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By deciding to hold mass sit-ins across Egypt, the pro-Morsi protesters were making use of a time-honored tactic of civil resistance. But tactics are the not the same as a strategy and, in this case, would not likely promote the very things that allow protests movements to succeed: diverse participation, the avoidance of repression, and the defection of regime loyalists.
Many Egyptians fear that Fattah al-Sisi wants to return Egypt to a familiar style of secular authoritarianism. But his record suggests he may have very different -- although equally undemocratic -- political intentions: a hybrid regime that would combine Islamism with militarism.
Egypt has had its fill of heroes in the form of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat, Mubarak, and Morsi -- all false prophets of particular versions of modernity -- but it is crying out for leadership. Unfortunately, the politicians stocking the new government do not inspire confidence that Egypt will finally get what it needs.
For those surprised by the military coup in Egypt, it is worth remembering that democracy was never the Egyptian protesters’ main goal. Rather, most were more interested in a stronger economy. No wonder that Morsi was pushed out when he failed to deliver on that priority.
The Muslim Brotherhood is unwilling to give up on its confrontation with the Egyptian military for two reasons: it doubts that the military is unified in favor of the ongoing crackdown and it knows that it can count on its legions of members to continue risking death to protest. The Brothers are likely right about both, but that does not mean that they will win.
Recent events in Egypt are by no means unique. In fact, they fit rather perfectly into the tradition of civil society coups, which are common in new democracies. Unfortunately for Egypt, such coups seldom, if ever, end well.
It might be tempting to latch onto the idea that Turkey -- a democratic country with a history of military interventions against Islamist-leaning governments -- could be a good model for Egypt. But Egypt, which is already experiencing violence along ideological and factional lines, looks very little like Turkey. And Turkey did not get where it is today because of its military but, rather, in spite of it.
A rallying cry that united almost all Egyptians in 2011 was the need for a new constitutional order -- one that would promote democracy and impartiality. After the revolution, the new government tried to create one but failed. Here is how Egypt can do better this time.
The Egyptian military, still bruised from its last stint in power, is likely to proceed with caution this time around. If it does intervene, it will likely seek some acquiescence from the Islamists and will want to quickly form an inclusive caretaker government.
Underneath all the anger in Egypt lies a basic fact: The country's economy is in deep trouble. Normally a country in such a bad way would go to the IMF for support. Instead, it has tried to play the fund and Gulf donors off one another to stay afloat.
Once a police state, Egypt has descended into lawlessness. Crime is on the rise, the black market for weapons is booming, and the police are too lazy or incompetent to do anything about it. Until the country builds an accountable state, Egyptians will continue to take their security into their own hands.
The protestors taking to Egypt's streets are overwhelmingly male, urban, and destitute. They do not have the time or patience to wait for the democratic process to fix their country and its flailing economy. In desperation, they might usher in a second revolution -- this one an uprising of the poor.
In recent months, the Egyptian military has struck a quiet alliance with the country's president, believing that he and the Muslim Brotherhood will keep winning elections. In return for their support, the generals got a draft constitution that protected the many of their core interests. Yet the military also preserved its appearance of neutrality -- leaving it room to change horses should the Brotherhood fall behind.
Secularists have taken to the streets to argue that Egypt's new constitution, likely to be ratified this week, is an illegitimate document produced in an undemocratic process. What they really fear, however, is that normal politics will soon return to the country -- setting up a fight that they know they can't win.
From a liberal democratic perspective, there is much to like in Egypt's new constitution and some things to worry about as well. There are also gaping holes and ambiguities that only politics can fill in -- and, given the current state of Egyptian democracy, that is where the real problems lie.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood think of themselves as uniquely qualified to rebuild Egypt. Moreover, they believe that they were entrusted with doing so during this year's election. Their miscalculation, though, was to think that the rest of Egypt felt the same way.
Morsi's sacking of Egypt's top military officials follows a familiar playbook. Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar al-Sadat made similar moves to consolidate control when they first came to power. And like Nasser and Sadat's gambits, Morsi's will likely lead to a foreign policy realignment.
The Muslim Brotherhood now controls Egypt's parliament and presidency. But there is a catch: most of its power exists in name only. Rather than confront its enemies head-on, the Brotherhood will aim for calm in the short run so that it can win more authority in the future.
There are times when Cairo's Tahrir Square still evokes a revolutionary spirit. But over the last year the square has largely become a bureaucratic battleground where political foot soldiers carry out the power struggle under way between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. In the process, secular revolutionaries have been marginalized, and the glory of the revolution has fizzled.
The first round of presidential elections in Egypt pushed the revolutionary and populist candidates out of the running. The only options left are representatives of the old order -- the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, which have been battling for power for more than half a century.