Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Egypt Explodes

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen offered the best comment on today’s events in Egypt. As you know, the military has launched a violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters.

To which Cohen tweeted:

The Obama Administration's #Egypt policy has been a complete shambles. Will be a case study in diplomatic ineptitude.

Few will notice it, so it needs to be said repeatedly, but the Obama administration decision to favor the Muslim Brotherhood has directly led to this catastrophe. I am sure that the scenes of today's violence will look good on Hillary Clinton’s resume.

To be fair and balanced, shame on John McCain and Lindsey Graham for doing the Obama administration’s diplomatic dirty work in Cairo. How did that one work out, guys?

The Economist reports on the events:

IT IS hard to imagine a more catastrophic outcome to the six-week stand-off that has pitted supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Muhammad Morsi, against the government installed by an army-led coup. At 7am on August 14th, Egyptian security forces took action to break up two large sit-ins in the capital, Cairo. One of the protests, near Cairo University, was quickly dispersed, but the larger one, around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in the district of Nasr City, remained under siege at midday, with thousands of Mr Morsi’s backers trapped inside, amid scenes of mayhem and a mounting toll of casualties. 
Serious unrest has spread to other parts of Cairo and further afield, with pro-Morsi mobs mounting revenge attacks against police stations, government buildings, churches and Christian-owned property. Train services have been suspended nationwide, and main roads cut. Cairo’s stock market has closed early after clocking losses equivalent to $4.6 billion.

And also,

In the event, however, the security forces appear to have used a full panoply of force, launching surprise assaults on both protests with tear gas fired from helicopters, buckshot, sniper fire and automatic weapons. Dispersed protesters from Cairo University, and thousands of Brotherhood supporters who attempted to join the besieged Nasr City camp, clashed with police throughout the day. The damage elsewhere in Egypt included the torching of at least six churches south of Cairo, and prominent government buildings in Alexandria, Suez and Port Said.

As the clashes continue and spread, it seems likely that the government will be obliged to impose martial law, and perhaps a curfew on Cairo’s 18m people. The country remains starkly polarised. A likely majority of ordinary Egyptians support the army-backed regime, and were in favour of breaking up the Brotherhood’s protests. But the scale of unrest and the depth of the country’s wounds are a grim omen for the future.

The New York Times also has a good report here.

For what it’s worth, and with deep humility, I recall a prediction that I made on this blog in February, 2011… that is, at the onset of the Arab Spring.

You may recall that pundits and prognosticators were looking for the right historical analogy for what a future Egypt might look like. I summarized some of them in the linked post.

To my knowledge, I was alone in predicting that the situation in Egypt had the most in common with what happened in Algeria in the early 1990s.

To burnish my reputation as a prophet, I quote my remarks from that time:

I am thinking of Algeria in 1991. You may recall that Algeria held elections in 1991. After the first round of voting it appeared that the Islamic Salvation Front-- (DNI James Clapper notwithstanding, the ISF is no more secular and peaceable than the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood)-- would attain a sufficient majority in the second round of voting to proclaim Algeria an Islamic state.

This caused the Algerian military to cancel the elections, declare a state of emergency, and take power in a coup. This led to a civil war that has raged in Algeria for the past twenty years. Apparently, military authorities have just lifted the state of emergency that they had imposed in 1991.


Sam L. said...

Another Obama Administration foreign policy triumph. How many more can he stand? I'm guessing until the NYT and WaPo and the alphabets give up on him.

Mark said...

Niall Ferguson's terrific Morning Joe interview also deserves an encore:

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Indeed it does... thanks for linking it.

JP said...

This strikes me as classic hegemonic deligitimation (of the naval power) in the Western mode of Great Power politics.

And by this, I'm referring to the prior problems had by people such as the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the English.

So, we should expect more "unleadership" like this from the U.S. going forward until something really does break.