A little over a week ago, I wrote about how the post-Arab Spring Middle East was entering a new phase, one in which secular liberals and their sympathizers are beginning to realize that they have to fight the Islamists with everything they can muster.
On Sunday, that battle got a lot bigger, with Egyptians pouring onto the streets by the millions—estimates range from 10 million to 20 million—to protest the increasingly authoritarian rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.
See my update on the protests in Monday’s edition of my RealClearPolitics newsletter. Here is how I described their significance: “In effect, Egyptians are asking for a do-over on their revolution: this time, can we do it without the Brotherhood? And the answer is clearly: yes, they can.”
The most important thing about these protests is that the secular side of Egypt’s revolution now has its own distinctive name: “Tamarod” or “rebel.” See a profile of the 28-year-old liberal who has become the face of this Tamarod movement. And while Egypt’s liberals worked side-by-side with the Brotherhood to bring down the Mubarak regime two years ago, the Tamarod movement gives the liberals a chance to show the strength of their support independent of the Islamists.
Given the enormous size of Sunday’s demonstrations, which may have been the largest in history—secular Egyptians are pretty strong. Let’s take a moment to relish the implications of that. After I posted last week’s article to my website, a reader posted a skeptical comment to the effect that Arabs are too primitive, “savage,” and undeveloped to back the cause of liberty or reject the Islamists. Then they turned out against the Brotherhood in numbers which are enormous in absolute terms and absolutely staggering as a percentage of Egypt’s population. Which provides a little vindication for my optimism.
A series of election victories against the divided and disorganized secularists had given the Muslim Brotherhood the sense that they had an overwhelming majority behind them and could ignore the secular liberals. A lot of outside observers were worried that they might be right. Well, now we all know better. The Muslim Brotherhood clearly lacks a mandate to rule.
The Egyptian military figured this out and has demanded that the protesters and the Brotherhood resolve the crisis or the army will intervene. Since the only possible resolution was for Morsi to resign, it was clear what side the military was taking. Just as I was about to publish this—and congratulate Rand Paul on one of the rare instances when we will agree on foreign policy—the news broke that the military has made good on its threat and Morsi has been pushed out.
Now is when things get interesting, because Egyptians will have to form a new civilian government and undo much of what Morsi and the Brotherhood did in his year in office. And the Islamists might not take the popular coup lying down—though they will certainly be suppressed by the realization that they have so clearly lost the consent of the governed.