The Egyptian Dilemma

Since the military coup that ousted President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power in July, the West has been forced into a difficult position regarding events in Egypt. Whenever the military feels the need to intervene through a coup something must be going wrong in the state in question. This also raises the prospect of what will happen next in terms of military rule in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a controversial organisation that has ties with Jihadist groups of an anti-Semitic nature like Hamas and has on occasion been accused of being a fascist party (12:00). The group has an infamous history in the Middle East including in Egypt where political assassinations were carried out against pro-British government figures as well as those who supported the Egyptian Monarchy before it was abolished in 1952. Its reach also extended to Syria which included a bloody uprising in the city of Hama in 1982 where an estimated 25,000 were killed. Despite this, the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhoods political wing), won the first elections of the post Mubarak era which put a dent in the hopes of Egypt becoming a liberal democracy. Since this victory there have been increased reports of attacks on Coptic Christians and their churches by Islamic fundamentalists which President Morsi failed to condemn. With Coptic’s making up roughly 10% of the Egyptian population, this is a matter which cannot be ignored by both Egypt and the rest of the world. Despite these problems I have neglected to mention that Egypt’s economy has worsened since Morsi came to power and may have contributed to the coup.

Despite these obvious flaws with the Muslim Brotherhood, was it right to overthrow them in a coup? While military coups are not uncommon in modern Middle East history and the West has supported coups before in the Middle East as well as outside of it, is it still justifiable against an elected government in the 21st century? This is the issue the West has to face up to and come up with a response. At the moment the West has taken a neutral position but soon it will not be able to hold that position as Egypt is a strategically important country in the Middle East as it is an influential state within the Middle East and has the Suez Canal running through it. There is some justification for the military intervening in the sense that they are attempting to restore social order and if you are anti-Islamist you will likely see the coup as a good thing. Yet even in countries with strong democratic traditions, coups can result in permanent authoritarian governments. Chile being a comparable example when Augusto Pinochet overthrew the left wing government of Salvador Allende and the next elections were not for another 17 years. This was despite Chile having a history of being one of the few countries in Latin America with a democratic history. While Pinochet and other dictators were friends of the West they are now a part of history that the West would like to forget, it was more of a practical relationship and perhaps events in Egypt could set a trend in the war against radical Islam.

While the coup is certainly not ideal for the West, it is possibly a better alternative than an elected Islamist government, especially one with close links to Hamas and other Jihadist groups. One thing I am quite sure of is that this coup will not result in a democratically elected government with a liberal stance and that is if Egypt is lucky enough to avoid a civil war.

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Categories: International politics


Conservative who supports Northampton Town Football Club and is rather geeky with a love of video games, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones among others. I like to write about politics, history, football and several other things. Views here are my own and I will not apologise for them. Feel free to follow me on twitter at Simonturner2

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