Michele Dunne: Is Egypt Headed Towards a Civil State or Civil War?


Writing for the New Republic about the current situation in Egypt, Michele Dunne, Director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, sets aside the question, was former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster a coup. Instead, she asks, are things in Egypt going to get better or worse?

Two potential scenarios are on the horizon. On the one hand, Egypt could follow in Turkey’s footsteps where "civilian institutions might become strong enough to address the country’s problems and to assert real control over the military, which is essential in a democracy." More worrying possibilities, however, see Egypt following in Pakistan, or worse yet, Algeria’s footsteps, pointing to arms smuggled in from Libya and sold on Egypt’s black market, and increased jihadist activity in Sinai.

The political spectrum also continues to shift. Dunne writes:

"It helps to remember that there are not two but at least three major sides—Islamists, secularists, and the state itself—in this fluid game. On the surface, it seems that for now the state and secularists are teamed up against Islamists, but even that is illusory; as Nathan Brown notes, the Salafi Nour Party got its favorite article on Sharia right up front in the interim constitutional declaration.

Egypt now has a modest judge as interim president, prominent liberal Mohammed ElBaradei (hero of the youth activists) as a vice president, and respected economist Hazem el-Beblawi as prime minister, but how long this configuration will last is anyone’s guess. Will the civilians out front really call the shots, and will they be wise enough to pursue broad political consensus and sensible economic policies more seriously than their Brotherhood predecessors did? Will they resist repression of Islamists by the unreformed coercive apparatus, or give into the temptation to use it against their rivals?" 

With several different variables playing into how much violence Egypt could see in the near future, Dunne concludes, "One way or another, though, there will be a heavy price to pay for the military’s decision to remove the country’s first freely elected president—however disastrous and unpopular he was—rather than trust the tedious, frustrating processes known as democracy."

Read the article in the New Republic here.

Photo: Ahmed Kassem

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