The op-ed columnist of The New York Times Roger Cohen writes about the situation in Egypt:
Heba Morayef voted for Mohamed Morsi last year. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate was an unlikely choice for a liberal Egyptian woman, the director of the Human Rights Watch office in Cairo, but she loathed Hosni Mubarak's old guard, wanted change and believed Morsi could be inclusive.
"I have been extremely conflicted this past week," Morayef told me. "I don't support the military or coups. But for me as a voter, Morsi betrayed the trust that pro-reform Egyptians placed in him. That is what brought 14 million people into the streets on June 30. It was not so much the incompetence as the familiar authoritarian agenda, the Brotherhood trying to solidify their control by all means."
Morsi misread the Arab Spring. The uprising that ended decades of dictatorship and led to Egypt's first free and fair presidential election last year was about the right to that vote. But at a deeper level it was about personal empowerment, a demand to join the modern world, and live in an open society under the rule of law rather than the rule of despotic whim.
In a Muslim nation, where close to 25 percent of Arabs live, it also demanded of political Islam that it reject religious authoritarianism, respect differences and uphold citizenship based on equal rights for all.
Instead, Morsi placed himself above judicial review last November, railroaded through a flawed Constitution, allowed Brotherhood thugs to beat up liberal opponents, installed cronies at the Information Ministry, increased blasphemy prosecutions, surrendered to a siege mentality, lost control of a crumbling economy and presided over growing sectarian violence. For the Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist movement in the region, the sudden shift from hounded outlaw to power in the pivotal nation of the Arab world proved a bridge too far.
As Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel-Prize winning diplomat put it in a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine: "The uprising was not about changing people, but changing our mind-set. What we see right now, however, is just a change of faces, with the same mode of thinking as in Mubarak's era - only now with a religious icing on the cake."
This was Morsi's core failure. He succumbed to Islamic authoritarianism in a nation whose revolution was diverse and demanded inclusiveness. The lesson for the region is critical. Egypt is its most important experiment in combining Islam with democratic modernity, the only long-term way to overcome the sectarian violence raging in Syria and elsewhere.
ElBaradei is a liberal modernizer. Yet he appeared beside Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi as a takeover was announced that deposed a president chosen in a free election, suspended the Constitution and installed an interim government. For all the generals' efforts to insist they have no interest in politics and avoid the word "coup," this was a coup. It placed the military front and center again - a bad precedent and blow to civilian democracy. ElBaradei's presence in the choreography of this act - like Morayef's conflicted state - demonstrates just how desperate Egypt's situation had become.
"The rejection went far beyond the liberal community," Morayef said. "The vast majority of the women at the demonstrations were veiled. Practicing Muslims, non-Westernized Egyptians, were saying no to political Islam and religious authoritarianism. We have never seen anything like this in the Arab world."
Avoidance of a coup would have been far better. If Morsi had called new elections when 14 million Egyptians appeared in the streets that might have been possible. He did not do so, proving tone deaf yet again. So, conflicted, I say he had to go.
Now all will depend on whether the army can uphold the spirit of the revolution. This demands that nobody hijack Egypt's modernizing aspirations - not the Brotherhood, not the military, not the illiberal liberals who only like democracy to the point it backs their candidates, not the old guard's thugs.
It is critical that polarizing violence be avoided and that the Brotherhood continue to play an important role in the nation's politics (forcing them underground would be the death of democracy). New elections must be held soon and the army must uphold its commitment to "remain away from politics." A new Constitution must be drafted. Egypt's liberals, who have proved a squabbling bunch, must overcome pettiness and cohere into a credible political grouping. Without effective management of the economy that restores order, all attempts to establish consensus and reset Egypt's course will fail.
All this is an immense task. But Egypt, the world's oldest nation state and not some Arab country sketched on a map by dyspeptic British bureaucrats, has immense reserves of talent and wisdom. It is not an impossible task: Egypt's inspiring youth have shown their determination.
All the anger in Egypt over the past couple of years was once deflected outward at imagined enemies or conspiracies. This was a colossal waste. It is now focused where it belongs - on the Arab failure to deliver the new "mind-set" of which ElBaradei wrote.
The army cannot deliver that but - just conceivably - can still be its incubator. Islamist authoritarianism, just like secular dictatorship before it, could not.