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
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1952 GMT (0352 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT