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Murder on the Democracy Express
An Egyptian mystery with no easy answers — and no heroes.


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Clifford D. May

Who killed Egyptian democracy? Elite foreign-policy analysts have been providing strikingly divergent answers.

Egypt’s military is, of course, the prime suspect. The “world has witnessed many such putsches in the past half-century,” writes the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl. The “ultimate losers . . . will be those who cheered it on.”

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Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg is among those charged with waving pom-poms. “There are so many good reasons to be happy and grateful for the latest turn of events in Cairo,” he wrote. “The Brotherhood’s most vicious war was on women. It has also been working assiduously to marginalize, and even terrorize, Egypt’s Christian minority.”

Somewhere between the two is former British prime minister Tony Blair: “The events that led to the Egyptian army’s removal of President Mohamed Morsi confronted the military with a simple choice: intervention or chaos.”

Then there are those making the case that there was no Egyptian democracy to kill — it was just a mirage. “Liberal Americans,” writes Mark Steyn, “casually assume that ‘developing countries’ want to develop into something like a Western democracy. . . . The Brotherhood was checked — but not by anything recognizable as the forces of freedom.” Adds Andrew C. McCarthy: “In Egypt, at this stage of its development, liberty lovers remain outnumbered. The massive protests against the Muslim Brotherhood administration are an encouraging sign that Egypt’s democrats are growing in strength, but they should not be mistaken for a wholesale rejection of sharia supremacism.”

I would charge Morsi with democracide. He fatally wounded Egypt’s democratic experiment long before the military stepped in. He posed as a democrat to win an election, then governed as a majoritarian — sometimes defined as one whose notion of representative government is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.

Determined to transform Egypt into the Muslim Brotherhood version of an Islamic state, Morsi grossly violated minority rights and the independence of the judiciary, jailed journalists for “insulting the president” — in free societies that’s a habit, not a crime — ignored the rule of law, and prosecuted Americans who had come to Egypt to help promote democracy.

Egyptians might have tolerated all that and more had Morsi not undermined foreign investment and tourism, two unsteady pillars of Egypt’s economy. That, in turn, spread destitution and hunger at an alarming rate.

Adding insult to these many injuries, Morsi appointed a member of Gamaa Islamiya as the governor of Luxor, the ancient city where 58 foreign tourists were murdered in 1997 — by members of Gamaa Islamiya.

Reluctantly but rightly, the New York Times’ David Brooks has come to the conclusion that the Muslim Brotherhood and other “radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government. Many have absolutist, apocalyptic mind-sets. They have a strange fascination with a culture of death. . . . Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them.”



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