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Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Good coup or bad coup in Egypt?

By Jackson Diehl

Egypt has just witnessed a popular revolution -- but also a military coup. So as we in Washington watch the crowds celebrate in Cairo, we also have to wonder: will this be a good coup, or a bad coup?

The one sentence announcement read by Vice President Omar Suleiman on Egyptian state television this morning said that President Hosni Mubarak had ceded authority to the supreme military council, which announced yesterday that it had gone into session. That means the Egyptian constitution -- which the regime has been insisting must be followed -- is no longer in effect. Under that constitution, Mubarak would have to be succeeded by the speaker of parliament, and new elections for president held within 60 days.

Clearly the military council, not the parliamentary speaker, is the country's authority at the moment. Suleiman may or may not have a role -- he is a former general and intelligence chief, but left the military when he became vice president. He did not participate in the military council's meeting on Thursday.

The most likely scenario, one Egyptian protest leaders seem to be taking for granted, is that the military council intends to accept the popular call for democracy, and will now organize a transition. It issued a statement this morning, before Mubarak's resignation, that promised democratic elections and the eventual lifting of an emergency law that is the foundation of the old autocracy. But the statement also appeared to back the positions of Mubarak and Suleiman Thursday night.

Opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei told CNN in an interview that he believes Suleiman as well as Mubarak are now out of power and that the military council will soon reach out to the opposition forces. But neither he nor Egyptian Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who also spoke to CNN, seemed to know for sure who among the generals was in charge and what their intentions were. Let's hope the "good coup" expectations are correct.

UPDATE: A statement read on state television by a uniformed representative of the military council in Cairo's early morning hours said it did not intend to substitute for popular sovereignty, and that it would later announce measures to govern a transitional phase. The statement also praised Mubarak for stepping down "in the interests of the nation" and "salutes the martyrs" who lost their lives in the unrest.
Does that make the situation clear? Not really.

By Jackson Diehl  | February 11, 2011; 12:46 PM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Office of the Press Secretary

Cairo University
Cairo, Egypt
1:10 P.M. (Local)

".....The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious ..."

Posted by: MILLER123 | February 11, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"Good coup or bad coup in Egypt?"
Neither one.

A tyrannical dictator is going to be exchanged for a gov that suppresses women and all those who aren't muzzies.

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 11, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"The most likely scenario, one Egyptian protest leaders seem to be taking for granted, is that the military council intends to accept the popular call for democracy, and will now organize a transition."

That will be the ultimate scenario, althought it will be more complex than that.

The Military in Egypt was directed into disasterous losing wars with Israel under Nasser and then Sadat. After the war in 1973, Sadat turned his back on the USSR, refused to be a pawn in their game of attaining a warm water port and expanding their influence in the area, and realigned with the West, and signed the camp David accords.

Two years later, Sadat was assasinated (by extremists in his own Army) and Mubarak came to power. Mubarak purged the Army of ideological and religious extremists, and imposed emergency law that exists to this day.

In the last 30 years, the Egyptian Military has become one of the major parts of the Egyptian Middle class. They have no desire to pick a fight with Israel, they do want to maintain their relatively secular and Western lifestyle. They are highly unlikely to want to govern for the long run.

However, they will try to steer the coming new government toward one that does not repeat past mistakes, it is likely they will attempt to facilitate a moderate secular democratic state, they will attempt to thwart any extreme elements from gaining any real power.

Posted by: plaza04433 | February 11, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Egypt has just witnessed one step in a process of uncertain outcome and duration. The result where someone in the military emerges as a strongman ruler seems one of the less likely outcomes. So calling the event a military coup is misleading. Presumably, the more likely outcome is some kind of formal framework to create a constitution and hold elections. Of course, it will not be the first time elections have been held in Egypt. Nor will those elected have unconstrained power. The military will continue to be the ultimate source of power. But, in practice there will be some kind of power sharing between those elected by the people and those who have a history of running Egypt's society. Of course, there is always the possibility that this process will fail to yield a stable result. But, there appears to be at least a reasonable chance that it will succeed.

Posted by: dnjake | February 11, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Now begins the hard part. Building a democracy.

Posted by: rlj1 | February 11, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

isn't a coup anti-democratic?

Posted by: perryrants | February 11, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse


Get used to Freedom and Democracy, this is what it felt like when the Wall fell in Eastern Europe, as the dominoes fell one by one.

Posted by: WillSeattle | February 11, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree with rlj1 and WillSeattle. This reminds me so much of the revolutions in Eastern Europe 2 decades ago, which did succeed in building democratic governments committed to defending human rights and fostering economic development. I get a little tired of hearing analogies to Iran and warnings about the Muslim Brotherhood. I think there is good reason to be optimistic.
Congratulations to the people of Egypt! I wish you success the in the great challenges that now lie ahead!

Posted by: wmw4 | February 11, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Islamic extremists will eventually control the government of Egypt, just as they will the governments of Lebanon and Jordan. And they already have Syria. It all points to one logical conclusion: They are planning a multi-frontal assault on Israel. Of all the countries to take over, why the ones neighboring Israel? What other purpose would there be in upending the governments of those particular nations?

Posted by: heatherczerniak | February 11, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree with rlj1 and WillSeattle. This reminds me so much of the revolutions in Eastern Europe 2 decades ago, which did succeed in building democratic governments committed to defending human rights and fostering economic development. I get a little tired of hearing analogies to Iran and warnings about the Muslim Brotherhood. I think there is good reason to be optimistic.
Congratulations to the people of Egypt! I wish you success the in the great challenges that now lie ahead!

Posted by: wmw4 | February 11, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

It was a good coup, nincompoop! Let's not forget the protesters murdered by Mubarak and Suleiman. Yes I include Sulieman as he is the one who voiced the lie that the police weren't under orders to attack protestors and imprison journalists.
If Mubarak had not stepped down, it would have been a bloody coup ending in his death at the hands of the Egyptian military. He placed them in the position to chose him or the people. Gee, what a hard choice! Innocents or tyrant.
This is a wonderful show of peaceful protests being productive! All countries should praise the people of Egypt for proving this can be done.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 11, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I smell AIPAC and "the religious right" licking their chops for another front in their now endless Christian Oil Crusades against their "Muslim enemies"

Posted by: areyousaying | February 11, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Syria is most definitely not run by Islamic Extremists. Neither is Lebanon, and Jordan is unlikely to become Islamic to the extreme because most of the population is not oriented that way.

Compare to Iran or the Taliban, neither Hamas or Hezbollah is an Islamist Extremist organization. They maybe war criminals or terrorists, but they are not Islamic extremists in the Taliban or Iranian sense.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | February 11, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

This wasn't even a coup...neither good nor bad. It was a revolution. Honey, did you miss the civilian protests?

Posted by: dkp01 | February 11, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

As much as I join the world in absolute delight in the Egyptian's revolutio,

there is another strong emotion...seeing the miserable, sordid, world detested reaction of the Israelis...

as in Diehl's reaction here. For a day or so this phony neocon pretended he was a great supporter of democracy.

As did the other neocons in the 'American' media...tho we didn't see Wolfowitze, we saw the phonies like Friedman.Disgusting as THAT was, his take on the
joy of the world over Egypt is worse. Or better.

Will anyone believe Diehl and his stupid
Israeli propogamda any more? It's so pathetic.

Posted by: whistling | February 11, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

" WE in Washington watch..."

You lousey little zionist punk.

Where you "watching from" AIPAC headquarters? You have not spot close to the action.
You and yours just cannot imagine decent people doing things for the good of democracy and right, can you?
You just know grab and cheat and land grab and sneak. And use. Through the centuries.

Posted by: whistling | February 11, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

MSNBC's reporter in Cairo Engel is fluent in Arabic telling the people about Obama's statement. That is the first time for me to hear the common man on the Arab street cheering America. After the Coptic Christians and Ulema in the street protected each other during prayer services, the Muslim Brotherhood must take a step back from the mad doctor ethic. 30 years of training Lts and Capts here for Egypts military will pay dividends as the young leaders on the Supreme Council will become our allies. What must really eat at Diehl is the people overthrew their corporate masters lowering their standard of living.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 11, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"Good coup or bad coup in Egypt?"
Neither one.

A tyrannical dictator is going to be exchanged for a gov that suppresses women and all those who aren't muzzies.


How do you know that? It appears as wishful thinking on your part. And "muzzies" says more about you and your ilk than anything else.

Posted by: sr31 | February 11, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

It's soooo rewarding, isn't it.

The Jews of Israel just can't stand Egypt taking it's place. Democracy taking it's place

Israel isn't a democracy, it's an APARTHEID state.

Too bad, really too bad for the world, that the Muslim Brotherhood, which will take it's place in the new glorious Egypt, isn't what the Israelis have screamed that it is...toehrwise they'd take out foul, savage Israel immediately. We'll have to wait.

Posted by: whistling | February 11, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It's a BAD coup when our DICTATOR is overthrown by the military we support.

Posted by: knjincvc | February 11, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Diehl,

If you don't know the answer, don't ask the question: "Good coup or bad coup?"

A good journalist, not a poor one, would wait until the unknowns become knowns, to quote a recent and very blameless former Secretary of Defense.

In short, this was a meaningless column just 24 hours before it became extinct. Sorry.

Posted by: harper-d | February 11, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

We won't know the answer to this question until September, but, at the moment, it is the best deal that could have been made. If the army hadn't forced him out, there would have been much bloodshed.

Posted by: csintala79 | February 11, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Good or bad? It is to early to ell. We just have to wait and see. Why do we need to rush to judgment? it is their nation. Let them work out their own destiny, without our interference.

Posted by: samsara15 | February 11, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Jackson Diehl, what coup do you recall that was started by the people of a country staging a massive 18 day demonstration that withstood a dictator's use of his police and security thugs. You American MSM puppets were told to use the word "COUP",,,and you will follow orders just as Mubarak's goons did. May you and yours come to the same fate!

Posted by: mudbone | February 11, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

"Good coup or bad coup?"

Was it a coup of the military? More like the people of Egypt rising up and overthrowing a tyrannical government, and influencing the military to side with them rather than with the dictator.

As to the military? Maybe they are the ones who told Mubarack to leave, just as several Senators told Nixon to resign in late summer 1974. No force really needed, but the threat was there.

Posted by: critter69 | February 11, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Reminded me of David Leans classic movie, Dr. Zhivago, with Palm trees. Pasha handed out flyers in the movie, to fellow Russians on the street, to march in peaceful protest. We all know what followed. Lets hope the Egyptians can find their way with jobs, and no interference from Islamic fanatics. The military looks half way responsible, but wow, that secret police organization, reminds one of the Gestapo. A large military like the Egyptians have, seem to understand, their job is not to go around hitting kids over the head with a baton.

Posted by: dangreen3 | February 12, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Se here I am in Florida, just an ordinary schlump of the semi-Jewish variety. And you know what? I am 100% on the side of the Egyptians. Maybe I won't love whatever government they come up with in the end, but it will be *their* government, and that's what counts.

Somehow, I think the Egyptians will do okay. They're not idiots or Muslim fundamentalists, for the most part, just as most Americans aren't tea pooties.

Go, Egyptians, Go!

Posted by: roblimo | February 12, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

roblimo hit the nail on the head with is post. Too bad Israel did not have his wisdom and back the people winning some support.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 12, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

When and if a reform government emerges, it will face demands to get back looted money and property from the former power holders. Many of the targets will be members of the military command structures.

This will be the test of political skills that points to the choice between democracy and military rule, rather than constitution writing or electioneering.

There are a few examples of success in such situations, but not many.

Posted by: mwnl1 | February 13, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Just as here at home, changing public officials is almost irrelevant unless it leads to changing the ills that call for change. Alas, often the more things change the more they remain the same. How many decades now has our nations trade been allowed to remain unbalanced, who's benefiting greatly from such, and how influencial are their political campaign contributions? Who holds more power and knowledge in the nation: the few in our courts or we the many? We also need change: not the subtle change of new officials but real change created by addressing the problems that lead us to seek change.
I suggest that nothing, either great or calamitous, occurs without great participation by we the many, even if our greatest participation is a failure to react. Since we can't avoid participation mustn't we begin to participate better?

Posted by: reenie10 | February 13, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

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