Capable armed forces: Egypt's one chance for democracy

In such an anti-democratic society, a pro-Western military may be the best chance for sowing true democracy. Only capable armed forces can check the violent proclivities of Islamic supremacism. The Coptic Christian minority, which makes up a fast-diminishing 10 percent of Egypt’s population, supported the military’s ouster of Morsi not because Copts reject democracy but because only the armed forces can protect them. Under the governance of Islamic supremacists, and now in the crosshairs of incensed Brotherhood thugs, the Copts are targets of murder and mayhem while their churches are being torched across the country.

As I explained in a column earlier this week, sharia dictates the persecution and killing of gay people. Women, too, stood to lose human-rights protections under Egypt’s Islamic-supremacist rule. Putting aside the many other sharia provisions that reduce women to chattel, a prohibition against female genital mutilation, put in place by Mubarak’s military-backed dictatorship, was certain to be scrapped — mainstream constructions of sharia hold that “female circumcision” is mandatory, and even “more enlightened” interpretations call for it to be permitted and thus reject an outright ban.

Pace the secretary of state, Egypt has never had a democracy, so there is no “restoring” it. Pragmatically speaking, the country has two alternatives: (a) a rapid resort to popular elections, which are certain, once again, to empower Islamic supremacists (who have proved, in election after election, that they appeal to a significant majority of the populace); or (b) military rule through an appointed technocratic government. The former would crush any hope for real democracy. The latter, at least potentially, could force a new consensus constitution that requires equality under the law and respect for minority rights; that delays popular elections until secular democrats are better positioned to compete with Islamic supremacists; and that requires convincing acceptance of the new constitution and renunciation of violence as a precondition to participation in elections.