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For those of you who missed it, please find below an excerpt from my piece published in the New York Times Sunday Review yesterday, February 12, 2012. Read the full piece here.
CAIRO is tense and polarized. Egypt’s military is groping for solutions to the many political and economic problems that have beset the country since the fall of the old government. Various political parties and groups are united in their opposition to military rule despite being divided among themselves. The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is trying to remain above the fray and out of the line of fire by making deals with the army. And despite the promise of parliamentary elections and the prospect of a new constitution, the situation remains highly unstable.
One could be forgiven for thinking this is a description of early 2012, but it is actually an account of early 1954, when Gamal Abdel Nasser and his military colleagues, known as the Free Officers, first consolidated their power in Egypt.
Indeed, if the Egyptian revolutionaries who have battled the police and military over the past few months closed their eyes tight enough, forgot about Al Jazeera, Facebook and Twitter, they might find themselves amid the throngs of students engaged in a pitched battle with security forces on the Qasr al-Nil bridge in late February 1954 as they made their way to the presidential palace demanding that Nasser turn Egypt over to civilian rule.
Egypt’s history is not a formula for the future. Yet in order for Egyptians to avoid repeating the disastrous course of the past, they will need to find the means to prevent the military from imposing its will on society in the way that Nasser did in the 1950s.