07.06.2013 09:40 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: democracy, the passing fad

“There will be lots of blood.”

That’s what the Egyptian man in Cairo, working for a Canadian telecommunications company, has just said. “There will be blood,” he said, matter-of-factly discussing the fate of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi. “The army will support the people.”

It was back in May, and the young Egyptian was calm, his tone almost indifferent, as if he were discussing the weather. “It is very bad, here,” he told his Canadian inquisitor. “There will be blood spilled before too long.”

A coup was imminent, he explained, because “everything” was bad in Egypt. Crime was rampant, and the economy was in shambles. There were food shortages, and lineups for gas. Inflation, division, uncertainty: Egypt, he said, had it all. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi would be driven out of power by the armed forces, he concluded. It was just a matter of time.

Not too much time, as things turned out.

As the world now knows, my amateur Egyptian analyst was quite prescient: Last Wednesday, Mursi was deposed in a military coup — and thousands jammed into Tahrir Square, to cheer … what? The end of Mursi? The end of the Muslim Brotherhood? The end of democracy?

Because, make no mistake, it is democracy that has received a near-fatal blow in Egypt. Mohamed Mursi was the first — note that well, the first — democratically elected president in Egypt’s history.

However much he was despised by his fellow citizens (for his rank incompetence) or by Islamaphobes in the West (for his Muslim Brotherhood pedigree) that much cannot be disputed: Mursi was a democrat, and democratically elected. Now he, and his Brotherhood, will likely come to believe that democracy is a farce — and become radicalized.

Watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer attempting to analyze the latest chapter in the Egyptian drama, on Wednesday evening, was comedic.

“This is a historic event,” he chirped, over and over, as if a military coup overthrowing democracy was somehow something to celebrate.

It isn’t, Wolf, not at all.

And, watching the throngs in Tahrir Square — where one goes (if you’re male) to demand political change, or (if you’re a woman) to be sexually assaulted by a mob — one could not help but ask: “Are the people today celebrating a military coup not the same people who were demanding democracy, in the same square, just two years ago?”

And, of course, they are. It is my Shiny Ball Theory of politics: Sometimes — and for no logical reason whatsoever, and not just in Egypt — people will chase after the latest faddish thing, and against their own self-interests.

Because it is “new.” Because it is different. Because they are unaware, or uncaring, that they are removing one yoke just to take on another (heavier) yoke.

Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss, etc.

The notion that the grass is always greener on the other side isn’t a new one, nor is it a uniquely Egyptian phenomenon.

But, watching the unfolding events in Egypt, we are reminded that it can often lead to spectacularly disastrous results. In a country of 80 million, with no single opposition voice and no clear sense of where Egypt is heading, it is difficult to believe that further bloodshed can now be avoided.

Democracy is imperfect, and, of course, so too are the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Mursi.

During their short tenure, however, the Brotherhood and Mursi did not renege on the peace treaty with Israel — and they dealt with Hamas and anti-Israel elements with brutal efficiency.

Outside Egypt, it should be recalled that they were a comparatively stabilizing influence.

Inside Egypt, however, they were not. Economic and social chaos were Muorsi’s most enduring domestic legacy. In the short term, he and his Muslim Brotherhood will not be missed. In the long term, however, there will indeed be blood.

On that point, our young Cairo resident unfortunately has it right.


  1. !o! says:

    eh, dunno.

    Whoever gets elected or installed next will not have it easy, and there will be more unrest.
    The demonstrations in Egypt do not have a single coherent theme, except ‘change the government’, and a very vague sense of unease with the way things are (centralization of power/wealth, etc. same thing you see everywhere these days)– but the peoples’ demands are disparate, even contradictory.

    The uprising is not centered around a single philosophy or a single ideology, and the ‘movement’ itself isn’t actually a movement– it’s not a coherent grassroots organization/group/network with a coherent set of leaders or figures or even symbols.

    The old elites from the previous regime(s) are still at all the levers of power, that isn’t changing even if the face of ‘government’ is.

    And the Muslim Brotherhood still has its own set of supporters, the most partisan of which are none too happy with current events.

    I don’t like calling it a passing fad. It’s a continuous struggle– what nearly all Egyptians want is a government that reflects the people it serves, that is accountable, power that isn’t in the hands of a tiny set of elites, and the ability to live a decent life– they didn’t get that with the outgoing regime, they didn’t get it with the previous one, they likely won’t get it with whoever finds his way into the presidency, so the pot will continue to boil until they do.

    • Fraternite says:

      I’m not so sure there’s a meaningful entity called what you label “Egyptians”. The whole problem is that the society is badly split, and at this point I’m not sure that any government would manage to avoid huge street protests and demonstrations.

      Blood does need to be spilled, but not because of this particular governmental change or coup or whatever we call it — it needs to be spilled because the various Egyptian societies aren’t willing to share power and government is impossible for the time being.

  2. frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    It would be great if the military leadership could restore order, reduce crime, reduce shortages and curb inflation…but they themselves are a good part of the problem……….from this CBC program…..albeit an old one…..some say that the military controls 30% of the Egyptian economy…..http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/World/Audio/ID/2194571490/?page=10

  3. Jim Aboud says:

    A high-ranking Israeli general speaking, unofficially, to an Egyptian general asked him the question: “Is the Egyptian armed forces prepared to engage in all-out war with the Israeli army, because the Muslim Brotherhood is in control of Egypt now?”

    There is only one democratic election, and then the Muslim Brotherhood relapses back into Islamic rule with no more “democratic” elections. Also, the Brotherhood will methodically remove the current military cadre and install their own people, just as was done in Venezuela by Chavez. With the Egyptian army controlled by Brotherhood extremists and supporting Hamas, the war drums will be beating loudly. The Israelis cannot accept such a threat from Egypt.

    If Syria falls to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Israelis will be surrounded by muslim extremists on most borders. How long can Jordan survive under the Hashemite kingdom?

    Under these looming circumstances, the Israelis would be forced to attack first to neutralize the Brotherhood threat, and their first target must be the organized Egyptian army which would be laid to waste and the Egyptian generals would lose their precious kingdoms and ranks.

    The Egyptian generals seeing a threat to their position in the Egyptian army, instigated a coup to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood threat to their survival, the survival of their armies and most certainly not willing to see their armies decimated at the hands of the Israelis.

  4. ottawacon says:

    The element I believe you are underplaying too much in the lament for democracy was the constitutional changes under Mursi. While some of the measures were likely widely accepted, the de facto award of a constitutional veto to Sharia scholars is the sort of abuse of constitutionalism to entrench power that destabilizes democracy by making it the absolute rule of 50%+1. I fear democracy never had a chance in Egypt.

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    This is a disaster for Israel. And it has been inflicted on her by the United States. The Obama Administration has done incredible damage to its credibility across the Middle East. Washington’s influence in the region is headed toward an all-time low. United States interests are now in peril in many an Arab capital. In short, fingerprints that are at the very least counter-productive.

  6. Andy says:

    1-Morsi, Mursi, Muorsi; should be spelled consistently.

    2-It takes rose coloured glasses to see Morsi and the Brotherhood as Democrats. They had the popular will behind them in 2011, but were probably less democratic in their inclinations than say, Hugo Chavez, and aspired to create something like the Iranian theocracy. There is a myth among neo-cons and certain Liberals to the effect that the Western model of democracy can be implanted in any country and that democracy will always make things better. The reality is that democracy can only work when certain societal fundamentals are in place; the rule of law, respect for human rights and private property, separation between religion and state, gender and racial equality, etc. Without them “democracy” will always be about mobs overthrowing dictators to install new ones, with plenty of destruction and anarchy in between.

    • Ottawa Civil Servant says:

      As a a ‘conservative,’ i’d like to state that your preconditions for democracy have ZERO historical precedent. Gender equality is a modern, western construct; all western democracies were founded on rights of property owners, not universality; corruption and patronage were integral to the system; George Washington feared an American coup more than a British return; and ‘separation of church and state’ was always with a wink and a nod, as the state was based on shared Judeo-Christian heritage with an inherent respect for the individual.

      The issue is, Islam is defined as submission to God, rather than love of the individual. Now, build a democracy based upon that foundation and you’re guarenteeing a wholly different beast than in the West.

      And Turkey, before you claim otherwise, was the creation of a single man (Attaturk) imposing his will and secularism.

  7. tf says:

    To learn more about what to expect in Egypt, study the French Revolution – it didn’t occur in a springtime.

    Rioting mobs stormed the Bastille in 1789 but the monarchy elite wasn’t finally toppled until 1870 when the title of “King” was abolished.

    Let’s hope the Egyptian people will take less time and fewer lives to accomplish what it took the French people 81 years and 100s of thousand deaths to accomplish.

  8. Gerry says:

    Your “Shiny Ball Theory” certainly explains some of the Justin Trudeau hype here in Canada.

  9. GPAlta says:

    As usual, Eric Margolis has some valuable background that is missing from most other coverage

  10. Ahmir el Salwadi says:

    Some say that the Muslim Brotherhood are democratically elected and therefore legitimate. Hitler too was technically democratically elected after a long season of terrorizing the population and marginalizing opposition. Robert Mugabe the self-describe “Hitler of Africa” was democratically elected with an overwhelming ninety percent. Of course, he too maintained his grip on power with his North Korean trained 5 Brigade that terrorized any and all opposition. Pseudo-democracy is not democracy.

    Stockholm syndrome is the now famous phenomenon where hostages, members of cults, slaves and other captives form a strong bond and identification with their captors, even to the point of fighting alongside their captors against attempts to liberate them. Psychologists generally believe it is a survival mechanism precipitated in an atmosphere of intense violence and total psychosocial control.

    Egyptian society is awash with brutality and violence, especially against women. For example, Muslim Brotherhood (MB) MP Mohamed el-Omda objected to the criminalization of female genital mutilation – these men know that holding down girls and hacking off their clitoris is a terror well designed to create this perverse bond with their oppressive society. Along with female genital mutilation, women are subjected to the veil, routine beatings, constant surveillance, etc.

    This practice is not confined to Egypt or other Arab lands: in 1998, Dr. Ali Abu Shwaima, an Italian Brotherhood leader and former officer of the Federation of Islamic Organization in Europe (FIOE), was implicated in the operation of a clandestine circumcision clinic where operations were performed in unsanitary conditions. Dr. Shwaima was sentenced to five months in prison in connection with these activities.

    These Egyptians who have liberated their minds and their hearts to throw off the oppressive yoke should be applauded and supported. These women who merely want to save their daughters’ clitorises and not stew and stagnate under the heavy veil of the Muslim Brotherhood are freedom fighters of the highest order and I salute them in all humility.

    To the George Galloway and Sacha Trudeau school of demented geopolitics: wake up you backward hillbillies! Even your supposed comrades the Russians are wise enough to ban the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. If they day comes when these fiery Arab women string you up alongside these demented clerics, you have only your supreme recalcitrance to blame.

    Power to the Egyptian People !


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