One or the Other?

Cairo crowds cheer the Army
Crowds in Cairo cheering Army copters on in run-up to removal of Morsi on July 3rd

Let me start by saying that, in an absolute choice between the Egyptian Army and the Muslim Brotherhood, I would unequivocally choose the Army. My choice would be based on one simple, basic, perhaps naïve reason.

Any national army has a vested interest in its country being prosperous, or at the very least safe. This is even more true for an army of conscripts such as the Egyptian army, where at least the lower ranks are made up of everyday Egyptian men from all walks of life. The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, has shown on numerous occasions that Egypt as a nation was not its top priority, if it was even on the list at all. This was done by word (former MB Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef famously said “screw Egypt” and former president Mohamed Morsi was famous for addressing “his family and tribe” rather than the people of Egypt) and deed (among a vast list of both proven and alleged deeds against Egypt, laying out the Egyptian flag on the street at the MB sit-in to be stepped on is only an example of the group’s disdain for the country).

I think it’s important to say here that this opinion applies solely to the MB and other groups with non-Egyptian agendas, not to Islamist or religious political players at large. While I do not agree with the idea of religion-based politics, I’d still welcome any Islamist party that has the Egyptian interest at heart and not a regional or international, or even group-based, agenda.

Now that my choice of Army vs. MB has been made clear, the important question to ask is. Are these really our only two choices in Egypt at this point in time? And if so, why? Where are the other players that have been in the political arena for years, at least since January 25th? Where are the liberal forces that have time and time again seemed to align best with the hopes and aspirations of Egyptians for a better future? Do we really stand at a point where it is one or the other?

Let me end by saying that I have not decided on whether or not I’ll be joining today’s protests, called for by Defense Minister Abdelfattah el-Sisi to give the Army a mandate to fight the “potential violence and terrorism” threatening Egypt. My indecision is not based on a lack of trust of the Army, as is the case for many, or a lack of desire to fight violence and terrorism, as it may be seen by some. My indecision, however, is based on a lack of desire to choose the better of two evils and trying to find a third way out. I believe, though, that at the end of the day practical and realistic concerns will take over my idealism and I’ll be joining the throngs, but I’m hoping to be more sure of the decision then than I am now.