Tuesday, July 02, 2013

What's happening in Egypt? Well, for one thing, millions of Egyptians have rejected the Muslim Brotherhood.

A remarkable drama is playing out in Egypt, but it's not at all clear where it's going.  So I'm waiting to for the picture to come into focus.

Meanwhile, Michael Totten and Sandmonkey point to one striking aspect of the crisis.
Egyptian activist and blogger Sandmonkey posted the following on Twitter: “Dear World, pay attention: Muslims protesting in the millions against Islamism. This is Historic.”
Yes, it is.  One could say that something like that is already happening in Turkey, and it is definitely one element in Turkey's current protest wave (though only one).  But in a country like Turkey, whose political culture and recent history are vastly different from those of any Arab country, that's less startling.  In Egypt, this really is a dramatically significant development.  What's startling is not the discovery that there is non-Salafist opposition to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood by large sectors of Egyptian society, including some devout Muslims—we knew that already—but that they can actually bring millions of people into the streets.

However, it's not at all clear that the various tendencies united in rejection of the MB government (just as they were united, a few years ago, in rejection of the Mubarak regime) can generate a coherent and effective political alternative that could actually govern the country instead.  For that reason among others, what this confrontation will mean in the long run, or even in the next few months, is far from obvious.
Political Islam may be in the process of being discredited in Egypt before our very eyes. Then again, the Salafists may win hearts and minds by saying the Muslim Brothers were too moderate, that the only solution to what ails Egypt is their stern and unyielding and total imposition of political Islam.

Egypt could revert to its age-old default condition and be ruled again by a military dictatorship.
("Age-old" really means 61 years, beginning with the 1952 military coup that brought the Free Officers, and eventually Nasser, to power.  Is 61 years an "age"?)

Or various other possibilities could materialize, some of which Totten reels off.

I'll add another, just to give optimism a chance.  It's hypothetically possible, though unlikely, that a "soft coup" by the Army forcing the Muslim Brotherhood to share power with the non-Islamist opposition parties might strengthen the long-term chances for transition toward the emergence and consolidation of a more-or-less democratic representative regime.  As I say, that outcome doesn't look very likely, but why rule out the possibility completely?
Whatever comes next, the misnamed “Arab Spring” appears to be moving to a new phase.
True. Stay tuned.

—Jeff Weintraub