If ever a world event inspired mixed emotions, it would have to be the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in a military coup last week.
On the one hand, Morsi was hardly a paragon of competence, and a constitution he forced through gave the balance of power to Morsi’s Islamist brethren at the expense of other groups within the country. And Egypt’s economy is an deepening disaster, and Morsi demonstrated little dexterity in confronting it. But, like it or not, Morsi was democratically elected, the first Egyptian leader to gain power at the ballot box since King Farouk was overthrown in 1952 and Egypt was declared a republic. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “It would have been far more preferable if President Mohammed Morsi had been voted out of office in three years.”
Egypt’s direction in the next few years remains a wait-and-see, cross-your-fingers proposition. But more than a few eyebrows shot skyward last week when the Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial that “Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mode of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet.”
While, according to the newspaper, Pinochet “hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy,” the general presided over a decades-long reign of terror in the South American nation, with an estimated 30,000 people being tortured on his watch, and the estimates of those murdered for opposing his dictatorship possibly topping out at 10,000.
Egypt needs stability, no one would deny that. But it doesn’t need a regime that runs roughshod over human rights.