As Egypt marked the third anniversary of the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak, the country’s military regime hauled ousted leader Mohammed Morsi before a Cairo court in a soundproof glass cage to face criminal charges. Striking a defiant tone, Morsi, the first and so far only democratically elected president of Egypt, shouted, “I am the president of the republic!” before his microphone was silenced. The Muslim Brotherhood leader, elected in June 2012, was deposed in July 2013 in a popularly backed military coup led by army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has since imposed a brutal crackdown against Muslim Brotherhood members, leaving more than 1,000 people dead. El-Sissi this week promoted himself to field marshal and signaled that he intends to run for president.
Three years after Egyptians deposed one dictator, said Roger Cohen in The New York Times, they’re now faced with another: El-Sissi, a “military hero with the trappings of a new pharaoh.” The Obama administration’s silence is “telling.” Having briefly stuck with Mubarak, then sided with Morsi, the U.S. is now apparently happy to allow the Egyptian military—the recipient of some $1.3 billion a year in aid, some of it now suspended—to trash hopes “for a more inclusive, tolerant, and democratic order in the Middle East.”
What’s the alternative? asked Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com. Egypt’s “brief experiment with democracy” resulted in a “brush with an Islamist dictatorship.” The ongoing string of militant attacks in Sinai is ample evidence that Egypt faces a jihadist insurgency. Any U.S. action that weakens the Egyptian military, such as suspending more aid, will only strengthen our “Islamist foes.”
Amid all the “hand-wringing” over military aid, said Eric Trager in NewRepublic.com, no one should overlook that Egyptians aren’t “passive actors in their own country’s story.” A critical mass of them has backed a constitution that effectively restores the authoritarianism of the Mubarak era. “Within Egypt itself, ‘Arab Spring’ romanticism is practically—and very sadly—dead.”