The language Kerry is using in his diplomatic statements about Egypt is even stronger than this Reuters article indicates. The British newspaper _The Telegraph_ notes that Kerry has also said the government led by General al-Sissi has a “unique responsibility to prevent further violence”. That’s a very pinpointed apportionment of responsibility – it indicates that the US believes that even if in some sense there is responsibility to be shouldered by others, principally the buck stops with General al-Sissi to fix what’s wrong in Egypt.
The US can hold back on calling this a “coup” if it wants, though it manifestly is one. What it cannot do, however, is fail to place moral responsibility for what’s happening in the streets in the hands of the people who took it upon themselves to overthrow an elected government. There remains an argument in some liberal and lefty quarters that some good might still come of all this – but those liberals and lefties who support al-Sissi are the ones who now have to show us how this could be true. If no one had overthrown the government, we could casually cast responsibility for all manner of things over to Morsi and his crowd and not have to account for ourselves. But now that an elected government has been illegally cast aside, _at the very least_ the people who did this have to show us why.
If the answer is “so we could feel self-righteous while 300 people are killed in the streets”, I’m not likely to find that answer very encouraging. So let’s think hard and try and come up with a better one.
There is not going to be any way that the military can “defeat” the pro-Morsi protesters without it essentially meaning that a group which won the most recent democratic elections has been defeated by the military. Even if we concede what is likely true in any case, that numerous people who voted for Morsi have now thought better of it, it is simply inconceivable that the two islamist parliamentary blocs, which won more than 60% of the national vote in the most recent legislative elections, have now been reduced to a vanishingly small minority. There is simply no way there has been that kind of sea change in Egyptian public opinion, no matter what Tamarod and other activist groups want us to think.
The way more secular Egyptians had dealt in the past with Islamist groups is by establishing the dictatorship most recently led by Hosni Mubarak. It now seems that General al-Sissi wants to return to that strategy, and that he’s enlisted some of the more gullible of those out on the streets to help him do it.
The reason most Egyptians came back out in the streets a few months ago, however, was that they didn’t feel included in Morsi’s new democratic Egypt, not that they had thought better of the initial Tahrir Square protests and were ready to bring in a new Mubarak. If that _is_ what this is all about, that’s what we need to hear coming through – that the goal is to negotiate a more inclusive constitution, not to declare war on Morsi supporters.
From where, however, are we hearing this message? It’s not coming through loud and clear from Tahrir, nor is General al-Sissi particularly concerned with expositing this view.
Indeed, one of the few places we are hearing this is from Secretary of State John Kerry. So the next time you feel like slagging Americans and complaining about what mischief-makers they are in the Middle East…could you at least take a few seconds to consider the constructive role John Kerry is playing with respect to Egypt right now?