American support of this antidemocratic, military regime.

Of course it could merely be a bathroom slip and fall.  Nothing to see here.

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