Americans are currently debating, as they should, whether Egypt’s army did the right thing. For all his flaws, Morsi had been elected president in a free and fair contest. He governed poorly — alienating many with a “my way or the highway” style, failing to stem Egypt’s economic bleeding, attacking his critics as “foreign hands” and pushing laws that would have cracked down on basic rights. But whatever his faults, the army’s actions meet the classic definition of a coup.
Yet the coup only codified what might be described as a popular impeachment of Morsi. Supposedly, 22 million Egyptians had signed petitions calling for his resignation. By some estimates, more than 10 million participated in the demonstrations this week calling for his ouster, out of a population of some 80 million. If roughly accurate, that would make them among the largest demonstrations ever. The magnitude of the demand for change is hard to comprehend from this distance. And the army, seeing the potential for a breakdown of law and order, understandably felt that if it stood aside, the state could literally melt down around it.