It is no coincidence that both Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri hailed from U.S.-allied nations that repressed their own citizens. Both men were drawn to the conclusion that the way to free their homelands was to attack their rulers’ patron. It is reasonable to expect that a new generation of Islamists in Egypt, now being taught that the peaceful path to power is no longer open, will turn to violence and that, as long as Washington is seen on the side of the generals, some of their violence will be directed our way.
Paradoxically, the generals, despite their covert cooperation with the United States, encourage this very outcome by demonizing the United States (and Israel) in their internal propaganda. This was a pattern long exhibited by Egypt’s ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, and it is now being repeated by his would-be successor, Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi. Once again the state-controlled Egyptian airwaves are flooded with anti-Western vitriol blaming all of Egypt’s woes, from a depressed economy to violence in the streets, on unnamed Western, and especially American, agents. This is what desperate governments with scant legitimacy do to justify their rule — they claim to be protecting the people from dark, alien forces. In the process, the generals are stirring up the very anti-American terrorism they claim to be fighting.
The generals are also doing their best to demonize the brief period of rule by ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. I have no brief for the Brotherhood: Both its objective (a theocratic society) and its methods (slowly squeezing out dissent) are abhorrent. But remember what didn’t happen under Morsi: Egypt didn’t abrogate the Camp David accords, it didn’t give a blank check to Hamas, and it didn’t end military cooperation with the United States or Israel.