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The Enduring Mirage of the Arab Spring

A Dose of Realism in Egypt

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi rests his hands on barbed wire fence near Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo July 19, 2013. Thousands of Morsi supporters took to the streets of several Egyptian cities on Friday to demand that the military reinstate the country's first freely elected leader. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Courtesy Reuters

Egypt used to be a poster child for those who believed that the Arab uprising would usher in a new wave of democracy. When Egyptians dethroned former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and held elections just over a year later, some Western politicians were exuberant. Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, for example, referred to the vote as “historic,” marking “another important milestone in [Egypt’s] transition to democracy.”

Faced with the July 2013 military coup that deposed Mubarak’s presidential successor, Mohamed Morsi, Western politicians might be inclined to turn away from Egypt in frustration. But, as I argued in “The Mirage of the Arab Spring,” U.S. policy should not be hamstrung by a narrow focus on democratization. More than ever, the United States and its allies should think first about protecting their vital strategic interests in Egypt and the region. 

For those surprised by the military

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