Thermidor Came Early This Year

Well, as has been on the news lately, the Egyptian army has dropped the hammer on the Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds of people are dead, and likely thousands more are wounded.

I sincerely hope no one was surprised by this.

Here’s why.

First, the Egyptian army has been accustomed to running things in Egypt. The Brotherhood was threatening that state of affairs.

Second, where the radicals overreach, there is Thermidor. Here’s what I mean by this.

As the Reign of Terror reached its height in France, large groups of people decided that Maximilien Robespierre, and the Jacobins he led, were tyrannical and excessive. So, a bunch of non-Jacobins got together and whacked Robespierre, most of his close associates, and thousands of Jacobins in what was to the rest of the world the month of July, but in Revolutionary France was the month of Thermidor.

The situations are not, of course, completely the same, in a whole host of ways. But, in most revolutions, there’s a phase where the ones who took power immediately afterwards get taken out by someone else. Sometimes it happens that the revolutionaries are taken out by people more radical–see the Russian Revolution for an example, where Kerensky’s democratic government was run over by Vladimir Lenin. And sometimes, you get Thermidor, when the radicals get booted out by those who are interested in preserving more elements of the old order.

This is what is happening in Egypt right now. The Muslim Brotherhood wanted to desecularize Egypt, which meant, among other things, neutering the army’s political power and destroying its economic power. It also included going after the Coptic Christians and Islamizing the legal system. The army, likely having observed what’s going on in Turkey as the Prime Minister Islamizes the country and breaks the guardians of secularism–the Army–decided to not let this happen.

So, the army first removed Morsi, albeit under cloak of law, and, when the Brotherhood refused to back down, the army cracked down and started killing.

The thing is, I’m not okay with the army hammering down civilians. I am okay with Thermidor coming early, though. The reason for this is that it looked like Morsi and crew were planning to run their own Reign of Terror. That the army decided to stifle it before it started was a good thing.

Did they do it for their own reasons? Of course–that is how the powerful always are.  Is it going to be much, much bloodier than it should be? Yes, because that is how generals are. Can we do anything about it in an immediately tangible way? No. Should we? No–because the most probable alternatives to what’s going on in Egypt are probably worse than what’s going on right now. (See Syria.)

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness



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