What happened in Egypt was a quick knockout. The ousted president and the Muslim Brotherhood were unable to detect the approaching danger although the deadline was already set, the crowds had previously announced their plans, and calls to overthrow the regime were gradually becoming louder.
I believe that even the Egyptian army itself did not expect streets and squares all over the country to be filled with millions, even though they had inevitably planned to intervene in case of danger or anarchy.
There are now two teams and one game. The winners are the opposition coalition, supported by the majority of people who granted them “legitimacy,” in precisely the same manner that they had initially seized this from former President Hosni Mubarak. The losers are the Muslim Brotherhood, shocked and in chagrined about the outcome of events given the belief that they were the sole holders of presidential “legitimacy,” and they will no doubt fight to recover it.
Since the army backed the second revolution, it surprised everyone with its ability to plan, intervene, and lead, an unprecedented, quick, and flawless eradication process. In just one day, the army overthrew an entire regime: a president, a prime Minister, a government and its major departments. The Egyptian army succeeded, in less than 24-hours, in swearing-in a new civilian president before the country’s judicial, religious, and civilian authorities. The army has also refrained from taking over the prime minister’s office, as rumored, announcing that this will remain a civilian post. Moreover, the military leadership avoided issuing contradictory or confusing statements, issuing a single concise statement announcing military intervention and the reasons for this. This is what made the West, in particular, hesitate in labeling what happened a military “coup” since the scene involved millions of Egyptian people, exceeding the number of people who took to the streets during the first revolution. The Egyptian army seems to have handed the country over to civilian leadership.
There is the fear that the revolutionaries will forget the lessons learnt from the recent past and commit the same mistakes as the Muslim Brotherhood, who took the people’s support for granted. In fact, the Egyptian people may be more hindrance than help because they are now expecting a happy ending after toppling Mursi, solely blaming him for the economic, social, and political problems that Egypt has been experiencing. The people gave Mursi one year in office before toppling him, and they may re-emerge one year from now to repeat the process.
The first lesson: Time is the enemy. The media leaked a prediction that the transition phase will last for two years and if this turns out to be true, the transitional regime will have sentenced itself to death. One year from now, we will begin to witness the re-emergence of complaints and demonstrations, the victors will pull in different directions, and the Muslim Brotherhood—who are more skilled than the opposition—will work on provoking public opinion against the army and the interim government. The army has to work on early parliamentary and presidential elections, and prior to that, a new constitution and referendum.
The second lesson: Avoid attacking the opposition. Despite the swiftness of the “coup,” the attack against the media was a mistake. Nowadays, the regime cannot silence criticism. This is a battle of opinions, ideology, and actions and those who are unsatisfied must be allowed to express their beliefs and silencing them is a temporary measure. Even the pro-government television channels will criticize and provoke the people against the new regime; this is the nature of the media, a platform for the dissatisfied.
The third lesson: ethics are just as important as regulations. The majority of the people are against injustice, reprisal, oppression, humiliation, and revenge, especially after what happened to President Mubarak, his sons, and relatives following the first revolution. This generated divisions and criticism, not because the people doubted the justifications, but because it was against human morality. Nobility, loyalty, decency and tolerance are qualities embedded in the Egyptian people; they have been raised to love and treat even their opponents well.
These are not only Arabs ethics; what Mahatma Gandhi did in India will be remembered forever, as is the case for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and King Abdul Aziz who unified Saudi Arabia, forgave his opponents, deepened ties with them, and even appointed some of them in senior positions. President Mursi and his associates made a mistake but political issues are not like physics or math. In politics, there are excessive interpretations on which the people almost never unanimously agree. The army and transitional government should work towards national reconciliation that includes all the persecuted persons, and involve them in a joint venture that will end the crisis and establish a state of institutions for the coming century.