Which suggests one other potentially disastrous consequence of this week’s coup: The Brotherhood will not go quietly into obscurity, or into jail. Its members and leaders are true believers. In particular, they are true believers in martyrdom. Had they been turned out of office by voters at the end of Mursi’s term, the opportunities for martyrdom would have been limited. Now that they have been removed by force and are being arrested in large numbers, the opportunities are many.
The Middle East analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht told me that the coup has forestalled the Muslim Brotherhood’s “self-immolation through the ballot box.”
“This will keep the Brotherhood strong and make them, I suspect, meaner and nastier and less public,” he said. “They will grow popular again: Hell, they might still win parliament in a free vote. Who knows? But the military has just guaranteed their livelihood and humbled, if not killed, the democratic process.”
As Tamara Cofman Wittes, the director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, says, “My greatest worry is that this coup, if followed by undue repression against Islamists, will drive the creation of a new generation of Islamist terrorists in Egypt. Egyptians have suffered enough from terrorism already.”