Since President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in 1977, Egypt has been in a dark tunnel that has altered the country from an Arab state to an "Arab crisis". Since that fateful day, the Arab world has witnessed a series of catastrophes that are a direct result of Egypt's transformation. With Egypt's resignation from Arabism, Israel became the only major power in the region because it had Egypt as an ally. Due to Egyptian consent and silence, Israel used this new bond to invade Lebanon less than two months after the signing of the Camp David Accords in April 1978. It went back in 1982 before completely absorbing Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights within its territory and bombing Iraq's reactors. Egypt melted into the Zionist entity and Israel took Egypt's place as the new hegemonic power in the region.
With the outbreak of the Iranian Revolution, Baghdad entered into a conflict with an alliance between Tehran and Damascus. The Gulf countries sided with Iraq for lack of any other option and Egypt joined their ranks as a follower rather than a leader. When the disastrous invasion of Kuwait occurred, Egypt was given the opportunity to regain its dominant position but instead chose to participate in the destruction of Iraq and handed the Gulf over to the United States. Thus, Egypt remained in a state of crisis and transmitted this disease to other countries as it caved in to narrow strategic interests. Many countries in the region followed into a state of crisis, including Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Algeria and Syria; the crises are ongoing. After the outbreak of the blessed January 25th Revolution, many Arabs were hopeful that Egypt would return to its hegemonic position, but it has taken a backward step with the coup.
During the Mubarak era, Egypt was a source of intelligence for America in the region. The state covered the mouths of its people and fed them from the fruits of their sovereign decisions. Today, Egypt is a republic of thugs who manufacture the same chaos in the Sinai as America did in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel did in Lebanon and Gaza. The difference between the three is that Israel and America conducted their business with extreme intelligence, whereas Egypt's tactics today embody stupidity. If the tactics used in Cairo and Sinai were of any value, America would still have control over Vietnam and Russia would still prevail in Afghanistan. Egypt, once America's custodian in the region, has now been upgraded to the position of the servant of America's servants.
Mubarak's Egypt was pale, it had no colour or flavour and its media lacked inspiration. Today's Egypt is brightly coloured with blood and its media is characterised by a borderline hysteria that is a strange mix of Hitlerian madness and North Korean obsession. Mubarak's Egypt disappeared from the map just like America before Columbus. Yet, the emerging neo-Nazi Egypt is imposing its cartographic presence with a blazing fire. Egyptians today wake up to horror and fall asleep to lies. The state devours its sons and its territory in the same manner that it is devouring its neighbours in the wake of this artificially-created conflict with the Gaza Strip, which Egypt accuses of manufacturing and exporting weapons. The Gaza Strip, with its population of 1.7 million people, is accused of having a thriving weapons export industry when, in reality, thanks to the new Egypt, the people of Gaza cannot find enough to eat.
Today, Egypt is a crisis-state par excellence. It is oscillating between models of Algerian, Somali and Syrian disasters and it has caught fire from the flames left behind by guns. What is even more dangerous than this is the spread of hate through the media, which attacks people as though it were a den of hungry lions. Once a state or even a village finds itself in such a situation, it becomes its responsibility to dispatch fire fighters to deal with the flames. At this point what is important is not the nationality or identity of the fireman but whether he has the necessary tools to complete the job.
Furthermore, it is not the sole responsibility of the owners of the house to decide who is qualified to extinguish the fire or even what specific areas they will allow the fireman to deal with. This type of thinking is similar to the views that surround Syria (as well as those that crystallised around Iraq before the invasion); it allows one to consider that there are certain areas that are worth being engorged by flames. It's the same mentality adopted by farmers who burn down trees deliberately so that they can plant new ones in their place. Perhaps a better comparison can be made with Joseph's siblings who justified killing their brother by saying, "Let us commit this one crime and afterwards, we will become 'good people'."
The problem is that each lie develops into a series of lies just as the lie that Joseph was kidnapped paved the way for more lies to cover up the true story. This is similar to the crime of aggression against legitimacy in Egypt, which was in fact the result of countless lies invented to justify the unforgivable crimes of burning, murder, destruction and bullying. More and more crimes unfolded and instead of becoming 'good people', Egyptians are in need of more lies to cover up the crimes and to justify the chaos. It has reached the point where everyone is lying to themselves as well as to each other.
It is important to recognise that the situation in Egypt does not concern Egypt alone. I have mentioned before that there was a moment in history when Egypt stepped down from its hegemonic role and transformed the entire Arab world into a theatre of the absurd and a hotbed for chaos. Today, Egypt has burned down and it has engaged in a very public political and moral suicide. The flames will not stop at the borders of Sinai, Alexandria, Marsa Matruh and Aswan, but will move into the rest of the region.
The current situation is unbearable to watch and if the changes need to come from within the country itself, then a series of anti-coups must take place to restore normality. Perhaps the change can come from within the Muslim Brotherhood, which is not only the largest Islamic movement in Egypt but also in the entire world. This organisation must make substantial and immediate changes, which many people both within and without the movement have demanded. These changes are necessary and can no longer be delayed.
The Muslim Brotherhood bears the burden of responsibility for what is occurring in Egypt more than any other organisation because the group gained control of Egypt at a critical time in its history and failed to unite Islamists and other Egyptians around it. This shortcoming served as the justification for the military coup, but there is a huge difference between making a mistake and deliberately undermining democracy. As I mentioned in one of my first comments on the coup, Morsi made many blunders and mistakes but stupidity and criminality are two very different things, although this does not mean that stupidity should not be punished. Perhaps it is one of God's Divine mysteries that punishment is accelerated when a crime is based on stupidity and delayed when it comes to criminality. The Brotherhood regime has been punished for its crimes but this punishment does not mean that it will recover. If the regime was not in its entirety a group of idiots and fools, then they must put things in order. This could initially be done through mass resignations of members of the Guidance Council, which would then pave the way for a new leadership to address the crisis.
The lesson here is taken from the aftermath of the Nasser era, which gave birth to the idea of rallying around the incumbent power, regardless of its mistakes, because there was ultimately no room for change. The government has continued to choose its leaders in this way. It bases its choices upon who is the fittest to take power as opposed to the worst. The second coup that is needed should come in the form of a popular revolt that will bring about comprehensive changes and cleanse all of the state's institutions of corruption and sabotage. The biggest mistake of the January 25th revolutionaries is that they focused all their efforts on removing the individual in power and neglected to reform or address all of the state's quasi-governmental institutions such as the security forces, the police, the judiciary and the media. The judiciary has proved that its weak point lies in its inability to protect the revolution because it is used by the regime to undermine revolutionary gains. In fact, the judiciary today provides a cover for the nakedness of the coup. More importantly, the media has proven that is the catalyst for the moral corruption of society.
As for the security forces, the police and diplomatic corps, no words can describe their actions. They must form a democratic front based on transparency and accountability. They must cleanse and purge the judiciary and the all of the security forces. They must also end the domination of the media and liberalise it. This in turn also requires reforms within all Islamic movements and their full integration in the overall framework of the democratic movement, which is the only thing that will ensure a true revolution and counter-coup against the coup which undermined democracy and growth.
The author is Reader in Politics and coordinator of the Democracy and Islam Programme at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University. This article is a translation from the Arabic which appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi on 16 September 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.