During the hours and days following Morsi’s ousting, western pundits, Americans in particular, rushed to condemn the events in varying measure. The overriding sentiment: Egypt had taken an axe to the sapling of democracy that had sprouted hardly a year earlier. The irony of such sentiment is not lost on me; especially considering it came on the eve of America’s Independence Day.
It is worth mentioning that for many American politicos, Egypt’s move represents something far more radical than they would be able to accept. For a people to overthrow an elected figure who was held in contempt was an unthinkable act. The implications of accepting an action of this sort are clear. If Egypt can dispose of an elected official, what’s to stop people elsewhere from doing the same?
This, whether conscious or not, may be the root of much of the west’s apprehension to the events of the 4July, and brings me to the first reason why I think the deposition of Morsi is worth supporting. That is, whether or not it was the army that ultimately pulled the trigger and made a coup d’etat, removing Morsi sends a clear message: any leader who cannot or does not represent the interests of Egyptians will be promptly removed.
Those who say that such action is undemocratic or undermines Egypt’s stability are simply wrong. Revolutionary action is a democratic right, and it is the right of revolutionaries to take back their government if they see fit. To say that the only thing that separates democracy from mob rule is a ballot box is utter nonsense. There are only two possible positions to hold in this regard: Either you accept that Thomas Jefferson was right, democracy is de facto mob rule, and get on with it anyway, or you realise that the siren song of relying on the ballot box is the enemy of participatory democracy everywhere.
The only fair argument in defense of Morsi is that it is unlikely he really had much control over the government to begin with. His short tenure was plagued with infighting, and the government was peppered with corrupt officials and remnants of the old regime. This is an understatement though. In reality, Morsi never had a chance; he was given a government absolutely clogged with corruption and warring parties. The road map proposed by Tamarod should have been fought for much earlier on; who knows how Morsi would have turned out if comprehensive dissolution of corrupt government elements had been pursued earlier.
It is because of this that I am sympathetic to the Egyptians that remain disheartened over Morsi’s departure, though I reiterate that the legitimacy of his ousting must be maintained. Regardless of debate over such claims, what’s done is done. If you’ll forgive the levity, this 4 July Egypt made itself very clear: Morsi, we are never ever getting back together.
Given the finality of the break, what is important in the time to come is avoiding a prolonged battle (both literal and figurative) with the so-called Islamists. First and foremost such a battle is simultaneously a distraction from the army and an excuse for them to continue to “keep the peace.” Regardless of whether or not one thinks they acted on behalf of the people, in their own interests, or under the direction of the United States, it is certain that if allowed, they will continue to move forward with impunity. The chance remains to fully bend them to popular will.
More disturbing are the banks to Egypt’s east. The dust hadn’t even settled over Morsi and the Gulf was running for their pocket book. After less than a week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait had stepped forward pledging $12bn in various grants and loans, with some speculating further funds are on the horizon.
Such sums in times of economic crisis like Egypt faces currently stand to wield some heavy political weight. Will the coming months become a bidding war for proxy power over Egypt between the Gulf and the incumbent US? If so, this is an auction the US can’t afford to win, and it has been said elsewhere that US military aid has become moot given the severity of the crises Egypt faces. Certainly the $2bn or so that Egypt usually receives from the US seems like peanuts when compared to what the Gulf is offering.
Of course, to paraphrase an old NDP party member, Egypt has long been living a disaster, the result of being run by a gang of thieves who have sold the country for cheap. This may never have been more relevant than now. Maybe this time around, the country won’t get sold as cheaply, but if the country continues infighting while the army is off courting bidders, it will be sold all the same.