Gideon Rachman unwittingly refutes his own argument on Egypt:
For the moment, the restoration of stability must be a higher priority than a return to the ballot box. Political repression and the denial of freedom are horrible to behold. But civil war is even worse [bold mine-DL]. Just ask the long-suffering people of Syria, where 100,000 people may have died and millions have become refugees.
Rachman writes about political repression and civil war here as if they are always alternatives to one another, but they aren’t. If the Syrian case gives us any clues about what we might expect in Egypt, it is that heavy-handed and brutal repression of political opponents can spark an armed insurgency. Throughout much of 2011, the Syrian uprising had not yet turned into a civil war, but by 2012 the country was suffering from exactly that. That doesn’t mean that Egypt definitely will suffer the same fate, but the current crackdown increases the chances of civil war there. Even a low-intensity armed conflict in Egypt would cause a serious humanitarian and economic crisis for the country, and it is just such a conflict that the military seems to be inviting. At the very least, the U.S. shouldn’t be supporting them while they do this.
There may be no realistic chance of a “return to the ballot box” in the foreseeable future, but a “restoration of stability” under the present leadership seems even more far-fetched. In the absence of a negotiated political settlement, Rachman says that “the only other way is for one side to win.” He doesn’t discuss how unrealistic it is to think that the military can “win” against the Brotherhood without inflicting the sort of damage on the country that he thinks their rule is helping to prevent.