These days, Canada’s msm is refreshingly unimpressed by the CNN-style infatuation with the twitterers of Tahrir, crca 2011.
A very nice analysis of the situation that faces Egypt in the near term. I had always understood that modern Egypt is a net food importer and, thus, needs some semblance of an organized government to ensure that these imports continue to arrive with some sort of regularity.
I did have one question, that might be better put in a private communication, so no worries if you don’t feel like answering in this forum. What is your opinion on the job that Amb. Anne Patterson has done up until now? I was involved with some Pakistani programs back in 2008 and 2009, when she was the Ambassador to Pakistan, and I had some deep misgivings on how the embassy was handling the situation in Islamabad. I had no personal contact with Patterson, but her staff seemed a little out of their league, if you catch my drift. Was that something that should have been laid on her doorstep or do modern ambassadors have very little control over how an embassy functions and operates in a foreign nation?
With regard to Egypt, is there any influence, either good or bad, that she can exert in Cairo or is she just as much a bystander to events as most people? Again, if you would rather not address this, I’ll be glad to shoot you an email and talk about this privately. Thanks again for this enlightening article.
I’m reading Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, where I came across this Egyptian Arab proverb: “The world is like a cucumber — today it’s in your hand, tomorrow up your arse.”
This must explain something deep about Egypt, but I can’t figure out what ….
I love Durrell’s work, and the Alexandria Quartet especially. Thanks so much for bringing this wonderful quote. I never heard it in Egypt, but I don’t doubt its description. It just sounds Egyptian–Egyptians have by far the best and most sophisticated sense of humor of all the Arabic-speaking countries. As for what it means, well, I think it means that one’s fortunes are subject to rapid change. Ya’ think, President Morsi?
I will now become a regular reader of your blog – for the same reason I am a reader of Professor Mead. The “Geopolitical” and “Context” that are missing from MSM leaves me hungry for some “Real Meat”.
This blog reminds me of the how WRM expanded my understanding of the historical context of the Greek situation – it is all context. It is not an American experience, which is all that I knew until recently.
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I don’t know anyone who wanted Mubarak in power forever. That is a straw man argument. Mubarak had scheduled elections, but Obama just couldn’t wait the 7 months and supported an immediate coup.
So instead of a reasonably stable power transition, we got the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi, dead copts, raped reporters, constant protests, a totally broken economy and political chaos.
To be clear, the choice at the time was (a) Mubarak for 7 more months, then a fairly honest election to replace him, or (b) a coup now and chaotic elections with the MB likely to take power. Obama chose (b).
This is complex. At the time, the initial sense was to stick with Mubarak, and those were the instructions given to Frank Wisner. But by the time his plane landed, the intell suggested that seven months might as well have been seven years–the judgment was that waiting that long was a non-option, because the military and/or the mobs would preempt. Moreover, exactly how much influence we had on what Tantawi and company decided concerning Mubarak remains speculative at this point: I’ve seen no credible evidence that we made them do something they otherwise would not have done. Nor, at the time, was it clear that the Army post-Mubarak would lose control to the Brotherhood. So I think your contention oversimplifies at least three layers of complexity.
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Thank you Adam for an excellent and powerful article on the roots of the current Egyptian situation.
There are a few points I would add, which themselves would perhaps be an excellent basis for a follow up essay.
First, the original aim of the MB government was to pattern itself on the Turkish AK model. You present a powerful argument why this would never have worked in practice, but nonetheless it was a widely accepted raison d’être, acknowledged by Mr Obama and Mr Morsi both.
(Aside: I would say the actual pattern for the future is Pakistan, not Turkey.)
At the time I thought that Morsi would go carefully over years, as Erdogan has done. Instead he went with indecent haste, by purging the top levels of the army (like Ergenekon) and stacking the constitutional convention. The current backlash is reflective of this coup de main.
An analysis of why the attempt to model on Turkey failed would be very interesting from your perspective.
I suspect one big driver of the situation is the pressure the MB is getting from the Salafists. They received a large plurality in the 2011 parliamentary election (28%) and have been dogging Morsi’s heels throughout. It seems likely that much of Morsi’s actions have be a mix of impatience (after decades of the MB being stymied) and fear of losing their base to the Salafists if they didn’t move more quickly to an overt Islamist platform.
The third point is that there have been signs of an increase in piousness in the Army at lower levels in the officer corps, which may have tempered the Army from intervening earlier.
All this adds up to a need for the MB to try to grasp the opportunity of power quickly, with a hope to consolidate it along the lines of Hamas in Gaza. They may have overestimated their support inside the army, as the Army ultimatum suggests. But if so why has Morsi issued a counter ultimatum? It will be very interesting to see whether his seemingly desperate roll of the dice works or not. I hope for the sake of Egypt that it doesn’t.
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According to Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al-Ahram, the military has told President Mohamed Morsi that he is no longer head of state. The Egyptian military will suspend the country’s constitution provisionally and give presidential powers to the Chairman of the Supreme Consitutional Court, Adly Mansour, who will also decide when new elections will take place.
LINK TO LIVE STREAMING PROTESTS
“The deep state will once again, slowly or not-so-slowly but surely, come under the full direction of the army.” Very prescient and informative – MSM Arab Spring (Egyptian) pundits ought to be reading Adam Garfinkle.
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Your analysis may be 1/2 correct, but is better than most orientalist. The MB had the chance, Egyptians supported MB based upon MB’s marketing machine. The MB should have triangulated the deep state – hand in hand with other forces-but paranoid MB’s leaders failed. I predict 3rd revolution over next 5-7 yrs based upon SLOW return of the deep state& quieting this generation by including its leaders in the “political machine” and corruptible ways (cooling them off). The deep state is now triangulating the “youth”. I know because I was a “youth” in 70’s, and we were triangulated by Sadat.I have seen the MB & others (GI& J) on the “ground” & worked against them-admiring their discipline but despising their methods & philosophy. Egypt can’t be fixed and will not be fixed. Its best bet was with MB-sad but is true- and they failed miserably. On the ground, we knew the MB will fail; but never SO FAST! Egypt’s problems are incredibly easy to fix since the common man want simple things to live by; Egyptians are not greedy! If the government give its people clean streets and room to breath- most will be happy with their lot in life-going back to the “I” in IBM;we have the “N” added to it as in”Nasiby”=kismet=fate.! The MB can come back brilliantly, if they enumerate its errors & apologize to the Egyptians publicly-taking a political break and watch next govt fail; deleting its stupid Sharia & Islamic Nazism from its mantra & focusing on the “non corruptible” members as its next cadre working to triangulate the deeps state & radical Islamists. Would the MB do so? No; because they are too proud & self destructive living in its own self fulfilling prophecy. I wish we had the same masses in the 70’s! The good people of this generation left Egypt in 70’s-80’s! Not necessarily we were better equipped! not at all-but because the deep state was not as deep.
An an Egyptian, My only comment is that you are IBM.
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There is a basic balance in every society: Consumption has to equal production, plus external subsidies and minus tribute paid to external entities. In the contemporary global economy, does Egypt have the productive capacity to either (1) produce domestically or (2) pay for imports of the food, fuel, and other necessities that would provide for consumption by all Egyptians at (at least) a survival level?
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