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Why Egypt’s Regime Must Double Down

2013 August 14
by Ian Welsh

There have been more killings in Egypt today of Muslim Brotherhood supporters.  Of particular note is the death of Asmaa al-Beltagi, daughter of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, Dr. Mohammed al-Beltagi (h/t MFI).  Martial law has been declared, the streets are being cleared, and military governors are being appointed.

A cynical man might say that clearly Egypt’s military and deep state want a civil war.

More to the point, the deep state—the Mubarak era civil servants, the military, police, the businesspeople in bed with them, and the judiciary, must now not lose power for the forseeable future.

It has been noticed that, miraculously, post coup, power problems, for example disappeared.  The belief of many (and I agree) is that the deep state sabotaged Mursi.  When the coup occurred, the government started working properly again.  The regime claims that Mursi was incompetent, but basic logistical matters like power distribution rarely fix themselves overnight unless they weren’t really broken in the first place.

What Mursi did not do, despite sacking some high level apparatchniks, was purge the state of Mubarak era supporters who were in any position to sabotage his new government.  Any new, actually democratic government, will likely learn that lesson, and if they take power, they will purge, purge, purge, as was done in Turkey, even if it requires being unjust and unfair, they will decide they cannot risk allowing Mubarak supporters to continue in any positions of power.

Having played their hand, having sabotaged Mursi, and having engaged in a coup, the military and its supporters are all-in.

Mursi did what he could, but I expect he feared a backlash if he purged the deep state.  He also, in my opinion, overreached in the constitution.  He tried to turn a temporary win, an electoral victory, into a constitution which locked down Egypt along the lines the Muslim Brotherhood wanted, and would keep it locked in that state even if secular forces won an election outright in the future.  That enraged a lot of people, and made them more willing to be cat’s paws of the military and the deep state.

Egypt has another fundamental problem.  It cannot feed itself.  Any government which takes power in Egypt, it truly wants to pursue the policies which will make it prosperous, must have a plan which will allow Egypt to feed itself, and which during the transition period allows it to buy food in a non hard currency.

9 Responses
  1. Chaz permalink
    August 14, 2013

    Would it be fair to say that any modern constitution should be secular. I seem to be of the impression that as soon as religion is introduced into the equation an inevitable downhill slide begins.

  2. August 14, 2013

    What does the deep state want? I was under the impression that Morsi was pursuing most of Mubarak’s policies which led to his unpopularity, but if the deep state toppled him and is made up of Mubarak people that confuses the situation.

    I would definitely say that a national constitution should be secular.

  3. Gaianne permalink
    August 15, 2013

    Your last point, that Egypt can no longer feed itself, is the key one.

    This occurred when Egypt went from net petroleum exporter to net petroleum importer.

    Civil war, in some form, is now Egypt’s future, regardless of what anyone does.

    The only antidote to civil war is to wage aggressive war abroad. I don’t think that will be possible.

    –Gaianne

  4. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 15, 2013

    It also occurred because of the Aswan Dam. I understand they need the power, but damming the Nile was beyond fucking stupid. I imagine there are also issues with cash crops. Egypt, the bread basket of the world, not being able to feed itself, is ridiculous.

  5. eclecticdog permalink
    August 16, 2013

    Didn’t the USA purge the Baathists in Iraq for the government, police, and military and yet that did not work out well for anyone. If Morsi had pursued a moderate nonsecular course, he’d still be in power rather than following the usual winner takes all course.

  6. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 16, 2013

    Different situation, and while I believe he should have had a different constitution and that was a mistake, that’s not the conclusion the Muslim Brotherhood is going to draw from this. Remember, Morsi was not their preferred candidate the rest were purged by the judiciary before running, then they run with someone who wasn’t even who they wanted to run.

    And, again, from their POV, they won the election, despite being sandbagged, and had the right to run the country as they chose without a military coup.

    These people are not wimps. There are over 50 dead security forces now, that the govt. will admit to. They stormed a police station and set it on fire, this is going to be UGLY. Morsi made some mistakes, the military fucked up far beyond anything he did.

  7. August 18, 2013

    Ian thanks for the h/t.

    Apart from all the other tragic aspects this:

    What Mursi did not do, despite sacking some high level apparatchniks, was purge the state of Mubarak era supporters who were in any position to sabotage his new government. Any new, actually democratic government, will likely learn that lesson, and if they take power, they will purge, purge, purge, as was done in Turkey, even if it requires being unjust and unfair, they will decide they cannot risk allowing Mubarak supporters to continue in any positions of power.

    Erdogan if he did nothing else (has thus) far shoved the military back to the barracks where they belong and subservient to a civilian government. It took him years and he risked his life and the lives of his colleagues to do it. But so far so good. Morsi didn’t have the time and perhaps also lacked the courage. The other thing he did was to allow senior Brotherhood figures to directly compete with the army’s economic activities. Too much too soon of one thing and not enough and too late of the other.

    Agree with you about the food production stats. Same applies to Irak they used to export food now they import it.

    mfi

  8. Timothy Gawne permalink
    August 19, 2013

    Kudos for the last paragraph! Although if you had made that the first paragraph, and gotten rid of everything else, that would have been even more to-the-point.

    The real villains here are those wealthy business interests, and the economic whores who flack for them, and the editing out of almost any reference to the effects of too-rapid population growth. The reason why is obvious: the rich like poverty, so the old Classical/Keynesian consensus that (at least without an open frontier) rapid population growth pretty much guarantees poverty, has been suppressed. Not because of any debate or data, but because of donations and influence.

    Yes I know – social factors, money supply, democracy, capitalism etc. All very well, yet the bottom line is that effectively without any exception no society with a sustained high fertility rate has ever developed into anything other than an even bigger mass of poverty – this is true no matter the religion, politics, race, economic system etc. A low fertility rate always comes before there is progress, never after. This is “The Iron Law of Development.”

    Again, I don’t blame the Egyptian people. There is no free choice without knowledge. I blame people like the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal (among others). And what is happening in Egypt is going to happen many other places, and faster than we expect.

  9. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 19, 2013

    My father, who spent much of his life in the third world and working development hated the WHO. Harsh, but what he said was this: they lowered the death rate before increasing the standard of living to drop the rate of population increase, and as such, caused immense suffering.

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