One of the defining moments of the Arab Spring that occurred earlier this year was the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator of 30 years. However, it was not long before the people realized that the whole thing was turning out to be a Ponzi scheme thanks to the undemocratic actions of the Military Council that took power after Mubarak. Thus, the Egyptian people had no alternative left but to come out on the streets all over again to reclaim their newly won freedom.
The military, which had overseen the power transition in Egypt and was seen as an institution of infallible integrity, is now being seen as an oppressor and a hungry power-grabber after Field Marshall Mohamad Hussain Tantawi declared that the military plans to retain full control of the Egyptian government even after Parliamentary elections. As expected, it triggered a notion among the public that what they mistook to be a revolution was actually a military coup.
The people were swift to act and marched up to Tahrir Square in Cairo soon after, raising slogans of “Hurriya,” which translates to "Liberty." Protests also erupted in major cities like Suez and Alexandria. Adding to the chaos, even the civilian cabinet appointed by the Military Council resigned, thus lending a huge blow to the legitimacy of the Council. As a result of the protests, 23 people were killed and 1,500 wounded, according to Egypt's Health Ministry. In addition to that, 11,000 people were imprisoned and put on military trial.
It is fairly simple and justified to draw parallels between the uprising against Mubarak and the current uprising. During his presidency, Mubarak had turned Egypt into a police state and the Military Council has done the same by making the most of the much-hated “State of Emergency Laws” to crackdown on popular peaceful protests. The only difference is that there is a lot more bloodshed in this spate of demonstrations. To quote Amnesty International, “Egypt's military rulers are responsible for a catalog of abuses which in some cases exceeds the record of Hosni Mubarak.”
Even Alaa Abd El Fattah, a jailed blogger who has become the rallying point of the ongoing anti-military regime protests, has drawn parallels between the existing state of affairs and the police state days of Mubarak's regime. “I never expected to repeat the experience of five years ago: after a revolution that deposed the tyrant, I go back to his jails? I am locked up, again pending trial, again on a set of loose and flimsy charges – the one difference is that instead of the state security prosecutor we have the military prosecutor – a change in keeping with the military moment we’re living now,"El Fattah wrote.
Since the oil-rich Middle East has always been a region of strategic interest for the United States, the U.S. must step in diplomatically to handle the fragile situation prevailing in Egypt. Also, the Middle East has been the hotbed of terrorist activity targeting the U.S., so a stable Egypt is in its best interest. Even though anarchy cannot be allowed to prevail in that country, the Military Council must be sent back to the barracks while it still has some credibility intact.
Talking of the impending Parliamentary elections to be held in Egypt, the U.S. must not directly interfere in it because, as of now, the Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood seem to be the clear winners of the poll and any outcome deviating from that might fuel religious passions, thereby not only stalling the democratic process altogether, but also giving rise to militant fundamentalists.
To quote American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.” Hence, the U.S. administration must take its cue from this statement and act promptly, wisely and without the use of force.