A Revolution’s Second Anniversary

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi

Just days after the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, violence and unrest have once again returned to the nation’s streets, prompting President Mohammed Morsi to announce a state of emergency in the cities of Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said. The protests began after 21 men were sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in a deadly post-game riot. However, as the police fired live ammunition into the assembled crowds, the protestors’ anger turned, understandably, towards Morsi’s regime.

Over the past few months, the President has steadily increased his control over the government, denying the judiciary’s authority to contest his decisions and drafting a new Constitution that enshrines Islamic law and further restricts freedom of expression. However, announcing this state of emergency may be his most authoritarian move yet. The tactic, a favorite of Hosni Mubarak, allows the police forces to disregard ordinary judicial practices and most civil rights so as to most effectively suppress the populace.

Whether or not the declaration and an accompanying curfew will succeed to quiet the opposition, it’s clear that the democratic uprising has failed in Egypt.
The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood has shown its true colors and, although Morsi came to power through a (mostly) democratic election, his actions reflect an intention to crush Egypt’s democratic institutions. So, only two years after the revolution, authoritarianism is returning to Egypt.

The United States, through its inaction, is partially responsible for this outcome. Professing a commitment to democracy and a disdain for meddling, we chose to let events take their course unaltered. The result, not unpredictably, was an election dominated by well-connected remnants of the Mubarak administration and wealthy Islamists. Given their opponents’ resources, the disorganized secular and liberal coalition never stood a chance. Ultimately, only 43 percent of the population ended up going to the polls.

President Obama was clearly right to refrain from direct, military involvement in the region. Yet, we seem to forget that the United States can exert its influence through other means than its armed forces. Although we often profess otherwise, money plays a crucial role in the electoral process; the organization required for a clash of ideas depends on a steady steam of finances. With this in mind, it seems strange that we sat by while our enemies engage in political warfare, funding those candidates that oppose all we stand we for.

In his Second Inaugural Address, President Obama affirmed the United States’ commitment to democracy “from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East.”

Over the next four years though, we ought to insist that this commitment means more than a preference for occasional elections. If we maintain that Western, liberal democracy is not merely our model of government, but the Best model of government, we ought to throw our fiscal and logistical support behind those candidates who will uphold it. When no such movement exists, we ought to facilitate its organization.

Learning from our mistakes in Egypt, we ought not shy away from political warfare.

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