The world has its eye on Egypt, and many have been quick to choose a side. However, the complexity amidst the turmoil makes it rather hard to point fingers in just one direction.
In one corner is the Egyptian army under the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). After a year of chaos under Prime Minister Mohamed Morsi, the SCAF, in the supposed interest of the people, has deposed the Prime Minister. SCAF outlawed his Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, installed itself as interim protectors of the revolution, and vowed a fresh round of elections.
Prim in their medal-laden and immaculately pressed army uniforms, these chosen few wave a paper. They believe their ‘roadmap’ to peace and stability is the only sure defense for all Egyptians against fanatics, counter-revolutionaries and terrorists.
In reality, the army is a cabal that has run and exploited the Egyptian state for five decades. When the revolution in Tahrir square began and millions of Egyptians across the country took to the streets, united in their opposition to the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak, where was the army? They were the ones wielding police batons as maces and plowing into the very people they now claim to represent. They were the ones that stood by and even aided sectarian violence against the Copts, Egypt’s Christian minority.
To stave off the revolution, they killed innocent protesters; now, to preserve it, they kill hundreds more. This roadmap of theirs will surely be a path doubling back to feed upon itself, producing more of the same. Can one honestly expect anything different from an organization whose command structure remains virtually unchanged throughout all this upheaval? Anybody who truly believes they’ll give over power, or even agree to share it with whoever they allow to win any future elections, is sadly mistaken.
In the other corner is the equally distasteful Muslim Brotherhood. A blatantly Islamist movement with aims at refashioning Egyptian society to be more sharia-compliant, they eked out a victory at the polls in the first democratic elections Egypt has ever had in its 6,000 years of recorded history. They essentially bribed their way past the finish line by providing supplies and services to the marginalized and poor.
Rather than pragmatically compromising, they proceeded to assume they had a mandate to rule alone. They ignored the constitution, handed Morsi powers above and beyond judiciary oversight, and alienated wide segments of the population to the point where their opponents had nowhere to turn to but the military.
They played and lost the guessing game of how many constitutional abuses it takes to bring down a democratically appointed government. By their numerous steps back, they’ve erased the one forceful stride forward the Egyptian people managed to take for themselves.
This is why it is difficult to pick a side. If this was Frost’s proverbial fork in the road, neither road would make all the difference. Egypt’s people continue to suffer and die. Their hopes of implementing a government that is answerable to its constituents is quite dead.
It might as well be decided by flipping a quarter. No matter the result – heads or tails, Muslim Brotherhood or army – we are dealing with two sides of the same coin.
People have long memories, even if they have short attention spans. This brief taste of empowerment may still give Egypt’s people victory – one day.