You could ask a thousand questions about the violence that has shaken Egypt, from why police decided to move now against Islamist sit-ins and with such brutality after making so much of its careful planning in the last week, to whether the attacks on churches and Christians more generally that erupted in reaction are part of a pre-planned reaction or the uncontrollable sectarian direction political tensions take in moments of crisis. But the question that really bothers me is whether this escalation is planned to create a situation that will inevitably trigger more violence – that this is the desired goal.
The fundamental flaw of the July 3 coup, and the reason those demonstrators that came out on June 30 against the Morsi administration were wrong to welcome it, is that it was based on an illusion. That illusion, at least among the liberal camp which is getting so much flak these days, was that even a partial return of the old army-led order could offer a chance to reboot the transition that took such a wrong turn after the fall of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. This camp believed that gradual reform, even of a much less ambitious nature than they desired in 2011, would be more likely to come by accommodating the old order than by allowing what they perceived as an arrangement between the military and the Islamists to continue. Better to focus on fixing the country, notably its economy, and preventing Morsi from sinking it altogether, and take the risk that part of the old order could come back.
In this vision, a gradual transformation of the country could take place while preserving political stability through the armed forces. It would be negotiated and hard-fought, as so many democratic transitions in other parts of the world have been, but the old order would need the talent and competence of a new technocratic, and ultimately political, class to deliver and improve governance. Their hope was that the Islamists would understand that they had lost this round, and that they could be managed somehow while a new more liberal order emerged. This, in essence, was what Mohamed ElBaradei and other liberals bought into on July 3, no doubt earnestly, and what so many other outside of formal politics fervently hoped for: not the revolution radicals want, but a wiser, more tolerant, order in the country. [Continue reading…]