February 21 2014
photo by Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
This commentary appeared on ForeignAffairs.com on February 11, 2014.
How the Country Could Rescue Itself From Military Dictatorship
In the seven months since former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was booted from office, Egypt has fallen into a disheartening but predictable pattern: The generals consolidate power while their allies in the Interior Ministry crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, with the front pages of half of Egypt's papers proclaiming the virtues of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's new strongman in waiting, and the other half running tales of the Brotherhood's terrorist connections, the question in Egypt is no longer what is going on — the trajectory, a return to military dictatorship, should be clear to anyone. Rather, the question is what, if anything could, change the future.
To be sure, one should be careful about betting against a regime with an overwhelming advantage in both firepower and public support, but the current order does have two Achilles' heels. First, as the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood reclaiming power recedes, it will become difficult for the new authorities to hold together a coalition that is built solely on its members' shared antipathy for the Islamist group. Second, the new regime might overreach in its suppression of the opposition, inviting a backlash like the one that eroded public support for the interim government led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) two years ago.