Skip to main content

In Egypt, rage must lead to game plan

By Daniel Brumberg, Special to CNN
July 2, 2013 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clash with riot police during the swearing in ceremony of Adly Mansour as interim president in Cairo on Thursday, July 4. Egypt's military deposed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected president, the country's top general announced Wednesday. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/04/middleeast/gallery/egypt-after-coup/index.html'>View photos of Egypt after the coup.</a> Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clash with riot police during the swearing in ceremony of Adly Mansour as interim president in Cairo on Thursday, July 4. Egypt's military deposed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected president, the country's top general announced Wednesday. View photos of Egypt after the coup.
HIDE CAPTION
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Photos: Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Photos: Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Daniel Brumberg: In absence of political vision in Egypt, looks like generals want to seize control
  • He says in symbolism, actions, Morsy government failed to show it stood for all Egyptians
  • He says Brotherhood has shown intolerance arrogance; government destroyed trust
  • Brumberg: Where is opposition's game plan, leaders with moral force, alternative to military?

Editor's note: Daniel Brumberg is Co-Director of Democracy and Governance Studies at Georgetown University and a Senior Adviser at the United States Institute of Peace.

(CNN) -- With the prospect of a military intervention in Egypt's chaotic transition now looking inevitable, the generals are set to seize the mantle of leadership that others failed to grasp effectively. Their move suggests something much deeper than crass opportunism, though. Rather, it underlines one of the most striking features of Egyptian politics since the January 25, 2011, uprising: the absence of a political vision that might help unify the country.

Yes, the generals will be sailing against the headwinds of a popular revolt that put millions in the streets. But by itself, the catharsis of empowerment that the Tamarud (Rebellion) Movement generated with the June 30, 2013, protests will not produce new leaders capable of deflecting the military's renewed efforts to shape the course of political change.

Daniel Brumberg
Daniel Brumberg

To appreciate the challenges facing Egypt we must first be clear who bears the most responsibility for this crisis: the Muslim Brotherhood and its Justice and Freedom Party. The Brotherhood failed to grasp the most important task of elected leaders in any society trying to define a new basis for democratic national unity: creating a symbolic language that promises inclusion and reconciliation.

As Invictus, the inspiring film about South Africa's Nelson Mandela, demonstrates, this language is not merely about a perfunctory readiness to share power with rivals. Reconciliation must also be a pivot around public acts and rhetoric that reassures those who have most to fear from majoritarian democracy that they, too, will have a place under the post-authoritarian sun.

Ghitis: Egypt to Morsy: You need to go

It was on this level of symbolics that President Mohamed Morsy and his allies ultimately failed. This is why so much of the post-mortem analysis of the transition misses the point. The defenders of the Muslim Brotherhood have told a story of efforts to include non-Islamists in the Cabinet and the assembly that was drawn up to write a new constitution. But they are carefully selecting their details.

Despite Morsy's inauguration day promise to represent "all Egyptians," in the year that followed, Brotherhood leaders communicated intolerance and arrogance to both their secular rivals and their Salafi competitors. Such language reinforced the commitment of the Brotherhood's rank and file to marginalize and humiliate their rivals. This came to a head in December 2012, when secular activists were taken hostage by Brotherhood activists and tortured. Widely available on the Internet, the videos of Brotherhood activists delighting in the pain and degradation of their prisoners destroyed what little basis of trust there might once have been.

Egypt's military gives Morsy ultimatum
Military stance pleases anti-Morsy camp
Is Morsy on the brink?

But if the Brotherhood bears most of the responsibility for the current crisis, the leaders of the Tamarud Movement must face some tough questions. Having brought millions into the streets, what is your game plan? How will you transform a tactical victory into a strategic win? Where are the leaders who will give a new vision of politics in Egypt real moral force? Most importantly, how will you avoid signaling to all Egyptians --including the Brotherhood-- that the price they must now pay for two years of bad leadership is another form of political exclusion or a political process ultimately controlled by the military?

This is what the Brotherhood ultimately fears. In point of fact, if under rule of Hosni Mubarak rule they were never fully excluded from politics, they were still prisoners of a system that denied them any hope of exercising real political power. Freed from such shackles by the January 25, 2011, revolt, they sought political vengeance.

But if the Brotherhood is at fault, the leaders of the June 30 rebellion now face the challenge of putting aside their own desire --or that of their followers --for score settling and focusing instead on building a grass-roots political party that can help Egypt back to inclusive democratic governance. Let us hope that out of the maelstrom of this latest crisis, one that has seen unprovoked abuse and needless violence on both sides, leaders capable of assuming this great task will not sit by and watch Egypt return to the past.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary Daniel Brumberg.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT