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Disclosure: What I know about Egypt makes me no expert and this is more about reactions I'm having, and questions that have been bouncing around my head after reading some of the editorial opinions in the traditional media. In the comments please share your expertise and/or help me correct any ignorance on display below.

Not too many years ago the idea of an army subverting a democratically elected government in my mind was clearly wrong. I slowly began to move away from that absolutist view and I've recognized that this is not at all black and white. Recent political analyses of coups since 1991 have shown a more complicated situation. The end of the Cold War had enormous geo-political consequences. The recently published analysis by Nikolay Marinov and Hein Goemans of Yale and the University of Rochester, respectively, found that most coups since 1991 have led to competitive elections. This was most likely to happen to countries dependent on Western aid. We give the Egyptian military a 1.3 billion dollar annual grant so I think they fit this criteria.

Many of the reactions to the coup I've read have been upset that a democratic government was overthrown. I'm not seeing them explore some key questions: How democratic was the government in Egypt? Should elections bind a people to misrule and a movement towards dictatorship until the next election? The direction that the Morsi government was moving made it rational to expect that the next election would be a sham (like the way his constitution was pushed through). Should a people wait for years as their "democratic" leader expands executive power and claims supremacy over the judiciary (which Morsi had already done)? Looking back on Bush the Dumber's reelection I remember how horrible I felt for most Americans, for Iraqis, Afghanis, and many others around the world. I cringed at the thought of four more years of the destruction of democratic institutions, the handing over of government to crony contractors, and another huge increase in income inequality (among many other nasty things). Did I hope for a coup? Not at all--and I still wouldn't because of the nature of our military and the citizens of the USA. But imagine that it did happen, that elections were held within a year, and that the wrongs of the previous 4-5 years were addressed then instead of starting in 2009. A lot of harm might have been prevented. Obviously this is a counter-factual fantasy but can you see the allure?

Egypt does not have experience with democracy. That they are struggling with it is no surprise to me. It will be messy at first--just as it was at the beginning of the USA. The Egyptian military is not the same as Idi Amin's military, or Pakistan's military, or our military. They seem to have closer ties to the Egyptian people in general, not a military/security/corporate complex, or a narrow elite, or one strongman. If I were to compare them to any other country's military it would be Turkey's. The past has many examples of governments who lose the allegiance of the security forces because the people no longer see them as legitimate. No one knows how this will turn out, but as usual the traditional media doesn't probe these complexities. They are not teaching us about the socio-political context of these momentous events, and their readers don't have to think or ask themselves complicated questions. What does it mean when tens of millions of citizens take to the streets? Every one of them probably represented another 10 who were staying at home. It takes a lot of mistreatment to get that many people out into the streets. Back in 1775 the elites in the old world looked at the colonial upstarts across the Atlantic as ungrateful savages--uncultured and primitive. The common people of Europe (especially in Britain and France) saw it differently because they were living under repressive governments, they felt powerless, and those rebellious colonists gave them something to hope for.

In the future I'd prefer that military coups would be the absolute last resort and ideally that they completely disappear. In the meantime this might be exactly what Egypt needs to get a functioning democracy off the ground. I sure hope so. The people are demanding a change and the power and legitimacy of the state ultimately comes from them.


What do you think of coups?

2%2 votes
23%16 votes
7%5 votes
2%2 votes
2%2 votes
19%13 votes
1%1 votes
39%27 votes

| 68 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  The only folks who would've staged a coup (13+ / 0-)

    against Bush were factions of the military that thought he was too soft.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:27:00 AM PDT

  •  i would have supported (28+ / 0-)

    investigstions that could have led to impeachment. i think many of our continuing problems, including the nsa spying and the weakness of our democratic "leaders" traces directly to the refusal to provide transparency and accountability then.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:28:49 AM PDT

    •  Exactly. (9+ / 0-)

      And to this day, I don't know why Al Gore let himself be deposed like that. I mean, he was a crappy candidate to the bitter end, that's how. But you know what I mean.

      •  Oh, do I ! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        corvo, wilderness voice, Mayfly


        If we are going to elect Democrats, lets elect real ones!

        by waztec on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:41:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  if he had resisted, they would have done to him (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        what the Egyptian army is doing to Morsi now. At the very least.

        In many coups, the leaders of the deposed government are not allowed to see the next sunrise. Too much chance of them coming back, rallying the people, and toppling the new regime.

        But we are civilized, so our coups are effected through Supreme Court verdicts rather than more, uh, visceral means.

        But make no mistake. If he had resisted, he would have been removed--by force.

        "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

        by limpidglass on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:52:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ir would've been subtler (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Since the media was already treating Bush as president and he was already naming members of his administration and talking like he was president, Gore's continued resistance would have been spun as sour grapes. He would have lost many supporters on his own side who saw this as potentially jeopardizing any Democratic crediiblity, which the media could have made sure it did.

          I'm not exactly sure what he could have done after the Supreme Court decision, but if he had fought on past Bush's inauguration, he would have become a figure of ridicule, as would the whole Democratic Party which would have been depicted and widely viewed by the public as dead-enders worse than Nader.

          And I saw the same thing to those who think Kerry had a snowball's chance in hell fighting in Ohio. He would have destroyed his career — and he's done much good since then.

          Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

          by anastasia p on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 01:01:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Conspiracy Theory nonsense (0+ / 0-)

          Not even worth HRing.

          Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

          by Mokurai on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 01:37:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I think the corporations waged a coup against the (6+ / 0-)

      people in this country and won with the help of politicians.
      There's not much left of the constitution, democracy or justice in this country, so why worry about a little thing like a military coup.    Just militarize the police and quit arguing about the small stuff.

      What we need is a Democrat in the White House. Elizabeth Warren 2016

      by dkmich on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:04:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Coups. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gnothis, Joieau

    Coups against dictators seem defensible, because it's trading one illegitimate government for another -- at the point my support comes down to who's I agree with more.

    Coups against elected officials, as we saw in Egypt, not so much. There has to be at least one election where the elected official has outright stolen the election undemocratically before that becomes an option (and no, unfortunately, the stupid SCOTUS Bush v. Gore decision was within the bounds of the system). Morsi wasn't close to that, although his administration diminished certain democratic structures.

    A coup against George W. Bush would've prompted me into full-time residential protest against the military.

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:33:06 AM PDT

    •  In principal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I agree with you. My opinions are not as clear when I think about a country with no experience of democracy and free competitive elections. It might have been too late by the next elections--but now we'll never know.

    •  The role of the military (0+ / 0-)

      in any popular uprising to depose a despot - even a supposedly 'democratically' elected despot - in an erstwhile democracy/republic where the people are supposed to BE the ultimate rulers is neutrality. They should refuse to deploy against the people on the side of the despot, and refuse to carry out the motions of a coup on the side of the people.

      If it dissolves into civil war/revolution, then the military's on the side of the sitting government. They'd probably have to release troops who would support the other guys, or they'd be in trouble in a real fight.

  •  I Come From A Family Of Military Folks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gnothis, Garrett, Nailbanger

    As political as I am I didn't know my father was a Republican until he retired, cause as he often said:

    I serve at the pleasure of the President.
    He served those he didn't believe in. He didn't think it was acceptable to state his political views. So I am against a coup of any kind.
  •  I dunno, maybe we should try it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, wilderness voice

    It's not like Congress actually does anything but fuck things up and pass fake abortion bills and ACA repeals.

    Let's have a lottery for some qualified technocrats and put them in positions that need managing. Put the military on real national security issues like road and bridge maintenance, health care and sustainable energy installations and a smart grid.

    SCOTUS is fired too.

  •  There was a coup (5+ / 0-)

    The administration was taken over by Private Agendas, Major Incompetence, and General Stupidity.

    I'm no philosopher, I am no poet, I'm just trying to help you out - Gomez (from the song Hamoa Beach)

    by jhecht on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:40:08 AM PDT

  •  Many Rs would support a coup of Obama with glee (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, Hillbilly Dem

    Isn't that exactly what they've been hoping and praying for, for 5 years now? With goading from FOX, Limbaugh, Beck et al deriding him as a tyrant, and an illigetimate President? They're the same people who always scream about the sanctity of the Constitution, but only when it suits their cause.

    "Use the Force, Harry!" - Gandalf

    by Fordmandalay on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:48:15 AM PDT

  •  US is not Egypt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hillbilly Dem, happymisanthropy

    So the question is bizarre and rather daft.

    The right wing haters would love to overthrow Pres Obama but despite the hateration, they cant!

    And without bush, chances are there would be no Pres Obama. Karma is a bit@ch, and god works in mysterious ways.

  •  Perhaps there should have been a coup (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    against the Supreme Court after Bush v Gore decision to force a complete recount of the Florida votes. That might have saved all sorts of nonsense.

    But, what about after that?

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:52:04 AM PDT

    •  But Who Could've Performed a Coup Other Than (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the military? Seems more likely they'd support rather than oppose W.

      And there wasn't a progressive option in play, and installing a progressive government is not a typical military coup outcome anyway.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:01:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wouldn't favor a coup (0+ / 0-)

    but I would favor major demonstrations in Washington lasting until Congress actually starts doing their jobs. The state of our government is currently in nothingness & it's damaging our country - I see no end to this cycle of working on nothing but reelection.

    Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. A. A. Milne

    by hulibow on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:58:25 AM PDT

  •  I do remember "liberal" gun nuts talking about... (0+ / 0-)

    ...stuff like this back then.

    Not so much about a military coup, but imagining themselves going out in a blaze of glory fighting the government.


    Stop the NRA and the NSA
    Repeal the Patriot Act and the 2nd Amendment

    by dream weaver on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:03:54 AM PDT

  •  Rec'ed for asking questions over simple labelism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gnothis, Catte Nappe

    It is my opinion that using teh word coup is misleading in this case. I see no reason to use it so I wonder why so many insist it be used.

    A coup d'état (ˌkuːdeɪˈtɑː; plural: coups d'état), also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden deposition of a government,[1][2][3][4] usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to depose the extant government and replace it with another body, civil or military
    * 15 to 20% of the entire nation was out protesting against this government. That is not a small group.

    * The situation has been heating to a boil over months, in public. That is not sudden.

    * The military announced their intent days in advance ... I've not heard of an advertised coup before.

    The problem with using the word coup is that it carries along with it a bushel of negative connotations, from tinhorn dictators to juntas to presidents-for-life. That these negative images come with the package cannot be ignored. Well,  they should not be ignored.

    So I wonder at those (not you obviously) who insist the word coup be used.

    Instead of using the word coup, can we not phrase matters with more nuance? The Egyptians people, in and out of uniform, deserve better. No?

    •  Language can fail us (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quicklund, Catte Nappe

      in times of rapid and unprecedented change. What's happening in Egypt is novel and very interesting--for the reasons you stated and more. We do not know how it will turn out, but at least the military supports a secular government--that's why I thought of Turkey. Let's not coin a new word, let's use a series of words that capture the novelty and complexity. Protest initiated military action against unresponsive and undemocratic governance that has lost its legitimacy. Delicious word salad. Is it a democracy when the government isn't democratic? Is the military acting in the interests of the people truly a coup? Many things to ponder.

  •  It depends on whether Rule of Law applies there (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam AZ, gnothis, Ahianne

    As we are coming to learn, there is no magic in election results. Elections can be rigged in so many ways, or be otherwise illegitimate. It's how there were two slates of delegates from Mississippi to the Democratic national convention. Sometimes, the game is rigged by rules that limit voter participation (the modern tactic by the GOP) or by rules that limit candidate participation (the favored route in Iran and in Egypt's last election). Sometimes, even the counting is questionable.

    So, where there is no confidence in the legitimacy of the election, it's really just putting form over substance to elevate the election result to sacrosanct status. If there is a legitimate legal process to challenge election irregularities, as we do have here (even after the Voting Rights Act decision), then that must be the course to challenge rules and results. The reason is because that puts meat -- substance -- on the bones of the electoral form.  

    Of course, it requires some, justified level of confidence in the legal system. That system must have articulable, objective standards for judging and a democratic process of sorts for selecting judges and for reviewing their decisions. And, to maintain that level of confidence, the citizenry must accord some level of respect to the judges and their decisions.

    That is the Rule of Law...and it is exactly what was missing in Egypt.

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:06:22 AM PDT

  •  Yes, every democratic country should have a coup (0+ / 0-)

    Democracy is too messy, and takes too long.

    by Paleo on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:09:01 AM PDT

  •  There should have been action (0+ / 0-)

    taken against the supreme court in 2000.  That SC was a coup and why did not one senator not sign on ..A peaceful coup of senators supporting the electors for Gore in Florida should have happened.

    Bush should never have been president of the local dog poung much less the US ,,,
    i was thinking about Bush and Egypt this AM
    To military would never have went against Bush
    The people should have done something.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:10:45 AM PDT

  •  No, because we're not Egypt. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Ahianne

    We have a mature Democracy, in which our leaders are regularly changed in a fairly straightforward fashion that, for all it's faults, generally reflects the will of the people, even if that will is predicated on a force-feeding of media propaganda.

    Egypt is still trying to figure out how they'll make democracy work, and most Egyptians probably haven't gotten ahold of a notion of recall or impeachment yet.

  •  No n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

    by Spud1 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:26:56 AM PDT

  •  "this is not at all black and white." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If a U.S. President crammed thru an edict that held him immune to any legal action, I would have to give a coup some hard thought.

    And that is the reason that I am pissed that the Obama administration seemingly is not taking strong action to offset Christianist actions to indoctrinate our military to a faux obligation to Christ.

    By strong action I mean disciplanary action against military officers who conveniently look the other way.

  •  I can understand a coup in extreme circumstances (0+ / 0-)

    Nothing in the Bush admin ever rose to that level.

    In Egypt, things did not appear to be extreme enough yet, but not my call as I am not there.

    John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

    by Walt starr on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:49:28 AM PDT

  •  No. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anastasia p, Ahianne

    I wrote a couple of diaries arguing that Cheney should be impeached and think I might have re Gonzelez as well. I think Bush committed an impeachable offense, but if those two and Rumsfeld were removed, I was fine leaving the presidency itself intact.

    Cheney engineering his own appointment as VP nominee and then intentionally having Bush fly around half a day while he ordered planes shot down isn't at a level of the 9/11 attacks themselves, but is one of the worst things a high government official has ever done. Except for what he did after that.

    Have you heard? The vice president's gone mad. - Bob Dylan, 1966

    by textus on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:49:33 AM PDT

    •  And announcing publicly (0+ / 0-)

      where the presidential plane was flying. I remember in the fog of that day thinking that was weird as they kept announcing the desultory trajectory of the president's plane as it flew around the country.

      Learning years later that Cheney was the one who directed Bush to do this certainly put a new spin on it.

      Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

      by anastasia p on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 01:07:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You've completely missed the point, gnothis (0+ / 0-)

    Competitive elections are not a good measure of democracy. The US has competitive elections, yet somehow the needs of many--perhaps most-- of its citizens are not reflected in legislation.

    How did the United States create a fairly durable democracy, one that survived even a Civil War only to expire in the latter days of the 20th century? The people overthrew the British dictatorship. Then the people overthrew the system of slavery, the system of male domination, the system of corporate domination, the system of Jim Crow, and so on. Whether these actions were the result of taking up arms or marching in the streets, they required enormous personal sacrifice.

    What makes democracy work is, not surprisingly, the active, energetic participation of its members. The personal sacrifice is what protects democracy from subversion.

    From about 1975 to now, politics has been about huge money machines, run largely by corporations and special interest groups, employing propaganda to persuade people to vote a certain way. To the extent that it's larger than a campaign, efforts are pre-fab and often corporate funded, like the Tea Party or the Moral Majority. There's very little personal involvement, no movement formed from below.  

    The army has run Egypt for half a century. Morsi, like Mubarak, was a mask behind which they exercised power. Sometimes one must change masks. But nothing fundamental has changed as a result of the coup.

    If Egypt ends up as a democracy, it will because of the people in Tahrir Square.

  •  Can't title question or poll questions (3+ / 0-)

    USA has a political process for removing officials so a coup should never be necessary. . . . .Sudden mob action to remove an official is no substitute for citizens doing the constant work of democracy.

    What I would have supported against Bush's own 'coup' was widespread citizen activism using the freedoms that we still have. But please remember that Gore-Lieberman did not want to prolong the process and neither did Congress, otherwise Congress could have refused to certify the Florida votes.

    I would have loved to see an informed public and media revive the one-term only precedent of the Hayes-Tilden election (electoral college won; popular vote lost).
    Optional history of that election:

    You have to reckon that without sustaining the whole democratic system and all its institutions. . . .no coup can help enough because it takes more than elections (or undoing elections through a coup) to keep a democracy.

    Wise people have warned that in America we are more likely to get a fascistic coup, especially if people feel a need for security and, no, I wouldn't have welcomed a coup against Bush if you mean the mob rule type or resorting to violence.

    Ridicule, pressure, yes. You might recall that the one thing Bush failed to achieve from his wish list was Social Security privatization and it was popular opinion, citizen action through widely varied alliances that prevented it.

    More solidarity please!

  •  Coup - No, Impeachment - Yes (3+ / 0-)

    Military rule would be an intolerable outcome for our democracy.

  •  No. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radabush, happymisanthropy

    Justice would demand a Nuremberg-like trial for that war criminal.

    Alas, the "winners" usually get a free pass.

    Warren/3-D Print of Warren in 2016!

    by dov12348 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:13:19 AM PDT

  •  That's what Impeachment is for... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...followed, in the case of the Cheney regime, immediate rendition to the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges.

    "Federal law limits me to 3 shells when duck hunting, but no law limiting assault magazines. We have more protections for ducks than people." - Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5)

    by radabush on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:15:53 AM PDT

  •  Not a good comparison (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Ahianne, Mokurai

    In Egypt, the military was the only organization with the power to enforce a decision to remove Morsi.

    The courts had limited power to begin with, coming as they did almost unchanged out of a dictatorship where they had no ability to challenge the dictator. They were further undermined by Morsi's actions (prohibiting them from challenging him, and replacing a number of people in key positions of authority with his own loyalists). No court decision could have been enforced, and it's likely that an adverse ruling could have even been made in the climate of intimidation that existed immediately prior to the coup.

    The lower house of Parliament didn't exist - it had been dissolved in the revolution and not yet reconstituted.

    The upper house of Parliament was legally almost powerless. They'd taken it upon themselves to start voting on things, since there wasn't a lower house, but they were only permitted to do so because Morsi approved. He could have shut them down if he'd wanted to.

    So Egypt essentially had no democratic mechanism for enforcing the rule of law against its executive. It's not that it had such a mechanism and chose not to use it - it simply did not have any mechanism at all.

    Bush could have been impeached. Congress chose not to do it, but they could have, and they could have enforced any resulting decision.

    He could also have been bound by court rulings (and he was, by a couple at least.) The courts chose not to hear some cases, and chose not to rule against him in some others, but they did have the power to constrain his behaviour if it had become as outrageous as Morsi's.

    Nobody in Egypt could do anything to constrain Morsi - either to remove him or to limit his power - except for the military. That's what makes this coup...if not acceptable, then at least understandable.

    "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

    by kyril on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:28:53 AM PDT

  •  We have checks and balances. (0+ / 0-)

    At least in theory. most of the developed democracies have one branch of government that legislates, a branch that judges cases and a list of rights that no government is allowed to breach (that may be either written or enshrined in a common law).  For good measure, the United States has three branches of government, devolves very considerable power to the 50 states, each of which have their own system of checks and balances.  

    There were no checks on Morsi's power.  He could go over the judiciary's head and did sack inconvenient judges.  He could override the Parliament, or at least thought that he could.  He meddled in elections.  

    Egypt's choice was between a dictatorship under the color of democracy or a military coup that may or may not restore democracy.  Sort of like progressives holding their nose to vote in a Blue Dog over a crazy Red theocrat, Egyptians appear to have chosen a period of military rule in the hopes of rebooting democracy.


    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 03:51:59 PM PDT

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