Heritage expert James Jay Carafano, vice president of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies and the E. W. Richardson Fellow, gives his answers to questions about the turmoil in Egypt.
Q. Is President Mohamed Morsi’s downfall a blow to democracy in the Middle East?
A. No, far from it. Morsi was a wannabe sectarian Mubarak. His primary interest was in solidifying the Muslim Brotherhood’s control of Egypt. He embarked on a policy of silencing dissenting voices, free speech, and human rights.
Q. Why did the people rise up in protest?
A. Morsi failed to deliver on resolving the key issue raised in the Egyptian Arab Spring: the country’s utter lack of significant economic freedoms. The economy of Egypt is in shambles.
Q. Did the U.S. government do the right thing?
A. No, the Administration merely rubber stamped Morsi’s election, mistakenly equating the Middle East practice of “one vote, one time” with the exercise of democracy. The U.S. needs to press the case that any legitimate Egyptian government needs to deliver on the promise of human rights and economic freedom.
Q. Where does Egypt go from here?
A. Hard to say. The opposition was only unified in its hate of Morsi. There is no agreement on the way forward, and the Muslim Brotherhood is still the most well-organized political force in the country.
Q. What does this mean for Islamic extremism and stability in the Middle East?
A. Certainly, this is a blow to the Muslim brotherhood. But al-Qaeda and its franchises, as we have seen in other countries from Iraq to Libya, thrive on instability. Further, the instability in Egypt complicates and distracts from Syria. Turkey is also undergoing a round of political disruption. If anything, this highlights the limits of President Obama’s notion that he can pivot to Asia and ignore other areas of vital interest to the U.S. His lack of realism coupled with reductions in U.S. military forces and the other instruments of national power leave the U.S. looking weak and ineffective.