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Itís Time to Hold Our Nose and Back Egyptís Military

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
August 17, 2013
Daily Beast


Let's get real and tamp down the moral posturing about democracy in Egypt. Freely elected President Morsi and his now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood government weren't practicing democracy. They were co-opting the laws and slowly destroying all possible opposition. Besides, they were aligning with America's jihadist enemies in Syria, Gaza, and elsewhere. Egypt's military leaders, no democratic sweethearts either, are aligned with moderates, need Washington more than the Islamists, and back U.S. interests on the Suez Canal and Israel. Americans rightly can't stand the military street slaughters. For sure, bloody casualties will mount. But the United States has some modest chance to influence the military in right directions. It has little or no chance of saving Egypt for democracy if the Islamists return to power.

In these circumstances, the worst President Obama can do is to press ahead on his rhetoric of a couple weeks ago when he demanded that the Egyptian military "move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government." Alas, these words hark back to his urgings of two years ago following dictator Hosni Mubarak's ouster. The last thing Obama should do now is to repeat this mistake. Egypt wasn't nearly ready for democracy then, and the call for "elections" merely opened the door to power for the best organized and least truly democratic elements in Egyptian society: the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. They alone were organized to turn out the votes.

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