The Depth of Those Caracas 2002/Cairo 2013 Parallels

APTOPIX Mideast Yemen ProtestsReading this, it’s hard to shake the feeling that what Egypt is going through now is some bizarre alternate-universe version of what we would’ve faced in April 2002 if Raúl Baduel had been named Carmona’s Defense Minister on April 12th.

Despite inheriting intractable political, economic, and social problems, when Morsy ascended to power on June 30, 2012, he had choices — and he chose factional gain, zero-sum politics, and populist demagoguery. In a system without functioning checks and balances, those choices generated increasing levels of polarization, destroying trust and crippling the state. These decisions were a reflection of his hostility to criticism and his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s denigration of the opposition’s role in Egyptian society. In the period prior to this year’s June 30 mass protests on the first anniversary of Morsy’s swearing-in, when concessions and compromise might have found an orderly way out for Egypt, Morsy instead grudgingly offered airy promises and hollow gestures.

The fateful, misguided decisions made throughout his tenure and in the run-up and aftermath of the June 30 protests have now put Egypt on the cusp of civil strife and violent conflict. An intransigent, isolated president chose to ignore reality and set the country on the course for an undeniably unfortunate military intervention into civilian politics. While Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood will undoubtedly now assume their more familiar role as victims, significantly aided by the brutality and stupidity of a repressive Egyptian security sector, the primary responsibility for Morsy’s ouster and Egypt’s perilous state resides with the deposed president and his Brothers. None of this was inevitable.

Fascinating stuff. (The corollary of course being that if Morsi makes his way back to power, the Egypt of 2024 might end up as basketcasy as Venezuela is now…)

As I think about it, though, the main difference was that Chávez was a far more skillful, intuitive politician than Morsi is turning out to be.