Home/Daniel Larison/The Least Surprising Reactions to the Coup in Egypt

The Least Surprising Reactions to the Coup in Egypt

John Norris seems amazed by reactions to the coup in Egypt that aren’t all that surprising:

Who would have thought that the Wall Street Journal would suggest with a straight face that the real model for the Egyptian military should be the murderous regime of Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet?

Who would have thought that so many people could go to such lengths to describe the Egyptian military deposing a sitting president while deploying tanks in the street as something other than a coup?

Anyone familiar with the political views of the WSJ’s editors couldn’t have been too surprised by the Pinochet reference. On one level, it was just an old rehashing of Cold War-era justifications for U.S. support for anticommunist authoritarian rulers, except that Islamists were now filling the role that communists and socialists used to play. On another, it was a fairly predictable expression of support for perceived “pro-American” forces abroad even if they happened to be military officers engaged in a coup against an elected government. The WSJ’s enthusiasm for democracy always stops when the politics or foreign policy views of the elected leader are sharply different from their own.

Norris also seems amazed that Obama would be accused by Egyptians of being cozy with Islamists, but I’m not sure why. This has been a staple of anti-Obama criticism on Egypt and Turkey here in the U.S., and it’s hardly news that conspiracy theories promoted by anti-jihadists in the U.S. have been adopted by some secular and liberal Egyptians.

Many defenders of the Egyptian coup want to describe it as anything other than that because they would prefer to avoid confronting the implications. If you’re a Westerner and you want to endorse what the Egyptian military did (why anyone in the West feels the need to do this is a different question), calling it anything other than a coup makes that a lot easier. Just as some interventionists recoil from calling a foreign conflict a civil war because they fear that this makes it harder for them to sell the idea of military intervention, supporters of a foreign coup want to avoid a label that can make their position harder to defend. Iraq war supporters were desperate to deny for years that there was an insurgency in Iraq, and then they were just as concerned to deny that there was civil war in Iraq, because both of these things made a mockery of the policy they favored. Of course, in the Iraqi case the refusal to face reality and call things by their proper names compounded the original errors and made it more difficult for the U.S. to recover from them. In the Egyptian case, the incentive to deny that a coup has taken place is greater, because U.S. law requires the suspension of military aid and Western supporters of the military’s actions definitely don’t want that to happen.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles