For those who thought the Egyptian revolution ended with the fall of Mubarak, the news from Cairo should change their minds. The offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Morsi draws much of his support, was sacked by an anti-government mob earlier today. The military reluctantly put troops in the streets to halt the protests, and so far, eight are confirmed dead. This is the trouble with revolutions; they tend to smolder for a while before flaring up violently.
Before the offices were attacked, anti-government protesters had said that the president has until Thursday to leave office. Failing that, his government would face a coordinated campaign of civil disobedience. After a year in office, many believe the president has failed to address the security and economic problems Egypt faces. His supporters argue that a year is hardly enough time to get a handle on things.
Jeremy Bowen, reporting for the BBC from Cairo, said,”President Morsi’s spokesman has called for dialogue. For that to work, the president would have to offer major concessions, perhaps on a rewritten constitution. He showed no signs of conciliation during a major political speech last week, instead appealing to his Muslim Brotherhood base.”
Dialogue, is an almost laughable idea. The nation is divided, the government is hardly popular in many quarters, and the traditional institutions that might have kept a lid on things are too weak to act. The exception is the military, and the generals would prefer, at this stage, not to have to pick a side. They understand all too well what their fare would be should they choose the losing faction. They will act in the end if need be, but this is only just beginning
One doesn’t expect the president to resign and call for new elections. However, one doesn’t expect him to last out his term either. The street protests are going to worsen, and they will do so because the revolution raised expectations beyond what any Egyptian government could deliver. Anti-Morsi leaders are likely to emerge in the next few months, and like Danton and Robespierre, they will not only argue and fight with the government, they will fight with one another.
This is not to say that the Egyptian revolution will end with a military dictatorship or a restoration of the Mubarak regime. One can argue from historical analogy too rigidly. However, the phenomenon of revolution follows a certain path, and while one cannot step in the same river twice, it remains a river.
While the generals did put troops on the streets to damp down on violence, that is much different than taking over the machinery of government. So long as the military prefers its perks and position to getting its hands dirty in governmental operations, the civilians will squabble. And since there is no firm boundary set by tradition or by a constitution of any pedigree (who will fight and die for a year-old document?), the squabbling will turn violent from time to time.
Given the choice between dictatorship and revolution, a wise person will choose revolution. But a wise person also must recognize that revolutions are messy and ugly things. One can see the revolution’s capacity to break eggs, but there is no sign of an omelet yet.