The Caravan

The Egyptian Coup: Deliverance or the Past Again?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crowds gather in Tahrir Square in support of 'Second Revolution'

There was an Egyptian coup d’état this July, and there was another one, on July 23, 1952.  The earlier one begot a military regime that remained in the saddle for six decades.  It came in the “nick of time,” a renowned historian of Egypt, the late Harvard scholar Nadav Safran, wrote in his seminal Egypt in Search of Political Community (1961).  There was political chaos in the land, a feeble and corrupt monarchy, extremist political parties bereft of wisdom and practicality.  In the wings there stood the Muslim Brotherhood ready to inherit the chaos.  In January of that year, the mobs set torch to much of modern Cairo.  The army stepped in, sent the monarch into exile, and in time smashed the Brotherhood.  The young officers who of course promised to return to the barracks appropriated all power onto themselves.

Early this July, the army borrowed from the book of the coup of Gamal Abdul Nasser and his cabal.  The declaration, read by a hitherto unknown officer, Abdul Fattah el-Sissi, announced the bringing to a close of a turbulent year in the life of the burdened country.  The “democratic” experiment that had issued in a presidency for a functionary of the Muslim Brotherhood turned out to be a brief interregnum between two periods of rule by the military.  The ballot had not resolved the contradictions of a deeply divided society.

In this roundup, The Caravan considers the military coup.  We will post the contributions of our members every two days.  We begin with Professor Charles Hill and his rendition of the place of Egypt in the Western imagination.  After that will come contributions from Russell Berman, Itamar Rabinovich, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Samuel Tadros, Tunku Varadarajan, and with me bringing up the rear.

-- Fouad Ajami