Mubarak Redux: Egypt's Military Coup Unmasked

The Arab Spring with uprisings that signaled a desire for a new way forward, an overthrow of the established order in many Arab countries of authoritarian governments, and a struggle to establish a new kind of democracy, has now officially become an Arab winter in Egypt.

The Tamarod movement, the anti-Morsi protest movement supported the call by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for Egyptians to take to the streets to support the armies use of force in its "war against terrorism" and suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. The official Facebook page of Tamarod, the anti-Morsi protest movement, called on its supporters to heed the armed forces' call for protests.

"We call on all the Egyptian people to gather in all the squares next Friday to call for the trial of Mohamed Morsi, support the Egyptian armed forces in the coming war against terrorism and cleansing the land of Egypt. The army and the people will fight terrorism."

The Egyptian military has now made it crystal clear that what we are seeing is a return to military backed authoritarian rule. Tragically, the coup is not simply backed by the powerful remnants of the Mubarak regime (military, judiciary, bureaucracy etc.) but by sectors of Egyptian society that were anti-Mubarak authoritarianism: so-called liberals, revolutionary Arab youth, secularists and leftists. Ironically, in addition to the predictable support by many authoritarian Gulf rulers, meant Western democracies, in particular the US, were complicit as were many US and European political commentators and academic experts. The latter supported to coup either because in their gut they have never trusted Islamists or because their pride will not enable them to admit they got it so wrong.

Egypt will be set back for at least another generation, adding to modern Egypt's 60-year history of authoritarian rule. Those who argue, like Thomas Friedman (New York Times, 24 July 2013), that this "is no time for America to be... demanding quick elections" reflect the old-dated belief that authoritarian rule is somehow an effective path to democracy. What that mindset gave Egypt was sixty years of repressive military rule and the Arab Spring was an expression of the desire to have a new and "democratic path" to democracy. The current developments, if accepted by the United States and EU will generate anti-Western sentiment that may well become a significant security threat. The US and Europe will be judged against their espoused principles and values, their commitment to the promotion of democracy and human rights. Thus far they have failed the test, much as they did for decades when they supported authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Latin America, and elsewhere.

The US and EU need to act now. The problem now for the US and EU are that they have now boxed themselves in. It will take real integrity and the willingness to risk political capital, especially given the enthusiastic support from our longtime Arab authoritarian allies and US Congress.

The US and EU must use their only effective bargaining chip for leverage: the cut-off of military aid and withhold official recognition of the government until the release of Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders and their inclusion in constitutional discussions and in elections as soon as possible. Calls for trials of Brotherhood leaders and suppression of the Brotherhood and FJP destroy any possibility of political consensus and the democratic process in Egypt.