title: 'Talking Point military coup d tats and treadmills' published: true publish_date: '31-08-2016 14:56' taxonomy: category:

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    The military coup d'état against the democratically elected president in Egypt is a colossal mistake and is an event that will have truly awful repercussions for years to come, argues Peter Lavelle in this Talking Point. One does not have to be a supporter of Mohammed Morsi or of the Muslim Brotherhood (this writer certainly isn't) to be concerned with the importance of legitimacy in politics. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Freedom and Justice Party clearly made legitimate mistakes (if not blunders) since the forced and legal resignation of Mubarak two years ago. But Egypt's US-trained and funded military have illegitimately seized power in the name of people and security. The rule of law and any semblance of upholding democratic values lay in tatters. What follows are some observations and commentary on the coup d'état, as well as implications for Egypt's politics, political Islam, and geopolitics. Washington has the military's back George Orwell would be proud of Barack Obama's foreign policy. A coup d'état is when a military forcefully deposes a civil government and then takes power. This is the standard definition of a coup d'état, but it does not apply to Washington-friendly militaries overthrowing an elected president the West never much cared for. The Obama foreign policy gang simply can't utter the word "coup" in this case. In fact, according to Obama-speak this is all part of the democratic process! It would seem as long as Egypt's new junta appoints technocrats as a cover to their on-going crackdown on dissent and control of the economy, Washington will continue to make good on its $1.5 billion annual pledge to the generals. Pocket change to keep the wheels of oppression greased. Mubarak has the last laugh - for now Morsi, leaders of the Freedom and Justice Party, and notable members of the Muslim Brotherhood are now detained at unknown locations or missing – not surprisingly the legal charges against them have not been made public. Supporters of the detained president continued to be killed in the streets by the authorities. Detention without charge was a favored tactic of Mubarak and his thuggish regime (generously supported by Washington for decades). After a revolution, a series of elections (which Muslim Brotherhood won each time), and now a military-sponsored counter-revolution; it is back to business as usual for the Egyptian brass. The sin of hubris Before they came to power in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was the country’s vast and even successful nationwide community organizer. It made a difference for millions of Egyptians the state had neglected or forgotten. In power, many of the Brothers lost their humility. The Brothers ran the state much like they ran their socio-religious organization for decades – alone and uncompromising. Mistakenly they mistook winning at the ballot box for a mandate to capture the state. Winning elections give a politician or political party the right to lead, but not necessarily to rule without reaching out to others – even adversaries. Millions of Egyptian were alienated by Morsi’s rule – either he tried to do too much, too fast, or he didn’t enough. The old regime of former Mubarak supporters and the military did everything they could to frustrate Morsi’s presidency. But turning to a coup d'état was a policy error – if so many citizens had had enough of Morsi and the Brothers, holding elections to oust them would have been far better and legitimate. We told you so Probably the greatest mistake the Egyptian generals have committed is to confirm militaries in the Arab world (often backed by the West) will not allow democracy. In a region where for decades the military have the first and last say about political discourse and popular participation, Egypt’s military has demonstrated that public political space will remain narrow and under its control. Said differently – Muslim Brothers and other Islamist groups will not be allowed to participate in official political life. This is déjà vu. Military crackdowns have denied potential democratic outcomes before: Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954; Algeria in 1991; and the Palestinian territories in 2006. Bad historical examples remain entrenched, new habits of governance hard to learn and sustain. The consequences of banning popular ideologies to participate in political life can be catastrophic – Muslim Brothers and other Islamist groups may well return to work underground and clandestinely. It is now hard to dismiss the claim often heard in the Arab world: the West and others will never accept the ballot box if it brings Islamists to power. The fact that Mohamed ElBaradei may very well become prime minister will not placate the Islamist agenda. Up until the coup d'état an 'Egyptian model' of democracy was in its early stages. Now that model sends out a very different message – democracy is the enemy of Islam and this new lesson will surely be absorbed throughout the Muslim world. The days of violent overthrow of governments in the Middle East is far from over. Unfortunately, the option of seeking a democratic transfer of power has suffered a horrific blow on the streets of Cairo. The enemies of democracy in the region are bathing themselves in glory at the expense of each citizen hope to break from decades of political dead ends. Political treadmill The coup d'état in Egypt is like watching a body politic being punished in a virtual treadmill. Since the start of the so-called Arab Spring we are told the narrative is about self-empowerment and democracy. Egypt’s generals make this narrative null and void. Self-empowerment and democracy are not at the nexus of this grand transformation – who will rule remains the dictum of power. Egypt’s military deposed an elected leader in the name of the people and security. This is erroneous – the coup d'état maintained the hard reality that the military thinks of itself as the state (with all its financial and economic privileges). Morsi may have governed badly, but when the military can’t solve Egypt’s many dire problems will the generals go peacefully when the people demand? Don’t count on it. Peter Lavelle is the host of VoR's political program ‘Debating Russia’, and RT television’s debate programme ‘CrossTalk’. His opinions may not necessarily reflect those of his employers.

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