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In Egypt, a test of wills and of numbers

The battle between Sunni and Shiite will, I think, be the dominant theme in the Middle East for some time. But that doesn’t mean that the struggle between secularist and Islamist will have no sway in any portion of the region.

To the contrary, we see such a struggle shaping up in Egypt now. The consequences have already been deadly and may well become more so on Sunday, when massive demonstrations will occur.

President Obama has put U.S. Marines in southern Europe on alert and there are roughly 2,000 Marines on board three Navy warships in the Red Sea. Presumably, Obama’s purposes are the protection of the U.S. embassy (though he may have to rely in the first instance on Egyptian security forces, I fear) and the evacuation of U.S. citizens, if necessary.

David Pryce-Jones writes:

They’re gearing up for definitive violence in Egypt. On June 30 the Muslim Brothers will have been in power for a whole year. The country used to be militarized and nationalistic on the standard Third World model. The Muslim Brothers have done their best to introduce the new Islamist model.

The experiment does not correspond to the outlook and aspirations of so large a proportion of the population that it could never succeed. Millions who repudiate the incoming Islamism are due to take to the streets on June 30. And the regime is mobilizing its equally numerous supporters for counter-demonstrations. Tanks are already in place to guard key buildings, including the American and British embassies. . . .

Th[is] [is]n’t [a] proper battle[] capable of settling some concrete issue, territorial or dynastic as it might be, but [a] test[] to discover what the numbers are and therefore where the power will go. That’s how things are settled in the absence of a constitutional framework. The coming violence is publicized because it is to this context what a general election is to a democracy.

Where will it all end? Pryce-Jones doesn’t say and I don’t know. But I imagine that, eventually, the Egyptian military will have a significant say.

It’s too bad that Obama and Hillary Clinton were mostly dismissive of that institution as they tilted strongly in favor of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

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