While Americans have been fixated on such immensely important issues as Paula Deen, the sensationalized George Zimmerman trial, and Aaron Hernandez over the past few days, Egyptians have been struggling to topple a fundamentalist dictator who — through mechanisms resembling democracy — has spent much of his term attempting to transform Egypt into an Islamic theocracy. Surely the U.S. has been standing with secular protesters against this authoritarian dictator, right?
Once again, the U.S. finds itself firmly rooted on the wrong side of history. Although millions of protesters in Cairo and elsewhere have surged through the streets in opposition to President Mohamed Morsi and his fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood party, rightly expecting a show of U.S. support, the Obama administration has shamefully "enabled Mursi by refusing to pressure him to bring other parties into his governing coalition, by soft-pedaling his various power grabs, by ignoring the complaints of liberals and by cozying up to his patrons in the Muslim Brotherhood."
That the U.S. is once more on the wrong side of history is without doubt. For whether it is done through violence or peaceful protest, Morsi will almost certainly be gone within a few hours. In a statement headlined "The Final Hours," military leaders pledged to shed blood against "terrorists and fools" unless Morsi cedes office. In response Morsi, supported by well-armed Islamist groups, promised to die before leaving office. Given that a military deadline for Morsi to step down will have expired by or around the time this article is published, a showdown between Islamists on one side and military-backed secularists on the other seems inevitable.
Now, I understand our reluctance to oppose Morsi: He was elected democratically. But although the Obama administration is supporting Morsi because he was democratically elected, this is shortsighted. While Mursi may have been elected democratically, he has not actually ruled in a democratic manner. The interests of democracy would thus be served by his removal, and his removal would be expedited by a show of American support for protesters.
As things stand now, Egyptians have zero confidence in the U.S. and even less in Obama. As Jeffrey Goldberg writes, "Within a span of just a few years, Egyptians have somehow convinced themselves that the U.S. has been an ally of both Egypt's former dictator ... and Mubarak’s main enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood." It is time for the U.S. to more strongly support Egyptian pro-democracy protesters and to call out for the Muslim Brotherhood to do the right thing and rescind power. The price of continued American silence could be much worse than increased anti-Americanism. Indeed, the price could be nothing short of civil war.
Morsi must go.