Skip to main content

In Egypt, rage must lead to game plan

By Daniel Brumberg, Special to CNN
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
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
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT