The truth about Egypt’s revolution?


In “Arab Fall: How the Muslim Brotherhood Won and Lost Egypt in 891 Days,” Eric Trager upends the standard pat narrative of Egypt’s Jasmine Revolution, notes Oren Kessler, deputy director for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

In his telling, the Brotherhood was a powerful, if quiet, presence from the start of the 2011 rallies. It didn’t hijack anything: The Brotherhood was, in fact, the only movement in Egypt organized and disciplined enough to challenge the old regime at the ballots. Finally, he suggests, the military’s move against [Muhammad] Morsi was not the inevitable result of its determination to deny the Brothers their place in the political power structure. Instead, it was the Brotherhood’s own lack of vision and incompetence that drew Egypt’s largest-ever crowds to the streets demanding redress.

Trager had interviewed Morsi two years before in Cairo, Kessler writes in The Wall Street Journal

……and knew him as an enforcer of internal dissent within the Brotherhood and a devotee of Sayyid Qutb, the Brotherhood ideologue who was executed by the nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser and whose message has inspired al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and Anwar al-Awlaki. “Our program is a long-term one, not a short-term one,” Mr. Morsi told Mr. Trager. “Our goal is not to become governors. Our country should be governed . . . by Islam.”

By the time of the summer 2012 elections, it was clear that the Brothers had shunted aside other opposition forces—the non-Islamist “liberals” that so enamored Western observers—who, in any case, were barely organized and enjoyed scant public support, he adds. RTWT

The Egyptian government’s draconian measures to silence dissent, particularly among the country’s educated and disaffected youth, may drive the latter to align themselves with extremist groups, says analyst Eva Nolle:

In order to prevent that from happening, the government must acknowledge the grievances of the young and implement specific economic reforms. Whilst the whole country is suffering under the economic and political circumstances, it is the unemployed youth, who make up a high percentage of the population and are increasingly looking for ways to voice their dissatisfaction. If the government does not implement (economic) reforms soon to address their grievances, other groups will step in and fill that void.

But Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story by Thanassis Cambanis suggests that Egypt’s secular liberals are unlikely to engage disaffected youth, notes analyst Gerard Russell. During the abortive revolution, few liberals made the intensive efforts to cultivate relations with the working classes that had been made by the Islamists, he writes for The New York Review of Books.

Michele Dunne, director and senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Program and a board member at the National Endowment for Democracy, discusses Trager’s book here.

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