Austin Bay

Morsi could be a Khomeini in a coat and tie -- that's the secularist fear. I doubt that he is. I think he's narrow, confused and poorly advised, a man who has suddenly learned that complaining is easy but governing is very difficult.

If an Islamic theocracy is his dark agenda, however, he is a hasty and therefore hapless Khomeini. When he -- ambitiously -- rammed an Islamist constitution down the secularists' throats and claimed emergency powers in order to assert control over the military, he split the revolutionary movement into antagonistic factions. This destroyed the moral authority he enjoyed as president of all Egyptians.

Here is the major political lesson to take from Morsi's mistake: The Muslim Brotherhood may have the power to win an Egyptian election, but it is not a big enough power base for governing the country. It's definitely too narrow a base for tackling fundamental economic reform.

Brotherhood extremists won't get it, but moderate Islamists, secularists and the Egyptian military have noticed. Only one other revolutionary lesson (so far) looms as large. In 2011, Egypt's generals saw their troops openly sympathize with the demonstrators' grievances and demands. This certainly curbed Bonapartist ambitions. The generals did not repress the revolt; they let it evolve.

The stage is set for a rapprochement among secularists, Islamist moderates and military leaders who are smart enough to let the evolutionary process continue but willing to jail terrorists. This is a very slow process, one measured in decades. Ask me if it succeeded or failed in, say, January 2033.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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