Egypt in Trouble

Egypt in Trouble

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Watching the evolving confrontation in Egypt between President Mohamed Morsi and the pro-democracy demonstrators continuing on for a fifth day suggests that once confirmed as Secretary of State, John Kerry may already have a major crisis on his desk on the seventh floor of the State Department. Morsi, seeing his offer to sit down with the demonstrators rejected, now faces the decision of whether to have the military move in and arrest the growing opposition demonstrators or let the pro-democracy forces protests widen. 

The anti-Morsi forces appear to be considerably less allied with the Muslim Brotherhood although the presence of Mohamed ElBaradei makes the various allegiances somewhat suspicious. What is evident is the distinct possibility that either Morsi will make temporary imposition of martial law permanent and thus place himself in the same place where Mubarak was when he was overthrown; or expose his inability to control the situation so dangerous that the military will assert itself once again and this time facilitate the disposition of Morsi.

The size of the Egyptian military and the breadth of their exposure throughout the country and within the Egyptian economy make it highly unlikely that Morsi will ever be able to sustain power in Egypt using the military as Assad has done in Syria. A military takeover would be far more likely and probably acceptable to all except the Muslim extremists. Even the pro-democracy forces may well prefer to start over negotiating for democratic change in Egypt with a new non-fundamentalist military leader rather than the growing anti-democracy direction that Morsi appears to be taking the country.

Ironically, this type of outcome, certainly for the short term, would be preferable to Israel and to the U.S.; although only the U.S. military within the Obama Administration would be willing to admit it. Coming at the same time that the U.S. has announced the expansion of its drone program in North Africa, it could enable many in the West to try to collect themselves as they contemplate the ongoing violence in Syria, the war in Mali, the radical terrorist threat in Libya, and the failing nuclear talks with Iran.

John Kerry reportedly always wanted the job at Foggy Bottom. It is about to be all his!

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