What began as Egypt’s brave new democratic world is rapidly descending into the country’s tragic return to despotism. The death toll of 173 people in Friday’s violence between supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi on one side and military-backed vigilantes on the other is increasingly becoming part of an endless cycle of violence. A grim sign that the earlier promise of the second Arab Spring nation is increasingly becoming dissipated is the resignation of one of the first reformist leaders, vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei, from the interim government.
Mr Morsi’s supporters, overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, can be expected to continue its protests and the military to persist with its violent suppression. The Brotherhood is and will successfully delegitimise the military regime that has taken over, both at home and abroad. The Egyptian military, once seen as the only truly apolitical institution of the country, has become caught in a political bind that will either force it into ending Egyptian democracy or facing political retribution at some future date.
The Brotherhood, who were rightly vilified by many liberal and secular Egyptians, for Mr Morsi’s mix of blundering and authoritarianism, is slowly being rehabilitated through martyrdom. Though individually the political strategies of the players involved may make short-term sense, in the larger picture it is all too self-defeating. The Egyptian economy is now in intensive care.
Cairo has been turning to handouts from Saudi Arabia and other players not known for their support of liberal democratic values for survival. Whoever wins the present turmoil will inherit an economic environment even worse than the stagflation that sparked the Arab Spring in the first place.
The international community seems bereft of any real influence. The European Union continues its exemplary record of good intentions and zero results with mediation efforts that were ignored by almost everyone in Egypt.
President Barack Obama, who believes the United States can have international interests minus international responsibilities, is now discovering that a coherent foreign policy is, after all, important. After helping Mr Morsi into power, then letting him do as he pleased, it then passively supported the coup and is now finding itself once again under flak for not reining in an army that is dependent on US arms and aid. Egyptians themselves alone can solve the crisis, but like players in a Greek tragedy, all those involved seem locked in predestined trajectories that will only cause more and more violence.