What’s realistic and desirable is for the military to succeed in its confrontation with the Brotherhood as quickly and convincingly as possible. Victory permits magnanimity. It gives ordinary Egyptians the opportunity to return to normal life. It deters potential political and military challenges. It allows the appointed civilian government to assume a prominent political role. It settles the diplomatic landscape. It lets the neighbors know what’s what.
And it beats the alternatives. Alternative No. 1: A continued slide into outright civil war resembling Algeria’s in the 1990s. Alternative No. 2: Victory by a vengeful Muslim Brotherhood, which will repay its political enemies richly for the injuries that were done to it. That goes not just for military supremo Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and his lieutenants, but for every editor, parliamentarian, religious leader, businessman or policeman who made himself known as an opponent of the Brotherhood.
Question for Messrs. Graham, Leahy and Paul: Just how would American, Egyptian, regional or humanitarian interests be advanced in either of those scenarios? The other day Sen. Paul stopped by the Journal’s offices in New York and stressed his opposition to any U.S. policy in Syria that runs contrary to the interests of that country’s Christians. What does he suppose would happen to Egypt’s Copts, who have been in open sympathy with Gen. Sisi, if the Brotherhood wins?
Of course there’s the argument that brute repression by the military energizes the Brotherhood. Maybe. Also possible is that a policy of restraint emboldens the Brotherhood. The military judged the second possibility more likely. That might be mistaken, but at least it’s based on a keener understanding of the way Egyptians think than the usual Western clichés about violence always begetting violence.
There’s also an argument that since our $1.3 billion in military aid hasn’t gotten Gen. Sisi to take our advice, we may as well withdraw it. But why should we expect him to take bad advice? Politics in Egypt today is a zero-sum game: Either the military wins, or the Brotherhood does. If the U.S. wants influence, it needs to hold its nose and take a side.
Yes. And the right side.
This should be obvious. It’s frightening that it is not, to either Obama or McCain.