In 2009, America’s first black President, Barack Obama, addressed the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt. Once upon a time Cairo mattered. I disagreed with the choice of venue, for in my opinion even then Cairo mattered far less than we assumed. But the substance of his speech was heartening; the line that received the loudest applause was about democracy. Some two years later, Egyptians of all ages, creeds and kinds came out in force to demand Mubarak’s ouster and a country that respected them. The subsequent years were difficult, but they indicated, to me, a very slow progress towards an organic democracy.
Because unlike Libya, and Syria, and Iran—and unlike America, France and Russia—Egypt’s revolution was remarkably nonviolent.
I ask this as a strategic question (but not unaware of the moral implications): can one change a system without the employment of force? (I am asking, not advising or suggesting.) Today, El-Baradei is back in Vienna, rumor has it that Mubarak will be out of jail shortly, and Morsi remains in detention, his location uncertain. Many of the Brotherhood’s senior leadership has lost family members, sons and daughters; the grandson of the founder, too. Over 1,000 people have died in under a week. Churches are being burned and Christians attacked. And where is Barack Obama in all this?
The great rhetorician is disturbingly silent. Oddly, illogically, embarrassingly, and uselessly, he has suspended a single military exercise, and cut off economic aid. Not military aid. What? How? On what logic? It is the Egyptian military that has struck back, in a kind of Star Wars: Episode V, except this is an incompetent deep state lashing out. (What future awaits Egypt is clear enough—a bombing of its consulate in Libya, and some 24 police officers attacked and killed in the Sinai, near the border with Gaza.) Why have we become so incapable of taking a stand? When all you have left is a drone, every problem looks like collateral damage. In this case, the Egyptian people. The health and sanity of the region. And even the security of America. Are we going to wait till there’s another surge of radicalism from the Nile?
Muhammad Morsi isn’t the only politician who’s disappeared.